Marketing can eat up a slim budget, but some of the best things in life are still free! These marketing tips cost nothing in cash –although your time and talent will be required. Learn how to do more on a shoestring budget with these proven promotional strategies.
10 Ways to Market Your Business for Free
1. Teach something
Making money as a public speaker is noble, but doing it for free is some of the best advertising. Offer to lead a workshop at a local marketing club, give dance lessons, or share your best BBQ rib recipe. Whether you pitch to speak at a large formal event (like SXSW) or choose a small session at the local library, you’ll be building your community and giving something of value.
2. Partner with a complementary brand
Who is the peanut butter to your jelly? Figure out which brands would make great partners and seek out a way to work together. A bed and breakfast might feature a local honey brand in their waffle bar, or a golf course could give out a discount on local craft beer. Choose partnerships that work within existing customer behavior patterns; your goal is to capitalize on what they already want to do with their money.
3. Crowdsource your existing community
The average person loves seeing themselves online. Why do you think everyone takes so many selfies? By asking your fans and customers to share their brand experience, via photo and video, you are getting the best kind of free marketing material. (This is also called UGC – User Generated Content.) Get the proper legal permissions to use these images and share them with your social fans or use them in a formal commercial. People are likely to share the features they star in, so you get bonus points for being viral.
4. Give freebies
This isn’t 100% free, in that you have a product cost, but it’s a great way to get your brand out there. If done well, you can use it as a method of using up small batches or leftovers, too. This is an especially effective strategy for high-end or premium brands with a price point that is difficult to justify for those who are new to your brand. Giving them a taste of what you sell is the best way to overcome their hesitation and give them the confidence they are making a good buy.
If you’re not going to at least two industry events a year, you are missing out. Be sure to mix and mingle with people in real life, as personal connections are more valuable than ever. If you’re worried that you’ll be another face in the crowd, look for professional or industry events that are not aimed at your business specifically. Instead, look to network with the audience you serve. If ticket prices are steep, see about volunteering or donating items that the organization needs most.
6. Know your message
One of the best ways to let people know about your brand is to tell them. Yet, so many professionals can’t give a proper elevator pitch when asked. If you can’t define what you do and why you’re unique in 20 words or less, work on polishing your pitch. You’ll never know when you’ll need it. Unlike a business card, you can carry it around without pockets, too!
7. Get searched
Are you surprised to learn that many small businesses are not listed in Bing or Google search? Many consumers also use sites like Yahoo! and those that come standard with their internet provider or computer manufacturer. Take some time to submit your listings to all of the major search engines, and even the smaller ones, too. Double-check your contact info is correct!
8. Check Google Analytics
This free tool is a treasure trove of info that tells you everything from what sites are sending the most traffic to how long people stay on the site to their favorite web page. Using this data can help you make your site more user-friendly, and it can also alert you to trends. If you’re seeing a lot of search traffic for graduation keywords starting in April, then you know that is when your graduation marketing campaigns should begin. (If you don’t have analytics installed on your site, that is where you should start.)
9. Use a custom email signature
It’s easy to set up an electronic signature that lists your site, best products, customer testimonials, or social media handles. While this may not seem like a significant way to get your business out there, every email you send has the potential to reach a new audience. The next time you email your home insurance agent to ask for a policy change, she’ll know what you do for a living. That’s a natural promotional tool that money just can’t buy.
10. Thank your customers
Gratitude should be at the heart of your business. If it’s not, consider how you can reposition yourself to be grateful for your customers. Take time to create personal touchpoints throughout the buying cycle that let your buyers know you wouldn’t be there without them. While loyalty gifts or discounts are nice, they mean nothing if they aren’t sincere. Most customers are happy enough to get honest, kind messages of appreciation.
Is free better?
You can use these ideas as a launching point for creating your own, as they have worked for brands of all sizes and take little to nothing from the marketing budget. The best part is that they are almost 100% customer-centric, which will require you to think deeply about why you do what you do, what separates you from the competition, and how your company plays a larger role in the world. Expensive marketing campaigns work wonders. However, free can sometimes be better. For the small or start-up business with not a lot to spare, it’s possible to play on the same field as the big guys.
Which of these savvy strategies will you start with first?
This article was originally written on May 29, 2019 and updated on January 27, 2021.