Growing your business and expanding your brand typically requires at least some type of capital investment, and if your budget is thin, you may feel that you’re in an ad-less corner. Fortunately, that’s not the case. Today’s business owners have several advertising avenues, many of which are free or pretty close to free.
If you’re trying to build your business but can’t sink tons of money into your advertising efforts, then you’d be wise to add a few of these spots to your marketing strategy.
Google My Business
In some cases, advertising on Google requires you to spend a significant amount of money; that’s often the case with pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, which place your ad at the top of search results.
However, you can sign up for a Google My Business account for free, which will help push your business into the top results for local searches.
You’re likely familiar with these “ad” spots, as they appear organically when you search for a local business, service, or product. For example, if you’re looking for a good cup of coffee in Wilmington, DE, and you type “coffee in Wilmington, DE” in the Google search engine, you’ll find a list of coffee shops, along with their contact info, ratings, etc., in the top search results.
If you haven’t registered your business and you rely on local traffic, you’ll want to do so ASAP.
Social media platforms
Next to Google My Business, social media often represents the number one way to advertise your business without cost. Yes, there are paid advertising opportunities on social networking platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, but you can still do a lot without ever spending a penny.
The best way to start your social media campaign is to identify the primary platform on which your customers, or potential customers, spend their time. From there, you can work to engage them through traditional textual posts, photos, videos, contests, shares, promotions, etc.
As you prepare a social media campaign, be careful not to inundate followers with purely promotional posts that seek sales. While those are fine in moderation, today’s consumers often see through that tactic. Instead, make sure you post a healthy mix of interesting, funny, amusing, or otherwise engaging pieces that speak to your follower’s needs — then sprinkle in your promotional pieces.
Start a blog
If you have a website, you can start a blog. And if you have a blog, you have a great outlet for content that can help build your brand, allow you to become an industry voice, and publish content that can be shared on your social media sites.
Don’t have a website that can accommodate a blog? Sites like WordPress are easy to use and typically free.
Be present on YouTube
Video content is a great way to reach users, whether it be to share product demonstrations, educational videos, regularly occurring vlogs (video blogs), or simple company info. And when it comes to video content, YouTube is where it’s at.
YouTube has over 1.8 billion users a month and is the most popular Google service — yes, even more popular than Gmail. It’s also 100% free to create an account and upload content.
In the past, video production could have caused a bit of a budget dilemma, but thanks to high-quality smartphone cameras and free or near free editing programs, it’s a lot easier to add video content to your repertoire.
Attend local events
While a booth at the industry’s biggest event may be out of the question, attending and networking at local events that are relevant to your business is a great way to mingle with potential customers.
You can also increase value by leveraging your blog and social media accounts in the days leading up to the event and while in attendance. For example, posting pics and videos, using clever hashtags, and blogging about your upcoming event appearance can spread the word that you’re in attendance, want to engage, or are supporting a local cause.
Industry magazines and blogs
Numerous magazines and blogs welcome guest posts or articles, and many of them do so for free. For small business owners with a knack for the written word — or those who have someone on staff that can fit the bill — these spots can be a true boon.
Not only do they place your brand in front of a highly targeted audience, but they also allow you to position yourself and your business as a resource or industry mainstay. Plus, as more and more publications post and leave articles online, you may very well have a long-term presence on their site.
Community announcement & message boards
Maybe it feels a bit old fashion, but don’t take the community message board for granted. They can be a great way to spread the word about your business, especially if you’re just getting started.
Further, the right board can really place your business right in front of a highly relevant audience. For example, a trendy new restaurant geared towards the 20-some crowd may find that a college campus message board can be very valuable in bringing in new customers.
Before you add your flyer or business card to a board, you may want to verify that you can do so. While many are open to the public, others have limits on solicitation. It’s always wise to read any community rules, notice what other types of info the board already contains, or simply inquire further with the powers that be.
A slim budget may seem like a big hurdle, and in some cases, it certainly can put a damper on everything from operational to marketing efforts, but when it comes to ad space, it shouldn’t represent a dead end.
There are plenty of free advertising opportunities to those who seek them out. All you have to do is find out where your audience spends their time and create engaging campaigns to push your business to the next level.
This article was originally written on April 26, 2019 and updated on April 29, 2019.