Marketing your small business is a must if you want to produce a steady stream of paying clients and customers. There are a lot of resources out there to help optimize your paid marketing efforts, and those efforts range from very important to essential, depending on the kind of business you have. However, the good news is that any small business can make a big marketing splash with little or no cash outlay, particularly if you can put a little time and skull sweat into your efforts.
Inexpensive Methods of Small Business Marketing
1. Google My Business Listing
There are three “foundation stones” for an inexpensive marketing effort. The first is your Google My Business listing, which literally puts your business on the map. My Business listings are easy to claim, give you a wealth of promotional options, and let you interact with your customers online, all for free. Visit www.google.com/business to get started.
2. Get a Website
The second foundation stone for inexpensive marketing is your website. Every business needs a website, no matter how old-fashioned or offline your clients and customers are. Creating a website starts with claiming a domain name for your business. Domain registration is easy and inexpensive.
If you want more control over your site’s look and feel, or want to add highly advanced features, there are more expensive options out there as well. You may also want to sign up for G Suite, the Google suite of online tools, for as little as $5/month, to help integrate all your online promotional efforts.
3. Social Media Presence
The third must-have for inexpensive marketing is a social media presence. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn, social media is another free-to-cheap way to get the word out about your small business. We recommend you do not use your own personal accounts, as this can limit your reach to only your friends and detract from your professional image. Plus, it can take a lot of the fun out of having a personal account. If everything is work, then when and where can you play? It’s a social media best practice to create separate accounts for your business organization, and then promote those accounts to those of your friends who are also interested in your business offerings.
Related: Social Media Pocket Guide (free download)
4. Write Content
Now that you’ve got an online presence, you need a stream of content to give people something to look at! A business blog is an inexpensive way to get started on attracting readers and viewers to your site(s). Google+ has a built-in blogging platform and there are lots of other free or cheap options as well. Many business owners love WordPress, both as a blogging platform and as a website solution, because it is inexpensive and extremely powerful.
Related: Business Blogging 101 (free eBook)
5. Write Relevant Content
What kind of content should you put in your blog? There are a number of different schools of thought, but the best kind of content is material that increases your credibility with your target customers. What exactly that is will depend on the type of business you operate.
If you own a restaurant, then sharing off-menu recipes that you’ve personally developed would be a great way to impress your clientele. If you have a resume consulting service, some before-and-after posts will show your customers what you can do for them. If you are a video editor, put up some clips of funny or heartwarming material that you’ve curated. If you have writing skills or access to someone who does, write articles about your industry.
6. Share Your Content
Publish your content on more than just your blog. There are some paying markets where you can actually be paid to demonstrate your credibility, but even putting your articles on publications or sites that can’t pay you will create a permanent advertisement for your business.
Nearly all publishers will allow you to include a blurb about your own business services in your about-the-author section. If you can’t find a specific market to place your articles in, you can always publish them on LinkedIn where they will get exposure to everyone in your extended network.
7. Join Relevant Communities
One of the best ways to get a hand up is to offer a hand up to others. Join communities and groups relevant to your business or industry on LinkedIn, Reddit, and Facebook, and offer people good advice and suggestions when they have problems or questions. (Make sure your own profile information points back to your business, of course!)
This is a way to build great karma and great connections with people relevant to your work. What goes around generally comes around. And remember that while you’re helping one person with their query, you’re being observed by a thousand silent others who will see your name and what you’re doing.
8. PPC Advertising Promotions
Sites like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and others regularly offer free advertising credits to lure in new business. You can get your feet wet in pay-per-click advertising without spending any money by waiting for these promotions to come around. (Just remember to turn off your ad campaigns if they don’t start paying for themselves.) This is a great way to promote risky or experimental product lines. If the ad campaign bombs, you haven’t spent any money or damaged your brand.
Related: Online Advertising eBook (free download)
9. Run a Class
Not all inexpensive marketing efforts need be online-only! If your business has a local presence, then consider teaching a class to attract attention and to impress potential customers with your skills. Your local library often has free classroom space available and will even let you promote the class with in-library advertising! Leverage the time you put into creating and teaching the class by having a friend take video of you teaching, then put that video on your website and on YouTube.
10. Attend Local Events
Attending local networking events can be a great way to increase your presence in your community. This works better for some types of businesses than others. If you provide services directly to other small businesses, then local networking is going to be far more rewarding than if you sell products online, for example. However, every kind of networking help, even if it’s just to share ideas and inspirations with other business owners.
Whether online or offline, inexpensive marketing techniques like these can get your business humming with the energy from new customers and clients.