In order to survive and grow into a profitable company, every business needs customers. In order to get customers, every business needs to promote itself. Before the advent of the internet, promotion was easy because there weren’t too many options. It was a matter of deciding between a flyer, a post card, or an ad in the local newspaper. Today, however, the methods for promoting your business are overwhelming and only increasing by the day. There’s social media marketing, search engine marketing, guerrilla marketing, and more. If you are a small business owner struggling to figure out which one to use, or to even get up to speed on which options are out there, you are not alone. To help you navigate the sea of ideas out there for getting the word out about your product or service, we have put together a list of 18 ways that you can promote your business whether you have a budget or not.
Online directories are today’s version of the yellow pages. Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, and others all have online directories for businesses. By listing your company in these directories, your business will show up in certain search results – particularly if someone is looking for a local business.
To promote your business, get started with free listings in the biggest directories (you can find a list of biggest directories in the beginning of our local SEO eBook) and make sure you keep your business details exactly the same in each directory in order to maximize visibility. For more tips on how to rank well in Google+and other directories, take a look at this article.
Word of mouth has gone digital and the way to maximize your online word of mouth is to get some reviews on review sites and directories. Testimonials on your own website don’t hurt, but if you really want to maximize the effectiveness of positive reviews, you’ll need to get them on third-party websites like Google+and Yelp. These websites can increase your exposure, and because they make it harder for businesses to generate fake reviews, people trust the reviews here more than anywhere else.
Make sure you let your customers know that you have listings on these sites so that they can review you. Rather than asking them to review you, something simple like “View us on Yelp” serves as an effective but casual reminder.
If you don’t have a business page set up on Facebook to promote your business, it probably is time to set one up as part of a social media marketing plan. Facebook is the largest social network online and it can be a great way to keep in touch with existing customers and to reach new customers.
Promoting your business on Facebook can vary substantially depending upon your industry. Take a look at our guide to help you make Facebook work for your business for ideas from real business owners.
Twitter is another free channel that can be used to promote your business online. It tends to require a bit more activity to build an audience, but if you’re consistently active it can be easier to build a following there than on Facebook. Twitter can be intimidating at first, and is certainly not a platform you will master right away. However, putting a little time into it each day, even if just exploring and experimenting with things, can go a long way. The best way to learn Twitter is to use it. So, if you’re trying to reach 18-24-year-olds (the fastest growing segment of Twitter users), jump on there and give it a try. Not just one hour here and there, but a consistent daily effort over the course of a month. The investment of time will be worth it.
If you’re not sure if Twitter is right for you, our social media selection guide will help you figure out which of the most popular social media channels are right for you.
LinkedIn has become more than just a place to post your online resume; it’s also a place to join in on group discussions, connect with potential customers, form new partnerships, or just to do general online networking. Potential customers can check out you or your company before doing business with you to find out how many employees you have and to get more information on the background of the company personnel.
You can also promote your business indirectly on LinkedIn by providing a perspective in group discussions and/or providing links to relevant content on your website. If you’re interested in exploring the best techniques for promoting your business in LinkedIn, take a look at our post on marketing on LinkedIn.
Pinterest is one of the more recent social networks that has risen to have mass appeal. While it’s fundamentally focused on sharing photos, the fact that those photos can link back to the webpages where the photo is located has created an opportunity to promote your business.
Pinterest has become especially powerful for e-commerce businesses looking to reach a female audience (Pinterest users are heavily skewed towards the female demographic). If this fits your profile, you may want to think about getting active on the Pinterest network. Here are 5 steps to growing your Pinterest following.
Foursquare is one of the smaller social networks that still gets onto the radar of small business owners. Users of Foursquare can “check-in” to locations on their mobile phones in order to keep track of locations they’ve visited and potentially redeem offers if a local business posts a special.
If you have a business that is trying to pull in as much foot traffic as possible, listing yourself on Foursquare is probably worth the few minutes it takes to set up and if you see some check-ins you might want to think about offering a special discount to customers who “check-in”.
Video marketing is a great way to promote your business, and YouTube lets you do it for free! Promoting your business via YouTube is an effective way to help potential customers or clients connect with your business. Putting together a quick overview video of your business and then uploading it to YouTube gives you a nice sales tool that you can post on the homepage of your website or circulate in emails to prospective clients. The video is also likely to get some pretty good visibility in the search engines.
If you want to try to promote your business beyond just a general introductory video, try posting educational style videos, tutorials, or how-to’s in YouTube channel in order to get discovered by people looking for what your business offers.
Getting publicity for your business can cost money, but it can also be free. Creating an online network through Facebook or Twitter can easily help promote an event. Do you have a newsworthy event that a local news outlet might be interested in covering? Try contacting a local news organization or group of bloggers. If you have something interesting, they might be willing to do a story on you or at least give you a mention. If they have accounts on Twitter and Facebook, take some time follow and engage with their content. The more you can familiarize yourself with their style of writing or range of topics, the more specific you can be with your request. Furthermore, if you’ve taken the time to read their work and share it with others, they may be more willing to help you out. Be interested in them and they will be interested in you. If you can get covered by an outlet with enough media presence, this can certainly be a great way to promote your business.
Partnering with non-competitive businesses that serve the same clientele can be a great way to promote your business, while also growing a quality network. Once you have established a relationship, you can cross-promote each other’s services through your email lists and in-store flyers or coupons, or by engaging them through social media. Don’t be afraid to get creative to maximize the promotional value of the partnership. Find some creative ideas on partnerships in our Father’s Day Marketing Ideas blog post.
Even in a world that is increasingly digital, promoting your business at physical events is still a great way to grow your business. Events can range from big national trade shows that attract tens of thousands of people, to small local events that gather members of your community.
If you are targeting a national audience and you want to sell your products to retailers, going to a big trade show might make sense. Learn how to run a successful booth at a craft or trade show here. If you are unsure of how beneficial the trade show will be for you, and you have some time to figure it out, you might consider just attending as a visitor before investing the money in your own booth. If you have a good relationship with a company already planning on exhibiting at a trade show, they may let you “hang out” in their booth for a portion of time, where you can promote your business free of charge.
If you have a locally oriented business, getting involved in community events can be a great promotional tool to meet new customers. Another tool that may help you to find like-minded people in your area is meetup.com. There, you can search online for groups of people that hold in-person events organized around a huge range of topics.
Google still remains a mainstay for how people search for products and services they are interested in purchasing. The good news is that you can have a significant impact on how easy it is for people to find you by doing some search engine optimization. Search engine optimization assumes that you already have some form of a website in place, which may cost some money, but once that site is in place, optimizing it for search doesn’t have to cost you a dime!
Make sure you follow all the best practices if you want your website to come up on the first page for as many keyword search phrases as possible.
Although there are completely free solutions to get a website in place for your business, almost inevitably you will need to move to some form of a paid website if you are serious about promoting your business. Whether you build the website yourself or pay someone to build it for you, a website has become an essential ingredient for almost any business looking to be found online. Make sure that your website has these 6 elements to make it great and optimized for SEO.
Promoting your business through online advertising can be done in a couple of different ways. You can pay for banner ads on websites like Yahoo, or on websites who partner with Google to allow Google to place ads on their sites. Alternatively, you can do search advertising where you pay to have your ad show up in Google (or other search engines) when someone searches for a particular keyword or phrase.
Advertising online can be tricky, but the benefit is that you can get traffic to your website quickly. If you optimize your campaigns right, advertising online is a sustainable way to promote your businesses and generate a steady stream of customers.
Related: Online Advertising eBook
Despite the dominance of digital media today, sending postcards, flyers, letters, or other types of mail can still be a very effective way to promote your business. It can also fail miserably. One of the biggest challenges to business owners looking to promote their businesses through the mail is that it typically requires a significant budget to do enough testing to get it right (or to determine if it’s not the right channel for you). Because average response rates are around 1%, you may need to send thousands or even tens of thousands of mail pieces to find the right format (postcard vs. letter vs. brochure, etc.), the right message or offer, and the right target list.
The benefit is that if you get it right, promoting your business through the mail can help you get new customers with a very repeatable process.
Promoting your business through the use of public relations is another tactic that you can use to grow your business. We already covered the free way to promote your business using public relations, but you can also hire a firm or pay to publish your own press releases. If your business is large enough to be able to afford a multi-thousand dollar per month budget than you may want to consider hiring a public relations firm to help you get stories published by the media.
If your budget is a little bit lower, you can publish your own press releases through companies like www.prweb.com. These press releases may get picked up by some media outlets and they can also help your search engine optimization by providing links back to your website.
Trade shows have been around for many years as a mechanism to pull together a large group of buyers and sellers organized around particular industries. Just about every industry has one or more trade shows that you can use to promote your business. Many times there will be regional trade shows as well as national trade shows. Some quick Google searching should help you identify the relevant shows in your area.
You can promote your business at a trade show by renting a space, putting together an exhibit, and then attending the show. You need to pay for all of this expense up front, and it will take some time to make back the money from the connections that you make, but it can be a great way to build your business. Prompt follow up is critical after these shows and many business owners overlook this element. Don’t assume that buyers will follow up with you, you will need to follow up with most of them in order to complete the sale.
Newspapers, magazines, radio, and even television are some other traditional places for paying to promote your business. Many of these outlets have seen dramatic declines in their ability to help you reach new customers, but they can still work. If you are considering promoting your business using one of these channels the key is to make sure you are tracking everything so that you can know the effectiveness. Systems like ThriveHive will enable you to track web visits, phone calls, and web leads even for these offline activities so that you know what you are getting for your advertising dollars.
Hopefully these 18 different ways to promote your business have given you some new ideas for getting customers. If you need help figuring out what to do first, check out these other free marketing ideas or schedule a consult with us and we’ll help you sort out the details.