20 free marketing ideas for small businesses

More often than not, money is tight for small businesses and marketing is often seen as a ‘nice to have’ rather than an essential part of business strategy. But when your business is new and unknown, you will need to find ways to let others know that your business exists and build your brand over time, otherwise your client list may never grow.

Here are a few of our tried and tested tips on how you can market your small business yourself and without spending any money:

1. Create a high quality website

Creating websites have never been easier than it is today and you really don’t need to be a web designer. Try free website builders such as WordPressWix or Squarespace. If you are short of visuals, have a look at our handy list of free stock photo sites that you can use to find the best pictures for your website. While the look is really important, don’t forget about search engine optimisation to ensure your website can be found online.

2. Start a blog

Blogs are one of the most effective ways to build trust with your potential clients by sharing your knowledge and experience, but in addition to creating a great looking blog with interesting content you  also need to be promoting it with the right readers, so they can find your site and keep coming back. For more tips on how to promote your blog, read our recent post How to get more readers to your blog.

3. Set up relevant social media profiles

There are many social media platforms to chose from. The key is to pick the ones that are relevant to your audience and focus on those – you don’t need many, but you need those you use to be effective. Create a consistent profile across all social media accounts, use the same description and profile photos so it’s clear at first glance who you and your business are. Use relevant keywords in your profiles and remember to link them back to your website to drive traffic.

4. Connect with others on social media

Once you are all set and have a few activities going on your profiles and/or pages, it’s time to start interacting with others. Search for other users based on relevant keywords and pick those that you could have a conversation with and continue interacting via re-sharing their content, mentioning them in your updates or liking what they got to say. The more you interact the more visible your profiles will become and your follower base will start growing organically.

5. Share interesting content on social media

Sharing content on social media and engaging with your followers online is another effective way to market your small business. It all comes down to the quality of the content you are sharing, the timings and frequency of your posts and interactions.  Keeping your online presence regular with interesting and insightful posts – whether created by you or others helps to build your follower numbers organically and remind your existing ones about your business.

6. Link your social media to your website

Having visible social media icons linked to your profiles on your website will make it easier for visitors to find and follow you on social media and it also helps with search engine optimisation. Also add social media sharing buttons as part of your blogs so visitors can easily share your content, building awareness of your small business.

7. Create and promote a variety of content

Be innovative with your content – consider written blogs and articles, visuals, videos, podcasts, infographics.. The more varied your content, the more people you will reach and you will be able to use your original content for a variety of social media and email marketing campaigns.

 8. Write guest blogs

Expand your reach by guest blogging elsewhere – offer valuable advice that can be published on other sites and benefit from the extended reach that they bring. Research blogs that are reaching the right readership for your business and connect with other bloggers – they can benefit from your expertise, and vice versa you can offer to publish their guest posts on your blog.

9. Send out a press release

Having your name mentioned in relevant media outlets can have a great impact on your business, get you noticed and create a lot of positive buzz around your brand.  Issuing a press release is an effective way to get your name out there, providing you have relevant news that is interesting to the media. For more tips, read our post How to write and distribute a press release.

10.  Create a professional email signature

Very simple, yet very effective if you think about how many emails you send every day. Use your signature to highlight any relevant contact details, link it to your website and keep it up to date. Include your logo and links to your social media profiles to build brand awareness and connect with others.

11. Build an email database

Once you established your business online start focusing on building a database of contacts – offer a newsletter subscription, use gated content, capture your social media followers or build your list through prospecting and interact with them on regular basis.

12. Create a downloadable e-paper

If you are creating your own content, consider turning it into an e-paper which you can promote via your website, social media and email. Asking readers to register their email address to download the paper will help you build a database and if people are willing to give away their email address so they can read your paper, it means that they are interested in your business.

13. Use discovery engines to boost your traffic

As the name suggests, discovery engine sites make it easy to find relevant content based on your interests. And if they can help you to find great sites, they can also be very effective when it comes to promoting your own content. Some of these are available as apps, some of them will require a plugin and for others you just need to submit a link to your blog or website with relevant tags. See our post Six discovery engine sites that can increase your website traffic for more info.

14. Take advantage of social selling

Social selling is exactly what the name indicates – selling your products and services with the help of social networks. Irrespective of your business’ focus or size, interacting with your potential clients via social media helps you to establish and build your brand, generate and nurture new leads and build relationships.

15. Join webinars

You won’t see actual faces, but if you are not a confident networking type, webinars are just what might work for you. You can learn and interact with others online, either via the phone or through chat rooms – not as personal as actual face to face events but a very effective learning and networking tool.

16. Send out a regular e-newsletter

Creating a regular e-newsletter for those who sign up to your mailing list is a great way to communicate with your current and potential clients, build brand awareness and credibility. It can be used to communicate anything relevant you want to share – from special offers, through content to news announcements. The idea is that you keep them regular and easy to read.

17. Ask for testimonials

Use your happy clients to promote your business by asking them for testimonials. There is nothing better to prove your skills than having a satisfied customer telling everyone else. Write up the success stories to date and use them as a foundation for your marketing campaigns. Doesn’t matter if you can’t use your client’s name. Everyone loves a good story – so share yours.

18. Partner with other small businesses

Work with other small businesses and freelancers to promote your services and products. Be selective to ensure your values and focus align and start cross marketing each other’s services and products. Recommend others – it’s a nice thing to do and will hopefully help those who you are recommending. In the same way, it gets your name out there. The ones who asked for recommendations are also very likely to recommend you back.

19.  Attend local events

Get your name out there and connect with your local community and peers. Networking is the most effective way to build your business’ brand, learn from others and find out about the latest trends in your industry.

20.   Tell everyone

When you are starting with a blank client list, the best place to start is to contact those who already know you. Even better if they know your work. The more people are aware of your business the more business opportunities. Ask them for feedback too so you can see things  from a different perspective.

Having a great network of friends around you is also essential to keep your sanity when the going gets tough and to celebrate those great successes as your small business grows!

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