Promoting a business can seem daunting for small business owners who have little to no money in their marketing budget. Fortunately, in this digital age, it's easy to promote a business online without breaking the bank.
So how do you market your business when you don't have any spare dollars to spend on marketing? It can seem like you’re stuck in a vicious cycle, but if you use these 11 tips, you can garner increased attention for your business and bring in more customers (almost) without spending a huge sum.
1. Raise your community profile by getting involved in local events. This could be anything from sponsoring a local charity run so that your company name is on the T-shirts to donating your product or services as a prize in a local fundraising raffle.
2. Increase your local visibility. Place an entry in local paper business directories and online directories like Yelp or Yahoo. People frequently turn to online directories to search for a local service, and they pop up near the top of Google and other online searches too. Local advertising brochures are also inexpensive to advertise in and reach many consumers.
3. Share your knowledge. Everyone wants to get the inside info, which only the experts know. Sharing advice or skills helps get your name out to the masses. You could do this by:
- Giving a free workshop or class
- Providing tips or advice that you can offer as a downloadable page on your website
- Writing an expert article for a local magazine or website
4. Speak directly to your market by giving a speech to your local community on a topic connected with your business. You can also appear as a guest on a local radio show to talk about your field of expertise. More people listen to the radio than you might think.
5. Maximize word of mouth. Don't be shy to ask your customers for referrals and recommendations. Many people are happy to tell their friends about the great job you did. Seek out enthusiastic quotes from delighted customers that you can use on your marketing materials.
6. Support the media. Subscribing to Help a Reporter Out (HARO) gives you a chance to respond to reporters looking for professional information and journalistic sources. It's a free way to get your name into local and sometimes national media.
7. Use promotions wisely. Giveaways – free samples of your new soaps, a free yoga session or a raffle to win free installation of new windows and doors – always attract attention.
8. Establish an online presence. Today, people are more likely to search online for a local plumber, so create a website with a blog so people can find you. There are plenty of free website builders that guide even novice website builders through the process.
9. Make the most of social media. Being active on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is a great way to get your name out there. Having a Facebook page also makes it easier for people to recommend you by tagging you. I recommend following these three tips for your social media pages:
- Connect with local influencers, businesses and community figures who are likely to use your services and recommend you.
- Join Facebook groups that are relevant to your business and contribute helpful advice without self-promotion, in order to increase your reputation.
- Choose the best platform for your business, e.g., Instagram for visual products, Twitter for B2B connections, Facebook for B2C and service industries, Pinterest for visual products and crafts, LinkedIn for B2B services, etc.
10. Use email marketing platforms to send reminders, discount coupons, advice and more to your customers and potential customers. Many email marketing services are free up to a certain number of recipients. They offer plenty of templates and advice to help you send engaging emails.
11. Create a Google+ profile through Google My Business so your business shows up in a Google search for local businesses. This strengthens your local SEO so you show up higher in Google searches, plus your business will appear on Google Maps results.
Tricks for increasing your marketing budget
Although it is possible to effectively market your business with zero budget, it's even better when you can allocate a little money to marketing. These four tips can help you add some more dollars to your budget.
Make the most of your tax deductions. If you're an independent contractor, there are multiple ways you can chip away at your final tax bill, which keeps more money in your pocket to spend on important things like marketing.
Do what you can to reduce business expenses. It's easy to fall into certain habits, which aren't always the most cost-effective. Every now and then it's good to review how much you're spending to see where you can cut costs.
Manage your cash flow. Ideally, you'll always have positive cash flow. Just in case, it's best to have three to six months of working capital on hand in an easy-to-access account in case of emergencies.
- See if you can raise your prices. If you're smart about it, raising your prices will bring in more income without causing you to lose customers while also giving you more freedom with your marketing budget.