Most small business owners don’t have the budget for a large marketing campaign with extensive advertising or a massive presence on social media. You may have heard that social media is one of the most powerful tools available to small business owners. But with this power comes a steep cost as well as the time and energy required to make social media work for your business. This does not mean you should ignore your social media channels though. There are plenty of free marketing ideas that can help you lower your marketing costs and increase visibility for your business online.
It’s a well-known fact that marketing your small business isn’t cheap. It can get super pricey if you have a large budget. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to market your small business on a budget, and free business marketing tools play a key role in this.
Free Marketing Tools For Any Small Business To Use
Did you know that YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine? One of the most popular types of searches on YouTube is anything “how to.” If your business is not yet active on YouTube, it’s time to get some video marketing content up.
With the booming popularity of podcasts and the growth in voice assistants like Alexa, Audacity is an audio editing tool that may come in handy. This open-source software lets you cut and edit audio clips, and add or remove effects.
Finding it hard or expensive to update the content on your website? Or maybe you are a startup entrepreneur who doesn’t have a website yet? You could seriously be missing out on customers. Create a site with WordPress, the world’s most popular content management system. Use of the software is free. Just pay for hosting.
Edit Flow is a WordPress plugin that provides businesses with a calendar, editorial comments, and more, to make it easier for teams to collaborate within WordPress.
Online Marketing Tools
Ever notice those banners containing a special message that look like thin slices across the top of websites? An easy way to get one of those on your website is through Hello Bar. Create banners to draw attention to special offers, sign up for your newsletter or take similar action.
HotjarKnowing how well a landing page is performing is an essential part of online marketing. Hotjar is a heat mapping app that identifies how well a page is received by website visitors. It tracks user behavior such as where the user clicks (or doesn’t), and how deep the user scrolls. From this, you can determine if the page needs to be redesigned.
Generate more effective button shares, trace web traffic through heat maps and attract more customers to your mailing list with SumoMe and its suite of online marketing tools.
Answer the Public
Answer the Public is a free online marketing tool that helps businesses look up questions surrounding their primary keywords. If you know which questions the public is asking, businesses are in a better position to answer those questions through content and increase rankings and traffic to their websites or blogs.
If you have a WordPress website and want to optimize pages for search engines, the Yoast plugin is the gold standard. It makes on-page optimization easy. An added plus: by following the tool’s guidance, beginners can learn about SEO (search engine optimization).
Tell a story with data or milestones.
This might be one of our favorite free small business marketing ideas.
Crunch the numbers on your business and see if any significant story comes through the data—maybe you’ve done business with over 1,000 clients in your area, or perhaps you provide your service at a percentage higher than industry standards.
Publish the results online or put a sign out in front of your store. People respond well to numbers—they’re an easily digestible data point. For example, “The community loves us” will be outperformed by “Over 2,500 satisfied customers in our area!” every time.
Conversely, say an academic study is done revolving around your industry. Use it to relate to the utility of your business by publishing it online and highlighting the most important parts.
Make your own infographics.
With all this data talk, it should be noted that infographics are super-powerful marketing tools—and relatively easy and inexpensive to make.
Infographics are visual and easy to understand, which is why many people love to share them. You can use online services right in your browser, such as Visme—no software or design skills are required.
You can also step it up a notch and pay for a freelance designer to create a set of infographics for you—which would come in as a relatively inexpensive small business marketing idea.
Publish distributed content.
Most people are familiar with the wonders of social media marketing, but many sites—like Facebook and Twitter—are pay-to-play, often with steep costs to reach the audience you want. And although you can still invest in publishing on those sites, consider alternative content distribution networks when you’re searching for free marketing ideas.
For instance, Reddit is an old-school social network that bills itself as the “front page of the internet.” To market on Reddit, you need to find a niche—known on Reddit as subreddits, or message boards—related to your industry or business. There, you can find scores of people already interested in what your business has to offer—if you do it correctly. You don’t want to overtly advertise on Reddit without making it feel authentic to the community, so study your subreddit thoroughly before opting to post.
You might also consider LinkedIn: The business-focused social network is often overlooked but can have a great impact. By joining professional groups, participating in industry conversations, and sharing your content, you can reach the right kind of audience that will bring you business. While this small business marketing idea will take some time on your part, it doesn’t have to cost money.
Engage in one-to-one marketing.
Sometimes referred to as 1:1 marketing, this is a customer relationship strategy aimed at boosting personalized interactions with customers. Examples run from sending handwritten postcards to valued customers or personalized birthday emails. The only thing this will cost you is your time, but otherwise, it’s a free marketing idea. Finding good customer relationship management software can also help automate this process.
Personalizing interactions with customers can foster greater loyalty and a better return on marketing investment. This is a quality over quantity tactic, for sure.
Hold an online contest.
Prizes don’t need to be extravagant—a couple of free products or complementary services can be enough to get potential customers to invest a few seconds of their time in applying to win.
Contests are a great way to gather potential customer data—like emails—while also getting them to spread the word about your business to even more potential customers.
Develop an industry partnership.
Developing partnerships is a must-have on any list of free marketing ideas.
Team up with a business that complements yours (one that isn’t a direct competitor, of course) for a joint project. You can do this by hosting a joint special event or online giveaway. They can be for a short period or extended for as long as you want. Either way, partnering with another business will give you access to their customer base and vice versa. This kind of access would cost you big bucks otherwise.
Try your hand at guerilla marketing.
It may sound scary, but it just takes a little ingenuity: Guerilla marketing uses public space to make itself known—a little sidewalk chalk and a good massage can go a long way at a well-trafficked intersection. Stickers and graffiti (with correct permits!) can also serve as eye candy for potential customers.
If you’ve got the creative spirit, this is one of our favorite marketing ideas for small businesses.
Host an event or class.
Plan an event to host or a class that will attract new customers to your business while educating them about your industry. The event or class will be its form of advertising, as well as a good reason to advertise.
Print out flyers and post them on community bulletin boards at the library, coffee shops, or other local establishments where interested pupils might hang around. Most community bulletin boards won’t let you post business advertisements, but they’re often more than happy to post a flyer promoting an educational event or class.
We love this free small business marketing idea because it’s offering great value to your current or potential customers.
Hold business card drawings.
This might not be one of our most innovative free small business marketing ideas, but it’s an oldie and a goodie.
Put out a fishbowl at your place of business and ask visitors to drop their business cards in it for a chance to win something—a free product or service, for example.
By the end of the month, you’ll have collected tons of business cards—likely with email addresses you can use to reach out to customers about joining your email mailing list so you can notify them of future giveaways and special offers.
Send email newsletters.
Email marketing is a great way to get new visitors engaged with your business, as well as maintain relationships with your existing customers. Not to mention one of our favorite free marketing ideas.
Even the most basic email marketing plans can have a big impact.
Consider these statistics from Entrepreneur Magazine: 72% of U.S. adults prefer companies to communicate with them via email, and 91% would like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with.
Advertise your email newsletter on your website or in your store so people can sign up. It’s a great way to establish customer loyalty or nurture subscribers to become paying customers over time. Start your email campaigns with a free email marketing platform like MailChimp or SendPulse—prices scale up as your business grows.
Help promote or volunteer your time for a charity event.
Charity events are a great place for small business brand visibility—and a good cause! Potential customers will associate your business with a feel-good attitude, and you’ll just have to donate some time or possibly some product.
Sign up for Help a Reporter Out (HARO).
Want free press? You should be on Help a Reporter Out (HARO).
HARO is a platform for reporters looking for help on articles or other pieces of content they’re working on. Reporters submit requests for responses on specific topics, and industry leaders and specialists answer. If your answer is used in the article, your name and business will appear with it.
If you consider yourself a thought leader in a certain industry or topic, be sure to be on HARO responding to reporters. It’s a quick and free marketing idea for small businesses that want to be placed in the news.
Manage your Yelp presence.
This is a simple but effective marketing idea for small businesses operating brick-and-mortar stores or service businesses. Yelp is a fantastic way to find new customers, so long as you keep up a strong presence.
Depending on how much you want to invest, Yelp for business can be a paid or free marketing idea. A basic first step is to either register or claim your business, add your location, post pictures of your products, and start responding to your customers’ reviews.
Start a client appreciation program.
Sometimes your next best customer is your last customer, meaning you should invest in the relationship you have with your existing customers.
Starting a customer appreciation program might encourage people to continue using your service.
Donate to or sponsor fundraisers and charities.
Although not a free marketing idea for small businesses, participating in local fundraisers or contributing to local charities is a great way to show public support for the organizations you care about.
And depending on the agreement, you might be able to get some visibility with local customers if you can sponsor an event or give away branded prizes.
Invest in SEO.
You can shell out a lot of money perfecting your SEO strategy, but there are certainly ways to make small investments in this marketing strategy for small businesses.
A few things—like producing content that’s helpful and thorough for your readers, making sure your headers are explanatory and readable or optimizing your local listings—can go a long way toward helping your small business get found on the web
Build a presence on online forums.
If your customers are online, then the best marketing ideas for your small business will be online, as well.
One of our favorite free marketing ideas? Building a presence on online forums like Quora, Reddit, or just about any forum where your customers are posting.
Answering questions in a non-promotional, helpful manner will help build visibility among your potential customers. Selling your business too heavy-handedly, though, will turn potential new customers away from your business.
Interact with customers and partner with influencers.
Once you have your social media channels up and running, you should put them to good use. This means using those channels to interact with your customers who are either reviewing you or commenting on your posts. Let them know you’re listening to what they have to say and that you care.
You can also partner up with influencers on social media to help elevate your social media presence. Send them a gift and they might feature you in a post or on their story on Facebook or Instagram.
To take this a step further, you can pay for the influencer to advertise your product or services as well. They just have to be sure to comply with the guidelines on the platform they’re using. And while this isn’t a free marketing idea, it can be worth the investment if you find an influencer whose audience base overlaps with your own.
Host a webinar.
Hosting a webinar or collaborating on one with another business can be a great way to help potential new customers or other business owners get to know your business.
This can be fairly simple like going live on Facebook or Instagram and taking questions from the comments or interviewing one of your top employees. However you decide to format it, this small business marketing idea will likely give some new customers insight into your business, while establishing yourself as a resource in your industry.
Apply for business awards.
There are certain business awards out there that you can apply for and if you win, it will help to get your business’s name out in the community. Sometimes local magazines will rate businesses or produce a roundup of popular businesses—another great way to get the word out about your business. Be sure to check for the latest awards or rankings in your industry so you don’t miss an opportunity to let your business shine.
Awards like the top places to work in your area or your industry are also a great way to get the word out about your business. Showing that you treat your employees well goes a long way with potential customers—people like to support businesses that they believe in.
Offer free samples.
Everyone loves free stuff. Depending on what product or service you sell, a free sample or a discount could be exactly what your business needs to gain a new customer.
If people are hesitant to switch to your service or product, it might best serve your business to offer them the chance to try it out without fully committing. This is a generally inexpensive marketing idea for small businesses to get their products or services on people’s radar.
Business marketing ideas for a small business on a budget may seem a long way off, especially when you have other areas to focus on. But being able to market your business online effectively is crucial when trying to grow your small business, whatever sector you are in. So, if you are looking for effective ways in which to market yourself at substantially less cost, there are certainly plenty of options out there.