Free Marketing Help for Small Businesses

There is a lot of information and free help available for small businesses that don’t have the budget to hire an expensive PR specialist.

When starting a new business, it can be difficult to know where to get advice. If the company is a startup it might even be difficult to find anyone with marketing experience or a marketing degree. In this article, I’ll share some of the best small business marketing sites and ideas for small businesses to get you started.

 Develop a customer referral program.

It’s often overlooked, but word-of-mouth marketing for small businesses is a super-powerful way to market your business. There’s a reason why word of mouth is number one on our list of small business marketing ideas. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.[1]

One way to boost your word-of-mouth marketing is by introducing a customer referral program. Try offering your existing customers something—a free sample product, complimentary service, discounts, or some other low-cost reward—for referring new customers. Having your customers tell their friends and family about your business can be incredibly valuable. Plus, a customer referral reward can help you show some appreciation to existing customers, as well.

Send out a customer satisfaction survey.

A customer satisfaction survey is not only a great way to learn about your customer base, but it’s also a great way for customers to remember you exist. Surveys have taken their rightful place as number two on our list of small business marketing ideas.

Consider it like rogue email marketing—though this can also be done analog in your storefront or on the street. Customers will appreciate that you asked for their opinion and they’ll feel invested in the results of the survey, which will translate into better loyalty over time. You might learn a thing or two about how your business might improve along the way. Win-win.

These strategies are 100% free and don’t require a ton of resources or time (since we know that time is money).

Attend free events and meet new people

In a time when online communication is so prevalent, it might be strange to hear that you should be out networking in person, but because online is such the norm, face-to-face has an even bigger impact than ever. You’re the best advocate for your business. Go to events in your community and start networking. Meeting the right people could make a difference in growing your business.

Use print media

We’re an inbound agency, so it may seem like we’re suggesting you do something different than what we preach, but ultimately each business needs to do the kind of marketing that helps meet their goals. So, if your audience is still consuming information from print media, that’s where you need to be.

Create a free Google My Business account

For local businesses especially, a Google Business Profile has become one of the most effective free marketing strategies available. This free listing allows your business to show up on Google Maps, the local section of Google Search, and the right-side Knowledge Panel for branded searches.

free and low budget marketing ideas google my business profile in maps

An example of a Google Business Profile Accessed from Google Maps

But for your Business Profile to show up higher on Google Maps or local results, you need to optimize your Business Profile, and to optimize it, you need to have verified ownership of it—which is done through your Google My Business account.

Post (and engage) on social media

Increasing social media engagement and building a community online is a free way to grow your small business while expressing your brand’s personality and building trust with your audience. Create business accounts and participate in the big social media sites—Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and more. This is something you can do whenever you have a few minutes to spare.

You can:

  • Promote your blog posts, which drive traffic to your website.
  • Directly dialogue with followers to express your brand voice and garner more engagement.
  • Run polls and request feedback.
  • Take excerpts from longer forms of content and create quick and informational posts that are easier to digest.

Whatever your motivation, make sure you are regularly active and proactive on the social media accounts you create. Think consistency, community, collaboration, and commitment.

free ways to promote your instagram account embed feed on website

For more help with free social media marketing, check out these posts:

Tag people (and brands) on social media

Tagging your loyal customers, brand evangelists, or even neighboring companies and vendors on social media can broaden the organic reach of your business to a new potential audience, help you grow your following, and potentially even attain more clients. You should also encourage your followers to tag your social media handle or business location in their posts. More about user-generated content here.

free and low budget marketing ideas social media tagging

You can also tag happy customers in your posts, exposing your business to that customer’s network (provided you have their permission).

Develop an email marketing plan

Email marketing is a great way to get new visitors engaged with your business, as well as maintain relationships with your existing customers. And though email marketing isn’t new, it’s still one of—if not the—most reliable ways to achieve a strong return on your marketing investment. Here’s how to ensure that:

  • Put thought and creativity into your subject lines.
  • Make sure every email has an offer that encourages your readers to take a next step.
  • Track your performance and run A/B tests to see what copy and offers resonate with your list.
free and low budget marketing ideas email marketing

Some more easy email marketing ideas:

  • Get new website visitors to sign up for your newsletter by offering a bonus content piece or coupon/discount for subscribing.
  • Slowly nurture your subscribers via email until they are ready to become paying customers.
  • Start your promotional email campaigns with a free email marketing service like MailChimp.

Create data-rich infographics

Infographics are insanely powerful as marketing tools. They’re visual eye candy, easy to digest, and people love to share them, so they’re a great way to drive up referral traffic and links.

Hiring a designer to make you an A+ infographic can hit your wallet hard, but you can make your own on the cheap with free tools like Canva, Adobe’s free vector kits,  or our personal favorite, Visme, that provide all the elements needed to make a clever, sharable infographic. Not sure where to start? Check out Visual.ly for inspiration. They have beginner and advanced examples for you to browse through.

free and low budget marketing ideas infographic example

If you don’t have any original, proprietary data to use in an infographic, you can find existing data and breathe new life into it. For government data, check out data.gov or The Census Bureau. Global statistics can be found through UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Ultimately, you’ll have to find source data that relates to your industry and audience interests. But there’s a ton of freely available data out there!

Claim free ad promo credits

While massive ad campaigns may be out of your budget, there are often discounts and coupons floating around for Facebook or Google Ads. Some web hosting services offer advertising discount codes as part of their membership offerings. Check and see if yours does. Of course, receiving the promo is easy, but you’ll still want to brush up on your PPC skills to get the best results and audience insights. Check out the training resources in Growth Academy if you’re ready to learn the basics.

For more free advertising opportunities, head here.

Apply for business awards

Most industries have business awards you can win, providing you with an online badge you can place on your website. Badges like these can boost credibility, and as a result, increase sales. Here are some tips on how to market an award and make the most of it.

free and low budget marketing ideas award badge

If there aren’t any awards for your industry, host your own! You’ll get attention from other industry businesses who want to apply for your award, which means even more connections and more possible future collaborations!

Feeling brave? Give guerilla marketing a try

Guerilla marketing emphasizes creativity over budget, and strategies are often cheap and easy to implement, especially when localized. Broadcast your Twitter handle with sidewalk chalk, use an abandoned storefront as a canvas for street art, or plaster custom stickers on urban décor that makes those who stroll by look twice.

free and low budget marketing ideas apply for business awards

There’s a ton of room for invention here, and you don’t need a big budget to be successful.

Publish great content

Content marketing, if done with care, is a highly effective tactic that doesn’t require a huge budget. Not only does this serve to demonstrate your authority, expertise, and genuine desire to benefit your audience; but also, Google prioritizes high-quality content that best answers the questions its users are asking. So it makes your website more visible on Google and brings in more free traffic.

Think writing isn’t your strong point? Remember, good content helps educate your audience through simple, easy-to-understand language—not fancy jargon, but rather the terms your audience uses to obtain answers to questions related to your products or services. So don’t try to be fancy, just share your expertise!

free and low budget marketing ideas quality blog post

This LOCALiQ article by Stephanie Heitman demonstrates high-quality content addressing a common question asked by LOCALiQ readers.

And remember, most things that are second nature to you are often foreign to your customers. You are the expert! Original, authentic, and useful content is the key here—how-tos, top ten lists, tip collections, best practices, data insights, thought leadership pieces, and the list goes on (some of these will be mentioned later in this post).

For more help with quality content creation, check out these 32 Free (& Almost Free) Content Marketing Tools.

Post helpful videos

Video is a highly popular medium for consumers, and while it can cost you a lot to get a professional video produced and uploaded to YouTube, you don’t have to hire a professional. DIY video marketing is easy with today’s devices and social media apps like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.

free and low budget marketing ideas youtube video

Videos are especially great for demonstrating how to complete a task, like folding a fitted sheet or installing a garbage disposal. But video marketing works in pretty much every industry. To strike that vital connection with your audience, you can create:

  • Instructional videos and how-tos
  • Product demos
  • Behind-the-scenes coverage of what it’s like to work at your business
  • Interviews with your staff or industry experts
  • Slideshows with images and captions

Add a branding message or personal message, whichever is appropriate. Be transparent. Finish with a strong call to action (e.g. Call us to set up an appointment! or Place your birthday cake order today!), and then distribute the video on your website, YouTube and other video hosting sites, social media channels, and even in emails.

Conclusion

If you own a small business, you know how hard it can be to grow when your marketing budget is low. Exactly what you need are some basic marketing strategies that work. There are hundreds of marketing ideas for small businesses that you can use in no time at all with no marketing budget at all. All you have to do is tap into free services and resources for your business.

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