The web is filled with free marketing tools for small businesses. From free social media sites to advertising and community sites, you’ll find lots of ways to market your small business without spending a dime. Here’s a list of some of the top small business marketing tools out there.
The fast track to marketing success for small businesses is to use free tools and techniques. The internet provides such a wealth of marketing ideas and tools that they can leave you overwhelmed and not knowing where to begin.
Do some local SEO
The best part about Google’s algorithm is that it is designed to serve up the most accurate, high-quality, and relevant content for any given search query. It’s not pay-to-play, so this levels the playing field and enables small businesses to compete with large competitors for page one real estate.
Local SEO is free, but it can take some time, so start now and keep working; the benefits over time can be huge. Here are some local SEO must-dos:
- Add location-based keywords (think: “Portland bakery”) to the titles, headings, and body content of your main website pages.
- Get listed in online directories, making sure your information is identical across platforms.
- Publish pages or blog posts specific to the neighborhoods you serve.
Good Local SEO can get you on Google’s 3-Pack as shown above.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Start a blog
One great way to make content a regular part of your marketing efforts is to start a blog.
Small businesses use blogging to drive traffic to their website, increase user engagement, improve their online visibility, and strengthen their overall SEO. It’s a completely free way to promote your small business online, through tales about your business and useful information your potential clients are seeking out.
Blog posts don’t have to belong and be complex—speak in simple terms, target a different topic with each post, and incorporate the keywords you’re targeting into each post naturally.
Form industry partnerships
Team up with a business related to your industry (but not a direct competitor) for a joint project. This can be done locally and offline through some kind of special event, or online (which could still be local) with a webinar or promotional giveaway.
Partnering with another business means twice as much notice and exposure to a whole new audience related to your niche.
Industry partnerships are a great marketing tactic because they allow small business owners access to marketing know-how, technology, and customer bases that they could not have achieved on their own. You need to put careful thought and effort in if you want to form a profitable partnership. Clarify expectations, engage with and vet different businesses, assess how you can work together, and have several conversations before making things official.
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.
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.
Turn employees into brand ambassadors
For many small businesses, word of mouth is an important marketing strategy to boost sales. Research shows that customers are more likely to buy a product or service if they get to know about it from strangers; so imagine the effect of friend or family referrals.
By treating your employees well and encouraging them to become brand ambassadors, you can tap into the incredible potential of their networks. Your employees have a genuine interest in your business, so why not leverage their voices and social networks to reach out to a larger audience?
Think about hosting an exclusive discount sale like a “friends and family” promotion now and then. Learn how to use Facebook for your business—create an event, invite employees, and ask your employees to share it with their personal and professional contacts. Encourage them to share the status and tag people to increase the reach of your event.
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.
- 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.
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.
You can also tag happy customers in your posts, exposing your business to that customer’s network (provided you have their permission).
Another free marketing tactic that can broaden your reach is to incorporate hashtags into your social media posts—on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok for sure but also for Facebook and LinkedIn.
Broad or trending hashtags can help you reinforce your brand identity, but they should not be the only hashtags you use. More specific hashtags (sort of like long-tail keywords) are good for when you’re providing resources or advice. Location-based hashtags are a must if you’re a local business. And don’t forget custom hashtags! Apply a mix of hashtag types in your posts so they can reach the people for whom they are meant.
Forget your passwords (on purpose)
Our FREE single sign-on app management system, COmpass, lets you spend less time remembering usernames and passwords and more time running your business. Access all of your business apps in one place — with one password — view key metrics from each of your apps on one screen and so much more. Sign Up Now!
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Over 55 million companies are currently on LinkedIn, so it’s a great tool to help grow your business. It’s easy to create a LinkedIn profile, begin networking with other professionals and start creating thought leadership content.
You know you need to be active on social media, but posting regularly can be very time-consuming. That’s why the right social media scheduler can be a lifesaver. Thanks to Buffer and its forever-free plan, you can use social media to your advantage in a time-effective manner.
This plan allows you to add three separate social media channels to your account. For instance, you may choose to add Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. From there, you can schedule up to 10 posts per week.
Google My Business
If you rely heavily on local business, then you need to claim your Google My Business listing. That way, when customers go to Google and search for a business that’s similar to yours, you won’t get edged out by the competition.
Don’t just claim your listing and leave it at that. Optimize your listing by adding photos, updating information about your business, and encouraging customers to leave reviews.
Google Analytics is a free tool that helps small businesses track website activity and engagement. It can help you evaluate how well your SEO strategy works and give you in-depth information about customer demographics.
Google Analytics can also help you determine what’s working in your current marketing strategy. For instance, you can see how you’re currently acquiring most of your traffic and what website pages visitors find the most engaging.
Social media is important, but you don’t truly own those followers. One thing you do have complete control over, though, is your email list.
Google Alerts is one of the best free marketing tools available for businesses. You can sign up to receive alerts anytime your company is mentioned online. You can also sign up to monitor your competitors’ mentions, so it’s a creative way to engage in competitor research.
According to Hubspot, 49% of marketers consider visual marketing a very important part of their overall marketing strategy; however, more than 23% of marketers also feel like design and visual marketing are some of their biggest challenges.
Fortunately, Canva makes the process of creating images much easier because it offers templates and optimized sizes. The free plan gives you access to over 250,000 templates, over 100 design types, and thousands of stock photos.
Help a Reporter Out
If you’re hoping to gain publicity for your business, Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is an invaluable resource that connects journalists to qualified sources. You can use HARO to land free publicity when you get someone in your business quoted as a source in a well-known publication. Plus, you can use it to generate backlinks to your website, which will help you show up higher in Google searches.
Building a robust email list is one of the best things you can do for your small business. Social media is important, but you don’t truly own those followers. One thing you do have complete control over, though, is your email list.
MailChimp is one of the most popular email management services available, and it’s free for up to 2,000 subscribers. This makes it a desirable option for small businesses that are just getting started with email marketing. It lets you send surveys, create tags, and do basic audience segmentation.
CoSchedule Headline Analyzer
If you regularly publish blog posts on your website, then you want to make sure the headlines entice website visitors to read the posts. You can do that with the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer. This free tool will analyze the word balance, word count, and overall clarity of your headlines.
Receiving customer feedback is an essential part of growing your business and improving your products and services. Typeform makes this easy by allowing you to create beautiful forms, surveys, and quizzes for your customers and website visitors. With the free plan, you can receive up to 100 responses per month.
When you are running a small business, marketing isn’t always on the top of your mind. But marketing strategies can make or break your small business.