This post is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other ways to promote your business for free, such as social media marketing and blogging. However, you shouldn’t feel limited by this information; there are other options available to you. It’s up to you to determine how much time you want to invest in promoting your business in addition to creating work for paying clients.
There are plenty of ways to promote your business for the least amount of money. The truth is that you don’t need a full-fledged marketing campaign to reach your target audience. You don’t need to go broke to do it, either. Use these simple tips, and watch your business start getting the recognition it deserves.
Use the three big local listing services
Registering your business with Google Places allows it to be found more easily on Google searches and it shows up on Google Maps. All you have to do is fill out the form and register, then get your business verified through their confirmation process, which can be done either with a phone call or snail mail. Yahoo! also has a big database of businesses called Yahoo! Local. It’s free, and is certainly worth the few minutes it takes to set up. Microsoft’s Bing has a similar service that’s easy to sign up for.
Embrace social media
Social media isn’t just a tool to gain exposure—it has now become a necessary time investment for every business to make. You can tie in ads and offers on your Facebook page and have a direct channel with your customers on Twitter. Networking on LinkedIn—both at the personal and company level—can be another way to help your startup.
Start a blog
A blog not only helps your company get its name out through followers but is a way to connect with your consumers more directly. But remember that one of the major keys of blogging is to keep your stream updated as frequently as you can. A dormant, abandoned blog is worth nothing.
Reward Social Media Sharing
It’s great to find new customers, but it’s also important to show your appreciation for those who are already loyal to your brand—especially if they’re willing to shout it from the proverbial rooftops.
Providing discounts to your followers who share your brand on social media rewards their customer loyalty, and gives you a boost. After all, word-of-mouth endorsements are still the best form of advertising around. Engaging with and rewarding your customers is a great way to advertise your business for free.
Create and verify your Google Business Profile
Your Google Business Profile (Google’s term for your Google listing) is what allows your business to show up in Google Maps results, the local section of Google Search results, and also—when someone types in your business name (ideas for creative business names here!) and location—the right-side Knowledge Panel in Search results. As Google gets better and better at catering its results to the searcher’s location, this free listing should be a top priority.
The key to using your Business Profile to promote your business is to verify ownership of your listing through your free Google My Business account. Once you have ownership, you can optimize your listing to show up higher in search results and for more relevant searches.
If you’re ranking on Google Maps or showing up in the Local Pack (as seen above) of regular results pages (this is very doable), your business is promoting itself 24/7. Even better, you can publish posts directly to your Google listing, putting attractive promotions in front of your audience at a time when they have high intent.
For a deeper dive into this very free, very effective method of promoting your business, visit 13 Google My Business Optimizations for 2020.
Get a website
Every business needs a website, no matter how old-fashioned your business or clients may be. Your website is the go-to for current and prospective customers. Even if they find you on social media or Google, they will want to go to your website and, like your Google listing, it serves to promote your business around the clock.
A good business website not only serves as a promotional tool in and of itself—it tells the story of your business and what you offer, provides contact information, and reflects your brand’s personality and distinguishing characteristics—but it is also essential for measuring and improving the success of your other promotional tactics.
For example, when you run ads, you need landing pages, which live on your website. When you post helpful information on social media, it should link to its home on your website. With all of your marketing channels flowing into your website, you can use analytics to see which strategies are working best and get invaluable insights about your audience.
Although there are completely free solutions to get a website in place for your business, almost inevitably you will need to move to some form of a paid website if you are serious about promoting your business. Having your domain name, a professional look, and feel, and the ability to scale and add features as needed are all essential for growth.
Implement search engine optimization
It’s one thing for you to promote your business; it’s another thing for Google to promote your business. SEO is a set of practices that align your business with Google’s ranking algorithm. But because this algorithm has evolved to use machine learning and user behavior to produce the most accurate and quality results for searchers, optimizing for search engines is just optimizing for searchers—particularly those searching for what you have to offer.
SEO isn’t just one tactic, but many tactics that collectively work together to improve your rank. Also, because Google has superb location-based results, you have just as much of a chance as big retailers to show up on the first page of Google— without spending a dime! (Except the costs to get a website, of course).
SEO tactics to promote your business include:
- Adding relevant (industry- and location-based) keywords to specific places on your website.
- Producing original, high-quality content regularly, with tagged images.
- Maintaining high page load speeds and security.
When your business is ranking high in results, Google is promoting your business for you—and not just to anyone, but to the people searching for what you have to offer. Doesn’t get much better than that.
Cultivate a Cadre of Brand Ambassadors
George Clooney probably fetches a pretty penny for his work as Nespresso spokesman, but there are other, more accessible methods for how to advertise your business with brand ambassadors.
Focus on social media influencers who might not be Clooney-level celebrities, but who have established themselves as prominent figures in a circle that relates to your brand. Gaining an endorsement from an influencer strengthens your brand’s presence and legitimacy in that world. If you go this route, though, make sure your social media influencer campaign is legal.
Look Within for Positive Word of Mouth
Your strongest advocates for your business might just be under your roof. An employee willing to share positive things about the company on their social media accounts can grab the attention of potential new customers. Therefore, incentivizing that behavior is a savvy business move and a great way to advertise your business for free. Platforms like Dynamic Signal make it easy for businesses to encourage their employees to serve as brand advocates for their employers online.
Have Fun With Interactive Content
Who can resist the allure of a clever internet quiz? Putting interactive content on your website, blog, or social media platforms is both fun and informative for your customers. And quizzes and surveys that encourage users to share their results on social media expand your brand’s reach further. This has the bonus of converting your loyal brand followers into brand ambassadors on their social media platforms.
Let Your Customers Peek Behind the Scenes
Whether you use YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, share a behind-the-scenes video. This could be an interview with a member of your staff, a tour of a manufacturing facility, or a montage of your participation in a recent trade show or industry event. Giving your customers a sneak peek into what it’s like on the inside is another creative way to advertise your business for free.
Giving customers a greater sense of what goes into making your product is a transparent way to interact with your customers, which gives you a credibility boost. It also lets you show off your team and your brand’s personality, and define your company’s unique point of view within your market. That’s how to advertise your business in the era of social video.
Play Game Show Host for a Day
Who doesn’t love free things? A giveaway of your product or service can grab the attention of those who might not usually think to spend their money with your business.
Alternatively, ask those who are already loyal to your brand to participate in a contest where they generate testimonials or share positive stories about your business online under a designated hashtag. That can generate a lot of buzz in a short amount of time.
Put a Face to Your Company’s Name With Live Video
CEOs such as Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Steve Jobs are inextricably linked with their brands. Customers feel like they know them personally, and that is part of the fabric of the brand loyalty that Facebook, Tesla, and Apple enjoy. Using live video through Facebook or other social media channels can humanize you and your business, and make any customer even more likely to become a loyalist.
Trade in a Thousand Words for a Picture (or Video)
If that adage is true, then Instagram lets you do a lot of talking in a very short amount of time. While Facebook dominates in terms of an overall number of users, Instagram followers for certain brands—including titans like Nike and Starbucks—have surged lately. Certain industries, such as restaurants, have been transformed by the platform. And with younger demographics turning away from television and spending more time on social media, there’s a huge benefit to focusing your marketing efforts here. It’s important to learn how to advertise your business using this surging platform.
Share on Snapchat
No longer just for the high school set, Snapchat has done a complete about-face to become a powerful marketing tool for some of the biggest brands around.
Use Snapchat to your business’s advantage: promote upcoming events, share exclusive “behind-the-scenes” content, or give followers access to special deals or coupons. Leveraging Snapchat’s ephemeral nature is the key—much like a flash sale, instant opportunities generate urgency.
Use Pinterest to Pique Interest
In a world that is turning away from traditional print media and becoming increasingly enamored with its digital counterpart, Pinterest is essentially a curated magazine that your company should strive to grab a page in.
Beyond that, looking at other users’ Pinterest boards will help you identify trends that your customers are following and tailor your product offerings to best fit in with, or outdo, the latest fad. Start pinning to meet new customers, drive more traffic to your website, and advertise your business for free.
Participate in Twitter Chats
For those unfamiliar with the concept, a Twitter chat is a moderated conversation on a specific topic. Twitter users join at a designated date and time and respond with a designated hashtag.
Whether you’re hosting or participating, Twitter chats are an excellent way to network, share ideas, and gain new social media followers. If that sounds appealing to you, consider using tools like Tweetchat that are designed to optimize your participation. Chats like this let you explore how to advertise your business without leaving the couch or coming out from behind a desk.
Use LinkedIn Groups to Expand Your Network
The Groups function on LinkedIn is a great way to find like-minded individuals and other entrepreneurs who can provide you with advice on running your business. On the flip side, it also gives you access to a targeted group of people who you know are interested in your product or service. LinkedIn even curates a list of groups you might be interested in based on your profile and interaction with the site.
Partner With a Fellow Small Business Owner
Wine and cheese, movies and popcorn, high heels and gel insoles—some things are meant to go together. Reach out to other business owners whose goods and services complement yours, and see if they’re open to creating a cross-promotional deal with you. This can be a great way for you both to tap into each other’s client bases, and advertise your business for free.
Do Good, Feel Great
Partner with a well-respected local charity to increase brand awareness while doing good for others. When done right, you won’t think of it as how to advertise your business, but how to make an impact in your community.
Whether you choose to launch a campaign where donations are made based on the number of users sharing a certain message on social media, ask customers to donate a dollar to a given cause when they make their purchase, or use your business’ resources to boost awareness for an important social issue, there are lots of ways for your business to give back while also gaining awareness for your brand.
Become a Modern-Day Picasso
Flash mobs were all the rage a few years ago because they were a lighthearted, eye-catching, and viral-video-inspiring way to gain brand attention. They were a master class in how to advertise your business if you rode the wave correctly.
You can do something similar on a smaller scale by creating a unique storefront display that will get the locals talking, or using a service like Moo to print custom stickers for your business. A chalk mural can be similarly attention-grabbing, and a fun way to advertise an upcoming sale.
Hit the Streets
Nothing stands out on the road quite like a vehicle covered in bright, bold lettering and designs. Auto wraps are typically made of vinyl, and they let you turn your car into a four-wheeled advertisement for your company. The cost of wrapping your car varies depending on vehicle size and whether you opt for a full wrap or partial decal.
If you like the concept but don’t feel comfortable with the honks and stares, you can use a site like Carvertise to find drivers who are willing to let you advertise on their cars.
Engage With Your Local Community
For many small businesses, getting involved in community events can be a win-win. Donating your goods or services for a silent auction for a local charity, blogging about your staff’s volunteer work at a nearby soup kitchen, or sponsoring a music or arts festival in exchange for promotional material at the event will advertise your brand while supporting worthy, local initiatives.
Plan an Event
It’s great to connect with your customers online, but sometimes it’s nice to see them in person, too!
Hosting an event can come in many different forms. Maybe it’s a champagne and canapé soiree at your store to celebrate the introduction of a new product line. Maybe it’s a Q&A with a respected thought leader in your field that your customers would love to meet. Either way, this puts you face-to-face with your brand’s loyalists and gives you a chance to make a strong, positive impression.
Say “Hello, New Neighbor!”
The psychological principle called the mere-exposure effect dictates that people develop a preference for certain things merely because they’re familiar with them. This principle explains exactly why you want to be the first business someone sees when they relocate to your neighborhood. This is an ingenious method of how to advertise your business using college-level psychology.
Partnering with large businesses, realtors, or moving companies to offer discounts or participating in welcome packages for new residents will put you top of mind for your new neighbors. Then, when they drive by your storefront, they’ll be more likely to stop in—not just because of the discounts, but because of psychology!
Make an Appearance in Clients’ Inboxes
Using email marketing is an easy, low-cost way to get your brand in front of your customers. Unlike blogging or podcasting, emails give you a way to reach out, rather than waiting for customers to come to you. And with services like MailChimp, which offers up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails monthly for free, it’s a no-brainer.
Just be sure not to overdo it; only email your customers when you have something of real interest to share, or you might find yourself filtered into customers’ junk folders.
Get out on the Airwaves
The overhead cost of starting a podcast is minimal—a high-quality microphone can be found for less than $100, and free editing software like GarageBand or Audacity makes creating high-quality audio a breeze. Take those two tools, throw in a quiet room for recording, and voila! A podcast is born.
Creating episodes consistently will drive clients back to your website regularly to check out your newest episode. Plus, you establish yourself as an expert in your field and build the consumer’s trust in your brand. Technically this isn’t a way to advertise your business for free, but it’s still pretty cheap once you get set up.
Appear as a Podcast Guest
If hosting your podcast sounds like too much of a commitment, start by appearing on popular podcasts in your industry. Podcasts with an interview format are often looking for guests, giving you an easy opportunity to be featured in this format.
Research podcasts related to your business, and then reach out to the host with a well-organized pitch that fits with their target audience. This lets you tap into the podcast’s established audience and advertise your business at no cost at all.
There are multiple options for promoting your business for free online. As with any medium, it comes with its pros and cons, but if you’re working on a tight budget, then the benefits greatly outweigh the negatives. You just have to have a thorough plan in place and make it work for you.