25+ Cheap or Free Ways to Advertise and Promote Your Small Business
How to Promote Your Business Economically
In a tough economy, people are always looking for creative ways to market their businesses without spending a fortune. With a lot of things competing for our attention, the marketing skills that work are the ones that are unique and multifaceted. There are several creative ways to get your name out, many of which are cheap or free. The top 25 are listed below.
A website doesn't have to be expensive. A simple website or blog will allow you to share information about your company or business with others. It gives people the opportunity to get to know you. In this day and age, a website is a MUST for any business, from individual freelancers to large companies.
You can use free tools like Blogger or Wordpress to start, but you should invest in your own domain name. Web hosting packages are also generally very inexpensive and many offer great tools for building basic websites where no coding is needed. These are great for starting out – later on you should have an actual web designer/developer help you search engine optimize and polish your site with your unique brand to increase your business.
Not ready to build a site yet? At least set up a company Facebook page and promote it.
List Your Portfolio/Website
If you are a freelancer take advantage of the many places to build a free portfolio online that links back to your primary domain. this will help you with search engine rankings while offering more exposure to your business. A good one to try Freelanced.com. They have a really cool widget you can link to on your blog that shuffles pictures of your work and catches people's attention. People can give you "kudos" and recommendations as well.
There are several websites that have fantastic deals on business cards. Design and print cards in bulk to save even more. Every time you go somewhere leave your card with people. Post it on bulletin boards etc. Business cards are almost always less expensive when ordered online, so do your research.
For a special touch, design the card custom, or have one designed inexpensively on Fiverr.com that you can have printed.
Use Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ as a way to advertise your business. It's a great way to maintain contact with customers and gain popularity. You can use these tools to host promotions, contests, and other activities. In addition these sites are a great way to share valuable information with others which also lends to your credibility. Write a great article and tweet it out – this will draw new business leads. Don't overdo it though - nothing annoys followers faster than every single tweet being self-promotion.
Give your website visitors the opportunity to sign up for a custom mailing list. Do not use this to spam people, but send out regular valuable content and promotions to keep your clients/customers coming back. A great newsletter goes a long way in developing customer trust and loyalty. Spend time on this, don't just slop something together.
Community Bulletin Boards
Most communities have some locations where there are free bulletin boards to place advertisements. Place fliers with business cards at several of these locations. Make them really stand out from the crowd. For my photo restoration business, I printed my flier on photo paper and attached business photograph postcards that people could take with them.
HubPages & Other Similar Sites
Writing for sites like HubPages or similar sites allows you to write about what you know. Your passion for your topics is a great way to establish your credibility and get new followers. You can also network with other writers and freelancers who share common goals. The backlinks to your website from your profile are also great ways to boost your own popularity. Do not use these sites for “spammy” purposes however, because it hurts everyone. Do use them as a way to showcase your knowledge by writing meaningful articles, stories, or tutorials that benefit your readers.
Car Magnets with your logo and URL are a very economical way to advertise every time you drive. They cost very little and can be placed or removed as needed.
Refrigerator Magnets, Notepads, or Pens
All of these can be made up fairly cheaply and used as giveaways or promotional items. They keep your name "in view" and can often prompt calls and new leads. Order online for the biggest savings. Check sites like Alibaba even for customizable items. If you are purchasing in bulk; you can often save money using their services.
Set up a table at a local fair, flea market, or other events where you can hand out brochures, samples, business cards etc. You should engage people by letting them enter to win a contest or passing out coupons – anything of this nature. It's a great way to make a “face to face” impression and is usually a lot of fun too. **Be sure to check the laws in your local area concerning these activities!**
“The proof is in the pudding” or so they say. Have free samples available for people to try. When I was selling soaps at craft fairs I would staple little baggies with soap samples in them to my business cards. It was a very economical way to create value and draw future customers.
List on Merchant Circle & Thumbtack
Merchant Circle, Thumbtack, and other similar websites allow you to list your business locally for free. They also give your customers the opportunity to post reviews of your business as well. If you have a brick and mortar store in addition to your online business, be sure you are listed correctly on Google Maps so that people can locate you easily.
Use Craigslist to advertise your services or sell your items for free. Please don't spam or place listings in multiple categories every single day. This will hurt your business and is not helpful. Instead, do a nice listing in HTML so that you can use headings and easy to read text and you'll be ahead of most others who post there.
SEO your website locally
SEO (search engine optimization). Your website should ideally be search engine optimized for your local area as well as overall. Targeting your geographic location typically allows you to move higher in search engine queries specific to your area. Think about it when people are looking for a plumber online – they are likely going to search “plumber + your city”. Optimizing for these keywords will be of benefit to your business.
Yahoo Local & Google Maps
Have your business listed for free on Yahoo Local and have markers placed on Google Maps. This ties into the same premise as above – driving more targeted local traffic your way. It also helps if you have a mobile-friendly website or at least a mobile-friendly version your main site redirects to. Ensure that you include a Google Map and current contact information so people can contact you easily.
Add Your Business to Review Sites
There are a few websites where you can list your website, offer coupons and specials, and allow people to rate your business etc. These websites specialize in matching local merchants to customers. Setting up links on websites like Yelp, Merchant Circle, and others can help grow your business and also increase your website traffic with backlinks.
Donate Products or Services to Quarter Auctions
Quarter Auctions are all the rage and are typically used to raise money for various charitable organizations. People who host quarter auctions are always looking for quality vendors to donate items to be auctioned off. During the auction, people will learn about you and your business. Donating to worthwhile community causes also develops your reputation.
Exchange Services For Advertising
A great way to reach more people is to trade your product or service for advertising space. If you sell a product other businesses need, for example, you can offer to do their project for free if they will, in turn, place your business cards on their counter. This works well for businesses that complement one another. For example, a few local antique shops have my business cards and fliers displayed for my photo restoration business. I did this by offering to do a couple of free photos for the owners. They enjoyed them so much that they give me word of mouth referral and my advertising is in a niche location that is not directly competitive with the shop owners.
Create a Custom T-Shirt
Have some custom T-shirts, hats or other items made and give them away to friends and family members who will actually wear them. Be sure to wear your own regularly as well. This gets your name/logo out in the public eye whenever you are grocery shopping or running errands, you are also your own billboard. CafePress is a great website to order up a few custom goodies.
Customer Referral Incentives
This works very well. Offer a valuable freebie to your existing customers who refer others or run an affiliate program through your website. Let others sell for you in exchange for great products or even commissions.
Spend time answering questions on experts sites or answers sites. Websites like Experts123 or Yahoo Answers are a great way to give people feedback and establish your credibility as an expert. Take the time to write thorough, thoughtful answers to people's questions. Sometimes you can backlink your sources and gain traffic to your websites.
Classified Ads in Small Local Papers
Many locations have smaller newspapers that cater to the local area. Classified advertisements in these papers are typically much less than advertising in large papers or print magazines. Look for smaller publications in niche areas also because not only will advertising rates be cheaper, the odds of reaching people interested in your product or service will also increase.
If you do something totally unusual or have something that has great local flare/value you can use a press release to try to generate some publicity. Host a community event or run a contest – anything that can generate some publicity and send out a free press release.
Give Live Demonstrations
If it's applicable to your business, sign up for events or fairs and actually demonstrate your craft or business. Beyond just handing out fliers and freebies, let people actually see you at work doing what you do. This is a great way to generate interest and strike up conversations with others.
Create a custom tutorial or some kind of fun video that highlights your expertise, experience, and also your business. YouTube videos often place very high in search engine rankings so focus it to your business and your local area.
Have a Contest or Giveaway
Everyone loves a contest or give away. Let people enter their name for a chance to win an item/service. You can also do essay contests, drawing contests for the kids, etc. Be creative and get people involved. Make sure the prize is something worthwhile.
Partner up and Cross Promote
Find another business where you complement one another but don't directly compete. Work out an arrangement to cross promote each others business or run co-specials.
Have you used any of these techniques to successfully market yourself or your small business?
© 2011 Christin Sander