If you are one of the nearly 28 million small-business owners in the United States, you are probably trying to determine how to get the word out about your business without spending a lot of cash. Or any cash. But if you are looking for free, I have good news and bad news.
There ARE ways to market your business without buying advertising. The bad news is that you will have to pay anyway — by investing your time.
So if you are doing nothing but waiting for the phone to ring or someone to walk into your shop, use that time to focus on one of more of these free marketing ideas proffered by Jay Conrad Levinson in his book, Guerrilla Marketing for Free.
Free marketing ideas
Here are some basic truths, and what you can do, with little or no cash outlay, to make your company better known.
- People do business with people they know, so get out of the office and mingle. Do you have a chamber of commerce, networking group, industry association, whatever? Work those crowds! Many such groups will allow guests to attend for free (or for the price of a meal). A caveat: Do not go in heavy with a sales pitch or people will flee from you like a burning building. Collect business cards, and then follow up after the initial contact.
- Volunteer. Teach kids how to read, swing a hammer at a Habitat for Humanity building project, pick up trash alongside the road with Adopt-a-Highway groups. If your volunteer work just happens to be in your field, all the better.
- Give speeches. Almost every school has a career day; see if you can be one of the speakers. Community groups with regular meetings are generally looking for speakers, too. Again, the point isn’t to make a sale, but to build your visibility and credibility.
- Claim your Google My Business listing. Pull up a browser, put in your business name and check out the Knowledge Panel on the right side of the page. Have you claimed it? Have people been writing reviews about you? Is the information accurate? The more information you put on there, and do it frequently, the more Google juice you’ll get.
- Check out websites or newsletters published in related fields. What sites might be interested in publishing a “news you can use” article from you? For instance: You install air conditioners. Is there a healthy living website that might accept an article from you on the pros and cons of the latest technological advances in boosting indoor air quality? Be creative! And be sure to ask for a link to your website or, if you don’t have a website, your contact information.
- Get a website, if you don’t already have one. It doesn’t matter if it’s simple or fancy, just get one and keep it current. P.S. You CAN build one yourself, but be wary of the so-called free website builders that lump you under their own domain name. You want to build your visibility, not theirs.
- Get on social media. This may well be the most important “free” marketing you can do. But you must be consistent in your postings and engagement with others, and avoid the hard sell. LinkedIn is a must for business people.
- Connect with you own customers. Do you know your customers’ names, where they live, their phone numbers or email addresses? Start collecting that information now, or add to an already existing database. Add as much detail as you can — where you met them, if they have children, where they’re from — so you can personalize future communications with them.
- Reward your customers. They are your best — and least expensive — source of new business. Offer them special deals or discounts for referrals, or just because you appreciate their business.
- Ask for testimonials from happy customers. Be sure to get their approval to use their photo and full name and maybe even the name of their business, if appropriate, and put it on your website. A pat on the back from a real person will always carry more weight than some anonymous person who could be a shill.
- Give something away. How about a free e-book or white paper on a topic within your expertise? What about a guarantee? A trial offer, or a demonstration of your product or service, a consultation? A seminar or workshop? A word of caution: If you are giving a discount, be sure it’s meaningful. Ten percent on a $10 item is not going to make me likely to bite.
- Spread the word. Take your posters/flyers/brochures/business cards around town and post them in prominent places, including point of purchase, if possible. Supermarkets generally have bulletin board space that is open to anyone. Public libraries might be a good choice, too, although there may be prohibitions on business pitches.
- Hold contests. Local media may be willing to run your contest notice for free as long as there is no fee involved. And be sure to retain all the contact information from people who participate.
- Be someone people want to do business with. Under-promise and over-deliver. Do what you say you’re going to do — and that means opening your business when the sign says you’re open. Be clean and neat and make sure all your employees are, too. Greet people with a smile, even on the phone. Look them in the eye. Respond promptly.
Finally — be patient. Don’t expect any marketing effort — free or paid — to produce amazing results overnight. It’s about building awareness in your prospect pool, providing good value and being consistent.
What free marketing ideas have worked for you? Please leave a comment below.