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Updated on Wednesday, January 2, 2019
Your budget as a small business owner may not always have room for advertising, but you still need a strategy for building brand awareness with potential customers. Thanks to online resources and digital tools, there are plenty of ways to advertise your business without spending a single dollar. And don’t worry, you’re not alone in looking for low-cost marketing hacks — 42% of small businesses invested only 3% or less in marketing last year, according to small business software company Wasp Barcode Technologies. Here are 10 options to get you started.
1. Social media
Small business owners can create free pages and accounts for their businesses on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms. You can create posts to promote your business, and most platforms may offer special insights for business account holders. For instance, Facebook and Instagram let you explore the reach of your posts, including impressions, interactions and the number of times people follow the link to your website. Such tools are free, though it will cost to place ads on social media platforms that may reach more people.
By the way, even though it costs to use Google Ads, it’s free to use the search engine’s analytics to see who’s visiting your business’ website and what customers do when they get there.
2. Email marketing
Some email marketing platforms offer free services or a no-cost trial period. Using a free service like MailChimp, you could send messages about your business to anyone on your contact list, as long as it doesn’t exceed 2,000 names. Email marketing platforms not only allow you to send thousands of emails notifying your customers of deals, news or changes, you can also track which ones draw the greatest response. You’ll know when customers open an email — or delete it — and even when they click on a link to buy.
3. Review websites
Review sites like Yelp can get your business name in front of many potential customers. To use these sites to your advantage, you should make sure your profile accurately reflects your business and brand. Yelp encourages business owners to respond to customer comments with a direct message or public comment. Uploading photos, links and hours of operation to your business’ Yelp profile would help customers find you. Yelp also offers analytics and tracking to provide insight into how users engage with your business.
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4. Online listings
Online platforms like Thumbtack connect businesses with people searching for certain services. Creating a listing for your business would put your company in front of people in your area looking for your specific services. Registering your business with Thumbtack is free, and you’d only pay when a customer reaches out to you to schedule an appointment or request a quote.
5. Local directories
Make sure your business is registered with free local business directories and that all listed information is accurate. If you are willing to pay some fees, you could also register with your local chamber of commerce or the Better Business Bureau.
6. Media opportunities
Responding to reporter inquiries would help you get your name – and your business’ name – in front of an audience. Signing up for a sourcing service like Help a Reporter Out would give you the ability to connect with journalists who are covering topics related to your industry. You may be able to get featured in smaller and larger publications.
7. LinkedIn Groups
LinkedIn Groups allow people to connect over a shared interest or industry. You could join a group and start or contribute to conversations, forming connections that may be valuable to your business. If you’re willing to jump through a few more hoops — and are a freelancer experienced in your field — you could apply to become a LinkedIn ProFinder. ProFinder connects consumers with professionals in such fields as accounting, software development and business consulting. The service is free to try, but a Premium Business subscription is required after the first 10 proposal responses.
8. Free samples or coupons
Free trials or samples would give prospective customers a risk-free opportunity to interact with your business, which could lead them to feel more comfortable purchasing something down the road. Giving out coupons could generate return visits to your business and help you expand your customer base.
9. Community events
Getting involved in your community would allow you to connect with potential customers in your immediate area. While you’d likely have to pay to sponsor an event or set up a booth, simply attending could be a useful networking opportunity. Be sure to choose events that your target customers would most likely attend.
10. Become an industry expert
To build credibility, you could set up a blog on your website to showcase your industry knowledge. You could explain trending topics in helpful posts that address common challenges in your field. Contributing to trade publications and making guest speaking appearances at educational institutions or local events would help you establish yourself as an expert and bring attention to your business.
You don’t need to have a large advertising budget to market your business — you just need to think creatively about the resources at your disposal. Taking advantage of social media and free online resources would help you build awareness of your business without breaking the bank. You could focus on connecting with your local community or broaden your reach outside of your area. If you remain resourceful, the opportunities to advertise your business could be endless.