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If you’re a small business, you might not have much of a budget for marketing. Every company needs to factor in marketing and advertising as a part of their business plan to become successful. However, jumping straight into TV ads is very expensive and may not be the best type of ad to get your business started if your finances are stretched. Luckily, there are some free to low-cost options to help you get the word out about your business. Here are ten ideas to get you started spreading the word about your goods or services.
Make a Website
First and foremost, if you don’t have a website already, you need to make one right away. In this day and age, people don’t turn to the yellow pages in the phone book to look for businesses anymore. They use their cell phone or computer to search for businesses that offer the goods or services they want. The appearance of your website is also very important. You can compare it to stepping into a restaurant for the first time. Customers immediately judge a restaurant based on the decor, cleanliness, design, and general atmosphere. An outdated, dirty restaurant won’t draw as many customers as a clean, modern one, even if the food is better.
Making a website doesn’t have to be difficult. While you can shell out money for a web designer to create one for you, you can also make a decent website by yourself to get your business started. Companies like Wix, Weebly, and GoDaddy have easy-to-use website builders and beautiful templates that will make your website look professional. Some website builders have SEO optimization options, or you can employ an SEO company to help your website rank in search engines.
Create Social Media Pages
Another no-brainer for businesses in this era is creating social media accounts. Though, that doesn’t mean you should find every social media outlet possible and create a page for your company. Pick the top social media outlets that make the most sense for your business. For example, if you own a shop that sells clothing, you may want a Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest account. You can use those accounts to highlight new apparel and accessories and to announce sales. If you have a company that sells software to other businesses, you will definitely want a LinkedIn account to network with executives. Whatever social media accounts you decide on, be sure to keep them active, and make useful and interesting posts at regularly occurring times every week or month. You want to engage your followers, but not bombard them with too many posts or leave them hanging with no posts.
Send Email Marketing
Many companies offer email management for businesses. Some of the lower-cost platforms include Mailchimp and Constant Contact. These platforms provide you with templates to get you started making emails for advertising sales, newsletters, thank yous, welcome emails, and more. Your emails can be automated to send at certain times or for certain triggers, like when someone joins your email list. The platform will also store all of the emails you collect and let you know how many opens and clicks your email received. It’s extremely gratifying when you send your first sale email and you see the resulting purchases! Keep your emails to a few per month. You don’t want to send too many emails, because people might start unsubscribing from your list.
Build Your Email Marketing List
When people visit your website, you should have a place for them to join your email list. Businesses usually offer incentives to sign up for emails. They may offer 10% to 15% off their next purchase, free shipping on their next buy, or a free downloadable gift. You can advertise this directly on your website with banner ads and pop-ups. You can also use your social media channels to encourage sign-ups. The bigger your email marketing list becomes, the more success you will have when you send emails about sales and new products or services.
Market with Text Messages
Many businesses are also turning to marketing with SMS text messages. It’s a little more direct than email marketing because it instantly alerts customers with a notification. SMS text message advertising is more limited in a sense than email marketing, because you must use a very short and direct message to get your point across. It’s best to use a combination of text messages and email advertising. Some examples of SMS text messaging platforms for businesses include Twilio, TextMagic, and SimpleTexting. You can also use your website to encourage people with incentives to sign up for text messaging alerts. Customers always have the option to text ‘STOP’ to opt-out of future messages.
Create a Blog
Blogs are completely free and a wonderful way to attract customers. Blog articles offer your customers useful information and can interlink with pages and products on your website. For example, if you sell garden supplies, you can bet your customers will also appreciate blog articles giving them tips and advice on planting gardens and keeping pests away. You can also search for other websites that accept guest blog posts and submit your own articles to them. Keep in mind these guest posts can’t be a direct advertisement, but they can include a link that will lead them back to your own website. Making your business’s blog articles keyword-optimized will also help them gain more views when people use search engines online. Regularly post to your blog and use free stock photos to make them a little more pleasing to the eye.
Get Customized Apparel & Accessories
Customizing apparel and accessories with your company name and logo is a great way to use people as walking advertisements. You could give away standard t-shirts printed with your logo to potential customers who would then wear them around town. Or, customize useful accessories like drink tumblers, pens, pins, stickers, notepads, umbrellas, hand sanitizer — you name it! Custom apparel is also a great way to make your employees look professional while they advertise your business as they work. Corporate apparel like polo shirts, jackets, hats, and aprons look great with they include your logo, company name, and employee name or title.
Promote Your Business at Events
Once you get your customized apparel and accessories, the best places to take them are to events to promote your business. For example, if you are a local restaurant that just opened up, you’ll want to reserve a stand at any local festivals and fairs. Give away food samples and your customized freebies to help people remember to give your restaurant a try. If you sell medical supplies, you’ll want to reserve a table at a medical conference or forum, which occur across the country all year long. Whatever your business offers, there is likely an event that is appropriate for you to promote your business at. You’ll want to make your vendor stand as engaging as possible — think outside the box! Create advertisement flyers with hidden messages that need to be decoded with red lens glasses or run a raffle for free goods and services.
Advertise Across Social Media Channels and Search Engines
Your social media accounts got you some followers, but now it’s time to put the entire social media platform to work for you. Most social media platforms offer some type of marketing options, like on Facebook. You create simple and small advertisements, and Facebook shows these ads to users that meet certain demographics, geographic locations, and other criteria for the best outcomes. You can also place ads with search engines like Google. Google can show ads on its own website, but it can also show ads across other websites. You are probably very familiar with advertising space used by Google in blogs, online shops, news websites, and many, many more. Usually, social media and search engine ads are pay-per-click, so you only pay when someone clicks on your ad.
Place Local Ads
Local advertising is sometimes the most effective for brick-and-mortar locations that want to draw in customers from the local community. A radio ad on a local station is a great way to get started. Think about how many people listen to the local radio as they drive to and from work everyday. Come up with a catchy little tune for your ad, and you may get your advertisement stuck in peoples’ heads! Other options include billboards, placemat ads at dinners and restaurants, and newspaper ads. Many businesses like corner stores, gas stations, and grocery stores also provide a place for locals to advertise with business cards, flyers, or brochures.
If you don’t advertise, your business is going to have a tough time growing. Every successful business you can think of has an advertising budget to promote their goods or services. While it’s true that people are bombarded with advertisements constantly everyday, ads will do their job if they are well-thought-out and memorable. Start small with these suggestions and as your company expands, you can make more room in the budget for your yearly advertising plan. And don’t forget that word-of-mouth advertising is still very relevant in any era, so make your goods or services the best that they can be so people will recommend them to others.
Gabi Bellairs is a freelance writer and copy strategist who has worked with a range of different companies and individuals over the course of her career. Her interests lie in travel, from her times exploring South Africa, as well as events and even DIY, but she is also passionate about gender equality and progressive mental health practices.