20 low cost ways to market your business
Marketing and promoting a business is an ongoing challenge for small operators constrained by time and budget. How can you advertise your business and get your name in front of potential prospects when your budget is tight or you're just starting up? Whether you're just starting out or have been in business for years, these low-cost marketing strategies will help you find new customers without spending a fortune.
1. Participate in social media
Decide which platforms are most relevant to your industry and create and maintain a presence on them. An engaging social media business page will include:
- a recognisable profile picture for your brand (this could be your logo, or a headshot of yourself if you’re a freelancer or consultant);
- an attractive cover photo which is high-quality and on brand for your business;
- a call-to-action such as “book now”, “watch video”, “contact us” or “sign up”;
- a completed “About” section which should include a detailed story of what you offer, and may include your mission or vision if appropriate.
Look for groups or conversations that talk about your type of products or services and participate in the conversations, but don't spam them with constant spruiking for what you sell. A good way to get noticed is to leave comments or like other social media pages. Identify the influencers in your industry and follow them. If you’re a tradie, or offer services in the building and construction industry, you could follow and engage with house renovation bloggers. If you’re a restaurant you could engage with food bloggers or photographers. Their followers will see your responses and it is a great way to establish your expertise.
2. Start a blog
A blog is an excellent marketing tool for businesses. It takes time to establish your blog but the results are well worth the effort. Studies show that businesses that blog regularly are more than two times as likely to generate leads via their website than businesses that don’t. Blogging also builds trust in your business and demonstrates your expertise. To get most out of your blog, you will need to set aside some time every week to write quality content. Don’t be deterred if you don’t have the time or energy to do this. You could enlist the help of a friend who writes well or even outsource this task to a ghostwriter.
3. Utilise your email signature
Every email you send should have an email “signature” that is automatically attached to the bottom of your message. As well as including the essential such as your name, business name, addresses and phone number – your email signature can be used to publicise your business, ask for referrals, include links to your social media accounts or advertise a special deal or promotion.
4. Send email newsletters
Most businesses are aware of the benefits of email marketing. However, many small businesses fail to leverage their website or blog to build their email list. There are many email marketing platforms you could utilise for your newsletter but one of the most popular and easiest to use is Mailchimp. If you’re just getting started you can set up a free account which will allow you to design and send beautifully formatted emails to your email list. Mailchimp also allows you to create simple email sign-up forms for your website so you can collect sign ups from website visitors.
5. Give back to your community
Building brand awareness in your local community is a great way to attract new business. Consider sponsorship of a sporting team or participating in a community event to raise your business profile. Local sponsorship opportunities are usually very reasonably priced will add a personal dimension to your branding. An added bonus is that you’ll feel good about being involved in your community.
6. Perfect your elevator pitch
Do you know how to sell your brand in a short, clever and enticing 30-second speech? If not, it’s time to practice. Your elevator pitch needs to be persuasive and is an opportunity to share what you bring to the table. Define who you are, what you do, who your ideal clients are, and what’s unique about your business.
7. Be a guest speaker
Presenting your vision or sharing your expertise is a great way to get in front of a new audience. Consider approaching affiliate businesses that run seminars, conferences, expos, or networking events.
8. Get free listings on local directories
Set up free listings for your business in search engine local directories. Local citation sites are web directories that store your business contact information including a link to your website. Google looks at these websites to help better understand your business.
Google offers free listings for local businesses through Google My Business. Some other free local directories you can utilise are:
9. Spruce up your website
Your website is only as effective as the content on it so make sure you regularly review it to ensure it’s hitting the mark. Ensure your site is written with the reader in mind rather than simply listing your services. Take the time to understand your visitor’s needs as this will form the basis of writing effective copy and content for your site.
Also ensure that your site is optimised for mobile users. Despite the increase in mobile internet use, only about a third of businesses have made sure their website is accessible to mobile users. Having a responsive website, that automatically scales to fit all screen sizes, is a popular method. Alternatively, you can use free mobile website builders to create a mobile version of your website and redirect mobile traffic to this site.
10. Participate in networking groups
Attend meetings of business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce or other structured networking meet-ups. Make sure you bring a supply of business cards and have your elevator pitch perfected. Don't forget to ask what the people you speak with do, and to really listen to them. They'll be flattered by your interest, and will remember you because of it. Remember to follow up on potential leads and business opportunities. Get in touch via phone, email or via a LinkedIn connection.
11. Or, start and host your own networking group
Consider setting up your own networking group so you can handpick who you invite to participate. Selecting complementary businesses and including people with shared objectives will make the group more effective and establish long-term business relationships.
12. Create strategic alliances
Consider partnering with non-competing businesses to work together and cross-promote services. Your partners can also provide you with updates in their industry which may be of interest to your blog/newsletter audience.
13. Ask for testimonials and publish them on social media or your website
Potential customers often care more about what other customers have to say over anything else. It’s a concept known as social proof, and it plays a role in nearly every aspect of client persuasion that you can imagine, from leveraging it to better negotiate with clients to marketing your business to new clients.
14. Ask your customers for Google reviews
With Google dominating online search it makes sense that you put a lot of your focus into getting reviews on your Google My Business page. With local search results, Google will often show a series of businesses in the area in what is known as the “local pack”. It is from here that your potential customers will see things like your address, phone number and reviews that people have written about you. Not only do reviews help you with your click through rate but they can also help your business appear in the local pack in the first place.
You can prompt your best clients into writing a review by asking them directly what they thought of your business and if they could do a google review. Clients will need a Google account to be able to leave a google review and a lot of people will probably have one. They will have one if they use Google Analytics, Google+, Google Drive or if they have a Gmail account. If they don't have a google account, they would need to create one. When you request the review, make it as easy as possible for your clients by providing them with a custom link to the “Write a review” section of your business listing. Google provides instructions on how to do this here.
15. Ask current customers for referrals
Satisfied customers can become brand ambassadors for your business and help you gain access to new customers. When you ask a customer to refer you, be specific about the type of person or business you want to reach out to so that the referral is relevant to your business. Be clear about how you want the referral to be conducted. Do you want your customer to set up the introduction? Are you comfortable with approaching the prospect directly?
16. Run free seminars or webinars
If you feel comfortable speaking and presenting to a group, seminars and webinars can be an opportunity to strengthen relationships with existing clients and display your expertise to new ones. They can also create a comfortable environment where existing, happy customers can help you to “sell” your services to potential new customers naturally and unobtrusively. If your content is relevant, interesting and well presented, you will deliver a positive experience to your attendees, which will demonstrate your expertise and professionalism.
17. Optimise your LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is a great way to raise your profile, communicate your brand and build your professional profile. Consider joining communities of professionals who want to share information about issues, trends and opportunities in their field.
18. Study other businesses in your industry
You can learn a lot from other successful businesses in your niche. Research your competition to get inspiration and learn new ways to market your business. You can get clues on where to focus your marketing activities by studying where your competition focuses their efforts. Alternatively, you might identify a forum where your competition isn’t active and this may present an opportunity for your business to capture an audience.
19. Offer a free, no obligation consultation
You could put out a blanket, free consultation offer on your website or social media accounts or you could target specific people you think could use your services. During these consultations offer enough practical suggestions or ideas for the meeting to be of value and demonstrate your expertise. Follow up the meeting with conversations focused on action and how to implement the ideas.
20. Create a FAQ section for your website
Put frequent questions and answers in a section on your website to answer customer questions that occur on a regular basis. Not only will this save precious time, but also it can increase your traffic. Take it one step further and link it back to blogs about your business.