Not every entrepreneur can be good at all the skills required to run a business. Ideally, you can get to the point where you can contract out or hire positions the skills you lack, but there are plenty of businesses that struggle to get to that point. Marketing is usually something a lot of people struggle with, and because of that I have compiled a list of the top 7 FREE marketing ideas for small businesses.
1. Getting Your Own Website
If you don’t have a website already then you might be a little crazy, but you still have time to fix that. The website part, not sure about you being crazy. Just kidding there, but anyways…you need one. This is not negotiable.
Websites used to not be free, and yes they still aren’t free if you get someone else to make it. There are several places now that offer the ability to create your own free website such as WordPress, Google, Wix, or even Squarespace. All of these website builders have built a platform that is easy to use for even those of you who still haven’t upgraded from the flip phone.
Granted, if you are serious about advertising and have some money to spend, I would spend money here. Your website is your online storefront. You ever drive by a gas station and think it looked disgusting from the outside and decided not to stop there? The same thing happens with websites. If you have a shitty website you are going to deter customers. Plus you aren’t getting the benefits from Google rankings with inadequate optimization. If you opt to build it yourself, just watch a few Youtube videos that will explain how to make sure your website is what you need.
2. Google My Business
If your business has been around for a while, then odds are Google has already created this for you. Stop what you are doing right now and search “Google My Business”. You can either claim your listing or create a new one if you do not already have one. This is vital to your business because it is the first thing that shows up on Google searches that are looking for businesses. If you want to see where you rank just search for keywords related to your business in Google. If you are a restaurant, type in something like “good restaurants near me”.
This is the best place to have good reviews, and always make sure your information is up to date. Otherwise, customers can’t reach you. There are several ways to get your rankings higher and the two easiest ones I just told you.
3. Social Media
Social media is essential for every business. Really even more essential than a website. There is nothing better and more free than creating a social media account. This is my favorite area to focus on because you can reach hundreds of thousands of potential customers just by being active…all for FREE.
What a lot of people do it misuse social media and that is why it doesn’t work sometimes. They waste a lot of time doing things that look lazy. Several clients that I have worked with before posted on their Facebook page once a month to say that they will be closed on Saturday. Others that post every day but the post are irrelevant to the company. You have to post things that are engaging with people who like your business. Once again, if you have a restaurant then people probably want to see pictures of how good your food looks.
Facebook is #1. A lot of times it is all you need. Make sure your Facebook page is optimized so that customers can find you from there as well. Having a Facebook page allows you and your customers a way to directly interact with each other, thus creating a connection. I have had over 5.5 million people view my Facebook posts, and 95% of that was free. My secret is that I am in probably 50-60 Facebook groups that are in my area. Every time I want to promote something I can share it to all of those groups. The more engagement you get then the more people see it. It is an easy and free way to grow your Facebook page and your business.
The second best platform for most businesses is Instagram. You can do a lot of the same things as Facebook, it is just a little bit harder. There are not “Facebook groups” or similar that you can join, but you can find your competitors profiles and steal their customers essentially. The way you grow on Instagram is by engaging with people, and unfortunately, you have to do that on an individual level. The good thing about that is that more than likely your competitors aren’t doing that. So you have an advantage. Facebook is for growing a bigger audience, and Instagram is better for the one on one connection.
Did you know that Youtube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world? Why don’t you use that to your advantage? You don’t have to post as much as other social media sites, but making videos for Youtube can be a little bit harder than most people are comfortable with. Videos are the absolute best way to promote your business though (more in the next section). So taking time to make them will be more rewarding for your business in the long run. Youtube videos really never die. You can find a video from 7 years ago that someone posted just as easily as you can find one that was posted last week.
4. Create More Videos
Businesses using videos are growing their revenue 49% faster than those who are not. Why is that? Videos generate over 1200x more shares than text or image posts combined! That is a crazy number, but it is true. Having the internet has taken away a lot of in-person socializing and replaced it with texts. So from that point, one of two things can change. We can quite using the internet, or find a better way to communicate on the internet. The latter seems a little easier to manage.
Creating videos creates a closer connection with consumers. They can see who you are, how you talk, how you look. They can determine if they really like you or your business a lot easier by watching videos that you created. My own personal experience with this might even blow your mind. Most of the time if I promote something I post on Facebook I can get around 15k-25k people to see it, then it kind of dies down without spending money. The very first time I promoted a video 85k people saw it. I made ONE video for this restaurant and because of that, they had 13 reporters come write articles about them. Over 2000 people liked their page and 200 more left reviews. I had 17,000 engagements on the videos, 400 of which were shares. All of that happened within a couple of months and all for FREE!
5. Be the Expert
If you haven’t figured it out so far, this article is what I mean by “Be the Expert”. I do marketing for small businesses in my area, but I am writing this article to teach other small businesses on how to do some of the things that people pay me to do. You can do the same thing for your business, and this is an easy way to create amazing content. Restaurants, show people how to cooks things. Gyms, show people how to do exercises. No matter what business you have, you have a skill to teach. People will be grateful and come to you for more advanced things, or they may decide that it is too hard for them and come to you anyways. Either way, you have established yourself as an expert.
6. Run Giveaways/Contests/Promotions
The #1 goal of marketing is to show value in your business. The easiest way to give customers value is by doing promotions or even give them stuff for free. If you have an amazing product and you want people to try it then run a giveaway for it. As long as you do the things I talked about with social media earlier in the post then you are going to maximize the number of people that will see your business because of this. My standard giveaway rules are:
- Like the page
- Share the post
- Add a comment related to the giveaway
In the end, your only cost is the price of the giveaway item. If you aren’t giving away an actual product then make sure it is related to your business, otherwise, you will get people following it that aren’t interested in your services. Take a car dealership, it is costly to give away a car, but you can do free gas, free car details, even free oil changes. Then every single one of those would be to someone who owns a car. Every person that enters your giveaway would be a potential customer.
7. Referral/Ambassador Programs
I saved the best for last. One of my favorite ways to market small businesses is with an “Ambassador Program”. If you follow the fitness community, big brands like Gym Shark have sponsored athletes with large social media followings for awhile now. There is a way you can conform that to your own business, no matter what kind it is. Here is the secret to doing it for FREE, and it makes your customers feel special because you are giving them a title for being your customer. I had a client that was a massage therapist, and this idea worked really well for him. Since each client was paying anywhere from $55-$125 a session he could have this ambassador program for his clients and reward each referral with $5 or $10 off because he would be making way more than that back from the new clients. It is basically a referral program, but these people referring new clients would have the title of “Brand Ambassador”. It makes your company sound more official, and it makes your customers happy. Win-win scenario here.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this. You are more than welcome to add me on LinkedIn if you haven’t already. I will be posting more content about this in the future to hopefully help you grow your business!