21 Ways To Market Your Business Online On A Shoestring Budget
Who says you need to spend millions on marketing? Columnist Steve Olenski tells you how to market your online business yourself without spending a ton of money and become a successful online business
I often hear from business owners who feel they’re too busy running their business to spend time on marketing. This is valid — and to be honest, sometimes marketing is best left to the professionals.
But a problem arises when you simply don’t have the budget to hire a full-time consultant or marketing person. The following will cover 21 ways you can market your business yourself, even on a tight budget.
Online Review Sites
Having your business listed on online review sites is important not just for driving traffic and sales, but for protecting your online reputation. The following sites are some of the most influential, as well as the most cost-effective (free!).
- Set up a Google My Business page: This listing will get your business on Google Search, Maps and Google+ and enable customers to review your business. Local business reviews tend to receive high rankings in the search results, giving you some great (free!) real estate. Google+ Local reviews also influence the search rankings of people you’re connected to, meaning your business’ reviews may also appear when your connections perform relevant searches on Google.
- Create a listing on Yelp: As the biggest online review site, creating a Yelp listing is definitely worth the effort. It’s free, and gets you in front of the platform’s more than 140 million monthly visitors.
- Create a free Angie’s List page: Users pay a monthly fee to use the platform, but listing a business is 100 percent free. Available for service-based businesses only.
- Get listed on Yahoo Local: Yahoo offers local businesses the opportunity to get a basic business listing in its directory for free. Listings are integrated with other Yahoo products like reviews, maps and events.
- Join industry Facebook and LinkedIn groups: Become a valued member of two or three groups in your business’ industry, offering advice and support. This helps to establish you as an expert in your field, and ultimately builds your reputation and sales.
- Create your own Facebook group: Create a free Facebook group for customers or prospects to get help or support with a problem related to your niche. (For example, a social media consultant could start a “DIY Social Media Mastermind group.”)
- Use images to offer discounts on Facebook or Twitter: Using images to offer discounts or coupon codes is a great, non-threatening way to promote your products without being too “salesy.”
- Promote a free, no obligation 15-minute consult to your followers: Reduce the risk your prospects feel by offering a risk-free consult.
- Monitor brand mentions: Use a social listening tool like Social Mention to monitor and contribute to conversations happening in your niche.
- Create and share an original infographic: A tool like Piktochart requires no design or coding skills, and costs start at only $29 per month — much cheaper than hiring a designer to do it for you.
- Contribute guest posts to a well-known industry site: To find blogs to contribute to, do a search for “your niche” + “guest post”.
- Hold free webinars on your site: If you’ve investigated webinar software, you already know how costly they can be. Not to mention that most require a monthly subscription — not exactly small business-friendly! A great, low-cost alternative is using a WordPress webinar plugin like WebinarIgnition. It has a one-time cost of $97 for unlimited webinars with unlimited attendees.
- Partner with a complementary business to co-sponsor a contest: Co-sponsoring the contest gives you access to each other’s audience, maximizing your efforts. Submit your contest to popular sweepstakes sites to extend the reach of your contest.
- Install a free social sharing plugin on your site: Using a free WordPress plugin like Share Buttons ensures all your blog content can be easily shared by your readers.
- Comment thoughtfully on blogs in your niche: It’s perfectly acceptable to leave your website URL in the appropriate field, just be sure to use your real name or business name, not keyword-rich anchor text.
- Create an award for businesses or products in your niche: Create a simple badge using a free program like Canva, and then write a blog post of the Top 10 _______ (e.g., Top 10 websites for Web designers). Award each of the winners with a badge that links back to the post. This strategy works best once your site has built up a reputation in your niche.
Other Channels To Get Yourself Out There
- Join relevant industry forums and respond to questions with helpful advice: I’m not talking about writing spammy, thin comments just to gain links back your site. Make meaningful contributions to conversions to capture the attention of other readers.
- Sign up with HARO (Help A Reporter Out) to get free PR for your business: Respond to relevant media queries and land free mentions and links in publications like Huffington Post, Forbes and other popular outlets.
- Email a well-known business or influencer in your field with an authentic testimonial:Businesses love receiving testimonials, and many times will post them on their website (along with a link).
- Invoice your business like a pro: Make sure that you’re billing your clients on time each month as well as keeping track of everything. I personally love Due invoicing as it’s a free option that invoices clients, and for a small fee you can bill people over PayPal.
- Answer questions on a Q&A site like Quora: These sites consist of real people looking for answers to questions. Search the site for relevant questions you can answer intelligently.
Over To You…
The Internet has leveled the playing field significantly when it comes to marketing. The reach and visibility that used to only be available to big brands with big budgets are now within the reach of even the smallest businesses.
I want to know: How do you market yourself online? What low-cost strategies do you use to raise awareness of your business and products? Share below.
Where can I promote my business online for free?
- Use the three big local listing services. …
- Embrace social media. …
- Start a blog. …
- Put up multimedia on YouTube and Flickr. …
- SEO your company website. …
- Press releases. …
- Join a relevant online community and contribute.
How do I market my service business?
Here are ten marketing strategies that can help you market your small business on a shoestring budget.
1. Craft an elevator pitch
You should be marketing all the time — wherever you are. Therefore, you need a compelling elevator pitch.
Research shows the average attention span of an adult is about six to eight seconds. That’s all the time you have to grab someone’s attention.
If you successfully engage them, then you only have a little over a minute to really sell them on your product or service. Invest the time to craft a killer elevator pitch. The return on your investment will pay huge dividends in terms of creating business opportunities.
2. Leverage your community
You don’t have to think big when it comes to your marketing efforts. Think locally. What’s going on in your community?
Sponsor a Little League team or a 5k charity walk/run. Print bookmarks and leave them at the local library. Get to know your ideal customer and think about how and where they spend their time.
Then search for opportunities to get in front of your customer with your marketing message.
Put together a group of synergistic, non-competitive businesses in your area and agree to cross-promote.
You can use coupons, fliers, reciprocal website links, bundled promotions or social media platforms. By collaborating with each other, you can expand your customer base because you’ll be reaching new people.
I’m a huge fan of networking. I don’t think there is any better way to build a business than to get out there, shake some hands, and get to know people.
Networking requires a time commitment and it doesn’t provide instant gratification, but a strong network is one of the greatest assets any business person can have.
5. Give a speech
A lot of people hate public speaking. However, there are many organizations looking for qualified, subject-matter experts who can present to their groups.
Take a deep breath and volunteer. You don’t have to be a pro as long as the information you share is helpful to the audience. And the upside — the more you do it the easier it gets. Plus, it positions you as a credible authority in your field.
6. Create buzz
I started my corporate career in the field of public relations and the business has changed significantly because of technology.
Today, a small business owner can accomplish a lot without hiring a professional firm. Subscribe to Help a Reporter Out. You can respond to reporters’ queries that are looking for story ideas and resources. Some are small media opportunities, but others are major media outlets that use this service too.
7. Ask for referrals
Don’t be shy about asking for customer referrals. The majority of people say they are willing to provide a referral if asked, but very few take the initiative to do it on their own.
Referrals make it easier to get in the door with new customers. If you aren’t asking for them, you are missing opportunities.
8. Build relationships
It is a lot less expensive to keep a customer than it is to get a new one. That’s why establishing strong relationships with your customer base is crucial. One of the ways you can do that is by keeping in touch with people through email marketing.
Ask customers for their email address when they visit your store or website. Then, make your communications informative, helpful and professional — something your customers will look forward to receiving.
9. Offer coupons
Coupons are a good way for many businesses to attract new customers. Research shows that people will go out of their way to use a coupon, proving that this method is successful in expanding your customer base.
Coupons can also generate return visits. For example, if you give a customer a coupon for a discount to use on future business, there’s a high probability they’ll be back.
10. Give it away
If someone has the opportunity to experience your product or service, chances are they will want to purchase more.
Don’t be afraid to give someone a free trial or a sample. In today’s economy, people are more comfortable purchasing something they have been able to experience first.
These ten, inexpensive marketing strategies will help you engage customers, build relationships, and ultimately keep your brand top-of-mind. It’s not always about the money you have to spend on marketing, it’s about the time and effort you put into it and above all, the relevance it has for your customers.