When you’re in business it can feel like you’re shelling out money, hand over fist. Finding money for marketing can be tough on top of all your other business costs but you know you need to keep marketing to grow your business. What’s a girl to do?
Well, let me share some of my favourite free marketing ideas. They won’t cost you a penny but some will need you to spend a bit of time to get them working.
Videos are one of my FAVOURITE free marketing tools. They are so easy to make on your phone or tablet and let’s face it, most of us have one of them. I also use my webcam to film me talking or screen capture software called www.screencast-o-matic.com if I want to share how something works. Videos are brilliant for lots of reasons, from helping your customers to get to know you (building relationships) to helping you stand out from the competition (they can’t copy you on video!) and letting you demonstrate your products and services right there and then. They are super quick to make too, especially if you can get over your fears (I’m too fat, my voice sounds weird, I have bad hair etc) and understand your viewers and fans just want to LEARN. They are not there to judge you, they want to learn from you. That’s all. I challenge you to start making videos for your business today – you can share them on social media, on blogs or on your website and if pictures are worth a thousand words then videos must be worth a million.
2. List Building
You might have heard people talk about subscriber lists or mailing lists and not given them much thought but they are actually a brilliant free marketing tool that you could be using to grow your business. Why? Because if people sign up to hear from you regularly, that means you can use e-newsletters to grow your business.
The key thing here is that they MUST sign up, you must get their permission and you must NOT include people who haven’t given you their explicit permission to email them or you’re breaking a ton of spam laws.
This could include:
- People who once gave you their business card (that’s not the same as giving you permission to email them)
- People on lists you have bought/scraped off the internet
- Basically, anyone who has not signed up to your list!
Apart from anything else, if people haven’t signed up they are not going to be interested. You only want people on your list who WANT to be on your list, who have signed up and who have ASKED to receive e-newsletters and offers for you – otherwise you’re just going to generate a lot of spam complaints and get your account shut down. Ack.
You can build your list using Mailchimp (www.mailchimp.com) – it has a great free package which is more than enough for most small businesses. It has great help files and videos to walk you through what you need to do.
How do you get people onto your list?
Well, you tempt them on! You give them a great reason to sign up and that usually means offering them an irresistible freebie. It could be a discount coupon or voucher, a free sample, a free e-book or cheat sheet, a free checklist or guide – anything that will attract the right people onto your list. Remember, you don’t want just anyone, you want the people who are most likely to buy from you – your Super Customers (I have a blog about that here) so create a freebie your Super Customers will love and you’ll build a list that’s responsive and full of lovely people who will buy.
Once you’ve got people onto your list, what do you do with them? Well, using Mailchimp again you can create beautiful e-newsletters that your Super Customer subscribers will love.
You can share tips, advice, articles, offers, videos, inspirational quotes – anything that adds value for your subscribers and keeps them wanting more.
Don’t sell, sell, sell though – that’s a sure fire way to get lots of people unsubscribing. Instead, think about what your subscribers would love to read.
E-newsletters are great free marketing tools because they help to build relationships with potential customers, they position you as an expert, they showcase your products and services, they keep you top of mind – all important aspects of marketing. E-newsletters also drive sales.
If you get the right people onto your subscriber list and you make them the right offers (in between giving them tons of value the rest of the time) you will find that people will buy. It happens for me and it could happen for you. It’s all about putting in the time to build your subscriber list and create engaging newsletters your subscribers will love.
4. Jungle Grapevine
This used to be one of the main ways businesses got customers – via word of mouth. These days it’s still a valuable free marketing tool but often gets overlooked in favour of techie solutions.
Does everyone in your network know what you do?
- The mums at the school gate?
- Your children’s teachers?
- The post office counter staff?
- The lollipop lady?
You never know who knows who. And even if your immediate network doesn’t need you right now, you never know who THEY know and who they might mention you to, in passing. Never pass up on an opportunity to let people know what you do (just don’t go overboard and pester people to buy – it’s not about that and you’ll soon find your network shrinking alarmingly…)
PR is when you get featured in the media (magazines, trade press, websites, on radio, TV, newspaper) without paying for it. It’s not advertising or advertorials. It’s free coverage because you have a story worth covering and the media in question feels it’s a good fit for their audience.
You could pay someone to help with this OR you could make a shortlist of the media where you’d love to be featured (remember, you’re looking for the things your Super Customers read/watch/listen to), put on your big girl knickers and approach them. Twitter is a great place to find the journalists you need, you’ll find most magazines, sites, TV stations will show the journalist’s Twitter handle next to their name so it’s easy to follow them and get to know them.
Tip: Don’t harass/bombard them! I know you’re passionate about your business but they will just think you’re a weird stalky person and will hit the block button before you know what’s hit you.
No, instead think about building a relationship with them- help them out, answer their questions, retweet their requests, offer opinions. Get to know what kind of things they are looking for and then, when you feel like you are on their radar, ask them if they think your idea might work for their publication/channel. And if they say no, leave it a while and try again, their needs will change all the time depending on their content schedule.
6. Social Media
Social media is still free, despite what you might think with ad options appearing everywhere. Good content aimed at your Super Customers will always get people chatting and engaging, and the more engagement you can create, the more your business page will appear in people’s timelines.
It doesn’t matter which social media platform you use, always keep your Super Customer in mind and write posts and tweets that they will find useful, valuable and interesting. The more time and effort you put into this, the more you’ll get out of it. Don’t discount it, just adjust your focus and stop trying to attract everyone.
Competitions are a great free way to market your business. Your only costs are whatever stock you are offering as a price or your time if you’re offering a service. The key with competitions is to offer a prize that will attract the RIGHT people, you don’t want just anyone, you want those people who are most likely to buy from you. Your Super Customers. Make sure your prize will attract them and filter out people who aren’t such a good fit.
In my business, I might offer a VIP coaching session with me – it will only attract people who want to work with me. Most people in the world will have absolutely no interest in winning it so I’m only going to attract those lovely people who would value a coaching session with me. They are the people who if they don’t win, are still likely to buy products or services from me – they are my Super Customers.
You can promote your competition at your premises if you have them, on your website, on social media or via your e-newsletter. Give yourself 2 weeks of solid promotion and market it like you mean it – the aim is to grow your list (people must sign up with their best email to enter) and make people aware of what you do. See what might work for your business.
8. Postcards In Shops!
Sometimes the old fashioned ways are the best! Depending on whom you’re trying to attract and whether you’re a local business, putting postcards or mini-posters in your neighbourhood or town can bring in loads of business. This will work well if your Super Customers are out and about during the day (think mums of pre-school children or retired people) or are fellow business owners. Postcard in the Post Office, local shops, supermarkets, library, leisure centre or community centres can get you in front of potential customers for free (or maybe a teeny payment) and if you’ve hit the spot with your marketing message, can bring lots of new business. The same goes for letterboxing – putting fliers through letterboxes, except you need to invest in fliers for that one and if the message, service or neighbourhood isn’t right, you could waste a chunk of cash.
9. Speaking gigs
Lots of people need regular speakers, from the Women’s Institute, local community groups, business networks and the business team at your local council to name but a few. Speaking about or teaching your topic is a great way to get in front of groups of potential buyers (again, choose your groups to focus on Super Customers rather than just anyone) and costs nothing other than perhaps a little for travel. If you think nobody would be interested, have a look at your local paper in the events section and see what groups are featuring speakers – you’ll be amazed at the broad range of topics covered. The easiest way to do this is to get in touch with a few groups that are a good fit for you and ask them if they need speakers. They can only say no, but they might say yes – so be prepared with one or two things you could easily speak about.
If speaking gigs aren’t your thing then why not try networking? Not all networking groups make you pay a monthly fee, some groups are simply informal get togethers where you meet and chat, cover your own cuppa and a cake or a glass of wine and do business. Easy peasy. Look for those options – search on Google and Facebook for networking events, ask around and see if anyone knows of any and if there aren’t any, how about starting one?
11. Email Signature
This is so easy but hardly anyone does it. How many emails do you send out each week? If it’s more then one or two then you’re missing out if you don’t have an email signature, it’s like stealth marketing . It’s easy to do with most email packages – just add your social media links plus a line saying what you do, you can even put time sensitive offers on there as long as you remember to take them off when they expire!
My BEST free marketing tip is blogging. I love blogging. It works brilliantly for lots of reasons, not least because the search engines love blogs so you are helping your business to be found on the internet.
Think about what you could easily write about, pick 2 or 3 topics you know your Super Customers are interested in and that you can easily write about then brainstorm how many sub-topics you could make from those 2 or 3 – if your business was hypnotherapy then your big topics might be ‘what hypnotherapy is’ and ‘what it treats’. Each of those could give you a good few blogs if you go into detail and your Super Customers would find them really useful.
If your business is in fashion or accessories you could talk about trends, about looks and how to achieve them and give fashion tips
Blogs, especially if you can get yours embedded in your website like mine, help to drive traffic to your site. You can share blogs on social media and via your newsletter (my blog IS my weekly e-newsletter, I don’t write new content I just add an introduction and a few little gems of information to add more value). Blogs showcase your expertise, they help you build relationships with your readers and they can be turned into loads of different things, from videos to social media posts, newsletters to e-books.
There’s No Excuse Not To Market Your Business!
So, you see there are loads of free marketing ideas out there, you just need to use your imagination and keep your Super Customers in mind at all times so you attract those people who are most likely to buy from you. Having no money is no excuse not to market your business if you can find just a little time, instead.
What are YOUR best free marketing tips? Why not share them in the comments?
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Claire Mitchell is a best-selling author of the Awesome Marketing Planner and founder of The Girls Mean Business, a mum and business owner. She has been featured in Marie-Claire, The Guardian, Closer Magazine, Essentials, The Huffington Post and on the BBC.