38 ways to promote and advertise your small business for free
As a small business owner, you may not have the money to spend on a full blown advertising campaign, but that doesn’t mean you lack the passion to get your brand out there. Worry not, as even without the biggest of budgets, there are still ways that you can promote your products and services, and reach out to potential new customers. Below, we will guide you through 38 ways that you can advertise your small business – for free.
Part one: online, blogging and social media
Small businesses may not think they need a website – especially if they are located in a small town, for instance. If this is true of your business, there are benefits that you could be missing out on by not having a website. A website allows you to supply information about your business to your customers 24/7 - and even supply your product 24/7 - depending on the type of business you run. To give your website a professional look and feel, here are a few tips for a smart looking website:
- Don’t over clutter - have a nice sleek website that isn’t over bearing with lots of images, and make sure that all relevant links, such as home, contact and about, are easily visible.
- Make sure it’s easy to navigate - you want your site visitors to be able to get the information they require as quickly and as hassle-free as possible. If in doubt about your site’s navigability, ask someone who has never used your website before to have a look around and give you feedback.
Now that you have a website, you can go on to create a blog where you can keep your readership up to date with your product news, or give advice in your specified field. By posting content regularly, you can show your audience that you are a reputable business who can provide the information and services your readership is looking for.
Press releases are a great way to keep your audience up to date with what’s going on in your business’s world. These can range from you winning an award, to local coverage of a news story that directly correlates with your business. An example of a press release for business can be found here.
Building relationships with relevant bloggers who already have a vast audience can be extremely beneficial to your business. Not only can you write for their blog to give you access to their audience, but you can also generate more awareness of your website and your brand through regular contributions, which will establish credibility of your blog and your business overall.
There is a wrong way and a right way to go about commenting on other blogs, as you don’t want to appear spammy, but helpful and genuine.
Wrong way: Hi there visit my website on www.yourwebsitehere.com for great stuff!!!
Right way: Hey, I loved this post, I really liked your take on the secrets of bar staff, and I wrote one from the perspective of the waitresses www.yourwebsitehere.com/Secretsofwaitresses - it ties in perfectly with yours! Let me know what you think.
By making sure that you have read their post and that you do have you own content which is relevant, you can showcase your work while still showing your appreciation for the blogger’s post.
By entering forums such as UKBusinessForums.co.uk and Quora, you can make sure that you are involved in any and all small business discussions. By participating in forums, you can ask any business related questions you may have and also get your business’s name out there by responding to queries you feel qualified to answer.
If you are stuck for content ideas for your website, blog or social media channels, all you need to do is take a look at what is headlining in the news, and if you’re able, connect your business to that news. For instance, a shoe shop could write a response piece to the news that green shoes are going out of fashion. By doing this, there’s an opportunity that their content will be read and shared by more people, off the back of the piece relating to current news. You can also use this tactic to promote your products or services, by mentioning them in the news content you create.
A podcast is an audio file that is hosted on your website, which your audience can listen to live, stream or download to their own devices. A podcast could be a discussion about current happenings in your place of business, or any updates on promotions that you’re currently running. Your podcasts could also contain any interviews that you have participated in on either the television or the radio. Creating a dedicated podcast page on your website can help to make them more easily found for website visitors.
By adding your website to as many online directories as feasible you are making it easier for your customers to find you on the web. By doing this you also help your website appear in Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines when a potential consumer is looking for a business with your services. Yelp is a great directory to be added to, with over 60 million registered users and over 20 million reviews - it is still the central hub of a social review platform. Restaurants make up over 75% of all the listings on this site, so if your small business is in the hospitality/culinary industry - this is the directory where people are most likely to find you.
By utilising social media platforms, you are able to connect with thousands of existing and potential new customers through just one click of a button. You can learn a lot about your target audience through social media - such as the types of content they like to engage with - as well as search for competitors’ social channels to see what strategies they are using to drive their businesses through social.
By joining the relevant groups on Facebook, you can see what the needs of your demographic are and what they’re currently talking about. This can give you the opportunity to tailor your proposition to meet their needs exactly, and also align your business with the topics and trends that are relevant to and of interest to them. If your local area does not have a Facebook group, you can start your own. You could choose to make this group accessible only to the small business community, or you can invite everyone in your town that you know. By starting a group, you can not only create relationships but also learn from your audience and even your competition.
LinkedIn is a great platform for small businesses and entrepreneurs alike. You can join groups to see what other small businesses are talking about, and by becoming a part of a wider community you can not only learn from others – but perhaps even give advice yourself. Make sure to post on LinkedIn whenever is feasible with your blog posts, to give yourself the chance to reach more potential consumers.
A good feature of Facebook events is that you can see the guest list, so if you see someone who you might want to partner with or pitch to – it gives you time to do your research and approach them with confidencee.
Another way to get your business’s name out there is to run competitions in which the participants have to directly mention your business name in order to participate. For example, a greengrocers named ‘Nature’s Finest’ could run a competition asking for the funniest tweet to create a pun out of vegetables, stating that entrants must include the @NaturesFinest Twitter handle in the tweet in order to enter.
Instagram is an online platform where you solely share images. Consumers also digest visual information more easily and more quickly than they do text, meaning that an Instagram account gives you the opportunity to build your brand and business image quickly and easily. For instance, if you are looking to get across that your brand is fun and quirky, you could represent that through the images you upload.
Be it on Trust Pilot or Trip Advisor, your customers will be reading reviews that satisfied or unsatisfied customers have left you. If you know that you have provided an excellent service, ask your clients to leave online reviews of their experience of doing business with you. By doing this, new customers can get a feel of what kind of service you provide before they buy.
A webinar is a free service where you conduct a lecture or talk over the internet. You could utilise your onscreen time to talk about your product or services, and offer valuable insight to either your customer base or other small businesses. You can show your webinar to the general public as well as business communities, if your business is a B2B this works as a great tool to promote. By doing this, you are getting your name out there while also creating relationships within the small business community and your target audience.
A contra arrangement is a barter arrangement between two parties who exchange goods or services without any money changing hands. You may wish to have a contra agreement with a website who has a similar audience to yours, where you can offer your services - be that social promotion or writing a guest blog post - in return for their services – for the case of this article, free advertising on their web page, such as a banner or an advert.
- Add a sign-up feature on your website
When people are perusing your site, they may want to subscribe to a weekly or monthly newsletter from you, in order to keep up to date with offers and promotions, as well as company news. Having a prominent newsletter sign up feature on your website helps to keep your name in the forefront of customer’s minds, even when they are not directly on your site. The more you remind them of your business, the more likely they may be to remember you when it comes to the products of services you offer.
- Collect emails in house
If you have just supplied your services or product to a customer in your store or office, ask for their email address. If you have a satisfied customer, they may be willing to hear about special offers from you in the future.
- Create an e-newsletter
You should consider have a newsletter that is sent to all of your subscribers either weekly or monthly, detailing any offers that you may currently have, and any news that you have covered in that past week. By showing your clientele what offers you have on, two things could potentially happen. The first is that they may be more inclined use your product or services more frequently if they believe they have VIP access. Secondly, there is a good chance that they will go on to tell their friends and family about these deals, which can give you more subscribers as a result.
- Invite via social media
You can utilise all your social media channels by adding your email address to the information section on each. On Twitter, add your email to your bio, on Facebook to your ‘About’ page, and on LinkedIn to your main profile. From there, you can invite people to be a part of your e-newsletters by broadcasting it on all social platforms.
- Email individual offers
You don’t have to wait for your weekly or monthly newsletter to advertise special offers or give-aways. If you only have a small database of clients, you could send them personal offers tailored to their individual needs. For example, if you run a barbers and you know the individual type of cuts that certain customers usually have, you could email them with an offer for their haircut specifically.
- Use your email signature wisely
Your email signature is not something to be taken lightly, as it can be another platform to promote your business. Be sure that you have all the relevant information on the bottom of each email you send. This information should include:
- Your business name
- Your business telephone number
- Your opening hours
- Any awards you have won
- Your business location
- Use of language
The language you use in your emails can also be used as a way of promoting and advertising your small business for free. A persuasive tone of voice in emails can go a long way to encapsulating new customers. People receive a lot of emails each day – they want to be able to digest any information given to them quickly so they can choose whether to keep or discard the email. Emails should be short, the main point of the email should be close to the start, and - where appropriate - personable phrases should be used to try to establish a relationship with the reader.
- Emails from business cards
When you visit business expositions, or any other type of meet-and-greet, you are bound to be laden with business cards from other small business owners at the event. Take your time to sort through the cards and add all emails from the cards onto your mailing list.
- Get into your local newspaper
Getting into your local newspaper has its obvious benefits - especially if your target audience is local. One way in which you could get into the local newspapers is to run an advice column focused on the product or service that you provide, or the industry in which you operate. This is a win - win situation, as it can not only help to draw more readers to the paper, but also bolster your business’s credibility and expertise. Getting involved with your local newspaper gives you the chance to reach out to the readers the paper already has.
- Call into the local radio station
If your town or village has a local radio station, you could call up to ask for an opportunity to go live on air. Whether this is for an interview, a Q&A session, or just as a guest – it will give you the opportunity not only to let the local area know about your business, but also to build personable relationships through this interaction, and really let your brand personality shine through.
- Give out your mobile number/business cards
You may want to consider having a second, business-dedicated mobile phone, so that you can give the number out when the occasion calls it. For instance, you are a hairdresser and there is need for an emergency haircut – a wedding hairdresser has dropped out – you can be there to resolve the crisis and will then gain the trust and future business of the client.
- Give away free samples
Although giving away free samples of your products may not initially seem like the smartest business advice, it can offer a great return. By showcasing your products or services for free, it can incentivise people to not only visit your shop, but can also help to convert them into paying customers. You could also use an event like a free sample day as an opportunity to gather new contact details to update your mailing list with.
- Show up at events
As well as going to Facebook events, it’s worth going to the events your town has to offer also. You can show up with a stand or booth to showcase your products or services, or just use the opportunity to meet future customers and hand out business cards or your telephone number.
- Loyalty scheme
By having a loyalty scheme, you are helping to guarantee that your customers will return. Loyalty schemes allow you to focus on your most frequent consumers and reward them thusly. By increasing loyalty amongst your customers, you can extend profitability, as loyal consumers are more likely to have a higher purchase. When devising a loyalty scheme, you should bear profit in mind as - although you are rewarding your customers for returning - there will likely be a prize at the end of the loyalty scheme, so it’s up to you to weigh up your returning valued customers with the value of the prize you wish to offer at the end.
- Show support for local charities
By showing support for your local charities you are, once again, establishing a connection between your brand and your local area. A few benefits from supporting a charity may include:
- Tax deductions. Your small business can claim your volunteer hours and your contributions on your income taxes.
Support from your clients - by giving back to your local charity, you look better in the eyes of your customers. A 2010 study by Cone Communication showed that 85% of consumers have a better view of businesses that give back to a charity they care about.
Free publicity - by sponsoring a charity, you are in turn promoting yourself. The charity is likely to do advertising of their own – for instance for events – and as a sponsor your brand can appear on all letters, emails and posters placed.
- Promote via your vehicle
If you have a vehicle, you can use it to support your business – if you can get stickers placed on the cars and vans, then great - but, if you’re looking for a free option, you can always create handmade posters to stick in the windows of yours and your loved one’s methods of transport.
- Friends and families
It is worth asking your families and friends they can spread the word of your business throughout their circles. Word of mouth may be one of the oldest advertising techniques, but it can also be one of the most effective.
- Work with your local schools or universities
You can work with local school and universities in order to promote your business. For instance, you could offer workshops in which you teach students looking to work in a similar role to you, or even give advice on how to start up a small business. If you don’t necessarily have the time to go to school and universities to teach a class, you could offer work experience days in your premises. In return, the school could then give you free promotion in the form of flyers and word of mouth through the apprenticeship and work experience scheme.
- Enter awards
If your local newspaper, another small business, or a body in your industry is hosting an awards ceremony, be sure to enter your business. By entering for an award – even if you don’t win – you’re spreading the word of your business amongst relevant people. And if you do win, then it can only bring positivity for your business’s reputation going into the future.
- Chalk on the pavement
This may sound a little extreme, but you can draw attention to your store by simply drawing chalk arrows from nearby streets and pavements. This is a different, eye-catching and completely free way to advertise.
So there you have it, 38 ways to advertise and promote your small business. Just because your budget is small, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your advertising can’t be big. Good luck advertising for free, and all the best with your small business venture.