Whether you run a small business or you’re just starting out, finding a budget for a marketing campaign is often an impossible task. Luckily, there are lots of ways that you can spread the word about your products and services. Below, we’ve rounded up some of the most effective – and free – marketing tactics to make a splash.
Create Amazing Content
One of the simplest and most effective ways to make an impact without spending money is by writing super-engaging, sharable content. There is a wide number of benefits to content marketing, including positioning yourself as an authority in your niche. Simply put, if you’re pushing out valuable, informative content on a regular basis and rank for terms related to your industry. Consumers will naturally associate you as a “spokesperson” and will be more likely to recommend and buy from your business.
The good news is that creating amazing content doesn’t have to be tough. Launch a blog on your site and start writing tutorials, product reviews, guides and features on your business and your niche. Over time you’ll build up a loyal audience of readers. And remember to get feedback from your customers. Ask what sort of content they’d want to read, and keep an eye on trending content created by your competitors.
Develop a Social Media Strategy
Most businesses have a social media strategy to promote their products and services online, but not all were created equally. If you want to connect with your target audience and attract attention, you need to post content that’s designed to be liked, commented on, retweeted and shared with friends.
You can instantly improve your social media strategy by choosing the right networks for your business. For example, a solicitor firm wouldn’t benefit from posting content on Pinterest, and a local hairdresser probably won’t find customers on Reddit. Join networks that your ‘ideal’ customers are using. Then push out news articles, videos, images and GIFs to build an engaged audience.
Optimise for Search Engines
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is one digital marketing technique that many small business owners tend to avoid. That’s because it can be complex and time-consuming. Some of the world’s largest businesses outsource their SEO to agencies. The truth is, that you can master some of the simpler methods of ranking on Google without spending a dime.
Start by installing an SEO plugin for your website, like Yoast SEO, and adding meta descriptions and keywords to your posts to boost their rank. After that, create a sitemap for your business and use Google Search Console to submit it to be crawled, and then make on-site optimisations like adding your keywords to content, speeding up your pages and adding more links in content.
There are lots of simple techniques that you can adapt to improve the rank of your website. For example, whenever you add a featured image to a new blog post, you should remember to add keywords to the file name. Similarly, you should always reference older blog posts and pages on your website when writing new content, as a strong internal linking structure can be useful in sending pages closer to rank one on search engines.
Oh, and as mentioned, the more high-quality and unique content you publish on your website, the higher you’ll rank for long-tail search phrases such as “dog grooming companies near me”.
Link building is one of the oldest tricks in the SEO book, and rightly so. Google considers links one of the key factors when ranking pages on its search engine results pages (SERPs), so the more websites that link back to your content and web pages, the higher you’ll rank over time.
There are lots of ways that you can build links to your website. First, focus on making your site as user-friendly and informative as possible, as many links can be picked up simply by offering valuable content that other bloggers and webmasters want to reference in their own work.
On top of that, you can build links by submitting your website to local directories related to your niche, and by reaching out to other businesses and bloggers who write content similar to yours.
Blogger outreach is another popular tactic for building links and relies on you creating awesome content and telling other bloggers about it. The skyscraper technique works by taking the very best resource on a topic and making it ten times better, before telling every blogger that linked to the old resource in the hopes that they’ll link to your – more valuable – content instead.
Start Guest Blogging
And while we’re on the topic of link building, let’s talk about guest blogging. Provided you have a strong writing style and you’ve got the time to create content, guest blogging can be another way to make a splash online without spending money.
Simply put, guest blogging involves pitching ideas to other bloggers and webmasters and asking if they’d be happy to accept and publish your content. In exchange for your content, the blogger will offer a link back to your site.
Guest blogging is about much more than building links, though. Not only does it give your brand a boost and puts your products and services in front of a new audience, but it allows you to take your writing skills to the next level, and get some powerful ‘As seen in…’ banners to add to your website.
Getting an article featured on a site like Daily Mail or Forbes, for example, will give you authority and pizazz, and customers will be more likely to buy from your business.
Try a PR Stunt
If you really don’t have money to spend but you want to make an impact right away, then one marketing method you could try out is pulling a PR stunt. Although such stunts are commonly associated with bigger businesses, making a statement and pulling a stunt as a startup business could land you some press coverage and social media buzz – and you won’t have to pay for it!
As Mark Hughes writes in his book Buzz Marketing, there are six ways that you can build some buzz around your business and get everyone talking. Do something taboo, be unusual, make an outrageous statement, be hilarious, be remarkable, or tease a big secret. All, in their own right, have been used in the past and can be incredibly successful when executed properly.
There are so many examples that come to mind. Who could forget Burger King’s announcement of a McWhopper, or last year’s campaign for a new horror movie which saw shoppers scared to death? Get your thinking cap on, and you’ll soon have the makings of the next viral PR stunt.
Attend a Networking Event
All of the free marketing techniques we have mentioned so far relate to the digital world. However, it’s important to note that offline marketing can still be incredibly effective. An incredible 85% of all jobs are filled through networking, so attending a networking event could prove lucrative for your business, whether you promote your products to consumers or to other businesses.
If you’ve never attended a local networking event, be sure to swat up on delegates before you get there. Then you’ll know who to talk to. Always arrive on time, ask questions, forget about making sales pitches, be passionate about what you do and smile if you want to make a great first impression. Oh, and remember to follow up with your new contacts after the event.
Run a Competition
Although you’ll need to be prepared to give away a free product or service, running a social media competition can make great business sense – and introduce you to hundreds of new potential customers. Start by choosing a platform, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and then create a compelling and easy-to-enter competition. You can ask users to like and comment on your posts, or retweet, in exchange for an entry to the giveaway.
Changes to Facebook’s policy in 2013 means that you can no longer ask users to Share your posts, and you should remember to include clear terms and conditions and age restrictions. Once you’ve promoted your competition and announced a winner, you can capitalise on your new-found audience. Posting regular promotional content will increase sales and signups.
There you have it – just some of the free marketing techniques that you should try out if you want to take your business to the next level. Remember that the more time and effort you put into your marketing efforts, the more effective they will be. So, set aside a couple of hours every week to write content, schedule social posts and network. Good luck!
Author: Max Greene is the Managing Director of Muffin Marketing, a UK-based marketing agency specialising in content marketing, social media and search engine optimisation. When he isn’t working on campaigns for clients, he loves binge-watching Netflix shows and walking his dog.