The phrase “marketing budget” may not be part of your vocabulary if you’re just starting out or running your business on a shoestring. A lack of advertising dollars doesn’t mean you have to sit alone in the (virtual) dark, hoping that customers will find you. Here are five free marketing strategies you can start pursuing today. Your only investment will be a bit of your time, creativity, and elbow grease.
1. Create an Email List
If you don’t keep a list of email addresses for clients and prospective clients and send out regular communications, you’re missing out on one of the best free marking opportunities in any entrepreneur’s arsenal. Getting started doesn’t have to be difficult. When customers walk into your business, have an email list sign up sheet in a prominent place. Ask customers if they would like to join your list and tell them what they will get if they do.
Once you’ve built your list, send your customers a regular email newsletter (once a month or once a quarter). Include a free gift: discounts available only to newsletter recipients, access to invitation-only events hosted by your business or helpful content that is, in itself, a free gift to your customers. To create and track your newsletters, try out an email service like MailChimp or Constant Contact.
2. Give a Free Gift That Is Free to You Too
Share the expertise that makes you so good at what you do. Be generous with your knowledge and your customers will love and respect you for it. If you sell cupcakes, you could teach a class on fun decorating techniques and allow customers to soak up your baking expertise. If you are a bookkeeper, you might write a tip sheet for keeping a handle on holiday spending and send it to your clients in your nifty, new email newsletter.
3. Spread Goodwill via Social Media
Promoting other businesses or nonprofits is a great way to generate good feelings while also putting your business’ name in front of current and future customers. Link to complementary businesses on Facebook, or retweet a nonprofit’s fundraising event on Twitter. Let a bit of your warm personality show through in social media and draw customers to you.
4. Contribute an Article
News outlets, especially smaller ones, are often hungry for content. Reach out to your local paper or online news site and offer to write an article or a regular column on your area of expertise. Do the same thing with the trade magazines for your industry. Remember that this content should not be directly self-promotional. By sharing your knowledge with readers, you are gaining exposure to a wider audience and establishing yourself as an expert. Be sure to promote links to any articles you write in your email newsletter, social media, and your website.
5. Send Thank-You Cards
Personally written cards, thanking clients for their business and asking them to refer their friends, can go a long way toward establishing goodwill and long-term relationships. Enclose a couple of business cards and let your clients know you look forward to seeing them again.