Small businesses (SMBs) are limited on budgets and need to make everything count. Regardless if it is money, time or effort, they cannot waste any of it. While some things come and go marketing wise, others last a long time. If you don’t have a huge budget, a staff or know where to start to drive leads or sale business or to build your brand, here are 25+ ways that you can market your company or website without having to spend a ton of money.
Some of the things listed below sound obvious, some are things that worked a while ago that people still recommend (but probably shouldn’t) and I explain why you should or should not waste your time. Other ideas are random things I have tried or thought of for this post and haven’t tried yet. Feel free to add your own strategies, ideas and tricks for marketing a small business below by leaving a comment.
Strategies for Marketing Small Businesses.
Ways to Use PR for Small Businesses.
PR is your best friend if you are a small business. It is free, it brings in new customers, give you a chance to build trust by featuring logos from places that have covered you, but it can also burn you if you choose the wrong route or listen to the wrong people. One thing that many small companies forget to do is create multiple PR lists with the people who have covered them, would be opened to covering them again and that they have invited to events and of people who have shown up or covered you and having them separated in databases. You should also have a record of who drove actual sales and customers, not just covered you.
The trick with continuing to get exposure and keeping yourself relevant with them is to have everyone separated and know who drives sales and who has fake traffic or can’t do anything. You also need to remember how you met these people. If one person doesn’t drive sales but introduced you to three others who do, they are more valuable, especially if they continue to make new contacts so don’t forget to keep them as a VIP member. Here are types of PR you can use to market your small business and hopefully gain exposure and drive new customers to your site or store.
- Large news sites – There is almost always a way to get on TechCrunch, Mashable, CNN, etc… This is a great way to be able to build trust for your brand if you are able to use the logo on your site. Also, depending on the quality and type of post, it could help boost your SEO and drive new customers to your business. It does take time to get on the larger sites and the right pitch, but it is normally free and in my opinion worth it if you don’t have a budget for advertising. They can also be used to build a demand if your niche, product or service is new and there isn’t currently anything out there driving sales.
- Niche websites – The nice thing about the large sites above is that smaller niche bloggers read these and may also write reviews or write to you because of the article. If there are a few you really want to be featured on, work on developing a pitch that will make sense to their readers (and the owner of the site) and see if they will join your PR list. Having these relationships helps to get you content relevant backlinks as well as coverage, and possibly customers if they have a loyal following or the post about you ranks well in the search engines.
- Radio and TV Stations – Local radio and news stations are always looking for experts on something or stories that will inspire or entertain their audience. They also love local businesses or store owners that started from nothing, are unique or are interesting for their local community. Think about what makes you or your company or website unique and pitch them. If it’s finance and money saving and you have a coupon site, think about the article’s and advice you’ve given with real examples about saving money. If it’s dog walking, think about the work you do in the local community, the best parks and what to avoid and why. All of these are perfect for pitching your local stations and getting exposure to potential customers.
- Newspapers – Newspapers are not dead. The print versions are declining, but their websites are starting to boom again and people are reading them. With that said, some publications like commuter papers in large cities, The Washington Post or NY Times are gigantic and can drive you a ton of business in small bursts when the print versions launch. A lot of local papers are always looking for good stories, especially daily papers, so don’t forget to pitch them with the regular sites you are going after.
- Real Social Media Influencers (
Social Media Accounts with large followings) – People get these confused. Even if someone has 100K+ followers and is on XYZ’s top Influencer list, that doesn’t mean they matter or have a following. What does matter is an engaged audience that clicks through and shops or becomes a customer. If the person has 100K followers, but also follows 50% of the same amount…they are probably using a follow me follow you strategy. These follwers are fairly useless in my opinion and because they are only following to build their audience, they probably don’t have any interest in you or your business. Try to remember that social media isn’t about the size, it’s about the quality. Someone with 2K followers thats following 50 of their friends and co-workers may be able to drive more sales than someone with 100,000. The traffic won’t be the same but the sales could be higher. They have people following them that are actually interested in what they are saying, might trust their opinions, and are not just following people or don’t have followers because they follow people back. Bloggers(Bloggers with real followings) – This is the same thing as above. If a Blogger has 60K page views or visitors, are they all on one or two pages and will you be on those pages? If you aren’t then chances are you won’t get many visitors or sales. Look through their site to see if there are real comments on every post and real shares on every post instead of ones on giveaways and contests? Then try to figure out if the comments on non giveaway and contest posts are because the person entered a contest or giveaway and was required to comment or if they are real because of the content of the post. A Blogger with a real following that can drive sales doesn’t need giveaways or contests. Their audience trusts them and if they are interested when the Blogger writes about you, they’ll click through and visit your site. Then you can turn those visitors into sales.
- Events for offline Influencers and members of the press – Host an event at your store with the right people invited. If you have a restaurant built for college students, invite some of the popular kids, the local school papers, the presidents of the fraternities and sororities as well as local papers to an open house where you feed them and share what makes your store or restaurant unique. While they are there give them handouts, discount codes for their friends or families and also make sure to give each a fact sheet and create a PR list with them on it. By having the popular people from large fraternities and clubs you can now talk to them about renting your store as space for events, etc… By having local media, you can get coverage and help to drive foot traffic. Don’t forgot that they don’t have to have a traditional media outlet to drive business. Word of mouth is huge for college students, house wives and communities and can drive a lot of customers to your store.
- Using Linked In to target job titles for Journalists and Contributors – A great way to get in front of Journalists and Bloggers is to use LinkedIn. Create an article or infographic that features something people would want to share. Now go after job titles like editor, contributor, etc… and the publications you want. If the ad is good and the landing page actually has something worth sharing, you can now target your exact person or group of people without having to spend a ton of money and hopefully have your content featured or shared by the people or publications you want.
Article Sites– Years ago article sites would rank well in the search engines. Farmer and earlier versions of Panda hit these sites and mad it very hard to rank posts for terms you would want. They also made the backlinks not able to help you in the search engines as much. However, some of them still have a very large user base. If that user base is also the same as your customer base, then these could be a great place to share original content. The trick with this is not to pitch your company, but share content that is interesting to them and can make them want to click through to your author name and visit your site. If your site has content that adds value to the content in the article, then you can reference it because it isn’t pitching the reader, but helping to provide them with a better user experience or more information. You can use these to build customers, but you may not want to use them for SEO.
Newswires– PR sites and newsletters should be looked at in the same way as Article Sites. Use them to try and get coverage for your content, but remember they can also be looked at as content farms that sell backlinks and they should not be used for SEO. Because they link out to everyone who pays for them, the site can be similar to a content farm and not always good for SEO. I stopped using them a while ago, but if a very targeted one came out with a targeted list of writers within my clients’ or my own websites’ niches, I wouldn’t be opposed to using it for PR and outreach.
Using Traditional Networking to Grow Small Businesses.
You should never pass up opportunities to network with other small business owners. Sometimes they have similar user bases, contacts or resources that you can use and it’s always good to have someone to vent with that owns a small business. They can help you find new ways to market your small businesses without having a huge budget and by going to these events you may learn some of the things that they are doing to grow their companies that can also be applied or used with cross promotions for your company.
- Local business meetings – Going to local business meetups and networking events is a great way to build these relationships. You can meet new people and build relationships that can result in cross promotions with newsletters, ads inside their stores and other things to help grow your business. You may also find someone who has already grown their company and can work as a mentor for you.
- Community events – If you have a local business, going to community events and presenting, sponsoring them and even being present can show you support and are active within your local community. You can get your store or services in front of your customers and also help to build their trust. These are great because they have your audience in one place at one time and you can get a lot of exposure for your company for free.
- Tradeshows (as an attendee or exhibitor) – Tradeshows are amazing because you can meet everyone from potential customers and clients to Bloggers and people that work for Newspapers and local TV and Radio stations. The important thing to remember is to set up meetings ahead of time, come prepared with proper marketing materials and also to not break any of the rules that could have a negative impact on people that paid to exhibit. Once your company grows, it is always a nice gesture and a good practice to start buying space in the exhibit hall to give back to the shows that helped your company grow. You can also gain a lot more exposure and get a lot more out of the shows by doing this.
Traditional Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses.
- Brochures and cards in complimentary stores – A great way to drive customers to your store is by working with stores in the same area as you. See if they’ll place a card or brochure in your store with a discount and in return let you have some in theirs. As customers checkout or pay for their services, they can recommend the person goes to you and the customer can also find your store and have a reason to come visit with the discount.
- Business cards – Remember to include your website, physical address and a phone number to reach someone at your store on your cards. This is very important in case you cannot answer your phone or don’t want your personal number with everyone. You can also include business hours on your cards so people know when you’re opened and they don’t show up before or after and leave.
- Post brochures on community boards – If you live by a college, have a supermarket or even restaurants with a card and marketing brochure section, post some of your marketing materials on it. When people are bored, waiting to get a table or for the company to help them, they may look through the ads and find your card. This is a great way to get exposure and help to bring in new customers.
- Host small events for condo buildings, groups and gyms/clubs members – This is a great way to build a customer base. Reach out to condo buildings, gyms and other businesses and see if you can set up a table with free food or something that will benefit their residents or members. If you’re a dog walker, ask and see if the building allows animals and if you have a high end service, look for expensive gyms that have the same types of people as members. You’ll be able to add your face to your company and get exposure to potential customers that are probably in your customer demographics.
- Paper flyers and door hangers – They may be annoying and not ecofriendly, but leaving door hangers and flyers for your business can drive new customers to you. I hate them, but I have called restaurants that have left them on my door before when I didn’t feel like cooking or when I needed someone to clean for a party and I didn’t have time to do it myself.
- Packing slip inserts with coupons – One thing a lot of companies forget to do is add in a coupon or promo within their packages and on customer receipts when they are shipping products. This can bring someone back to your store and you can also contact other companies with similar customer bases to do a cross promotion with you.
- Donate your own time or services – There are almost always large organizations in your town or city that have annual galas and silent auctions. Add in free services or whatever you do as a prize. This helps to get you in front of people, shows you support their cause or your community and can help to bring in at least one new customer when you provide your service. Some of them will also let you leave a business card with a discount or deal for members of their organization with the sheet describing your services so even if the person doesn’t win, they can still contact you to visit your store or use your services. If they were interested enough to bid on your company as a prize, they may also contact you in case they don’t win.
New Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses.
- Signing up for delivery services – There are a ton of local apps that people use to find new services. You have companies that deliver food, do laundry or even compete with taxis. Find the ones in your niche and if it is relevant for you and can be profitable, try to get your company listed or try to work out a cross promotion with them.
- Sponsoring people competing in local events – Sponsoring someone at a local event by having them wear a sash with your company name or url is a great way to get exposure and sometimes backlinks. Make sure to not break any rules of the event so that you don’t get in trouble.
- Using SnapChat for Flash Sales – I’ve seen a couple of companies try this one. They do a flash or one day sale using apps like snap chat or Instagram for a one day sale. The sale is only good for a day or for as long as the message is live on the app or service. I haven’t tried this one yet, but it could be a great way to drive sales and build a following.
- Boosting your message for $1.00 to your local community – Facebook started to let you boost your posts for $1.00 and hit your local community. Tag people within your user base and also make sure to tag interests that are relevant or complimentary to you. Another important thing to do is to remember to tag anyone important in the post if it is relevant to them, about them or you did something for them. Having them like and share the posts will add credibility and can help to bring you new customers.
- Instagram images and encourage people in your store to do it – Ask people to tag or instagram themselves at your store. You can have fun props for them to take pictures with or do something funny so that they want to share. Having them share with their friends and followers can show that they have actually been there and hopefully get their friends and family to want to come in as well.
- Offer a discount to share from the location with a picture of your products to both Facebook and Twitter/Instagram/etc… – This is a great way to build business, but make sure you have them disclose why they are sharing if they are being incentivized for sharing.
There are a ton of other ways you can market your small business without having to spend a ton of money. You can build a YouTube channel, feature customers and clients as a way to help get them to share your store or website and you can use tools like Viewbix to help them have calls to action. The trick is to make sure you are measuring the results from your efforts and spending time on the ones that delivery sales and revenue, not just visitors and traffic.
*Images were purchased from Deposit Photos.