Marketing is the lifeblood of any business, big or small. You can offer the best possible products and services, but without marketing, consumers won’t even know you exist. Although marketing is essential, many small businesses, solopreneurs, and startups simply do not have huge budgets. They can't afford billboards, TV ads, and mass mailings.
If this is you, don’t worry. The lack of a huge budget doesn’t mean you can’t attract new customers through marketing. You just have to get a little creative. Here are seven low-cost (or free!) marketing ideas to try:
1. Form Business Partnerships
Among the best, most affordable, and most effective ways to market your business is to develop business partnerships. This simply means you team up with other businesses in your area to promote each other's offerings. For example, if you run a travel agency, you can partner with hotels and other service providers in the hospitality industry.
The same applies to other businesses. For example, if you run a coffee shop, you might want to partner with a bakery. Business partnerships are valuable marketing tools because they help you gain access to another business's audience while helping a fellow small business owner at the same time. When choosing a business to partner with, just be sure to choose a complementary business and not a competitor.
2. Use Social Media
Nowadays, almost everyone is on social media and your business should not be left behind. Social media is a low-cost but effective method to create brand awareness, generate sales, and engage customers and prospects. It gets your business in front of billions of people, some of whom are potential customers. You can use social media networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook to engage your fans and followers.
Build relationships on social media by offering advice, sharing business updates, answering questions, and joining relevant groups. Identify people who show interest in your products and services. You can send them helpful content to help them make a decision. Another way to make the most of social media is to ask your existing customers to write reviews about your business. These will help potential customers make purchase decisions. You can also post photos and videos of new products to encourage people to buy.
3. Try Word-of-Mouth Advertising
Word-of-mouth advertising is free but can boost your business immensely. Word-of-mouth advertising will go a long way in growing your business and attracting many customers. You can promote your products and services verbally to friends, family, and even strangers. Whenever you get a chance, tell people about your products, services, and other offerings.
Are you wondering where to start? It's simple. "Hey, by the way, I just launched a new travel package. Check out my travel business online . . ." You are essentially a brand ambassador for your own business. Tell your friends and family about your new venture, and take advantage of any networking opportunities you can. As your customer base grows, your word-of-mouth advertising will also grow.
4. Use Free Marketing Opportunities
If you think outside of the box, you will find free marketing opportunities. Have you ever thought about advertising on your vehicle? Yes, your vehicle. Imagine the people who see your car each day as you commute or run errands. If you can't afford billboard advertising, turn your car into a moving billboard that promotes your products and services. Print vinyl signage on your vehicle and you are good to go. You can even opt for removable magnetic signage for times when you want to remain low-key.
Other free marketing opportunities include answering Quora questions, publishing content on LinkedIn, sending email newsletters, speaking at an event, and networking at events.
5. Ask for Referrals
Asking your existing customers for referrals is a low-cost marketing idea that can be used by any business. Happy customers are likely to tell their friends and family about your business. You can boost these referrals by offering existing customers an incentive to refer other people to you. For instance, you can give them a discount or a gift each time one of their referrals signs up for your service.
Referrals are not only inexpensive but are also high-quality leads that already have an interest in your enterprise's offerings. Be proactive by creating a referral program for your business to encourage current customers to find referrals. Include something of value for customers who bring referrals to promote participation.
6. Capitalize on Content
Content marketing is an inexpensive and high return method. It has positive outcomes for increased brand awareness, improved site SEO, enhanced customer engagement, and higher sales. Content marketing starts with simply producing quality content. You can write the content, ask a number of your team to help you or even hire a freelancer to do the task.
Your content should always be written with your audience in mind. Develop content that provides value to your audience or solves a problem for them. Your content should not be overly salesy and promotional. After creating your content, promote it by posting it on your website, blog, social media, and other channels.
7. Market to Existing Customers
Your relationship with your customers should blossom even after making a sale. You should strive to retain current customers to assure repeat business. Marketing to existing customers is a great idea for a business with a tiny marketing budget. Existing customers already have an experience with your business, and they are likely to make a purchase again as long as they have a positive experience with your brand.
You can cross-sell and up-sell to your existing client base. When a customer makes a purchase, ask if you can add them to your email list. Then keep them engaged with regular emails on new products and any developments in your business.
Marketing does not have to be expensive. Even a tiny budget can have a big impact if used strategically. All you need is a little creativity and commitment to implement inexpensive marketing ideas. The next time you embark on marketing your business, use these low to no-cost marketing ideas, and the results may surprise you.