As a business owner, we get calls and emails nearly daily from salespeople trying to convince us to part ways with our limited marketing budgets. Marketing your small business or home-based business doesn't have to be costly. With some hands-on work and DIY, you can pull off some impressive marketing results on your own and on your shoestring budget. Here are six free small business marketing strategies you can use in your small business.
Use Email for Nearly Free Small Business Marketing
You can't see them, but my fingers are crossed here that you have developed an email list of potential, current and/or past customers. Using this list to promote your business is the best way to market your business for free. Take an afternoon to segment out your list into potential customers, current customers and former customers. A great tool I've used for nearly 20 years is MailChimp, and it's completely free. Mailchimp will safely store your email database, allow you to section it out and offers a plethora of templates all for free.
With your updated and segmented list ready, you'll want to email your prospect list an offer to get them to try your product or service. For your current customer segment, you should email them a higher-ticket offer, because they already know your business. And, for your former customers (or those you haven't seen in a long time) you'll want to send them a similar offer to remind them you are still here and excited to see them again. Email your lists once a week.
Try to gear your email content to being helpful, not salesy. Share tips, recipes, articles, news, photos, etc on topics you know your audience is interested in. Think of your audience as a group of new friends you're meeting every week for coffee on a social level. If one of them talked non stop about their business and trying to sell you something, you'd quickly get annoyed. But, if the same person talked about topics the group was interested in, you'd look forward to your coffee meetings. It's the same for your email list. Done right, your email list plays a key role in free small business marketing tactics.
Maximize your Social media efforts
Do you throw all kinds of posts at your social media accounts, and it feels like nothing is working? You need a deeper strategy. First, determine which of the social media channels you really want to focus on. Pick one to three channels. The channels you choose should be a combination of the channels the majority of your target audience uses (look at the channel demographics to match to your audience), as well as the channels you personally like or understand the most.
Your strategy for each social media channel will differ depending on which platform you choose, but on all of them, you want to limit self-promoting posts to avoid looking too "spammy." Focus on trying to get engagement -- this means you're trying to get likes, follows, comments, shares, etc. You accomplish this by behaving in a similar way as I recommended above with your email list. Be conversational, not salesy. Post daily to each social media channel, preferably at a rate of three non-sales posts for every one promotional post. If the channel you chose is hashtag friendly (Instagram and LinkedIn), maximize your hashtag use. Hashtags allow your posts to be found by people who don't know you exist. While paid advertising will get you better results, social media posting done right can be a great free small business marketing tactic.
Make sure your posts are also visually appealing. A great site that practically anyone at any skill level can use is Canva. In fact, I use it all the time because it's quicker to use than firing up my Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign.
Giving away a freebie as a free small business marketing tactic
A great way to attract new sales is to create a free trial or product. Promote this in your emails and on your social media channels. A free trial is a great way to attract your prospects and re-engage your former customers. It's also a great way to grow your email list, because you'll be collecting emails, mailing addresses, phone numbers, etc when you give the freebie away.
You can also give a freebie away on your website in the form of free information. Called "lead magnets," take the knowledge you have and create a document (a checklist, a cheatsheet, a workbook, an ebook, etc) your website visitors can download for free (and check out my lead magnet here). Again, the goal is to collect contact information from your visitors so you can incorporate them into your email lists.
Offer free seminars or classes
A great way to convert a prospect into a customer is to educate them. Offer a free class on something closely related to your business. If you are an online business, make sure you have a blog -- and you are posting new articles at least weekly. Physical, brick and mortar businesses could hold a class.
If space is available, you could even offer your space as class space to unrelated businesses. Restaurants do this all the time for paint night parties. It costs the restaurant nothing, and they're guaranteed 20-30 new patrons for an evening, who will be there for two to three hours, ordering appetizers, meals and drinks.
You'll want to use your email list and social media channels to also promote these free classes and events. Are you starting to see now why your email list is so important? Create flyers to display, if appropriate. Promote these classes on your website as well.
Upsell to your customers
Using your email list segment of existing customers, offer them an upsell. Your customers may be coming in for one product, but should be offered a second product at checkout, either at a reduced price or regular price. If you have employees, train them on upselling (i.e. "Would you like a cookie with your coffee?"). When two products make sense together, create flyers to display around your business where customers will see them. Make sure you're also suggesting an upsell on your website.
Craft a killer referral program
A great referral program will cost just your time investment, and should be a win-win-win. Clearly, the win for you is a new customer. Now, think about possible wins for both the new customer, and the customer who referred them. If you're a personal trainer, you could offer the first training session for free to the new customer, and as a thank you, offer the referring customer a session credit.
Promote this referral program to your email list of current customers, as well as on social media. Create and print flyers to display around your shop, if it's appropriate. Also, promote the referral program on your website.
There you have it! These six free marketing tactics, when executed correctly, will attract new customers, returning customers and more sales. Take the time to plan and implement each one, or choose just one or a few to incorporate into your marketing plan. And, let me know how they worked for you.