If you’re starting a small business, marketing is key to success. Prospects are attracted to marketing, turn into buyers, and generate revenue. Marketing is more than just promoting your business.
Marketing is everything a company does to connect with its customers.
Today, when ads are everywhere and businesses are expected to be engaged and responsive, this definition is more pertinent than ever.
Making a marketing plan is one of the smartest decisions a small business owner can make. A marketing plan explains how to reach your ideal customers by implementing your marketing strategy.
Set up a free Google My Business account.
Google Business Profiles are one of the best free marketing strategies for local businesses. This essential marketing collateral gets your business on Google Maps, the local section of Google Search, and the right-side Knowledge Panel for branded searches.
But for your Business Profile to show up higher on Google Maps or local results, you need to optimize your Business Profile and to optimize it, you need to have verified ownership of it—which is done through your Google My Business account.
Post (and engage) on social media
Increasing social media engagement and community building is a free way to grow your small business while expressing your brand’s personality and building trust. Create business profiles on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media sites. You can do this whenever you have a few minutes.
Promoting blog posts drives website traffic.
Directly communicate with followers to express your brand voice and increase engagement. Run polls and request feedback. Create brief, digestible posts by quoting longer content.
Whatever your reason, keep your social media accounts active and proactive. Consistency, community, collaboration, and commitment.
On social media, tag people and brands.
Tagging loyal customers, brand evangelists, or even neighboring companies and vendors on social media can expand your organic reach to a new audience, grow your following, and possibly even get you more customers. Encourage followers to tag your business or social media handle in posts.
Tag satisfied customers in your posts to promote your company to their networks (provided you have their permission).
Make use of hashtags!
Hashtags on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, and LinkedIn are all free marketing strategies that can expand your reach.
Broad or trending hashtags can help you build brand identity, but they shouldn’t be your only option. When you’re giving resources or advice, more specific hashtags (like long-tail keywords) are useful. Local businesses need location-based hashtags. Custom hashtags are important, too. Mix up your hashtags to reach your target audience.
Don’t ignore LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a major social media platform that is frequently underutilized. Don’t just add network connections and sign out; talk to them, share your blog posts and offers, join forums, and share others’ good content.
You can build your brand and gain industry respect by helping other professionals grow and educating potential customers. Encourage your staff to use the platform as well!
These tactics are still free, but they take more time and/or effort. The good news is that, typically, more effort results in a more effective strategy and longer-term success.
Local Search Engine Optimization
Google’s algorithm is designed to provide the most accurate, high-quality, and relevant content for any search query. Small businesses can compete with big companies for page-one real estate because it does not pay to play.
Local SEO is free, but it takes time. Start now and keep working; the benefits can be huge.
Add “Portland Bakery” to your main website pages’ titles, headings, and body content.
Put your information in online directories and make sure it’s consistent.
Post neighborhood-specific content.
Plan for email marketing
Email marketing is a great way to engage new customers and keep them. Email marketing isn’t new, but it’s still one of the best ways to get a high return on marketing. Put thought and creativity into your subject lines. Make sure every email has a call to action.
Track your performance and A/B test your copy and offers to see what works with your list. Offer a bonus content piece or coupon/discount to new website visitors who sign up for your newsletter.
Email your subscribers until they’re ready to buy. Use MailChimp to start promotional email campaigns.
Make infographics with lots of data.
Infographics are amazing marketing tools. They’re easy to digest, visually appealing, and shareable, so they’re great for referral traffic.
Hiring a designer to create an A+ infographic can be expensive, but free tools like Canva, Adobe’s free vector kits, and our personal favorite, Visme, provide all the elements needed to create a clever, shareable infographic. Not sure where to begin? Visual.ly is inspiring. You can browse beginner and advanced examples.
If you don’t have proprietary data, you can repurpose existing data. Check out Data.gov or the Census Bureau for government data. UNICEF and the WHO provide global statistics. Finding industry- and audience-specific source data is essential. However, there is plenty of free data available!
Get free ad credits
Although large ad campaigns may be out of your small business’s budget, Facebook and Google Ads frequently offer discounts and coupons. Some web hosting companies offer advertising discount codes. Check to see if yours does. Receiving the promo is easy, but to get the best results and audience insights, you’ll need to brush up on your PPC skills. Check out Growth Academy’s training resources.
Apply for business awards
Most industries have business awards you can win, and you’ll receive an online badge you can display on your website. Badges like these can improve credibility and sales. If your industry doesn’t have any awards, host your own! You’ll receive interest from other industry businesses who want to apply for your award, which means more connections and potential future collaborations!
Guerilla marketing is creative and cheap, especially when localized. Use sidewalk chalk to advertise your Twitter handle, paint an abandoned storefront, or put custom stickers on urban décor to make passersby stop and look.
Publish great content
If done right, content marketing is a cheap tactic. Google prioritizes high-quality content that answers users’ questions. As a result, it improves Google rankings and drives free traffic to your website.
Consider writing to be a weak point? Good content educates your audience using simple, easy-to-understand language—not fancy jargon, but the terms your audience uses to find answers to questions about your products or services. Don’t be fancy; share your expertise!
Most of the things you take for granted are unfamiliar to your customers. You are a professional! How-tos, top ten lists, tip collections, best practices, data insights, thought leadership pieces, and more are all examples of original, authentic, and useful content (some of these will be mentioned later in this post).
Keep in mind your technical SEO. A content delivery network may help your site load quickly if you create content at scale. Some CDNs are standalone, while others are part of your CMS. HubSpot’s CMS includes a free CDN.
Check out these 32 Free (& Almost Free) Content Marketing Tools for more help creating quality content.
Start a blog
Starting a blog is a great way to incorporate content into your marketing.
Blogging helps small businesses drive traffic, user engagement, online visibility, and SEO. It’s a free way to promote your small business online by telling stories about your company and providing useful information to potential customers.
Simple language, a different topic for each post, and a natural integration of your keywords into each post are all that is necessary for blog posts to be effective.
Create partnerships in the industry
Join forces with a non-competitor in your industry. This can be done locally, offline, at a special event, or online (but still locally) at a webinar or promotional giveaway.
Partnering with another business doubles your exposure to a new niche audience.
Industry partnerships are a great marketing strategy because they give small businesses access to marketing expertise, technology, and customer bases. If you want to form a profitable partnership, think and work hard. Clarify expectations, engage with and vet businesses, assess how you can collaborate, and have several conversations before making things official.
POST HELPFUL VIDEOS
Video is a popular medium for consumers, but you don’t have to hire a pro to get a professional video made and uploaded to YouTube. DIY video marketing is simple with modern devices and apps like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.
Videos show how to fold a fitted sheet or install a garbage disposal. But video marketing works in almost every industry.
Add a personal or branding message. Be open and honest. Finish with a strong call to action (e.g., Call us to set up an appointment! or Place your birthday cake order today!) and distribute the video on your website, YouTube, and other video hosting sites, social media, and emails.