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by Karen McCandless | Updated Aug. 5, 2022 – First published on May 18, 2022
Image source: Getty Images
Many tips on how to market your business mean spending money. But what if you have a shoestring budget and limited time?
There are plenty of low effort ways you can increase brand awareness and advertise your business without breaking the bank. Advertising is a key step in your marketing strategy, harnessing your data and experience to introduce and promote your product and service to an audience or marketplace.
Even if you have an impressive online advertising budget, these tactics are still useful to get involved with your local business community and connect with customers.
Networking. It puts the fear of God into many a business person. But it doesn’t have to be like that if you reframe how you think about networking.
Instead of going to specific networking events, either virtually or in person, where the sole aim is to make connections, go to events with a purpose that interests you. These events don’t have to be related to business or your industry. You just have to be meeting people.
Here are examples of events you could go to or clubs you could join:
Check out sites and apps like Meetup or Eventbrite to see what’s happening in your area. But don’t focus on selling; work on getting to know people. Ask questions and show genuine interest in who they are and what they do.
I go to a local freelancers Meetup group. Rather than trying to sell my services, I enjoy the company and get to know people. Then when one of my new connections needs a copywriter, I offer my services. As they already know and trust me and have seen my work, they’re happy to offer me the job.
If you can’t attend an event in person, look for the many virtual networking groups going on at the moment. Slack groups can also be useful networking tools as you can connect with a wider audience.
Find virtual and in-person networking events on Meetup.com. Image source: Author
Despite a fear of public speaking, I gave a talk on the importance of good copy at a digital marketing event in my area.
It didn’t lead to new business on the day, but it got my name out there and raised my profile to potential customers. Then when they need copywriting or a journalist, my name will be top of mind.
I was able to demonstrate my skills while being helpful and useful. Again, it’s not about selling. These days, people often don’t respond well to the hard sell and they don’t want to hear you talk about yourself all the time.
The bonus is that your name, business name, and website will normally appear on the invite, so this is extra visibility, and the attendees have your contact details even if they don’t attend.
You can also speak on podcasts to raise your profile or start your own podcast. These podcasts don’t have to be related to your business. Show you are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about your subject, and this will help boost your brand awareness and personal profile.
Social media advertising doesn’t have to directly lead to sales. Instead, you can focus on brand development and targeting customers at the top of the marketing funnel. This means being helpful and offering useful advice, rather than trying to sell your product to your customers all the time.
When answering questions on social media, avoid promoting your company unless it’s directly relevant to your company. Instead, interact with potential customers regularly to put your company on their radar.
Tailor your social media channel usage according to your customer base. If your target audience hangs out on Twitter, use that platform. If they are more into GitHub or Quora, use those channels.
A Google My Business account ensures your business information appears when someone looks your company up on Google Search and Google Maps, while also boosting SEO in your local area.
Even if you run an offline business, your customers will still look up information about you online, such as your address and opening hours. Your Google My Business profile can both drive foot traffic to your bricks-and-mortar store and send traffic to your website.
Regularly check and update your information. Businesses with complete listings on Google are twice as likely to earn trust from customers.
To optimize your profile:
Guest posting can be a useful free advertising tool, but only if used wisely. Rather than writing guest posts for any website that will accept your submission, create a targeted strategy to generate brand awareness and get backlinks to your site.
Research industry publications and sites with an established audience. Study their submission guidelines and contact these sites explaining what you do and the insight you can offer. Make sure your guest post is up to scratch, written in a style that matches the site, and has all the required elements.
HubSpot’s guidelines for its marketing blog require at least three links to other HubSpot blog posts and only one link to your own website. For currency, they want data and research from within the last two years.
Ensure you follow the submission guidelines of your target site, such as these from the HubSpot marketing blog. Image source: Author
With 93% of people stating that online reviews impact their buying decisions, they are a crucial — but often overlooked — marketing tool. Positive reviews also make 73% of consumers trust a local business more. Yet many customers only leave reviews when they have a negative experience because it stands out in their minds.
That’s why you have to ask customers to leave you a review when they buy your product or use your service. One of the easiest ways to do this is to set up email marketing campaigns that automatically send out emails asking customers to review their purchases. You can even set up strings of campaigns that remind customers who haven’t left a review to do this.
You can use your email marketing software to set up these automated campaigns, or you can use a dedicated customer review platform like Feefo.
The email below from Sportshoes.com was the second reminder in an automated email campaign asking me to leave a review. The email made it easy to leave feedback (clicking to leave a star rating) while reminding me of when I had made the purchase and what I had bought.
Send out automated emails asking customers to review their recent purchases. Image source: Author
Just because you are using free online advertising as part of your marketing strategy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t track results. No marketing or advertising technique is ever free because they all take time.
Set goals before embarking on any advertising campaign and collect the right data to track performance. This assures you’ll know which channels and free advertising sites drive the best results.
Karen McCandless covers email marketing software for The Ascent, and specializes in business communications and tech.
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