Any Tom, Dick or Harry can come up with a business idea. Starting a business though, requires a lot of hard work and dedication.
Growing a business into a sustainable profit making venture is even a more challenging task which often require serious marketing efforts.
The good news however, is that marketing your business doesn’t necessarily have to cost you a fortune, not in this present age and time.
Thanks to advancement in technology; the internet and social networking, getting words out about your business or just about anything is now easier than never before.
Now, it is possible for you to promote your business effectively for close to nothing.
Below are some ways you can market your business and match up with brands who have huge marketing budgets to throw around. But here is a word of caution: no matter how fantastic they may sound, none of the tips discussed here would yield results overnight.
It requires consistence, hard work and patience to get desired result from any marketing effort.
1. Word of Mouth (WOM)
Imagine what strategic paid advert can do to your business? Well, Word-of-Mouth (WOM) does ten times better! It has the power to influence customer decisions before, during and after the buying processes.
Consumers are often led by WOM because they feel it is a reliable source of information.
It is difficult to categorize the quality of a product or service before you experience it.
Without being able to estimate your opinion, relating to someone else is helpful.
That is why you must have your messages on the mouths of your existing customers, family and friends if you want to leverage word of mouth marketing.
Be it offline or online, many recommendations still happen with people sharing their experiences with friends over the phone or face to face.
Because the distance between company owners and customers is closer, small businesses have a huge advantage over bigger companies in word of mouth marketing.
2. Be Active On Social Media
Social media marketing is a most effective way for small businesses to reach prospects and customers.
And you know the good thing about social media marketing? Even the established brands employ it. So it’s a leveler kind of.
For small business who do not have huge marketing budget, social media marketing is the best.
Your customers are already interacting with brands through social media, and if you’re not speaking directly to your audience through social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, what planet have you been living?
Well targeted marketing on social media can bring remarkable success to your business, creating devoted brand advocates and even driving leads and sales through shares and likes.
Depending on your type of business, you may want to concentrate your effort on one or two social media platforms for your business.
If you have physical products or you deal more with images, you might want to open an Instagram page for your business and intimate your customers with what your business is up to.
As a rule of thumb, make sure you give a human feel to your interactions on Instagram – and even on other social media platforms.
Facebook is a good platform to promote most small businesses.
You could budget for Facebook Ads which cost very little or nothing compared to the traditional advertising and you are able to specify your target and monitor results as advert runs.
3. Create a website
Do you have a simple website for your business? If you don’t have one already, you should consider getting one.
Website contents are a great way small business owners promote their businesses to prospects and customers.
The sound of the word ‘website’ might create a mental picture of a lot of money and computer programing skills… chillax! It’s not always the case.
In fact, there are websites that have made creating business websites easy i.e. WordPress. When I started my first business and I wanted to create a website, I had no idea at all how to go about it.
I contacted a friend who had rudimentary knowledge of how to create a simple website.
He worked on it for a few hours and voila I got a website! I used that website for a very long time in promoting my first business.
This might also work for you. Could you contact anyone in your network who probably has an idea how to create a website and of course who will be willing to do it for free? You may have to pay a token to secure a domain.
Your website blog posts may range from new arrivals to behind the scenes.
You may direct your followers on social media to your website to get further information about your businesses. You may find this article useful for creating free websites.
Suggested read: Top 15 Websites Every Nigerian Student Should Follow
4. YouTube Videos
Given that YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine, small businesses are availing themselves the opportunity of the video content website to create viral contents that will help promote their businesses.
Create a YouTube Channel and leverage proven video marketing tactics, like the tested “how-to” style video content. Here is all you need to create a viral YouTube content.
5. Partner With Another Small Business Owner
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”. Cliché as this may sound, it is as true today as it was many years ago.
“Collaboration has no hierarchy. The Sun collaborates with soil to bring flowers on the earth.” – Amit Ray. When looking to collaborate, it is advisable that you look for collaborations outside your competition.
Businesses that target similar or same audience as you but sell different products are best businesses to collaborate with.
6. Guest Blog
Don’t dismiss this part. Yes professional bloggers by virtue of their work as writers are obligated to guest blog in order to increase their blog traffic through links.
But small business owners who are looking for ways to market their businesses for free should explore blogging opportunities too.
Most blogs are categorized into niches. If your business has recognized and established niche blogs, you could look for guest blogging opportunties on such blogs and establish yourself as an authority in your industry.
Most bloggers are on the lookout for guest bloggers who would write authoritative blog posts and contents.
This will not only drive traffic to their websites but establish their blogs as credible. So, it’s always a win win.
7. Host a Webinar
Webinars are online versions of seminars. Organizing seminars establish businesses as expects and authorities in their industries.
This is true of webinars. If you have some online presence already, I am sure your customers will be excited about you hosting a webinar.
Your webinar could address for eample, a frequently asked question by your customers.
To host a webinar, choose a date and time, choose speakers – apart from you, you could have other speakers participate in the webinar. Choose a webinar topic; choose your branding, choose a hashtag for you webinar, send out your webinar invitation and build webinar content. This article is a go to help for first time webinar hosts.
To get the desired objective of growing your small business, make sure you follow up with attendees after a successful webinar.
Facebook advertising is the best thing that ever happened to small business owners.
Recently, there were hikes in costs of advertising on Facebook but considering that Facebook Ads are very result oriented, it is the best bet for small business. With as low as $2 to spend for two days, you could promote your business on Facebook
Setting up Facebook Ad is quite easy. Facebook suggests post that could be promoted on their platform, all you may need to do is click ‘promote’ and follower subsequent instructions carefully.
Make sure you start with a small budget so you could determine if the result is good enough.
9. List Your Business with Online Directories
Online directories list businesses in various industries across a specific location.
Customers, clients and visitors check directories to find companies small and big. It cost nothing to list your business on directories but you could get overwhelming leads from such.
10. Deals And Giveaways
Who doesn’t like freebies? Everyone does, including your customers. If you want to promote your small business, imbibe the culture of doling out deals and giveaways to your customers from time to time and you will see how easily you will win their loyalty and of course, their hard earned money.
Deals and giveaways are marketing tactics that must be strategically done. If you have more than one product line, the product line that is newer or less demanded may be given as giveaway.
Deals and giveaways should also be done in a way to incentivize buyers or prospect to buy an item from you; it should not be free altogether. A ‘buy three get one free’ deal is a good deal any day.
11. Attend Networking Events And Meetups.
Industry events like conferences, hangouts, seminars, lunch meetings, etc. are a good avenue to promote your small business for free.
Always be on the lookout for such events.
One way to get notified of such events is to follow event accounts like citievents on Instagram.
Make sure you turn your notification on so as to see upcoming events on time and plan to attend relevant ones.
Admittance for most such events are free but often require registration.
During such events, there would be break times when you will have opportunity to network and take people’s contacts.
Make sure you introduce yourself properly and build some rapport with a few people. Create great impression about yourself, take a few people’s contacts and do well to follow up a few days after the event via email.
After building great relationship with some of the people you meet at networking event, and proving useful to them, you would find it easy to ask some of them for help.
You could ask them to link you up with an investor or helping you sponsor a project – it all depends on what you need for your business growth and how you perceive they can be helpful.
Many small business owners have been able to promote and grow their businesses through their networks, so never underestimate the power of networking.
12. Influencer Outreach
Small business owners can leverage on social media influencers.
Social media influencers are people who yield great influence on social media because of they are authorities in their fields or because they are celebrities and are very popular.
Marketers now employ the services of Instagram influencers to promote their businesses for little or no cost.
Some small businesses exchange their services for mentions by influencers, while others pay some amount to an influencers to help them talk about their product or services to the influencer’s followers.
Social media Influencers have huge number of people who believe them so it’s easy for them to recommend products or services to their followers.
It’s not a bad idea that you become a social media influencer yourself so you can promote your small business by yourself and of course for free.
13. Press Releases
Does Press Release sound like some marketing idea exclusive to big companies? This is a misconceived idea.
Every time your business does something newsworthy, don’t hesitate to shoot off a press release—maybe some of your prospects will pick up on it.
There are a lot of medium sized blogs and websites looking to publish such news. Press release are a powerful media tool to use to help generate publicity, and having free distribution of them is a bonus.
There are dozens of websites out there that you can use for your press releases such as this one.
14. Become a radio guest
Unlike what many people will tell you, radio is far from dead and be an effective way of targeting your potential customers and a much more inexpensive form of advertising compared to other channels such as television or bill board.
I was invited to a radio show recently to speak about student entrepreneurship in Nigeria.
I was initially reluctant because I had not spoken on any radio show prior to that time.
But I had just met the show host and I didn’t want to create a wrong impression by declining.
So I summoned courage and I went to the show anyways.
After the show that day, when I had time to checked my Instagram page I saw that a number of people had started following my page.
I also received more enquiries than usual from student entrepreneurs.
Since then, I have been looking forward to speaking opportunities on radio because I have seen the type of magic it does.
Be on the lookout for opportunities to speak on radio and when such opportunities come, grab them!
Suggested read: 9 Easy Steps To Becoming An Assertive OAP
15. Build Good Relationship With Customers
If you build good relationship with your present customers, you may reach thousands of traffic through your one lead and grow your small business for free while you watch other businesses spend their fortune on traditional advertising with same or less result.
If you find any of these suggestions practicable enough, do not hesitate to practice them.
What other free or low cost marketing methods have you been using for your business? And how do you measure its result? Let’s learn from what works for you.
Suggested read: 10 Lucrative low-cost business ideas for Nigerian Students