Starting a new business is difficult, and so is running an established business during a crisis or slow season. These times usually demand some additional marketing investment, but if you have very little to put into your business, you might feel like all hope is lost. Is it even possible to market your business with no money? So many small business owners ask themselves this question, and while it might seem impossible to develop a good marketing strategy without investing a lot of money, I’m here to tell you that it’s not just possible… it’s actually pretty easy.
To market your business with no money, you first want to avoid making some all-too-common marketing mistakes that small business owners make all the time. Steering clear of these will save you a lot of time and money.
What you really need to do is create a content plan. You can create free content for social media using free apps online. Yes, you’re going to have to do it yourself (unless someone on your team is willing to do it) but we show you how to get started in this post. As you will see, if you batch your planning and content creation, you can get it done fairly quickly and have a lot of great content that will hopefully attract all kinds of interested people to your website.
Read more: How to Plan One Month of Social Media Content at Once
We have some other ideas for you to market your business with no money, and some of them are so easy you’re going to be downright amazed. Are you ready to jump in?
17 Ways to Market Your Business With No Money
1. Profit From Holidays and Days of Observance
Holidays and days of observance are great ways to create unique and fun ways for your audience to support your business. Let’s say you own a pizzeria. Why not celebrate National Pizza Day with a discount or a “Buy One Get Two” kind of deal? Think about how you can profit from these days and try to make the most of them! Don’t forget to post about your offer or even (several times) on social media to give people time to participate.
2. Interact With Your Audience on Social Media
This is one of those ridiculously easy ones. Talk to people online! So many people forget that social media is meant to be social, even if you are a business account. People enjoy interacting with brands they love, but you need to take the first step. Start conversations, ask your audience questions, and engage when someone comments on your posts. Taking these small steps will encourage more people to interact with you and this will give you more visibility.
Use the built-in polling feature or utilize the question box in Instagram Stories to ask people for their opinion.
People LOVE sharing their opinions. Ask your followers to share something about their experience with your business or ask them what they would like to see more of from you. In the beginning, you might not get as many replies as you would like, but keep doing it anyway. Consistently showing people that you genuinely want to hear them will increase your trustworthiness and people will eventually start interacting with you more.
3. Encourage Customers to Tag You
When people tag you on social media, it’s like a free advertisement. This kind of indirect “word of mouth” endorsement is powerful social proof, so make sure you encourage people to tag your business whenever they post something about you online.
How do you do this? Aside from simply asking people to tag you, make sure you share all the posts you get tagged in. People will see that you regularly do this, and it will make them much more likely to follow suit because they’ll want to be part of the “club” too. You could even offer small discounts or freebies to people who tag you the next time they visit.
These are just a few ideas. Be creative; it pays off.
4. Share Your Customers’ Posts
As we mentioned above, you need to be sharing your customers’ posts whenever they tag you. This will make other people want to tag you, too. The more people tag you, the more people will start believing that everyone is going to your business or is hiring you. They will want to go to your business or hire you too just because of the simple fact that everyone else seems to be doing it. It might sound a little crazy, but it really works.
5. Create a Loyalty Card
Loyalty cards are an inexpensive and effective way to keep your customers close, especially if the reward is a good one! People who love your business will always increase their visits and people who sometimes visit your competitors may choose to frequent your business more often instead so they can reach the reward faster. The secret here is to not make it too long of a process. If you make it too difficult to get the reward, people will lose interest.
You don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money printing the loyalty cards. They can be handmade or you can just design them on Canva and print them on cardstock on your own printer at home. There are plenty of loyalty card templates on Google for you to use as a model so you can create your own.
6. Promote a Giveaway
Giveaways are a great way to promote your business. Of course, there is a small investment involved in this because you have to have something to give away, but the actual cost to you is very minimal. If you offer a service or a product, you can give away something for free in exchange for interaction online, like a share or a comment. Even though it’s a very popular technique, the giveaways in which you ask people to follow your page and tag a friend (or two) actually work pretty well.
The key is to make sure the thing that you’re giving away is actually related to your business. This way, people who are interested in that product or service will enter, and you’ll get instant access to a lot of new people who are seeking out the thing you specialize in. I see a lot of businesses get this part wrong. For instance, I’ve seen a travel agency give an iPhone. Sure, they will attract a lot of people interested in the iPhone, but will they be interested in booking a trip? Probably not.
Read more: 11 Instagram Giveaway Ideas for Businesses (and How to Run One)
7. Run a Contest
A contest is a lot like a giveaway, but with a contest, you could create a landing page to collect email addresses in exchange for a contest entry. Then, you can use this new warm audience the next time you want to promote a new product or service. You could also offer the people who didn’t win a “bonus” or exclusive discount, which could increase clicks through to your website and ultimately, conversions.
8. Collaborate With Other Businesses
Another way to get your business in front of more people is to partner with other businesses within your niche. It doesn’t need to be a direct competitor; it could be a complementary business. So, let’s say you’re a photographer who specializes in female portraits and you want to give away a free 30 minutes session. You could partner with a local makeup artist that will give free makeup for the photoshoot, and then you can each promote the giveaway and get free exposure to the other person’s following.
You don’t have to give away something for free for this to work, though. You can partner with a business you trust and do a “local spotlight” post on your social media channel and ask that they do the same for you.
You could also team up to create some content together, like a helpful video or course. Just going back to the example above, you could invite a makeup artist to teach your clients how to prep their skin the week before the photoshoot. Then in exchange, you can take some headshots for her to use in her business.
If you’re feeling more ambitious, you could team up with someone to create a new product. In the case of the photographer and makeup artist, it might be a makeup + headshots package. Or, maybe you’re a candy maker and you team up with a local coffee roaster to create a line of chocolate covered espresso beans. The possibilities are endless!
Think about ways you can promote other small businesses and get some promotion for yourself at the same time. Even if you have the same target audience, your audience might not be familiar with the person you’re partnering with and vice-versa. It’s a great way to reach new people, both online and offline!
9. Invest Real Time Into Your Content Marketing
I’m not saying you need to invest money to put together really great content, but you’re going to need to invest some time. Content marketing is a critical part of your marketing strategy, whether you’re a large company or a brand new small business.
Content marketing is helpful content that solves a problem or educates your audience.
This kind of content is so important because it builds trust and causes people to see you as an authority in your niche. And, if the content is share-worthy, you get your name in front of people you otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach.
10. Host an Event or Class
Hosting an event or class is similar to content marketing. In exchange for their attention and time, you’re giving them something useful and establishing yourself as an expert. I will never forget this one time I went to this wine tasting in a really cool bar I had never been to before. The wine tasting was free, and I didn’t purchase the wine, but I went back to the bar a couple of times after that because I loved the atmosphere.
It’s like giving people a free trial of what you have to offer in the hopes that they like it and become a paying customer (and hopefully, tell their friends, too).
It doesn’t need to be anything fancy; all you need to do is to host an event or class that is somehow valuable to your target audience. And, it doesn’t even have to be in-person. You could offer a virtual class on Zoom and then email everyone an offer after the class is done so they come back and visit you again.
11. Create Gift Cards
Gift cards are a great way to expand your network. Most likely, the people who buy gift cards from you are going to be people who already know and love you. But, the person who receives the gift card might not know who you are, which is great because that is a new potential customer for life!
It doesn’t cost you anything to offer this option (just like the loyalty cards, gift cards can be made using Canva and printed on your own printer) and it’s just one more amazing opportunity to market your business with no money.
12. Repurpose Your Older Content
Chances are, you created a piece of content in the past that might be forgotten or maybe didn’t perform as well as you thought it would. Take that video you shared six months ago and repurpose it. There’s nothing wrong with posting the same thing twice, or even three or four times!
People tend to forget or your audience changes – you lose and gain followers over time – so it’s worth revisiting things from time to time.
If you’re nervous about it, you can always make that content a little different. Let’s say you’re a nail artist and you posted a video tutorial on how to paint your nails white at home a few months ago. You could add a new introduction, take stills from the video and post a few of them in your Instagram Stories with some captions, or you could write a blog post to go with it and embed the original video. So many options!
13. List Your Website on Business Listings
Many business owners ignore this step because they think it’s too complicated or it’s not necessary. The fact is, most people find new businesses through search results on the internet, so you want to make sure you’re there.
It’s not only about having your page on Facebook. You also need to list your business on Google My Business so your business can be listed correctly with the proper hours, photos, and reviews set properly. You should also be on TripAdvisor, Yelp, and some of the other business listing websites. Trust me, it’s worth the little bit of time it takes to make sure your business is on these websites. It makes it so much easier for people to find you and ultimately, support your business!
14. Encourage Customers to Leave You Reviews
While websites like Yelp don’t allow you to ask customers for reviews, you can always encourage people to leave reviews. Putting a small Yelp and TripAdvisor sign on your business’ windows or front counter will subtly let people know that you appreciate their feedback. You can also add widgets on your website that link to these review sites to make it easier for people, and you can set up an email to go out to customers after they purchase a product or service that encourages them to leave a review, with links to the pages you prefer to receive reviews on.
15. Go Live On Social Media
Platforms like Facebook prioritize live videos and content in the form of video, just like Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and most other platforms these days. So, maybe it’s time for you to go live? I know, it can be intimidating, so to help you out, we have prepared a complete guide on how to plan your first live video that will really help you get over your initial fears.
Now, going live might not be the best way to reach new people who don’t already follow you, but it is a really great way to connect with those who do.
People love seeing other people go live because it’s spontaneous, and they feel like they can talk to you and interact with you a little more freely. Remember: connecting with people is a crucial (and free) way to market your business.
16. Give People Something for Free
If you don’t mind the initial work that goes into creating a freebie, it’s actually an awesome way to get your name out there and market your business with no money. You could put together a free e-book or offer a free strategy call to get more leads and build trust. You have so much valuable information to offer people, so think about the kinds of questions you get from people and think about how you can turn that into a free resource!
17. Be Part of Your Community
People trust brands that are involved in their community or that support a cause. It helps to show off a more personal side to your business, and that is so important. There are so many ways you can do this. You could host an event, give away a portion of your sales for a certain period of time, or just take the day off to volunteer. You don’t have to invest any money upfront to show that you are a part of your community.
How to Market Your Business With No Money: The Basic Steps
If you want to market your business with no money, you have to understand the basic principles of marketing a business in the first place. In our free 5-day Marketing Crash Course, we teach you everything you need to know to create better content that will attract more people and ultimately, turn them into customers.
Just to give you an idea, these are the first steps you need to take to start marketing your business the right way (no investment required):
#1 – Create a Content Calendar
The first thing you need to do is to create a content calendar. Creating a content calendar is not as hard as you might think; in fact, we tell you exactly what you need to do to create one in this post.
While we’re not going to get into it too much here, there are a few things you’ll need to do before you can dive in and actually create your content calendar. You will need to understand your voice as a business, understand your audience, and pinpoint the main social media channels they use and what kind of content they prefer.
Once you know these things, you can start to outline your yearly content calendar and then go onto the next step, which is structuring the content for the following month!
Read more: 2021 Social Media Content Calendar
#2 – Structure Your Content for the Following Month
Having a bird’s eye view of your marketing strategy is essential, but it’s still very important to also create a more detailed structure. While you can always tweak and adjust your strategy and posts, planning the content for the next month in advance can be really helpful since you know exactly what is about to come – whether it’s a product or service launch or a holiday that you’d like to celebrate with your customers.
Start by outlining any important days that are coming in the following month, then add in some extra posts a few days beforehand to warm up your audience. The posts should contain useful content that will enrich your followers’ lives in some way – what we call content marketing.
Planning everything out one month at a time is not only manageable, it’s highly effective. You can learn exactly how to do it by clicking here.
#3 – Create the Content
Now that you have everything structured, all you need to do is to create the content. Some people really struggle with this part, but usually it’s because they’re not as organized as they could be or they don’t know how to optimize their time. The secret to effective content creation is batching.
Here’s what you need to create an interesting piece of content:
- An image or video
- A caption
In step #2, you already decided what you’re going to post and when, so now all you need to do is create content based on those ideas.
So, let’s say you’re a hairstylist and every Thursday you want to post a video about how to take care of your hair at home. In step #2, you chose your topics, so now all you need to do is create the videos. How can you batch this out?
- First, sit down and write the scripts or outlines for four videos for the next month.
- Then, write a brief summary for each video. This will be the caption/description of your videos when you post them to IGTV, YouTube, Facebook, or whatever platform you might use.
- After that, you will set up the camera and everything else you need, and record all the videos you’ve outlined.
- Then, you will edit the videos in one sitting.
Why is this better than recording one video every week?
Well, first of all, batching is awesome because it decreases the preparation time. Every task requires preparation time, e.g. the time it takes to get everything set up and organized. When you do all your videos at once, you’re eliminating that excess prep time.
Second, batching allows you to get in the flow of an activity. Some activities — like writing, photographing, or recording a video — go more smoothly when you get in a groove. It might take you a while to get it going, but once you do, everything seems easier. We’ve all had this experience before. We guarantee that once you try batching your content, you will see how effective this strategy is.
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