In a perfect world, entrepreneurship would translate to just doing what you love for a profit. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality you face. There is a lot to starting and running a successful business.
Unfortunately, these additional requirements may not be in your wheelhouse, which can translate to higher costs.
This is a drawback for entrepreneurs working on a lean budget and building a lean start-up. High among these business needs that can easily put you out of budget is your marketing costs.
On the spectrum of headache-inducing costs for entrepreneurs, small business marketing reigns supreme. Not only can it be quite pricey, but it’s also a necessity. So it can’t be avoided.
Lack of or poor marketing is often sighted as one of the biggest challenges for small businesses. You are likely in the same boat as we speak.
As small business consultants, who love the idea of entrepreneurship as the freedom to just share your ideas with the world and who are big fans of the lean start-up, we have put it upon ourselves to solve this.
So in this article, as well as the part one we put out, we will be exploring some free marketing opportunities.
While the word free may immediately tempt you to think these methods won’t work, we stand by them. We have applied a lot of the methods discussed to build Mut-Con into the business it is today.
Also, free in this case doesn’t also translate to difficult or impossible. We are looking at some marketing ideas you can get started on yourself right away with just a little bit of upskilling.
Remember to read part one and let’s dive into some small business marketing ideas for your business.
Use content marketing for marketing your small business
Content marketing can achieve a lot for your business. Be it blog content, videos on YouTube, social media posts, or courses on your academy, content has the potential to drive brands forward.
Also, content marketing is very broad, giving a lot of opportunities for businesses to apply it.
Whatever your strengths and opportunities are, there is a content marketing avenue your business can utilise.
Rock Content lists 16 types of content marketing your business can invest in. With the ability to choose from blog posts, infographics, videos, eBooks, case studies, checklists, testimonials and reviews, influencer marketing, guides and how-tos, and even memes, one of these is bound to be in your wheelhouse.
It’s likely that one of these is already a product you offer, like infographics for designers, videos for videographers or white papers for business consultants.
Others like reviews and testimonials are free, just ask your clients. If all else fails, we can all send a meme.
All you have to do is learn how to create this content for marketing purposes. The first place to start is what you want to achieve with content because there is a lot that can be achieved.
Support, educate, nurture leads and so much more, there is little that content can’t achieve.
Once you have your goals in place, create the type of content that can achieve these goals, promote it on all your platforms and just like that, you are well on your way to marketing your business with content.
Get a good CRM tool to manage your leads
A good CRM tool allows you to keep your leads organised and that in turn allows you to keep your marketing organised.
As the name suggests, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) allows you to manage, that is build the relationships you have with clients.
Not only does a good CRM tool allow you to manage these relationships but it also allows you to enrich data.
Great CRM tools like HubSpot use the integrations you have as well as information from the net as a whole to fill in the gaps you may have in your customer data.
This new information will help you market your business better. It will allow you to build a great marketing funnel for your businesses.
This is to say that a great CRM tool helps you better understand the stages your clients go through from acquisition to brand advocacy.
In addition, you can use your CRM to understand which leads you have at each stage of the marketing funnel and how to market to them to move them along.
That’s a great level of detail and organisation. Also, great CRM tools come with great automation options.
As a small business owner, your resources in terms of personnel and time are limited. Automating some of your marketing tasks can help you achieve more with less.
The amount of mileage you can gain with automation will vary on the type of business you run but there’s something for everyone.
The best part is that you can get a very good start with some of the best CRMs around with a free account.
As you scale and move to paid tiers, it will be a great investment for your business. Consider HubSpot’s free options and get started with a CRM today.
Build a free website for your business
Although competition and technological advancements have made getting a website slightly cheaper, a website that achieves business goals can still be a bit pricey.
As a result, some entrepreneurs may forgo the advantages of a good website. But thanks to technology, the solution may be in your hands.
A few platforms have been developed that can help you build your website for yourself, for free. Examples like Squarespace, Webflow and Wix have made it their mission to help entrepreneurs build websites.
Some web hosts like our trusted Register Domain also offer website builders aimed at achieving the same. These are no-code builders which let you build websites without writing code.
This mostly removes the need for a website developer. Also, they come with pre-built templates that limit the need for a website designer.
Finally, you can take advantage of a no-code e-commerce solution like Ecwid to sell online. That’s a full stack of tools to build a website for your business without having to learn web design and development.
All you have to do is set some goals for your website, pick a template that’s best designed to achieve these goals and get started.
What you can do with some of these platforms can be limited, but it’s a good place to start building an online home for your business.
Invest in the right partnerships
Building the right partnerships can unlock marketing opportunities for your business. These can be direct or indirect. Direct opportunities are those offered by your partners as a direct benefit of your partnership.
Examples include co-marketing opportunities like partner spotlights or co-hosted events.
Usually, the brands you are partnered with will offer their expertise for free, provide personnel, and in some instances even pay for some of the costs involved.
Indirect opportunities arise as benefits that arise from your brand having a demonstrable association with recognised industry leaders.
If you can demonstrate expertise in the products and services of these brands, your business can reach a broader market. And this is often easy to achieve.
Brand partners tend to receive exclusive learning resources, priority support, certifications, directory listings and in some cases guest speaking opportunities.
All of this is enough to convince potential clients of your expertise, and that’s a great marketing opportunity.
So start exploring the right partnerships for your business today and in addition to accelerating your service offering, they will boost your marketing efforts.
Invest in search engine optimisation
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of making sure your business gets found in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS) when clients search for products and services on search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yandex and more.
While SEO is a technical undertaking that’s bound to require the services of a good SEO consultant, there are elements you can get started on on your own.
All you need to do is understand the purpose of SEO from the perspective of your end user and SEO becomes a lot easier to understand.
With your client in mind, here are some SEO activities you can get started on to help your business get found:
Do keyword research – Keywords are words or phrases users type in to try and find you in search engines. It’s important to understand these so that even with the help of an SEO professional your SEO activities are dedicated to the keywords that matter to your business. There are a lot of great free and paid keyword research tools that make it easy to do your own keyword research.
Build valuable external links – Google uses external links from other websites to your own to help determine the value of your website in search engine results. Link building is about the toughest element of SEO but is by no means technical so you start on it yourself. All you need to do is use a tool that lets you research websites related to yours, and you can reach out to their owners and get yourself some links.
Add image alt tags – Image alt tags are what tell search engines the contents of an image on a website. In addition, alt tags are used by screen readers to convey the information in images to the visually impaired. You can help your SEO efforts by ensuring all the images on your website have alt tags that describe them well.
Write page titles and meta description tags – Much like image alt tags, page titles and description tags tell search engines and potential users what a page contains. You should make sure your pages have great titles and descriptions to give search engines an idea what value these pages can give to a potential searcher. You should also make sure your titles and descriptions are optimized to make sure users click through to your pages when they find you in results.
Create compelling content – Content is amazing not just as a marketing channel but as an SEO tool. Creating compelling copy for your website, including essential pages like an about us and contact us page as well as very descriptive product and service pages can help your SEO efforts. You can also add content-rich resource pages like a blog, white papers and case studies. A good example would be how our own portfolio really helps our SEO when it comes to web design and development searches.
Sign up for a Google Search Console (GSC) and Bing Webmaster Tools (BWT) Account – Like any other digital marketing channel. SEO benefits greatly from analysing data. A GSC and BWT account will help you get the data you need on your SEO performance. The former works for your Google search performance while the latter works for your Bing and Yahoo search performance. These tools can also be used to diagnose any technical website issues such as mobile responsiveness that you can send to your SEO consultant for fixing.
Create and connect a Google Merchant account – eCommerce owners need a Google Merchant account. This not only makes it easy to launch a shopping campaign for your products, but it also helps show them in organic shopping results. Once products are added to your shopping feed, Google will show them in the shopping tab of search results, or at the top of all search results if they determine the keyword to have a high shopping intent.
Create a local business listing
Creating a local business listing is a great part of local SEO. Creating a Google Business Profile, Bing Places Listing and registering your business on Apple Maps can help your business show up more prominently when people search for businesses around them.
While all three are important, a Google Business Location is arguably the most important. It’s available globally and shows your business in the world’s largest search engine, Google.
Signing up is free, so get started on that right away. There are a lot of guides for creating a great business profile, but whichever you follow, make sure you add all the information required accurately.
The more information you provide the better your business will perform in relevant local searches. Pay particular attention to your Name, Address, and Phone (NAP).
Make these consistent across your website, business listing and all other online assets. This is not only important for ranking well, but accurate information helps make sure clients can contact you when they find you.
Once you have your listings, be sure to ask clients for reviews. Getting testimonials that demonstrate your expertise in particular services will help your business show up higher in results.
Additionally, it will help clients decide to go with you because as we know, everyone loves a business with great reviews.
These reviews also positively impact all your other SEO efforts. While local business listings are great for service-based businesses like electricians, plumbers and dentists, every type of business can benefit from them. Whatever your industry category is, create a listing today.
Make sure your employees are brand ambassadors
Social proofing is a big part of successful marketing. Human beings are social creatures and that elevates the value of social proof.
We are all more likely to purchase a product or service when it has great reviews. We value the opinions of others more than those of the businesses that create these products and services.
This is why smart businesses understand the value of employees as brand ambassadors. Take, for example, a platform like LinkedIn.
While organic posts from a company page will only be seen by the page’s followers, employee advocacy can significantly boost this reach.
By simply liking, sharing or commenting on content, employees can introduce this content to their own network.
And this network is likely to be much bigger than the company’s page following. This is not limited to LinkedIn or social media as a whole.
Getting your employees to act as brand ambassadors can get your business discovered more on and offline.
As such, it’s important to build a great employee advocacy program so that employees understand the value and benefit of helping to market the business.
Even better, it’s important to build a culture of intrapreneurship within your organisation so it becomes a natural extension of your employees’ duties to help promote the brand.
Businesses that successfully do this add an invaluable marketing channel that is sure to drive results.
Also, reach out to friends and family
The support of family and friends in your business can never be overlooked. They are most likely the only stakeholders you have invested in you enough to be willing to do almost anything for you for free.
So when we talk of free marketing, or indeed anything free, they need to feature heavily in the conversation.
The value of this support system is applicable across all your business efforts. Are you struggling to get social media followers? Just ask your friends and family to follow your pages.
They may not immediately translate into sales because they are not your target market but they could help amplify your message by liking, sharing and tagging on your posts.
We can’t forget the potential for referrals. Your friends and family may not be your target market, but there is no doubt they are in touch with people who need what you provide.
So ask them to reach out on your behalf. Could be people they have in their personal circles. It could be introducing your products to decision-makers at their workplaces.
The possibilities are endless. Again, this is likely to be free, so you have no conceivable reason not to pursue these possibilities.
All you have to do is ask and you may find yourself having lined up your biggest client or project. Just be sure to make it easy for them to help before you ask.
This could mean creating easy-to-share assets such as flyers and the like. It also means making sure it’s easy to get in touch with your business and you are very responsive.
Most important though, it means making sure you produce quality work that is worthy of every referral you get.
Also, if you have any rewards for referrals, don’t forget to include them. Just because they are willing to help for free doesn’t mean they have to forgo any benefits that come with helping.
Set up a referral program
Word of mouth is great and all, but what’s in it for your clients, family and friends? They can’t just do it for the good feels only.
You are, after all, benefiting as well. You need to pass on some of that benefit to accelerate the results in your word-of-mouth marketing.
Even with a giveaway or reward, this is still a “free” marketing tactic in a lot of ways. Not every giveaway requires you to give away something with a monetary value.
If you look hard enough or you are creative enough, you will find there is a lot you can afford to give away in exchange for help growing your business.
You could, for example, offer free services. Granted time is money, but that’s still pretty much an opportunity to market for free.
Better yet, create a giveaway that’s personalised to your clients. Conduct a deep analysis of your clients’ needs and reach out to them with a tailored giveaway.
Explain clearly to them how they can benefit from this giveaway on a personalised level, and most likely you will win their support immediately.
When this strategy is applied, remember that the purpose of the giveaway is not just to benefit you but your clients as well.
So be genuine in what you give to benefit them. If not, your deception will only catch up, your goodwill will be undone and you’ll even lose existing clients.
Make the program easy for your clients to get on board with. Make sure the terms of your program are clear and straightforward.
More importantly, make it easy for them to track their efforts and reap the rewards. Finally, remember that your referral program can easily become your biggest marketing channel.
So, from the onset, build a great referral program. You should not only make sure you have the right strategy for success, but you should also make sure you have a way to measure results, double down on what works best and remove what drags the program backwards.
Network with other entrepreneurs
One surefire way to keep your sanity during the journey of entrepreneurship is to build a community to do it with.
We often glance over just how tough entrepreneurship can be on your mental health, but entrepreneurship can be a real uphill battle.
While this is in our opinion the best benefit offered by networking for entrepreneurs, it’s definitely not the only one.
In addition to multiple risk management benefits, networking has great marketing opportunities for business owners.
While we have already discussed the benefits of word of mouth for your marketing, this word shouldn’t be limited to your clients, family, and friends.
With a great network of business owners, your marketing message can receive a signal boost from your fellow entrepreneurs.
Because they are on the same journey as you and appreciate the importance of marketing, fellow business owners are usually easier to convince to help you promote your business.
However, this comes with a great caveat. No fellow business owner will go out of their way to promote you if you don’t add value to them.
Hence the need to network with fellow entrepreneurs. There are a lot of ways to do this. The easiest is of course groups on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook.
We even created the Mut-Con Mastermind to help entrepreneurs ask questions, contribute to fellow entrepreneurs and everything in between.
You can even take this offline with in-person meet-ups. Just look out for events hosted by your business partners, business organisations, and local and national government agencies.
It’s important you start now because you’ll first have to build solid relationships before you even think of leveraging them for your promotion.
So let’s help you market your small business for free
These are some marketing ideas that are not only free but relatively easy to apply. Don’t forget to read part one and get started marketing your business right away.
An important thing to know is a lot of the methods discussed here are complementary. You may not be able to do all but do as many as you can.
This will not only help you reach a broader audience but it will also help move your target audience across the various stages of your conversion funnel.
Also, remember that a lot of your potential clients will take a lot of touch points before they convert into actual clients.
Up to 29 times if you believe the marketing law of 29. So the idea here is not to convince them to buy but to be top of their minds during the decision process, and nudge them along.
And each one of the channels discussed can make a contribution towards that. Share with us any other free marketing gems that you use.