20 Free (or Cheap!) Marketing Tips to Light Up Your Brand

20? Did you say 20? That's right, we've got a whole lot of inspiration and ideas to help you get your business groove on. So what are you waiting for? Get to it!

IF IT’S FOR FREE, IT’S FOR ME

What’s the best way to start a business with no marketing budget? Create a suite of branded assets that you own and control. A website, various social media channels, a blog, a podcast, a YouTube channel or video blog, a newsletter or an event series can help you get your product or service out to the world at no, or a relatively low, cost. The key is to pick a few and do them well and regularly. You want to build an audience of dedicated, loyal purchasers, not a massive and passive fan base.

HI, MY NAME IS…

Don't assume people know what your business is all about. Just because you live and breathe it doesn't mean everyone else does. Give your customers, followers and fans a monthly refresher to remind them about who you are and what you do.

COME OUT, COME OUT, WHEREVER YOU ARE

Need help finding customers? Make sure YOU are where THEY are. There are a whole slew of online websites and forums connecting small businesses to consumers, from Yelp to Thumbtack to Angie’s List to HomeAdvisor, and let’s not forget Facebook, Google+, Instagram and other social media platforms. Not ready to spend a heap of cash to get started? Many of these services offer the ability to create a free profile, so even if you’re not yet able to maximize the opportunity via advertising, you can still be found and contacted by potential customers. 

MONEY, CASH, GOALS

Many small business owners want to know how much they should be spending on marketing. There is no hard and fast rule but we like to suggest at least 10% of revenue should go to marketing for established businesses, while start-ups should think about investing upwards of 20% or more. The key is to put your analytics to the test so you can invest more into what’s working and say sayonara to what’s not.

CALL ME, MAYBE?

Want to get more online reviews? Ask for them! You probably have tons of satisfied customers who would be happy to write you a testimonial, but guess what? They’re busy! It’s up to you to remind them. After each transaction, send a follow-up email to your customers thanking them for their business and include a link to your Facebook, Yelp or Google page. A simple, “if it’s not too much trouble” can go a long way in helping you build your business.

FINDERS KEEPERS

Every small business owner knows that it’s cheaper and easier to retain customers than to find new ones. So treat your customers like gold and add value in ways they can appreciate. See an article that a customer might be interested in? Give them a heads up. Come across an event you think might be a fit? Send it over. Have an idea that might help a client solve a problem? Offer it up. In a time when good customer service is very hard to find, a simple gesture might just be what keeps you ahead of the competition. 

HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT US?

If you're spending money promoting your business, you need to be clear on what's working and what's not. If you're not technically savvy, implementing a lead form on your website that asks “how did you hear about us?” is probably all you need to learn more about what is and isn’t performing. The way you capture the data doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be accurate.

BUDDY UP

Expand your reach by partnering up with local businesses that offer products and services that are complimentary to yours. Think about the types of companies in your area that are looking for similar clientele and host a meet-up to discuss collaborating on events, social media or PR efforts. You'll get the benefit of expanding your audience, as well as the support from working with other small business owners who have similar goals. 

I’VE GOT THE POWER

Too many small business owners forget that their best ambassadors are right under their own roof! Give your employees the opportunity to contribute to the growth of your business by giving them insights into your short and long-term business goals. Lead a brainstorm session to discuss employee ideas that can hit specific targets. Empower your team to share their favorite at-work moments on social media and repost and reward your favorites. Let your experts share their knowledge through short blog posts. Remember, everyone in your organization can be a business builder, but only if you let them.

WORD ON THE STREET

We all know testimonials and referrals are the best forms of marketing, so why not make the most of yours? Did you get an email or thank you card from a grateful customer? Ask if they mind if you share it with your social media following! Get a great Facebook review? Jazz it up and repost it on your website or other social media channels. When someone is looking for a professional, they want to know the person they’re dealing with is trustworthy and will get the job done. Hearing reviews from your past customers is a great way to gain that trust. So get on it!

SHE’S A BRAINIAC, BRAINIAC

As a small business owner, you have a certain expertise that puts you ahead of the general public. So make sure you’re using it! Own a spa? Tell us your top tips on how to keep our skin looking soft and sexy. Have a bakery? Help us learn how to make the perfect cupcake! Is fitness your game? Give us your favorite 15-minute core workout. Customers respond better to being educated than being sold to, so mix your knowledge in with your product pushes and service sells. Your target market will thank you.

YOU USED TO CALL ME ON MY CELL PHONE

How does your website look on your mobile device? More than half of all Internet usage is being consumed on the go, so if your digital storefront isn't mobile-friendly you could be losing valuable customers. Luckily, platforms such as SquareSpace, Wix and Weebly make building a mobile site easy and cost effective. Don’t turn off people who are actively seeking you out, instead, make it easy for them to transact!

EXTRA, EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT!

Have something new to promote in your business? Don't just leave it to social media to announce the news. Schedule several social posts using different images and content, post to your website, send an email newsletter, write a press release to send to the local paper and blogs, list events in free local calendars, take advantage of Eventbrite and Facebook Events, publish your story on Medium, print some eye-catching postcards or flyers, and share it with any local businesses that you think might want to help promote the news. Creating something new is one thing but making sure you're shouting it from the rooftops is a whole other beast. Have a list of ways to promote your news and make it your routine. It's the best way to get the biggest bang for your buck!

CALENDAR GIRL

Social media can be daunting if you're constantly worrying about what to post. A simple editorial calendar will help you collect your ideas and organize them into categories to ensure your posts are relevant and exciting. A content calendar will also let you know what kinds of posts are getting the best response. Need help with a template? Let us know!

CAN I HAVE A MINUTE OF YOUR TIME?

Thinking about launching a new product? Wondering what name, design and language will appeal to your target demographic? Consider surveying potential customers to find out! Tools such as Survey Monkey will allow you to find your future customers and ask them questions about their preferences and likelihood to purchase. If you're entering a new market or your team is in an opinion deadlock, a simple bit of research might be just what you need to move forward. 

DON’T HATE, APPRECIATE

Negative reviews are a reality of being in business. If you get one, the best thing you can do is communicate with the reviewer by offering an apology and working to understand what went wrong. You’re never going to get it 100% perfect all the time, but a willingness to acknowledge a mistake and improve upon it will show your customers that you’re willing to give it your all.

FREE TO BE ME

Give your online presence some personality! We live in a world full of perfectly curated communication, which can get really quite boring. Let your business be a reflection of you, rather than being so stuck on the rules. A little experimentation might just uncover a voice that customers relate and respond to.

DON’T LET THE NUMBERS DEFINE YOU

Social media success is not just about how many followers you have. It's about how many followers you have who engage with you and your business. Would you rather have 1,000 followers who are genuine, prospective customers or 10,000 followers who don't even know what you do? I’d take the first option any day.

MIX IT UP

Not all great marketing costs a fortune. You can build your brand through a smart mix of traditional marketing (like snail mail or sponsorships), digital marketing (like newsletters and SEO), social media (through a combo of great content and advertising), events (such as speaking engagements or networking) and public relations (like media articles and publishing). Just don't put all your eggs in one basket, make sure you diversify your strategy.

SAY G’DAY!

Social media check-ins and tags are gold. Don't ignore them. Make sure you are virtually welcoming your guests and acknowledging them for their patronage. These interactions can be brilliant testimonials for your business if you use them correctly.