Whether you’re just starting out or you’re trying to keep costs low, it’s great to find free marketing methods that work effectively. Here are 10 ideas to try that are free or will cost very little money.

1. Start a blog to share your expertise and latest projects

Writing about your projects and process or giving advice on what you do best, is a great way to gain recognition and free marketing for your business. You don’t have to tell all your secrets but by writing a blog with helpful information or an insight behind the scenes, your potential customers can get to know and trust you. They’ll soon realise that you’re an expert in what you do and that actually they’d love to work with you!

Blogging is time consuming and I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless you actually enjoy it, otherwise it’ll become a chore. Keep in mind the time it’ll take to market your new posts as well as writing and editing them.

Start small and build up, rather than beginning with a post every single day! I only blog once a week at the moment and that’s enough for me!

2. Keep in touch with customers and potential customers on social media

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+…These are all good for staying in touch with your customers and making sure they remember you! Share exclusive discounts, news, advice, inspiration and your latest work.

Don’t try to be on every social media account – I talk about this here. Analyse where your customers spend their time and focus on that particular social media website. E.g. if you know your target audience just loves Instagram, invest time in becoming an Instagram guru.

Also, stick to the well known rule – 80% interaction (shareable, interesting content, not selling), 20% sales.

Try using Hootsuite to schedule posts in advance and have a spreadsheet with a social media calendar / plan. You could spend an hour a week writing and scheduling your posts in advance and then just a few minutes a day responding to comments.

3. Share your amazing news in press releases to magazines and newspapers

If you’ve just started, just created an amazing new product or have anything that’s worth sharing, create a press release to send to magazines and newspapers.

Think about where you’ll be sending your press release and what their readers are interested in and then tailor your press release to them.

You’ve got to make sure it’s something relevant to their readers and that it catches the editor’s eye within the first couple of sentences or it’ll just be discarded.

Just because you don’t get featured one time, doesn’t mean you should stop trying. Maybe your next press release will come at exactly the right time and they’ll feature it!

If you can get featured, it could be life changing for your business depending on the publication and their readership. And just think, it’d all be completely free marketing and publicity!

4. Get others to do your marketing for you with a referral / incentive system

This will be different for every type of business but the idea is you offer a gift or money off or some sort of incentive to people referring new customers to you.

A lot of home based party companies do this. For example, Jamie at Home or Ann Summers where they offer the hostess of the party free gifts and money off.

5. Make the most of free advertising coupons

I got a coupon from Google Ads and LinkedIn for free advertising when I started my business. The great thing about them is that you can use the free coupon to test whether they can be good for your business before you have to pump any money in to it. Just make sure you keep an eye on it and pause the ad after the coupon has finished or you will end up paying more.

If nothing happens, don’t be discouraged from trying again in future. Analyse the performance and learn from it.

Also, don’t let staff bully you in to spending more! They’ll tell you that if you put more money in to it then it might work but if you don’t have that money to risk then don’t do it. There is no guarantee.

6. List your business on good quality free directories

There are so many directories online that you can list your business in. Just searching “business directories” brings up loads of them. A lot of them are free to put the basic information in and you can pay to have a premium listing if you want to.

As said above with the free ad coupons, don’t let staff bully you in to spending more. I learnt this right at the beginning with one directory who phoned me to try and convince me that my business would hugely benefit from a premium listing rather than a free one. It went something like this:

Directory salesperson: “All you have to do to cover your costs for the year is sell one website.”

Me: “I know, but I’m thinking what if I don’t sell one website as then I can’t really justify the costs…”

Directory salesperson: “Well, based on the search volume in your area of people looking for websites I reckon you could get at least 5 websites over the year and probably several smaller design projects”

Me: “Oh really…well in that case I guess it makes sense!”

A few months later, zilch. Zero. Nothing. I got a call a few weeks ago saying that there’s barely any search volume in that area and I should change my targeting to get more leads. Still waiting for enquiries…

Basically, the moral of the story. ALWAYS stick to what you think. Trust your instincts, research, ask for a few days to think on it so it’s not an impulse decision. Premium listings might work for some businesses but in this case it hasn’t worked for me, but even just the free ones can be beneficial.

The one free listing that I definitely recommend you get is Google My Business. This ensures that you appear across Google, including Google Maps results.

7. Become part of a community in forums and groups

Whether it’s an industry specific forum or a business Facebook group, you can gain a lot of brand awareness and even sales from communicating and helping people.

The Facebook groups that I’m part of are like a little family. They want to help each other and to work with each other because they now trust that person and have built a relationship with them.

It is time consuming but you can schedule time in your work day (and stick to it!) or spend your free time chatting in front of the TV and still get great results. You don’t have to be on it 24/7!

8. Work with other complimentary businesses to cross promote

Are there any other businesses that would work brilliantly with yours? Get in touch and explain what you do, how you would benefit them and how they would benefit you. You never know, you might find a client, a business partner or even a friend!

9. Enter competitions and awards

There are a lot of awards out there that are free to enter and will give you brilliant publicity if you win. You never know unless you try!

Awards like Mollie Makes Handmade Awards for example will feature you in their magazine but also give you a prize to benefit your business.

A competition I entered recently, Essex Big Business Boost, gave every business that entered, regardless of if they won or not, a free business advice session. This advice session was SO useful and I couldn’t believe that they offered that much advice for free!

10. Attend all sorts of events and exhibitions

A lot of business networking events do cost money but some are free so it just takes a bit of researching. Business or craft exhibitions can be just as good as networking events because you can still build up a conversation with people and share what you do.

To network, you don’t necessarily have to go to a business networking event. Think about where your customers would be and try something a bit different.

I’m a member of a local Women’s Institute. I joined to gain confidence, make new friends and try new things but I’ve ended up talking to people about what I do and gaining design projects from them.

Talk to people, leave business cards, go to events, offer to speak at local events…there’s loads of social things you can do to build awareness of your business.

Are there any methods that you’ve had success with? Let me know in the comments!

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