So much of your success in business depends on getting the word out about what you offer. Just because you build it doesn’t mean that they’ll come. But if you advertise it, you have a fighting chance.
However, advertising can get pretty expensive. You want to make money, not spend it, especially in the early days of your business. So hen it comes to advertising your business, how can you get the word out for free?
Below, we’ve got the 25 best free advertising ideas straight from small business professionals just like you. A big thank you to everyone who contributed. Let’s get started.
Marc Prosser, Co-founder, Fit Small Business
Especially if your business relies on local customers or foot traffic, you want to make sure your business is listed in as many online directories as possible. More listings ensure your business comes up in more local searches, which translates directly into more customers finding your business. Want to make sure your listings are accurate and are being seen in local searches? Click here to scan your listings for free and find out how well your business is listed across the web.
Fausto Bafico, Owner, Balalaika
As a small business providing B2B services, we actively use LinkedIn which is, in my opinion, the best platform to promote a business for free. In my experience, what you have to do is know your customers, know where and how to find your customers, and engage your customers by giving them what they want.
For example, when we started 2 years ago, we wanted to target Italian small businesses who wanted to sell their products in Russia. We didn’t know how to do this and didn’t want to spend big money. We created a survey with Survey Monkey in which we asked, What would you need to enter the Russian market, what’s the perfect service, and how much would it cost?
We published the survey in different LinkedIn groups such as Business in Russia or Italian Small Businesses, and we just waited to get some results. Companies started to complete the survey and even share it with other companies they knew were interested in the Russian market. In about 2 months, we got 65 completed surveys, collected and analyzed all data, and then pitched all companies who responded with a tailored offer. As a result, with zero money invested, we got 3 new customers who we work with to this day!
Bing is the second largest search engine in the world and can drive a lot of traffic to your business. Because most advertisers are focused on Google, you can often advertise on Bing for a much cheaper cost per click. You can even show your business in search results for related (or competing!) businesses.
Lisa Hennessy, Owner, Your Pet Chef, LLC
You can get free visibility for your business and do a good thing at the same time by volunteering. For example, I have found a great way to advertise my pet business is to volunteer with local rescue groups. I’ve done book signings (I have written 3 cookbooks) where I donate a portion of all books sold. I also help at events working a booth or talking with people that come up. I can talk about dog nutrition and easy ways to help your dog be healthier.
I have found many new clients this way and frankly, it’s a really fun way to promote my business while helping out groups that help animals. Find a local volunteer organization that syncs up with your business purpose.
Jamie Izaks, President, All Points Public Relations
Developing a content marketing strategy including blogs, case studies and email campaigns focused on nurturing leads, will help position yourself as an industry leader to connect with consumers more directly.
6. Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, Retail Minded
Advertising adds up, so when you consider where your dollar is best spent always consider where your target audience is. Make sure that you position yourself only in spots that connect to your desired consumer. If not, you are wasting energy and money – two things small business owners must keep close track of.
Nick Leffler, Owner, Exprance by Nick Leffler
My favorite way to advertise my business is to not advertise at all. Even free advertising is expensive because it costs a lot of time and is often ineffective.
Instead, I build authority for my brand by talking to people and having real conversations on social media. This has the threefold benefit of helping people out with their problems, gaining exposure for my business, and building trust with people who will then trust me with their business.
Sean Dudayev, Co-Founder/CMO, InsureChance Inc.
My favorite free method to advertise is content creation. We simply research the topics that our customers have the most burning questions about and write about them on our blogs. This draws a ton of traffic our way and helps us earn clients. I have always stuck to my business mantra that if you can educate your consumers, you will earn their trust and their business.
Nadya Khoja, Venngage
How can you ensure that your small business stands out from all the noise that big businesses are making with their marketing tactics? Blogging is an excellent way to boost traffic to your site, but that doesn’t just mean writing large quantities of blog posts and publishing them ad hoc. You’ve got to write P.E.A.C. content, which stands for Practical, Entertaining, Awe-Inspiring and Credible. On top of that, to increase blog traffic, you’ve got to conduct outreach to let people know what you produced. Without conducting outreach and asking people to share or reference your content, how do you expect to have it seen?
Vanessa Rombaut, Digital Communications Marketer Digital, Piesync
Get in contact with your partners and agree to initiate co-marketing initiatives. This can include guest blog posts on each other’s blogs, placement in newsletters, being featured on each other’s web pages. With this free tip, you are advertising to an audience that is likely qualified for your service and your partner essentially endorses your product to their own customer base!
Brandon Schroth, Digital Analyst, seoWorks
A great way to advertise your business for free is by creating and maintaining a business page on Google+, commonly known as Google My Business. This offers many incentives to business owners, particularly brick and mortar companies who have a storefront. The key feature is being displayed in Google Maps. This provides the opportunity to be shown above normal organic search results in Google, while allowing customers to easily find directions to your location. It also gives customers the chance to leave reviews, which are critical for the success of any brand.
One of the challenges for Google My Business is that they require verification before your page goes live. In most cases, they mail a postcard containing a pin code to your business address. Once received, the pin code must be entered online in order to verify that it is indeed the correct business location. The challenge here is that sometimes these postcards get lost in the mail, thrown away by accident, or just forgotten about. Another potential challenge is dealing with a negative review. If not handled with care, a negative review can really hurt your brand. But when handled with grace, a negative review can be conquered.
My favorite way free advertising tool is social media and blogging. I publish blog posts that showcase my expertise on my website and share on multiple social media platforms and in groups. The more you share, the more buzz and familiarity you can generate around your brand.
Sign up and get active on Q&A sites like Quora. Providing insightful answers to questions in your field of expertise will help establish you as an authority and bring people to your site. This is an indirect yet extremely effective way of advertising your products / services. You can also include links to your site on your Quora answers (just avoid being overly promotional).
Felipe Bernardes, Customer Service and Administrative Executive, Lemoney
Since we are a startup with limited budget, finding ways of advertising for free is crucial for our business.
The main challenge for a company in our stage is being noticed and bringing clients from zero. A good strategy to start is sending cold emails. Since it’s not everybody that likes receiving those, you have to run good tests so you can tailor effective ones that reach your public. At the same time, you have to put in effort to creating a qualified list of emails.
People love things for free, so offering users benefits when indicating or inviting new contacts is a great approach on reaching new clients. Another tactic, is co-blogging, or offering specific knowledge to influencers/bloggers that focus on the same area that your company is developing its business. And last but not least, asking your clients reviews about their experience using your service or product can really help bring new traffic towards your website.
Kevin Jordan, Marketing Consultant, Redpoint Marketing Consultants
I have found that the best way to advertise my business for free is to do interviews on podcasts that cater to my target audience. It is partly through this method that I ended up on a list of the top 100 business bloggers for 2015, which in turn opened other doors for me.
Randy Mitchelson, APR, iPartnerMedia
One type of free opportunity for small business owners to seek out is trade in-kind. In other words, provide a service in exchange for an ad or sponsorship.
No cash is required to exchange hands, just some sweat equity and/or modest material cost out of existing inventory/supplies.
For example, we recently did a trade agreement with a local chamber of commerce to design and print a program for an annual awards event. In exchange, the chamber prominently placed our logo in several media channel leading up to the event and during the event, including a verbal recognition from the chamber president during the program.
No money exchanged hands. We absorbed some cost to design and print the program (sweat equity), but in return received arguably thousands of dollars of advertising and exposure.
Rob Hampton, Owner, Hampton Consulting
Since most people have a presence on social media and social media is free, I tend to use social media to drive people back to my website.
I build relationships, give away free information, and provide answers to questions I find on sites like Medium, Twitter, etc. I engage with people. I post articles that I think my community will find informative. I have built myself as an authority on helping people start their own businesses and haven’t spent much money at all. I will occasionally use Google Adwords or Facebook but most of my advertising is free. It just takes some of my time.
Uwe Dreissigacker, Managing Director, Invoiceberry Limited
Start sending email newsletters. If you’re not yet collecting the email addresses of your customers and website visitors, start doing it now. There are literally hundreds of email marketing tools out there, including MailChimp. These tools will help you to collect email addresses, design your newsletter, and send it. This will allow your brand to stay top of mind for customers even if they don’t want to make a purchase right away. Staying engaged and active with your customer base is crucial to grow your reach.
Elena Lockett, Marketing Assistant, FMOutsource.com
A great free way to advertise your business is to guest blog on other websites.
Many blogs/websites allow you to post your content on their site (as it gives them free content), and most of them allow backlinks back to your website. Backlinks are a great way to advertise your business. If someone is reading a blog on social media marketing and clicks a link ‘social media’ and it leads to your website, they are likely to relate your business with social media going forward. Backlinks also help Google see your website as more reliable. The more websites that link back to it, the more respectable your business is.
Shane Young, The Entrepreneur’s Virtual Assistant, boxChecked
Nothing in life is free. To advertise your business, you have to invest your time, and your time costs money. So when you look at promoting your business, you have to look at where you get the best ROI.
Participate in massive online communities that relate to your business like Reddit. Find ways to help people for free. While you are helping them, you can establish yourself as a subject matter expert. You also learn the common questions people ask. You can then create blog content that answers those questions. Then next time the same question gets asked, you can answer with a shorter answer and a link to your blog. This drives interested customers to your site organically and shows the search engines that other sites link to you with links that people follow. This is high value traffic especially as you get better at writing content targeted at your core customer.
Kendall Kilander, PR & SEO Specialist, One Click
While the primary reason for any charity initiative is always to help the organization and population in need, a secondary benefit is free marketing. In today’s world, people like to buy from companies that are socially responsible.
Partner with local businesses for brand awareness. We promote them, they promote us — win-win. Brand awareness initiatives are hard to track, so we don’t do these for revenue. But over time, we can see our efforts pay off as more and more people become familiar with our brands.
Harry Phillips, Marketing Executive, itas
Make sure your designs for logos, banners, etc are all quality and consistent. These are what people most likely first see, so you want to make an impression. Stick to three or four main colours, and integrate them into everything. Showing off your company’s personality will pay off in the long run.
Angela Stairs, Content Marketing Specialist, seoplus+
In our digital world, with an ever growing flood of voices and messaging with an advertising agenda, people are increasingly gravitating towards real and authentic brands. It is becoming more commonplace for businesses to share behind the scenes updates about their employees and the everyday office atmosphere on social media, whether it’s celebrating birthdays or an important milestone in the office.
Last year, for example, our Director of Web Marketing had an adorable baby girl. Sharing updates of her visits to the office, dubbed our “Director of Cuteness,” has generated a huge amount of engagement and sharing among our social audiences. Every time we post pictures of little baby Ava hard at work behind the keyboard or taking a sippy cup break in the board room, we gain new followers and thus generate more awareness for our business. This peek behind the professional curtain really appeals to modern audiences and we’ve even had clients say they were drawn to our company because of the family nature of our business.
Elizabeth Kraus, Author, 365 Days of Marketing
Nine out of ten consumers trust online reviews just as much as they do personal recommendations. Every successful customer transaction represents a new opportunity for you to ask happy customers to leave a review for your business online – on Facebook, Google+, Yelp, Amazon or your own website. Ask for a review at the point of sale or send customers a link in a thank you or another type of follow up email. Every star helps!
Jon Eyre, Director of Content, Podium
Technically this might not be considered ‘advertising,’ but one of the best things that a business can do to promote their business for free is optimizing for local SEO. This includes doing simple things like claiming your business listing on places like Google+, Facebook, and YP.com. But that’s just the first step. Once you’ve claimed the business, you’ll want to ensure the name, address, and phone number is consistent across all of these listings, that you’ve uploaded photos, added your hours of operation, and start collecting online reviews.
Doing these simple things will boost your business’ local SEO ranking, which will improve the likelihood of showing up in the Google map section of a search query, which is where many people go when looking for a business.
Another way to get free advertising of course is the old-fashioned way of striking up a conversation with the person in front of you or behind you in the local grocery store line.
I always ask about them and in kind they ask about me, and I hand them a business card. I try to keep in touch with people from my past as a way of having an on-going word of mouth system that costs me nothing but a few moments of my time. I also had a few T-shirts printed up with QR codes, website information, my logo, etc. that I wear on days when I know that I am going to do many errands. I am the billboard a couple of times a week.
Over to You: What Are Your Free Advertising Ideas?
Do you have a favorite free advertising idea for small businesses? Share with us in the comments below.