Being a business owner is exciting, but not having the budget to advertise or market can be a not so good feeling. Don’t worry. Here are 10 good marketing strategies for small businesses to win new customers without spending any money.
1. Cross Promotions
Create a cross-promotion between your services or with a colleague in your industry. This could be in the form of an event with a special discount for multiple services or cover charge for free samples. You could also have a permanent cross-promotion where clients recommending new customers from one business to the other get a discount or free promotion.
2. Word of Mouth
Keep your current clients happy, and you won’t need to search for as many new ones. This one sounds obvious, but word of mouth is what’s really at play here. If your customers are delighted enough, they will do most of your marketing for you so you can run your business. Don’t rely on this exclusively, but it’s worth its weight in gold.
3. Flywheel Marketing
Flywheel marketing is where you create a promotional widget or discount that allows one client to get a bonus for recommending other clients to your business. The best ones for clients are those where you don’t rely on someone signing up to get the promotion. Whatever you decide, if you can find a way to turn current clients into brand ambassadors, you have a free sales team working for you in your off hours. This is one of the best marketing strategies for small businesses.
As an example, we offer $100 to every customer that refers someone to Yottled. In addition, the referral gets $100 as well. It benefits everyone. “Give $100 get $100”. You can check out the setup of the program here.
4. Content Marketing
Content marketing is all about creating valuable information for potential clients. There are several keys to making it work as a free marketing strategy. First, keep in mind that your time is not really free, so pick a program you can keep up with. You could start a blog, a podcast, a webinar or downloadable e-book, and if people find it useful (and you have good SEO so people can find it when searching online), you can become an expert in your space. This strategy can lead to interviews, referrals, speaking gigs, or just free visibility for your small business.
5. Free Advertising
A lot of advertising programs offer a free $100 worth of advertising. If you target this in a small niche, you might find it helps move your business forward. Other free advertising could include posters in physical locations like community centers. Often, this kind of promotion feels like way too much shoes on the pavement work, but gleans some of the best results because it makes a personal connection with local customers shopping or meeting in community centers where they trust the providers or events promoted on community boards.
6. Public Speaking
Offer to speak at industry events, or offer a speech as a mentor to young people. There is always an opportunity somewhere for public speaking, if you’re not one of the majority of people who would rather die than speak publicly. Think of it more as a way to share ideas than a performance people are judging. If you like analytics, try testing variations on speeches or webinars to see what works best, and always ask for Q&A sessions if possible so you can get feedback on what people connect with and what questions they have you haven’t yet answered in your speech.
Pro tip – if they’re charging you – don’t do it. Paid events are not a good marketing strategy for small businesses if you’re looking for free.
Consulting isn’t free, but it’s you that’s getting paid. Often if you get stuck building a service-based business in other ways, consulting can be your way out. That’s because consulting not only brings in good income; it helps you research your customers while you work for them. You will learn a lot more working with someone as a client than you will in theoretical market research or customer discovery.
8. Loyalty Programs
Make sure you treat your most loyal customers the best. Be available, offer excellent service, delight and over-serve them, and maybe offer them some discount or bonus for their loyalty. If you can’t afford discounts, create a bonus service or product for them that doesn’t cost you a lot to create but is valuable to them, like an e-book full of extra information about how to help themselves following working with you.
9. Event Hosting
In-person events can cost big bucks, but online events or small, in-person events can be totally free. The key is to find a location that’s free–maybe your office or a public shared space like a park–and keep it simple. Also, ask everyone coming to bring something to share, whether that’s a dish to pass at a potluck or some advice for a therapy group. The more you get people involved, the easier it is to simply host and enjoy the connections being formed. It’s all about providing value and consequently providing a good marketing strategy for your small business.
10. Community Building
Communities can be a lot to manage, speaking of connections, but with simple ground rules for treating other members with respect plus an intentional culture of creating safe physical and psychological space, community building might just be the best way to build your company without spending a dime. Could you create a moms group for under-served women? A network of local volunteers from your professional industry? The possibilities go far beyond social media, but you can always create social media pages as landing spots for community messages.