First, let’s be honest; nothing is free. At the very least you will be using your time and that is worth something. There are several low cost methods of advertising though and if you utilize the internet, then it will feel practically free.
Google is God
Google is the primary search engine on the web. There are several ways to help Google rank your page higher during web searches. One way is by creating a listing on Google places. To do this, you will first need to set-up a Google account. While this is free (no fees or credit card information is traded), Google will now know some of your personal details (name, email, phone number, birthday, etc). Most business owners either already have a Google account or consider this a small price to pay. You can create a Google account from the Google home page. Once you are in your account, go to the “home” tab on the left side of the page and select the ‘Pages” options. From there you can “list your business”. Follow the prompts to list your company. Make sure to use keywords that you want to be associated with when you are describing your business. Think about what words a customer would enter into a search engine to find you. Also make sure that your business address and the map information is correct.
If you think that directing people to your website will increase your sales, consider starting a Google Adwords campaign. While this advertising tactic costs money, you can set your own budget based on how much or how little you want to spend. In order to get the most out of your Adword campaign, try taking a course on Advanced Google Adwords. This will ensure that you get the most bang for your buck.
Other Local Search Sites
While Google is definitely the biggest and most important, you should also list your business on other local search sites where appropriate like: MerchantCircle.com, Yahoo.com, InsiderPages.com, Mapquest.com, Bing.com, UrbanSpoon.com, and Local.com. Just like the Google places page, you will be prompted to set-up an account first. Search for your competitors and see where they come up. Add your business to those sites too.
Other Random Internet Marketing Opportunities
You can advertise for free on yellowpages.com under their “advertise with us” tab and on Craigslist. You should also contact your local Chamber of Commerce and ask how you can get listed in their online business directory.
Social Media Take Over
Before you start going crazy on creating social media profiles, you have to understand that this is a time commitment. Interacting on social media is about creating and managing a community. Consider whether or not you have the time to actively participate before you go any further.
Not all social media platforms are appropriate for all business types. Most business owners would agree however that Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin are good places to get started. You can create a Twitter account in your company’s name and tweet (communicate to others) as the company. Some businesses even encourage their employees (CEO, heads of departments, ect) to tweet from their personal profiles about company business. Please note that there is an inherent risk that someone could say something damaging either on accident or on purpose. Both Linkedin and Facebook now require that a personal user profile set-up the business page. This is relatively simple. You can learn more about advertising on Facebook in depth with this Facebook advertising boot camp. Other social media platforms that may be useful depending on your industry and clientele include Myspace, Pinterest, Youtube, Instagram, and Tumblr.
The Gift That Keeps Giving
Donating your expertise or services to a charitable organization can come back to you ten-fold. Besides the possible tax deduction, many organizations offer to advertise your business as a sponsor on promotional materials. While you may not be able to donate thousands of dollars, perhaps you and your staff can be volunteers the day of or offer a service like website maintenance.
Channel Your Inner Writer
If you have a gift for words, consider writing articles on things your customers are interested in and submitting them to websites such as Articlebase.com, Thefreelibrary.com, and Ezarticles.com. Doing this will provide your company website with some legitimate backlinks and establish you as an expert in your field. If you need ideas for topics, turn to your customers. What things are they are interested in? Are there any pain points or problems you can address?
Woo Influential Bloggers
Find the top bloggers in your industry and ask them to review your service or product. You will find that many bloggers are happy to do this, especially if you can set them up with some free product. These people already have the followers and the power to influence many people at once. If you cannot find someone to review your product for free, consider paying a blogger to write about your company, product, or service. Often times, this will be considerably cheaper than taking out an ad online.
Flyers And Targeted Distribution
Designing and printing flyers costs money but if you are savvy, you can knockdown these hard costs to virtually nothing. While distributing flyers is not appropriate for all types of business, it can be very effective in driving traffic when targeted at the correct population segments. Get started learning how to find your ideal customer with this class.
Start your flyer campaign by having someone you know design your flyer. If your flyer is only half a page, then you can get two flyers for every printed page which saves you money. Make sure the flyers have a “call to action”. Often coupons or discounts are used to accomplish this. Now that you have your flyer, decide where to distribute it. If you are trying to attract local customers, consider surrounding neighborhoods. Depending on your budget, you can distribute the flyers yourself or maybe pay some high schoolers to do it for you.
Advertising for your business does not have to be expensive and there are many free and low cost options available. Before you start an advertising campaign, it is important to identify your goals and who you are targeting. The answer to these questions will help guide you in the direction you need to go to market your goods or services. If you would like some advanced advertising and marketing training, try taking a class on how to become an affiliate marketing expert. There is no better way to learn the secrets of advertising and marketing than from an expert.