by Marlee Ward | Featured Contributor
Let me start by admitting that none of these marketing tactics are actually free.
Each one with cost you a considerable amount of time to be truly effective, but when you don’t have a lot of money, you usually have more time, so invest your time in these free marketing tactics and watch the money roll in.
1. Attend one networking event per week. Networking is one of the best ways to generate clients for your business. The thing with networking, however, is that it takes time. Most people give up on networking too quickly. On average networking can generate paying clients for your business in 5-7 months (or sooner), but it requires consistent interaction over an extended period of time.
2. Host your own Meetup group. Meetup is a great vehicle for getting in front of your target audience. Just create a meetup group that caters to their interests, and voila, you have a captive audience to build relationships with. Notice I didn’t say sell to. If you try to sell to your meetup group people won’t come. Focus on relationships first and the rest will follow.
3. Develop a list of referral partners, and ask them to coffee or lunch. If networking isn’t your thing, but you do well one-on-one, reach out with a personal invitation to coffee or lunch with people who serve the same target market you do. LinkedIn is a great place to start looking for these types of connections and build a relationship that can be taken offline.
4. Send items of interest to referral partners to stay top of mind. Once you develop relationships with referral partners, don’t let them go cold. One way to stay in front of them is by forwarding an article, event invite, or industry update to them on a regular basis. You should also try to have lunch quarterly.
5. Post ads using the free classified sections on sites like eBay ads, craigslist, and StartupNation.
This one is pretty straightforward. Just post a well-written ad and drive the traffic to a specific landing page on your site (preferably with an opt-in). I got tremendous amounts of traffic doing this at StartupNation.
6. Register your company with all free online directory sites. Use a service like Get Listed to do it in one fell swoop. Get listed is a free online service that you helps you sign up with local directory sites in a snap. Need some back links and SEO power? If you’re local, you’ll find it there.
7. Write personalized letters to highly targeted prospects. Taking the time to personally address a prospect can be very powerful for your business. It takes finesse, guts, and a $.46 stamp, but it’s a surefire way to get the attention of a prospect who wants what you have to offer.
8. Write for a popular industry publication. Industry publications are gems for free marketing. If your target market belongs to a particular industry, volunteer an article for publication. Publishers are always eager for new perspectives and great content. Plus, you’ll get instant recognition as an expert in your field.
9. Become an expert for press. Much like the industry publications, the local press always needs fresh experts for news stories. Three ways to gain experts status with the press for free include joining networks like ExpertClick, ProfNet, and HARO.
10. Give back to your community and pitch the press on it. PR for the sake of PR doesn’t work anymore (not that it did), so if you really want to get on the radar of your local media volunteer your time (with your team if you have one), and serve your local community because you care. These are human interest stories that local news loves.
11. Send hand written thank you notes to your current customers with a coupon for them and a friend. Your current clients can be the best source of future clients. All you have to do is ask. Take time out to appreciate their business and give them a gift card or coupon they can pay forward to a friend. You give them the opportunity to do something nice, you look nice in the process, and you may get a new prospect.
12. Speak at group meetings that are made up of your target audience. If you have a fear of public speaking now would be a good time to get over it. Speaking is an incredible vehicle for getting your message and offer in front of the people who need it most. Simply use public event calendars like Eventbrite, local chamber meetings, your local library, and search Google to find out about upcoming events you might be able to speak at.
13. Host workshops for your target market. In addition to finding groups to speak in front of, you should also host your own event and bring your ideal clients to you. Oftentimes, if you can get enough people to commit to ordering a meal, restaurants will let you use their meeting space for free. Host a lunch and learn on your topic of expertise, so you can increase your credibility and visibility in your market.
14. Reach out to other businesses that serve your target audience and partner with them to increase your marketing reach. This works a lot like developing referral relationships, but it takes things one step further. In this instance, you can reach out to other business that are doing paid advertising and offer your services or expertise in exchange for access to their paid advertising efforts. This one is tough. You really have to foster relationships first.
15. Make direct contact with prospects using social media. Much like sending a personal letter, sending a personal note through social media can also be a great tool for lead generation. Whatever you do, don’t make offers or sound spammy when you reach out to people directly using social media. Instead, take some time to read their profiles, find some common interests and start a conversation. Social media is social…not sales-y. Don’t try and sell.
16. Write a free book, report, or white paper and encourage others to share it freely. Years ago Brian Clark wrote a report called Viral Copy, and without much effort that’s what happened to the report. It went viral. These days it’s much harder to do, but if you’ve got a powerful message, a compelling story, and a few influencers who will share it you could have a viral impact too. The key with this one is being remarkable. Average won’t cut the mustard.
17. Learn to talk about your business in a way that starts a conversation – not a sales pitch.
This has to be one of the most difficult things entrepreneurs face in networking and talking about their business. Many of us have been trained to create an elevator pitch, and most of the time it sounds canned, corny, and kills conversation. Instead of giving your “pitch” when you talk about your business start a conversation using the Do Do Dialogue method. This is hands down of the best ways I’ve ever heard someone teach how to talk about your business. It’s easy and fun. Try it!
18. Offer testimonials to vendors you use and like for use in their marketing, advertising, and website materials. This is one of my super secret tactics for sniping lots of web traffic. All you have to do is give an honest and rave review to a high profile vendor that serves your target audience (like Dropbox, or Basecamp, or Freshbooks), and let them publish on their site. Curious folks will follow links they post and find their way back to you.
19. Write guest articles for websites that serve your target audience (like I’m doing for this one). Guest posting is time intensive, but if you do it well it’s a fantastic way to generate leads for your business. In fact, if you want to move your business towards the six figure mark and beyond using the Web, building your list through guest posting should be a top priority.
20. Join civic organizations or volunteer as an organization instead of as an individual. This is both an opportunity to build relationships and gain visibility for your business. You can even tag team this with no. 10 and see if the press picks up on it.
21. Give away a free trial of your product or service to the customers of businesses that serve the same target market. This is similar to tactic no.14, and is truly win-win for everyone involved. In this case you want to give your “partner business” permission to give away your product or service to their audience. This allows you to gain exposure to their customer base while making the “partner business” look uber-caring for providing a give-away.
22. Start a YouTube Television show. There are more than 1 billion unique users visiting YouTube each month, over 4 billion hours of video are watched each month, and 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Need I say more? If you’re selling to humans, they are probably on YouTube. It may serve you well to be there too.
23. Start an iTunes podcast. If you have a computer and a microphone you can start a podcast. Podcasting via iTunes is a fantastic way to target segments of your market that you might not otherwise be able to access. ITunes serves as a channel for those prospects to find you. Plus, when you have listeners engaged in great content on your podcast, you have a captive audience that you can address anyway you like.
24. Publish articles to your website weekly. You don’t have to blog weekly to grow a loyal audience for your online presence, but if you want to capitalize on as much organic SEO power as possible, weekly publishing is the fastest way to make that happen. If you are targeting the right keywords, dominating your niche in organic search can happen much faster than you think.
25. Answer questions in online forums with a branded signature. This isn’t the fastest way to bring visitors to your website or attract new clients, but the back links can help improve your site ranking and your insight can demonstrate your authority in your niche. Never participate in a forum with the intention of selling. It won’t work. Instead, focus on providing value and making connections. The rest flows naturally from there.
These marketing tactics may not be sexy, but they work. I know because I’ve used every one of them to build my business or help my clients build theirs.
If you’re marketing on a shoestring these are activities that can take you a long way. Just pick some diverse options and commit to executing on them consistently. With the right message, and the right market, you’ll be making money in no time.
Photo Credit: Victor1558 via Compfight cc
Marlee Ward empowers solo entrepreneurs make more money and serve more people by teaching them how to leverage high-level marketing principles, online tools, multiple income streams, and a success mindset, through personalized coaching programs, online training workshops, and live training seminars.
After practicing law for nearly five years, Marlee left her career as a lawyer to pursue her passion – seeing individuals succeed as entrepreneurs.
With over 10 years experience in marketing, public relations, and new media technologies, Marlee speaks to a variety of industry specific small business in the US.
She’s served as Business Editor of the popular woman’s blog BizChickBlog.com, co-authored Engagement from Scratch! How super-community builders create a loyal audience, and how you can do the same, and was voted “Top 40 under 40” by a Central Florida Magazine
To receive your FREE weekly marketing and mindset training, plus a free copy of the mp3 training audio “6 Ways to Increase Your Income”, visit http://marleeward.com.
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9 Replies to “25 Ways to Marketing Your Business for Free by @MarleeWard”
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None of these are free. Time value of money. Find what truly generates business for your business, and focus your time around that. Networking events are only a worthwhile investment of time if they acquire customers or brand recognition more efficiently than anything else you could do. Don’t know what that is? Hire an expert or an agency. Cash spent on quality strategy from someone who has done it before could be a shortcut and save a lot of time (time = money, even to the bootstrapped entrepreneur).
Thanks for your insight. You must, however, have missed the first sentence of the article. Thanks for stopping by!
These tips are great! I am getting to work on some of them right now. Thank you.
Woohoo! Way to take action, Kelly. 🙂
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Great list and thanks for the insight! Wish you were more specific on the Do Do dialogue method in no. 17!
Hey Nicole, you can learn more about that by visiting here: http://www.kevinwmccarthy.com/my_weblog/2010/04/what-do-you-do.html