The best of businesses and products need marketing to succeed. When larger businesses and your competitors are literally bombarding customers with promotions, offers and marketing, you cannot sit silent waiting for customers to walk in. How do you pull customers? Your small business needs promotions and marketing support. With lack of both resources and budget, how can you promote a small business for free? Yes, it is possible. This is how we can promote a small business without breaking the bank.
Promote offline small business for free
These strategies work to promote local offline small businesses. Such businesses mostly sell offline with very little or no sales online. Customer walk-ins and incoming inquiries are the major source of new businesses for such small businesses.
6 marketing strategies to promote a small business for free
- Google Business Profile
- Local business directories
- Email newsletter
- Customer referrals
- Social media
Create and regularly update your Google Business Profile
Google recently renamed Google My Business to Google Business Profile.
This is one of the best free resources for promoting your offline small business. People looking directly for your business or for your business category can view your Google Business Profile in the search results.
Google’s algorithm promotes local businesses that are located in the same region as the person searching for the information. An updated profile with relevant information, product images and contact details easily lets customers contact the business owner for inquires. They can get directions on Google maps if they need to visit your shop or office.
Google Business Profile lets you add products, offers and posts on your profile. Customers can add reviews and you can reply to favorable and unfavorable reviews. And all these features and benefits are completely free.
If you have not yet created your profile, this is the time. Here is the link to the Google Business Profile sign in page.
Add your business listing on online business directories
Local online business directories usually pop up on the first page of search results. A small business and sometimes even the larger businesses with a lot of resources cannot beat them in their SEO game. Every country has a few popular online business directories – JustDial and Indiamart in India; Yelp and Manta in the USA; Europages for Europe.
All online business directories have a freemium business model. They allow businesses to create free listings with minimum features. They have premium membership plans for advanced features and more visibility for relevant search inquiries. The free plan is a great starting point. This is another great free strategy to promote a small business for free.
If you do not need a lot of inquiries, the free plan usually will suffice. Once you start using the free plan and are satisfied with the volume and quality of leads, you might as well opt for the premium plans. If the ROI justifies paying for getting more leads, you should test the premium subscription.
There are too many great free solutions available for email marketing. Almost all email marketing software offer a free plan. Mailchimp offers a free plan for up to 2000 contacts. The free plan lets you send up to 12000 emails to your 2000 contacts. Sendinblue has a free plan where you can have unlimited contacts. The limit is on the daily number of emails that you can send – 300 emails per day.
2000 contacts is a reasonable limit for contacts for a small business. Either of these or other email marketing software offering free plans work well for small businesses.
All these have beautiful pre designed email templates. Easy to use – DIY email marketing solution available for free.
Do not send too many emails. No spamming. Plan you email schedule. The best is to start with a monthly email newsletter. Share new product information, monthly offers and any other information that may be useful for your customers.
WhatsApp Business App
“WhatsApp Business can be downloaded for free and is designed with small business owners in mind. This app allows businesses to easily and individually connect with their customers, highlight their products and services, and provide a great shopping experience by answering customers’ questions. Create a catalog to showcase your products and services, and use special tools to quickly reply to and sort messages.”
The business version of the app allows you to “create a business profile with useful information for your customers, such as your address, business description, email address, and website.” You can manage your contacts using labels for easier identification.
The app allows automated responses. You can create a product catalogue and easily share the link with customers. It is the best free mobile-commerce solution available for small business owners.
Word and mouth marketing and customer referrals are seldom utilized by small businesses. If used well, this is easily the best channel to promote a small business for free. Referrals have the highest sales conversion across industries, both B2C and B2B.
People do things when told. This is why almost all YouTube channels request viewers to “subscribe and press the bell icon for notifications.” You may think that viewers know how to subscribe. They will if they want to. However just a simple reminder helps channels increase their subscription rate. People do things when told.
So do not hold back. Ask your customers to leave a good review for your business on your online profiles. Request them for email or video testimonials. Ask for referrals.
This is another great free marketing channel for all businesses. Based on your business category and target audience, pick the two or three best networks – Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter etc.
These are simple to use. We all use one or more of these for our personal use. We are well versed with the interface. Business profiles are similar with some additional features.
Create a business profile and regularly update with useful information for your customers. Request customers to follow you or connect with you. Remember, people do things when told.
Social media lets you create a personal connection with your customers. A great free source for generating user or customer created content. For example, a customer posting a pic on her Instagram account having coffee at your restaurant. You can reshare the image on your business profile and tag the customer with a thank you note.
Customer generated content have the best engagement rates on social networks. These also work as testimonials and help create trust.
3 low cost marketing channels for small business owners
The six sources mentioned above are the best to promote a small business for free to gain greater exposure. Let me share three extremely low cost ideas that are useful and produce great results.
- Your own website and blog
- SMS marketing
- Cold calling
Your small business website and blog
Having your own website does not cost much. There are many low cost but extremely reliable DIY solutions for creating your own business website. WordPress.com has plans staring at less than 35 USD per year.
Create your own website and add a blog section. Customers like to check out a business’s website and having one helps you build trust. You can add your own story on how and why you started the business. You can have product pages with order link. Integrated payment gateway can let you collect online payments. The contact us page can have all relevant information – phone number, email, contact form, map, social media links.
You can publish customer testimonials on your website. The blog section can be used to share useful information in long form content. Blogging is one of the best strategies for search engine optimization.
Similar to email marketing, do not spam customers by sending too many messages. Use them sporadically to promote special offers or to communicate important information. For example, you may have to relocate your shop or office to another address. SMS along with emails is an effective medium to inform customers.
If you doubt whether SMS marketing works, here are some statistics for you:
- 60% of consumers check their text message notifications within 1-5 minutes (Source: Simple Texting)
- 70% of customers say SMS is a good way for businesses to get their attention (Source: Voice Sage)
- Text messages have a 98% open rate
- 86% of small business owners who use text messaging find that it offers a higher rate of engagement than email marketing (Source: EZ Texting)
Phone call rates are extremely cheap now compared to the cost a few years ago. So yes, it wont cost much as long as you have either the time to make calls yourself or a resource who can call on your behalf.
Have a clear agenda when you plan to call your customers.
- Call your top customers once a month or quarter with special offers
- You can call your most frequent or top customers to personally wish them on their birthdays or anniversary
- Call to win back lost customers. Here is my post on strategies to win back lost customers
- For small businesses in the B2B segment, cold calling can be a continuous exercise to contact new prospects and introduce your business
Not all marketing has to be expensive. The ideas listed above have stood the test of time. There is no doubt that they work. They work for all business types and industries. What you need is clear planning and consistency.
You cannot create a Google Business Profile or a Facebook profile and never update it. As you regularly update your profile, customers know that your business is active.
Use a mix of these sources to promote a small business for free. This is part 1 in the series of free tools for small business marketing. In part 2, I will share free and low cost strategies for promoting online businesses.
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