52 Low-Cost Ways to Promote Your Business
by Janet Attard
Last Updated Wednesday, February 3, 2021
Are you starting a business on a shoestring or need ways to stretch your small business marketing budget? Marketing a business doesn't have to cost a lot. Here are 52 low-cost, high-impact methods to advertise and promote your business.
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Determining how to promote your business can be an ongoing challenge. If your business is new, you may not know how to advertise your business to get your name known. If you’ve been in business for years, you may be wondering how to market your business effectively when the promotional methods you’ve always used aren’t working very well. The way customers shop for what you sell may have changed, their needs may be different, or you are missing younger, new customers with your outreach efforts.
Whatever your business circumstances, you need proven advertising and marketing tactics to find new customers without spending a fortune. These need to include a mix of traditional and digital marketing.
52 Ways to Promote Your Business
You can’t promote and advertise your business effectively until you take these two steps:
- Plan your marketing. To market your business successfully you need a planned, organized approach. Hit or miss marketing wastes time and money. Start by defining your marketing strategy and setting a budget.
- Identify your best prospects, and then determine the best promotional strategies to reach them. Be as specific as possible. Is the decision-maker the CTO of the company, the director of human resources, or a 37-year-old working mom? Will you find them on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram? What about in-person networking at local business meetings or community organizations? What about advertising? Will customers be searching for your type of product on Google or Bing? Do they look for coupons in newspapers? Do you want to start promoting your business to them at the start of their buying cycle, or when they're about ready to pull out their credit card and make the purchase? Write your answers down and refer to them before you start any new marketing tactic. Use this marketing plan worksheet to gather your information.
Learn How To Promote Your Business Online
Digital marketing isn’t an option—it’s a necessity. Whether you sell turquoise jewelry, empanadas, or asbestos removal services, you need to promote and advertise where your customers are searching for what you sell. And that’s online. Here are ways to accomplish that affordably.
- If you don't have a website, get one set up. A working website is critical for marketing your business and for making your brand known even if your business has a big social media following. Depending on what you sell, your website serves as a lead generation tool, online brochure, catalog, and information source for your potential customers. You have complete control over how you promote your products and services on your website and how long promotions and other content is visible. You don’t have that control with social media. If you can't afford to have someone custom-design your website, set up your site using one of the builders like Wix, Squarespace, or Godaddy that provide templates and tools that make it easy to create a basic website. Whether you choose a ready-to-use template or have someone build a site for you, be sure the design is responsive. (In other words, that it looks good and is easy to read on mobile devices as well as on desktop and laptop computers.)
RELATED: How to Advertise Your Website for Free
- Include a blog. A blog (or other written articles on your site) serves two functions. It informs your customers and prospects, and the content, in turn, improves your chances of being found in search engines. You don’t have to be a professional writer to add a blog. Just write information your customers will find helpful at different stages of the buying cycle or provide tips and hints on using what you sell.
- Use Basic SEO for your website. SEO stands for search engine optimization – in other words, setting up your web pages so the search engines understand the content of the pages and may link to you when someone searches for what you sell or the kind of information you provide. Although some companies spend a lot of money on SEO, there are a number of things you can do yourself to improve the SEO of your site. Among them:
- using a different title for each page on your website
- using phrases people search for in the page title
- including your business name, location, and phone number on all pages on your site
- Set up a business listing for your company on Google and Bing. Google and Bing both offer a free listing for local businesses. To get listed on Google, go to Google My Business To get listed on Bing, go to Bing Places for Business. Fill out all the information you can, including phone number, website, business address, and hours of operation, when appropriate. Doing so can help your business show up at the top of search results when someone in your general vicinity is searching for your products or services.
- Set up your business profile or page on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can and should set up a Facebook page for your business that is separate from your personal profile. To attract attention from potential customers, be sure to include a good description, keywords, business phone number, and a link to your website. Keep your business and personal pages separate on other social media sites as well.
- Participate in social media discussions related to your field. Look for groups or conversations that talk about your type of products or services and participate in the conversations, but don't spam them with constant promos for what you sell.
- Use email marketing to bring in business. Email marketing is the most cost-effective way to communicate with customers and prospects and get them to make purchases or visit your website. Sign up for an email marketing service and ask customers, website visitors, and social media followers to sign up for your email list. Then, send an email newsletter and/or promotional offers to customers and prospects on a regular basis. One good way to build a permission-based email list of people who want your mailings is to give something away. It could be a free ebook or even a free tip-sheet on how to do something related to your business. If you're a health coach, for instance, you might offer people who sign up for your free newsletter a tip sheet with "10 Easy Ways To Lose Weight Without Going on a Diet." If you don't have anything to give away, try offering a signup discount on products or services as an incentive. An email service like Constant Contact* makes it easy to manage your list and send professional-looking mailings.
- Post Interesting information and pictures regularly to your social media accounts. The information or photos should be interesting to your audience. Tips on how they can improve their life or business or special offers are likely to get the most likes and shares.
- Pay to boost your most popular posts on social media sites. Target the boosted posts at groups of people who are most like your customers. This can be an inexpensive way of getting your business in front of potential customers in very targeted locations or who have interests that match what you sell.
- Run Facebook Ads or ads on other social networks. Although boosting a social media post is one type of ad, you get more options and when you create an ad instead of boosting a post. On Facebook, for instance, creating an ad will let you set objectives such as conversions or lead generation, create call to action buttons, take advantage of more advanced targeting options, and do other things you can’t do by boosting a post.
- Run a webinar. Pick a topic for the webinar that will be popular with customers and prospects. Some topics that can foster customer engagement are important industry news, strategies for improving some aspect of life or business, and ways to solve common problems. You could also teach a short introductory course in a webinar. Promote the webinar on social media and in your newsletter. Encourage friends to promote it on their social media accounts and newsletters, too. Require attendees to register with an email address so you can remarket to them after the webinar.
- Create PDF versions of your promotional materials. Convert your promotional literature to PDF format so you send product literature to those who request it in email. You save the postage; they get the material in minutes instead of days.
- Test buying Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising on the search engines. If you are not yet advertising on search engines search for offers that give you $50 or $75 in free advertising to start. Read the directions for the service you plan to use, and very carefully watch what you spend on a daily or more frequent basis until you are comfortable using PPC ads and see you are getting a return on your investment
- Look into Google Local Service Ads if available for your type of business. Google local services ads are shown at the top of Google Search results when people search for the services you offer in areas you've chosen. Potential customers can click or tap on your ad to either call you or send you a message request. An added benefit: a Google Guarantee badge is available for businesses that pass a Google screening and qualification process. You pay only for valid leads, but the cost per call or text can be very high. Thus these ads are best suited for established businesses that know how to convert leads and know that the average customer charge and/or lifetime value of a customer will allow them to profit to make a profit.
- Ask Customers to Review Your Business. When someone is ready to choose a product or a service provider, they want to be assured that they are making a good choice. One way they gain that assurance is by looking at the reviews. To increase the chance that customers will leave a review, send them a note thanking them for their business, and ask them to review your site online. Include a link to a place you’d like them to post their review.
Related: How to Get Referrals and Recommendations
Use Traditional methods to Promote and Advertise Your Business
Although online marketing and advertising are essential for bringing in business today, that doesn’t mean you should neglect traditional marketing tools. Online and offline marketing methods work hand-in-hand to bring in customers and clients and keep them coming back. Here are off-line promotional strategies that are just as important now as they were in the past.
- If you're just starting out and don't have a business card and business stationery, have them made up -- immediately. They tell prospective customers you are a professional who takes your business seriously. Your business card is important for marketing your business because it helps people you meet remember you, your brand, and what your company does. Be sure to list your website address on your business card, letterhead, and any handouts you create. Include your main social media profile link, too, if possible. Another good strategy: include a QR code on the back with a link to sign up for your email list.
- Get your business cards into the hand of anyone who can help you in your search for new clients. Call your friends and relatives and tell them you have started a business. Visit them and leave a small stack of business cards to hand out to their friends.
- Give several business cards to your customers if you are a service provider. That way, when their friends and neighbors ask them for a recommendation, they have an easy way to pass on your business name and contact information.
- Talk to all the vendors from whom you buy products or services. Give them your business card and ask if they can use your products or service, or if they know anyone who can. If they have bulletin boards where business cards are displayed (printers often do, and so do some supermarkets, hairdressers, etc.), ask if yours can be added to the board.
- Attend meetings of professional groups, and groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, other local business groups, local chapters of national groups such as NAWBO, or civic associations. Have business cards in a pocket where they are easily reachable. Don't forget to ask what the people you speak with do, and to really listen to them. They'll be flattered by your interest, and better remember you because of it.
- Become actively involved in 2 or 3 of these groups. That will give you more opportunity to meet possible prospects. But remember: opportunists are quickly spotted for what they are, and get little business. While you won't want to become involved in many organizations that require a lot of your time, you can—and should—make real contributions to all of them by offering useful ideas and helping with projects when possible. Being active in local groups can bring you valuable word of mouth marketing.
- Pay for membership in those groups that attract your target customers. Becoming a paying member lets others in the group know you are one of them, are interested in the group’s mission and that you’re not just a freeloader or fly-by-night.
- Get Listed in Member Directories. Many business groups maintain member directories that they publish online. Being listed in these accomplishes two things. It helps members you’ve met, or members who are looking for services like yours find your contact information. It also provides a link to your website that can be useful for search engine optimization. Some groups may list you automatically. Others will require you to submit your own information. In either case, be sure your contact information is correct and the link to your website works.
- Exhibit at local trade shows. Local trade shows, when they are held, give you a way to display your products and services to the general public and to other local vendors who may need your products, or know someone to recommend you to.
- Sponsor a local trade show or event if the price is affordable. Doing so get your business name and logo seen wherever the event organizers promote the show. That could be in pre-show mailings, the organization’s website, and in handouts and displays set up during the show.
- Give away promotional products people will keep and use. Jar openers, keychain flashlights or hand sanitizers, refrigerator magnets, calendar magnets, drinkware, and pens are all items that can be imprinted to advertise your business, and they are all items people tend to hang onto and use.
- Help your community. Think about the needs in your community. Could you help get your name known by organizing a food or clothing drive? Could you give free coffee one day a week to local police or nurses? Sponsor a youth group?
- Look for something unusual about what you do and publicize it. Send out press releases to local newspapers, radio stations, cable TV stations, and magazines whose audiences are likely to be interested in buying what you sell. Post the press releases on one or more online press release services, too, being sure to include links to your website. To increase your chance of having the material published, send along a photo (but not to radio stations) with your press release. Editors of printed publications are often in need of "art" (drawings or photos) to fill space and break up the gray look of a page of text.
- Help reporters find you. Reporters are constantly looking for sources to quote in their stories. One way they find those sources is to use services that distribute their request for sources to publicists, experts, marketers, and others who want to be sources. To find out when reporters are looking for information you can provide, sign up for these lists and scan them regularly. One such service is HARO (short for Help a Reporter Out) and is free. Another service, called PRLeads is fee-based.
- Write an article that demonstrates your expertise in your field. Send it to noncompeting newspapers, magazines, and websites in your field that accept submissions from experts. Be sure your name, business name, phone number, and a reference to your product or service is included at the end of the article. If the editor can use the article you get your name in print, and possibly get your contact information printed for free, too.
- Publicize your publicity. Whenever you do get publicity, get permission from the publisher to reprint the article containing the publicity. Make photocopies and mail the copies out with sales letters or any other literature you use to market your product or service. The publicity clips lend credibility to the claims you make for your products or services.
- Add an “As Seen On” or Press section to your website. List the names of publications you’ve been mentioned on and link to the articles that mention you.
- Ask for work. Contact friends, acquaintances, former employers (if you left on good terms), nonprofit organizations, schools and colleges, and even other businesses and ask for work. Let them know what you do and ask if they can use your services. If you don’t know who to contact at various businesses, call and ask who is in charge of buying what you sell. Don’t be discouraged by people who aren’t interested. One “Yes” can make up for a lot of “No” replies.
- Network with others who are doing the same type of work you are. Let them know you are available to handle their work overloads. (But don't try to steal their customers. Word will get out, and will ruin your business reputation.)
- Offer to be a speaker. Industry conferences, volunteer organizations, libraries, and local business groups often need speakers for meetings. You'll benefit from the name recognition, contacts, and publicity you gain from being a speaker at these events.
- If your product or service is appropriate, give demonstrations of it to whatever groups or individuals might be interested. Or, teach others how to use some tool you use in your work.
- Put videos of your product or service on YouTube and other video-sharing and slide-sharing sites.
- Find out what federal, state, and local government programs are in existence to help you get started in business. Most offer free business counseling, and some can put you in touch with government agencies and large corporations that buy from small and woman-owned businesses.
- If you are a woman-owned or minority-owned business, post that fact on your website. You should also consider getting certified by private, state, or federal organizations. Many purchasing agents have quotas or guide for the number of goods and services they need to buy from minority- and woman-owned businesses.
- Send out sales letters to everyone you think might be able to use what you sell. Be sure to describe your business in terms of how it can help the prospect. Learn to drop a business card in every letter you send out. Follow up periodically with postcard mailings.
- If you use a car or truck in your business have your business name and contact information professionally painted on the side of the vehicle. That way your means of transportation becomes a vehicle for advertising your business.
- Use a magnetic sign on your vehicle. If you don’t want to have your name painted on your car or truck, order a magnetic sign with your name, logo phone number, and slogan. You can get them in various sizes and can remove them whenever you want. Magnetic signs can be ordered through many online printing and sign shops and are very reasonably priced.
- Get on the telephone and make "cold calls." These are calls to people with whom you would like to do business. Briefly describe what you do and ask for an appointment to talk to them about ways you can help them meet a need or solve a problem.
- Get samples of your product or your work into as many hands as possible.
- Offer a free, no-obligation consultation to people you think could use your services. During such consultations offer some practical suggestions or ideas--and before you leave ask for an "order" to implement the ideas.
- Ask for referrals. A satisfied customer is often glad to refer you to their friends. Help them remember to do so by asking for referrals and leaving them extra business cards or fliers that they can give to their friends and family who need your services. If someone gives you a lead, follow up on it right away.
- Use other people to sell your product or service. Instead of (or in addition to) selling your products yourself, look for affiliates, resellers or people who will generate leads for you in return for a commission on sales. Be sure your pricing structure allows for the fees or commissions you will have to pay on any sales that are made.
- Get together with businesses that serve the same market but sell different products and services. Make arrangements to cross-promote each others' goods and services bypassing leads back and forth, sharing mailings, and making referrals.
- Have sales letters, brochures, flyers, and other pertinent information printed and ready to go. Ask prospects who seem reluctant to buy from you: "Would you like me to send information?" Follow up promptly with a note and a letter that says, "Here is the information you asked me to send."
- Run a contest. Make the prize something desirable and related to your business -- it could be a free gift basket of your products, for instance, or free services.
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About the author:
Janet Attard is the founder of the award-winning Business Know-How small business web site and information resource. Janet is also the author of The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets. Follow Janet on Twitter and on LinkedIn