You have seen the click-baiting headlines…24 Effective Ways to Market Your Business…10 Absolutely Free Ways to Market Your Business…Here is what you really need to know about those free marketing techniques.
One of my favorite examples of articles on free marketing techniques promises 24 Free Ways to Market Your Small Business. There are millions more like that one — 15.8 million in fact, according to Google. They are all basically the same, lots of simple advice you already knew served up with a special offer or coupon, just for you.
Since you are already reading this blog post, you know we are a marketing, advertising and public relations agency, and that we get paid because those free marketing techniques just don’t add up to success. In most cases, they don’t even add up to break even. Let’s take a minute to look at these “free techniques” and see how and why they don’t work as well as promised.
Create a powerful business website.
Business class websites are not free, despite what the YouTube ads say. There are many “what you see is what you get” website companies that promise you all the tools you need to build a powerful business website. Yes, they are easy to learn and you can get set up with a site really fast. Unfortunately, it will be riddled with technical errors and built with technology you can’t move to any other server. Congratulations, you are now married to your web hosting company and you don’t own your website; that’s right, read the fine print in the user agreement.
This suggestion also ignores all of the thought and effort that goes into choosing the right domain name, setting up hosting, creating email addresses and the myriad of other things that go along with creating a website. They may as well have said, “build an attractive store.” If you do it right, it won’t be free.
Submit your website’s URL to search engines.
You already knew that you wanted to be listed in search engines, but how do you actually “submit your site?” It sounds so simple. Search engines do allow you to submit your site, but they give preferential treatment to sites they find organically OR sites that use their products and services. Submitting your site is the slow way to get listed in search engines.
Instead, sign up for both a Google and a Bing account. Create analytics accounts with both search engines. Add their analytic tracking codes to your site. Sign up for the webmaster tools provided by both search engines and verify your website ownership. Both search engines will tell you if there are problems with your site and let you know when your site has been added to their search index.
Don’t forget to claim your business listings on both search engines too. And now you are listed with the biggest search engines…next you need to do you search engine optimization, but we will save that for a different blog post.
Give a talk in a professional conference.
Professional conferences want to book speakers that are experts and successful in their industry. This is a good way to market your business. By the time you gain a reputation and can get included as a speaker at a conference, you are most likely not looking for free ways to market your business. In any case, your time is valuable and networking at professional functions is definitely a good way to spend it.
Ask happy clients to share their experience on their social channels.
Great idea! No, sarcasm. It is a fantastic idea. In fact, we are fans of building special pages on websites to assist customers with sharing positive reviews. The real question comes in choosing the most appropriate social channels. While getting customers to post reviews may be free, you may find it faster, easier and more effective to spend a little money to provide them the tools and guides to get those review on the right sites.
Set up a newsletter and grow your subscriber base.
Newsletter signup and distribution is not free. It may be cheap to do yourself, but it is definitely not free. A better idea would be to set up both a newsletter and a lead nurturing email campaign. Most people are loathe to signup for newsletters, but you can get them to sign up to receive a free guide or other digital download. Growing your subscriber base will take time and effort to do it right.
Optimize your elevator pitch.
Yes, this is both free and effective when done right. Practice to make it sound natural, not memorized. Also consider the different hooks you can use to deliver your elevator pitch. Make your pitch seem like a natural response to questions and situations.
Offer a free consultation meeting.
Free consultations, meetings, evaluations, etc. are a great way to get your foot in the door. The problem I see is that getting the offer in front of consumers is not free. From radio, TV, print and internet ads, you will find that it costs money to get that offer out to market.
Send press releases about news and events.
Do you know how to write a press release? Did you know there is a specific format that you should use? Who should you send the press release to? It sounds easy, but doing it right is hard and it’s not free. Writing and sending a press release yourself will probably not work. As a PR agency, we cultivate relationships with press and news organizations. We know which media outlets are receptive to different types of press releases, and we know how to follow up on the press releases to get actual news coverage.
Tag related people in your social media posts to encourage engagement.
Using social media to promote your business can be very effective; however, many people want a clear separation between their business and personal life. Before making the choice to tag someone in a social media post, make sure you are not going to upset your customers by using them to promote your business.
Get featured on testimonial pages of services you use.
Posting testimonials on service provider pages can get you some attention. How many vendor websites could you legitimately find to post testimonials? This technique has very limited marketing effect, but could help boost your website in search engines by increasing the number of inbound links you have.
Blog, Vlog and Podcast.
Blogging is a great way to get your message in front of people. Video and audio blogging are great ways to expand your reach as well. Blogs can help position you as a subject matter expert and a go-to resource. One thing to keep in mind is that it does cost money to create a blog as well as film, record and post vlogs and podcasts.
Write guest posts on relevant blogs.
Blogging is a great way to market your website; however, guest blogging has the same issues as presenting a speech at a professional conference. You need to have a reputation before anyone would be interested in discussing a guest blogging relationship. Guest blogging assumes that you already have a blog of your own.
Create a contest or challenge that requires social sharing.
This is a great way to promote your business, but doing it right is not free. You will need to get the word out, plus managing a contest takes a lot of time. While this may be a low-cost marketing technique, it’s not free. Many social media networks have strict rules regarding how contests are run, so make sure you check and follow all the rules for your social media platform.
Network on LinkedIn.
Fantastic idea. That is exactly what LinkedIn is for, professional networking. And it can be absolutely free.
Use a branded email signature.
This one can be free, or very low cost. We consider it more of a professional brand reinforcement technique than marketing, because the people who are seeing your email signature already know who you are and what your business can do for them.
Chime in on trendy hashtags.
Assuming you are posting relevant content and adding to a conversation, posting to trending hashtags can get you web traffic and attention in the social media sphere. It can be done for free and drive traffic to your website.
Follow-up with past clients.
Farming your existing client database for new business is a great idea, but it’s not really marketing. You can develop marketing plans that leverage your existing client database, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. It will take time and you are going to need marketing materials, which will cost money.
List your business with online directories.
Not all online directories are created equal, and many of them can do you more harm than good. Doing this yourself can be free and effective, but never use any service that claims to get you listed in hundreds of directories and search engines. Those companies can actually cause you to be removed from search engines or damage your search engine placement.
Volunteer your branded products for use in productions and events.
This is absolutely not free. From pens to water bottles, every branded product costs you money. Having said that, it is a good idea. We often design and manage the production of branded “give-away” marketing materials.
Get involved with community projects.
Donating your time to community projects can help you promote your business. From developing contacts and relationships to generating potential press coverage, community projects have a lot of potential for marketing your business.
Offer a VIP discount code to a selected group of followers.
Offering any discounts can help market your products. There are costs involved, though. You have to consider the loss of income that the discount represents as well as the cost of advertising and promoting the discount offers.
Discover niche social media platforms.
There are many niche social media platforms that can help you promote and market your business. Sites like Houzz have done a great job of creating platforms dedicated to specific industries and interests. Participating in discussions and posting content to those platforms can help raise awareness and market your business.
There are many more low-cost ways you can market your business and we are here to discuss them with you. Take a minute to contact us to find out what we can do to help your business succeed.