32. Newspapers and TV News
Approach local press directly. Newspapers, TV news and trade publications cover business news daily. They particularly love “local company makes good” stories. The trick for success is to do something remarkable or interesting, and then contact reporters on the business pages. Also, take advantage of almost-free classifieds in Craigslist and hyperlocal sites. See also: PR Tools for Small Businesses.
33. Referral Cards
Try this old-school technique. Distribute business cards with your contact information, email address and perhaps a printed discount. Give several cards to customers after each job. Satisfied customers often share word of mouth by passing along a card. This way is super for a maid service, home contractor, etc.
34. Nonprofit Donations
Sponsoring a nonprofit event can be pricey. Luckily there are cheaper ways to do good. You and your staff can volunteer time to organize a charity walk, with everyone wearing company-branded T-shirts. You could also donate excess swag left over from your last trade show. A local farm could donate to a food bank, donating excess produce that will just go to waste in the fields. Often the nonprofit will highlight on its website the companies that volunteer or give in-kind donations. Local news outlets may cover the event and your company. American businesses may be able to get a tax write-off for mileage and the value of goods donated (check with your tax advisor).
35. Yard Signs
Yard signs are like free advertising on real estate. Ask satisfied customers if you can leave a sign in their yard following a recent job. This is perfect for roofers, landscapers, etc. Similarly, retail businesses can place yard signs on the tree strip when holding a sale. Always check the city or HOA rules about signage.
36. Bulletin Boards and Pin-Up Cards
Many venues have bulletin boards where you leave a business card or tear-off strips. Look for these at retail stores, factories and community organizations. Ask friends and family if they know of boards, such as in the lunchroom at work. Give them a stack of cards to post if they would like to help.
Cafes, restaurants and coffee shops in your town may offer a spot to leave paper brochures and print promotions. Ask management for permission. Or you can canvass a neighborhood and leave a flyer at each house wedged in the door or mailbox flag (never in the mailbox).
38. Merchandise Displays
Offer items to another establishment on consignment. For instance, an art gallery might provide framed pictures to a local restaurant to decorate the walls. A crafts person might offer jewelry for beauty salons to display. Items should have a tag with your brand name and prices. The establishment may sell the art, clothing, etc. to consumers or simply refer interested parties to you.
Organize a complimentary workshop at a local community center, club, library or homeowners association. This option is great for consumer service providers like financial planners, fashion stylists — even plumbers. The organization will promote your workshop to its constituency.
40. Vehicle Parking
Finally, don’t forget the technique of businesses on tight budgets everywhere: park your branded vehicle in a visible spot! You often see company cars and trucks parked in a shopping center parking lot next to the street. The signage on visible vehicles is free advertising.
Tips to Maximize Free Advertising
We hope we have answered the question, “how can I advertise my business for free?” Use the following four practical tips as best practices.
Tip 1: Combine paid with free for bigger impact.
Improve organic results on social media sites by occasionally promoting content. Some sites throttle back visibility to your fans. When you pay to boost an update or video, it appears more often in other people’s feeds, increasing the potential for engagement (likes, comments, shares). With increased engagement, you often experience an overall boost in your organic (unpaid) social media presence.
- Example: Budget $200 per month to boost Facebook updates. Take advantage of the platform’s metrics and use data to experiment for best results.
Tip 2: Balance short term speed with long term impact.
One of the best things about paid advertising is the near immediate results. Free options, on the other hand, can take months. The mistake businesses make is to buy paid ads for instant impact, yet never take the time to build a longer term strategy. These businesses don’t take advantage of free options like social media because “they take too long.” Through lack of planning, companies get locked into forever paying for traffic and leads.
- Example: If you need new customers immediately, place pay-per-click ads on Google or buy visibility on other ad sites. However, concurrently invest time in free ads to build for the future and gradually reduce your paid ad spend. One free way to advertise a business offering is including it in your email signature. If you and your team use email signatures, you will generate hundreds of “ads” each week to potential customers.
Tip 3: Barter for cross promotion.
Forge partnerships with other businesses where it makes sense to cross promote. Look for partners who offer complementary products and services and are willing to give you visibility. No money changes hands – it’s all barter.
- Example: Imagine you are an SEO professional. You provide keyword research services to a Web design agency to make its website appear higher in search results online. In exchange, the agency recommends your services to its clients, giving you credibility. It’s like an advertisement with no out-of-pocket costs.
Tip 4: Cut costs with marketing tools.
Many free techniques are labor intensive. Your team’s time is worth money. The good news is, it usually costs less to use marketing automation or a marketing tool instead of labor. Not everything can or should be automated, but a smart marketer identifies what can and gets technology to reduce labor costs.
- Example: Calculate how much each marketing activity costs. For instance, how long does it take employees to update your Google My Business profile and other local listings? Multiply the monthly hours by the average hourly rate you pay. Then find a tool that costs less to do the activity.
Finally, remember that free ad sites go in and out of style. Last year’s hot traffic driver may be gone (like Stumbleupon). Some sites start out offering free marketing, then evolve into paid platforms. Always be on the lookout for new advertising opportunities to try.
Related reading about advertising:
- Introduction to Small Business Advertising
- How Can Advertising Help Your Business?
- What Is The Difference Between Advertising And Marketing?
- Where Can You Advertise Your Business?
- What’s The Cheapest Way To Advertise?
- How Much Do Small Businesses Spend On Advertising?
- How to Plan your Small Business Advertising Campaign (Checklist)
- 50 Small Business Advertising Ideas
- How to Advertise Your Small Business Locally
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