5 Simple Ways to Market Your Business for FREE
Starting a business is tough. And of all the challenges we face as business owners, getting and keeping customers remains, for me at least, the toughest one. As an experienced marketing manager, my goal has always been to create value for my customers, or perceive the value that we (the company) believe our product holds. Marketing often feels like a complicated space that many business owners fear. I have always believed that no hired professional can market your product like its creator. We can help refine the message, the branding, the target market and even the value proposition. The creator will always know what drove him or her to create it, and what its most complex pros and cons are. That is the reason why, in my opinion, business owners and founders should not be so quick to give the keys to a marketing firm. Marketing is an exact trade, just like a balance sheet. There needs to be investment, return and value. Marketing doesn’t need to be expensive to be effective. It needs to be thought-out, planned and measured. Simple as that.
Here are 5 simple and (mostly) free ways to market your business, and how to measure if they work for you.
Become a local authority
Whether you own a small specialty shop or offer a local service, let’s say even yoga classes, you can contact your local news channel or papers and offer yourself as a commentator. By doing this, you position yourself as a local authority on a specific topic, for example a health and wellness expert (for yoga teachers). This may sound easy, but getting a journalist’s attention isn’t that easy. Target those that cover your industry and write about topics you think you can help contribute to. Pitch them with info about you and your business that will pique their interest and follow up every few weeks to see if there is anything in the pipeline.
How to measure: “Sarah of Sarah’s Yoga recommends 3 easy stretches to start the day off well and reduce stress”. Getting named in an article can have monetary value of $200-$5,000 based on its publication. Scored some free PR? This one worked for you.
As a business owner, I bet you’re especially good at something specific. Whether it’s your core business or a skill you picked up along the way, find your strength and utilize it locally. For example, if you’re a fitness trainer, go to a local shared work space (like WeWork) and offer to give a free class once a week. If you’re a Lawyer, offer an hour of free consultations to new business owners. By having 30 new clients previewing your service in an hour, you have a chance to showcase your best abilities. Just don’t forget the flyers or business cards to pass around.
How to measure: How much is your hour worth? How many leads did you get? To give this a fair chance, you need to try this a few times.
Be Social (media)
It’s mostly free and can reach a huge audience. Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram etc.) has massive potential for new customer acquisition. Find the best groups, share posts and comment on relevant threads. Be more helpful then sale-oriented to establish a positive social presence. Use the business dashboards to execute re-targeting campaigns (meaning find more customers that match your current customer profiles) at low costs. Offer specific promotions or unique coupon codes to see how many customers have come through social channels.
How to measure: Use the business dashboards to see ROI and spend, measure lead costs and conversion rates.
Keep in Touch
One of the best ways of retaining existing clients is following up, keep them up to date and getting feedback. One of the best ways to do this is with a periodical newsletter. Start by collecting customer emails with every purchase and offer them to opt in for updates and promotions. An easy to use, free and recommended platform for this is MailChimp. Easily build and send email campaigns to hundreds of clients at once. Make sure your emails have relevant and worthwhile content so that you don’t get clients clicking that “unsubscribe” button. Offer specific promotions via email to keep customers engaged and catch their attention with exciting subject lines like “This only happens once a year”. Chose your messages carefully, and space them out. Too many and you’ll get the opposite effect.
How to measure: Track open rates via MailChimp (how many opened the emails). See click through rate (how many clicked on a link) if you offer online services or e-commerce. Using unique promo codes or email coupons, track how many returning customers come back based on the email communications.
Meet My Friend Steve
Customer referrals. Are your customers satisfied? Customers are and remain your best advocates. Make their voice count, and it’s a win-win. Customer referral programs vary, but can be worth big bucks. Think about what you can offer your clients for referring friends and family in return. Discounts? Referral only perks? Credit? Whatever it may be, this method proves itself time after time. This method is popular amongst app developers. See it on Uber and Gett.
How to measure: This method works on different levels. Are you after leads or transactions? Getting a friend on your site or in your shop is great, but compensation should be given after a purchase is made. Ultimately this shouldn’t cost you anything, as you compensate only after a new transaction is made. If you can’t get a referral, try making the program more lucrative. Don’t only base the compensation on your first transaction, but what you think the client can be worth to you over a pre-determined period.
Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive to work, just creative and well planned. The tips above are just some examples of how you can engage new and existing customers over time. Try to focus on the ones you think would work best for your type of business and make sure to measure their effectiveness.