Free ways to market your small business

If you're like most small businesses on a budget, you need to be creative with your marketing strategy. Buying print ads and TV commercial slots can eat up your marketing budget and might not even be as effective as targeted, low-cost or free campaigns. I work with small business owners in several niche industries to create targeted, localized marketing plans that often end up working better than traditional advertising - and save them money. Free marketing strategies have a positive effect on your bottom line and can help to generate sales.

Here are seven free ways to market your small business:

1. Encourage word-of-mouth advertising. While this isn't a formal marketing strategy, it is one that still works. Don't be afraid to ask satisfied customers to spread the word on your behalf. I encourage small business owners to see this as free marketing on their part because their very own customers will be sharing their experience with potentially hundreds of people in their social circle.

2. Host a workshop or seminar. Think of ways to educate your clients or customers so they perceive you as an authority. People are likely to do business with people they trust. Build trust by offering free workshops, seminars or hosting other special events so that people can meet you, ask questions, or sign up for more information. This can be a great way to pre-qualify leads and generate sales.

3. Run a contest or giveaway. Generate buzz about your business by launching a contest or giveaway. Let the media know and reach out to community leaders so that <i>they</i> can spread the word. A medical spa in my area runs an email contest every season to drum up business. Anyone who submits their email address within a given time frame each month is entered in a drawing for a spa gift certificate or free service. The only true costs associated with this type of marketing campaign will be the cost of the prize and any administrative time promoting the event.

4. Maintain a Facebook presence. Most small businesses can maintain a professional presence on Facebook and even market their services to their fans. The key to making this strategy work is consistency. Besides the time invested in maintaining your page, Facebook marketing is essentially free and can help you connect with hundreds of potential clients in a new way.

5. Link up to your suppliers' websites. Whether you run a small restaurant or a Web design firm, get in touch with your suppliers to find out if they will post a link to your website on their site, promote your services in a newsletter or are interested in any other types of co-marketing strategies. This is a free way to reach more potential clients without any direct marketing on your part.

6. Give away something for free on your website. Whether it's a free article, a free book, or a coupon for a discount on a future visit, generate interest and stimulate sales by offering something of value to a potential client. Figure out how much you can give away for free and still earn a profit when the customer is prompted to buy something. Freebies can be an incentive to purchase from you in the near future.

7. Write a catchy email signature. Think about how many emails you send out on any given day. Give recipients a reason to click back to your site or even make a purchase by adding a special offer or incentive to the bottom of each email. Use a catchy phrase or add an eye-catching image to encourage some type of response. This only takes minutes to set up and could be an effective way to boost business.

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