You may not have wads of cash to spend on marketing in the early stages of your startup, but that doesn't mean that there aren't effective ways to get your brand noticed.
Before the Internet, small businesses only had a few affordable ways to market their products, such as printing out fliers or sponsoring small local events. Now there are all kinds of opportunities available on the Web for free—you just need to know where to look.
Learn how to market your business online with these seven tips:
7 ways to market your business for free
1. Use online business directories
One way to market your business is to register with Google My Business. This is a free tool that allows you to create a listing for your business so it can easily be found on Google searches and visible on Google Maps. Businesses can do it by completing an online registration form and a simple verification process.
Yelp is one of the most popular online business directories. You can create a free Yelp account to help promote your business and engage with customers. Customers can also leave ratings, reviews, and pictures of their experiences with your business which will help boost your sales.
2. Market your business on social media
Social media isn't just for posting your family pets anymore. You can use it as a marketing tool to gain exposure for your business. Social media is a great way to interact with potential clients and customers . You can post regular updates, provide a behind-the-scenes look at how your business operates, and even notify your following of upcoming sales.
Instead of shelling out a ton of money, you can invest your time into creating social media profiles like Facebook, Instagram , or Twitter. YouTube provides a free way to distribute creative promotional videos, but to succeed, you must put up content that people want to view and are relevant to your business—a simple ad will not work. You can also network on LinkedIn—both at the personal and professional level as another way to help market your business.
3. Start a blog to promote your business
A blog not only helps your company get its name out through followers, it is also a way to connect with your consumers more directly. But remember that one of the major keys of blogging is to keep your stream updated as frequently as you can.
A dormant, abandoned blog is worth nothing. Make sure that each post you create provides visitors with helpful information. Write blog posts that tell your brand story and answer questions potential customers may have. You can also share your blog on your social media profiles to gain traffic to your website.
4. Add SEO to your online strategy
It’s important to optimize your business website for search engines so customers can easily find you. SEO cannot be underestimated in the world of constant Googling. Search engine optimization gives you the upper hand when marketing your business. It helps you increase website traffic and gives you authority in your line of work. You can pick up a book or find resources online to learn how to market your business with SEO to make sure your site is primed for performance on search engines.
5. Use press releases to promote your business
Whenever your business does something newsworthy, consider issuing a press release. They're a powerful media tool to use to help generate publicity, and having free distribution of them is a bonus. There are dozens of websites out there that you can use for your press releases, such as PRLog and 24/7 Press Release.
6. Join an online community and contribute
Every niche has communities online. But just signing up for a forum and posting every once in a while about your business isn't beneficial for anyone and could even annoy people. Actively contribute and build a rapport with the community while keeping your business out of it. Passively promote your business by putting a link in your signature or mentioning it only when the context is appropriate.
7. Make your website content shareable
Whether you’re writing long-form blog posts, creating engaging videos, or simply introducing a new product, everything on your website should be shareable. Having quick links to share website information via social media, email, or text message means your users can connect their network to your business at no cost to you!
There are several ways to market your small business for free online. To recap, social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are often the places your target audience is already spending time, so why not engage them there? Take advantage of free online business directories so you appear in active searches for the services you provide. Along the same lines, ask yourself: How can I show up even more to prospective customers’ searches? Share helpful resources through a blog on your website and use press releases to share key news about your business. Those content efforts, coupled with a solid SEO strategy, can help increase traffic to your website. The more you explore and experiment with new ways to promote your business, the more you’ll learn and refine what works best for you.
A version of this article was originally published on August 1, 2014.