Very little in life is free. So if you can get free marketing ideas, you might be sceptical. Whether your business is still new or well-established, large, or small, you need to tell people about it, and that means marketing (and advertising).
But that does not mean you need a Multi-Million-Rand budget to get the word out. Most startups and SMEs have a few thousand Rand to achieve their marketing goals.
There are plenty of free marketing ideas that work for businesses of all sizes. There are global brands like Rolls-Royce that do not bother with paid-marketing. Instead, they use free tactics like social media and word of mouth campaigns to raise brand awareness, and you can too.
To get you started, we rounded up 22 of the best free advertising and marketing ideas for Startups and SMEs — many of which you should be taking advantage of even if you do have a marketing budget.
Here’s Our Free Marketing Ideas for 2021:
- Claim any existing profiles or listings: There are hundreds of online directories, lists, and review sites out there. Make sure you have claimed your business’s listing on sites like Hotfrog, FreeFind, Entrepo, and Brabys and ensure that any information is up to date.
- Find other opportunities to get listed: Look for opportunities to list your business on any directories or review sites that you are not already using. There may be business directories related to your industry or niche, and neighbourhood, city, and provincial listings for local businesses with physical locations.
- Google your business: Make sure your Google business listing is up to date. This is likely the first thing someone will see when they search for your business, so make sure your profile is fully completed and optimised. Upload some photos, and do not forget to add your operating hours and contact information. If you have a local business with a physical bricks-and-mortar location, this is especially important, since it helps ensure your business appears on Google Maps.
- Join the conversation: Look for discussions and forums related to your business or industry — your customers may even already be discussing your business online! Remember that you do not want to just push in with a link and an obvious advertisement. Instead, try to add value by answering questions, sharing your expertise, or, in cases where a customer is unhappy, making a good faith effort to help.
- Comment on blogs and articles: Likewise, look for blog posts and articles by thought leaders or businesses that are related to yours, but not direct competitors. Leave thoughtful comments (avoid appearing spammy) sharing your perspective on the topic.
- Start blogging: If you are not already blogging, you should be! Sharing relevant content consistently has a significant impact on where your website appears in search results. The higher up the page you are, the more likely customers are to find you.
- Start an email newsletter: Email remains one of the best advertising tools available. Here is why: The people on your email list have opted in to receiving advertisements and other messaging from you. They have handed over something of value (their email address) in exchange for offers or information from you. Make sure to use it wisely!
- Speak at an event: Look for opportunities to share your expertise by speaking at a conference or event or participating on a panel. By choosing an event that is closely aligned with your business or industry, you are positioning yourself as a thought leader and getting in front of an audience that’s (hopefully) a good fit for your business or product.
- Offer to guest blog: Look for opportunities to contribute a guest post on sites or blogs related to your industry. This tactic can help drive traffic to your website and build your name as a thought leader in your niche.
- Repurpose your content: Repurposing existing content is a great way to get more mileage out of content you already have — for free. Whether it is polishing up an outdated blog post or turning an existing eBook into an email course, repurposing gives you more opportunities for exposure to whole new audiences.
- Create infographics: Infographics are a way to turn not-so visually appealing data into engaging, highly shareable content. And thanks to visual social media networks, infographics have a way of spreading far and wide.
- Ask for referrals: Asking your best customers for referrals is a free, easy way to get word of mouth advertising. A recommendation from a friend is considered the most credible formof advertising.
- Reward your customers: Piggybacking off our last tip, consider ways to reward your loyal customers, especially for referrals or positive reviews. Sending some free product, or offering a small discount are all great ways to incentivise customers and build goodwill. If your customers share their good experience on social media, even better!
- Volunteer: Giving back to local non-profits not only helps you build goodwill and valuable connections in your community, but it can also help to build awareness about your business too. You can do a service project with your team, or serve in a leadership capacity, for example, by serving on a board of directors.
- Ask for reviews: Reviews are hugely important, but did you know that people are far more likely to share bad customer experiences than good ones? Even happy customers just are not all that likely to head to Google and share their goodwill. That is why it is so important to ask your best customers to share their good experiences with your brand.
- Hold a workshop or webinar: Getting people in the door (in person or virtually) can go a long way towards building brand awareness. By providing a useful educational session that helps your ideal customer solve their problems, you are building trust and connection, and ensuring they think of you next time they are looking for a product or service like yours.
- Make guest appearances on podcasts — or host your own: Podcasts are an excellent way to reach a new audience. Lots of people do not have time or do not want to read written articles but like to listen to podcasts. Reach out to the hosts of a few relevant podcasts and offer to be a guest. Even if you have your own podcast, appearing as a guest on others’ helps to expand your reach.
- Form partnerships with other businesses: Say you are a photographer — you probably have customers who also want to get their hair and makeup done. And if you are a hair and makeup stylist, you most likely work with people preparing for special events like weddings, who might be looking for a photographer. Forming relationships in which you work together and refer customers to one another is one incredibly valuable way to get free word of mouth advertising.
- Make the most of your email signature: Is there a link to your website in your email signature? What about links to your social media channels? Your email signature is valuable, but often overlooked! You can even include a blurb about a current promotion or offer in this space.
- Publish content on LinkedIn: LinkedIn is not just for networking and keeping tabs on old co-workers. It is quite a powerful publishing platform too. With a few simple tweaks to optimise your existing content for the LinkedIn algorithm, you can potentially gain exposure to a massive new audience.
- Wear company-branded stuff — and give some away: While not exactly free, you probably already have t-shirts or other company-branded gear. Make sure you and your team wear them when attending events. You can even share them with your customers as thank you gifts or contest prizes.
- Leave reviews or give testimonials: If you work with suppliers or vendors, consider leaving positive reviews online or offering to share a testimonial about your experience. You will build goodwill with your partners and get your name out there too.