Whether you are a new or existing business, you should know how to promote your services. Did you know that you can do this without spending precious capital? Read on to learn our favorite ways to get free advertising.
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Why Advertising Matters
If you could read ancient Egyptian, you’d find more on a wall of hieroglyphics than simply tales of Pharaohs – you’d see advertisements. Yes, even before the invention of the wheel ancient people knew the value of advertising to grab the attention of buyers.
That’s why in modern times, there are many ways to sell yourself and let your customers know about your services.
I stumbled across Palak Modi’s video about why advertising matters and thought it did a great job summing up the importance of this concept. It’s a simple concept but is nicely illustrated in this video.
You’re probably thinking that all advertising costs a lot of money. Money you may not be able to commit to an advertising budget. After all, you’re getting your small business off the ground.
Well, humans have been around for millions of years, so we’ve had some time to perfect the wheel. We’ve also learned how to advertise it, and now you can benefit. Here are some great ways to get free advertising. We’ve included the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The Benefits of Free Advertising
When making your to-do list, where does advertising fall? If it’s not high on your list, it really should be. Remember, advertising helps you compete in the marketplace of goods and services for the attention of customers.
Without it, you can’t hope to expand your business through sales or forming partnerships with other brands. Luckily, there are several simple ways to spread the word about your business that won’t cost you a dime, only a little bit of your time.
The key to successful advertising, no matter how small your business, is planning. Create a marketing strategy to put your plan in motion and try incorporating a few of these free ideas to help.
1. Make a Website
In today’s world, if you don’t have a presence online, then you are missing out on a ton of potential free advertising. A website is your best lead generation tool and a source of information for potential customers.
Of course, you can pay to have a website custom-designed. But, if you don’t have the money for that right now, there are plenty of free platforms on which you can create a site.
Tools such as Wix, Weebly, and WordPress offer templates that allow you to easily build and maintain a website to help spread the word about your business. You’ll also need to familiarize yourself with search engine optimization (SEO) if you want to drive traffic to your website.
SEO allows you to set up your website so your content will rank high in a Google search. There are some large companies that pay a lot of money for SEO, but it is something that can be done yourself.
I’ve found that these companies make the concept seem impossibly hard so that they can justify their absurd client fees. If this describes the agency you’re using, run far and fast. SEO is not difficult, but does take a bit of hard work and critical thinking.
To be successful in SEO, you need to focus on a few basic things:
- Use phrases that people will search for in titles
- Use a variety of titles for every page of your website
- Always make sure to include your contact information such as the name of your business, your phone number, and location on your website
It’s also not a bad idea to write a blog for your website with SEO. Blogging is a great way for your potential customers to get to know you and to drive traffic to your website.
Plus, once you have an established blog you can offer to guest post for other blogs. This will drive even more traffic your way. Of course, there are pros and cons to free websites.
The pros include:
- You can’t beat the price – it’s free (or close to free)!
- Easy to build a nice looking website in a matter of hours
- Automatic website hosting
- Easy to use
- Easy to update
But there are a few negatives, such as:
- Limited options for templates
- Restricts your ability to brand yourself
- Usually have ads included in the free plans
- Offer limited tools
- Offer limited support
- Create partnerships
There are other small businesses out there just like yours and they are looking for ways to get the word out for free too. Take advantage of that and identify a few places in your community that you can partner with in order to promote one another.
Where should you begin? See if there are current partnership programs available through companies that offer complementary services to yours.
In other words, who interacts with your customers but doesn’t provide the same service? Don’t be afraid to reach out to businesses you already have a working relationship with, either. A great way to find these businesses is to visit your local Chamber of Commerce.
The pros of partnerships include:
- Nurtures positive relationships in the long term
- Incredibly cost-effective
- It can help to grow your business in ways you may not have thought of
- Helps you establish trust and reliability in the community
It’s not all good news, though. There are some cons to consider when seeking out partnerships such as:
- Loss of income if you set up a profit-sharing scheme
- The potential to disagree
- Losing focus on your own business
2. Leverage Free Social Media Platforms
Unless you’ve lived in a cave for the past 20 years, you probably use social media platforms every day. Whether or not you know it, you’re using them to connect with friends and family, share funny cat videos, or argue with strangers.
Well, it’s time to put the power of social media to work for your business! When it comes to promoting your business, there are different platforms you should use in different ways for free advertising. The ones you’re probably most familiar with are LinkedIn and Facebook, which are best for social networking.
You can use Twitter for what is called microblogging, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat for photo sharing, and YouTube, Periscope, Vimeo, and Facebook Live for video sharing.
The trick is to determine which of these will give you the most mileage and then make yourself an expert in their use to help advertise your business.
The benefits of social media are many, such as:
- It’s user-friendly
- It’s low cost (or totally free!)
- It a great way to create a fanbase that then helps to drive your sales
- It helps you to target different types of customers
- Most of the platforms come with built-in analytics to help you figure out what is working and what isn’t
Of course, social media does have a few drawbacks, such as:
- It can be time-consuming to establish and maintain an online presence
- Lack of a clear marketing strategy
- It takes daily updating
3. List Your Business for Sale
For many small businesses, you have to work hard to attract local clients in order to create buzz and word of mouth for your business to thrive. One of the best ways you can do that is by adding your business to an online business directory. There are many online directories you can start with.
Bing, Yelp, Foursquare, and Yellowbook are just a few. You simply go to these sites, upload the details of your business, and you’ll be much easier for locals who need your services to find.
Check out HubSpot for a list of free directories that you may want to consider. There are several pros to local directories such as:
- Increases your chances of being found by locals
- Lists you on Google Maps
- Helps people see how you’re regarded in the community
- Offers a cost-effective way to boost your online relevancy
- The only negatives we think that you’ll encounter with these directories are:
- You may get online reviews that aren’t so glowing
- You sometimes have to pay to get listed
4. Get Free Advertising with a Press Release
We know what you’re thinking – you, write a press release? Yes! Press releases are a great way to communicate with your local paper and trade organizations, both in print and online.
All you have to do is write up a release and submit it, then it can get published for free. A press release can be about anything, from the grand opening of your business to a new staff member. There’s a simple formula you can use to write the press release and it’s a great way to remind people that you’re here.
Plus, building working relationships with journalists and editors can help you to connect with even more people in the community. Aim to write at least one per month to send to your local publications.
The pros of using press releases include:
- It’s a cost-effective way to get your name out there
- A search engine optimized press release can help it to show up at the top of online search results
- It’s a great way to embed links to your social media and extend its reach
There aren’t many drawbacks, but you should be aware of a few:
- It can be time-consuming
- It’s a competitive market
How Should You Get Free Advertising?
The truth is that not every way you try to promote your business is going to be successful. Different things work for different businesses in different places. But you have no choice but to give it a go.
You cannot know for sure something isn’t going to work before you try it and sometimes the key to your success can come from a place you may not expect. So, keep trying new things, capitalizing on the things that work and learning lessons from the things that don’t.
Remember, the most successful business owners are the ones that kept going no matter what obstacles they came up against until they found what worked for them. And we think free advertising is a great place to start.