18 FREE Marketing Ideas for Small Business

Jake Sheridan
Dec 10, 2019

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If you own a small business, you’ve faced challenges in coming up with marketing that is both effective but also affordable. You don’t have big budgets to match big corporations with dedicated marketing departments.

However, that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do. There are tons of low-budget marketing ideas for small businesses that you can take advantage of. A lot of these ideas have to do with how to market your business online.

Why? Because things like local SEO are all free, and because statistics for local online marketing show how much of an impact it can leave.

Try These Local Marketing Ideas

You do not have to try all of these ideas, either at once or even over time. Use them to get a better idea of your options. Then do more research on the ideas that sound like they would work for you. You can pick and choose in order to create an effective marketing strategy for a small business.

#1 Publish Content

If you want to know how to market your business online, you have to start with your website. In order for people to find you online, you need to have a website for your business. Then you need to publish content related to your business and your location.

The best part is that it’s free to write content on your website, but you can attract real business and sales from it. Consider that 97% of searches online are for people trying to find a local business. Furthermore, people will find and choose a local business based on their content. See the potential?

#2 Create Instructional Videos

What helps convince people to choose your business? Trust. That means, in part, that they have to come to trust that you are experts in your field. You can do that by publishing instructional videos related to the products and services you sell.

Again, it’s free to make videos and publish them online. Show people how to use or repair your products, show them how your services work, and so on. They help establish you as an expert in the industry that your local audience can trust.

#3 Get Ad Promo Credits

Having a small business sometimes means not having a big budget for paid advertising. However, with online marketing, you have the chance to get free ad promo credits from platforms like Facebook and Google.

That can help you create campaigns of paid ads that you couldn’t before, or to expand your budget beyond what you could normally.

#4 Use Reddit

Want to know what questions related to your industry people are seeking? Want to know what people want from the types of products and services you sell? Want insights int what promotions people like, and what they don’t like?

Find a subreddit related to your niche and do research. You will see real people asking questions, sharing experiences, and more. Use them for market research, and you can also participate in discussions to give advice. Using Reddit for your local marketing can be a goldmine.

#5 Use Social Networks

Posting on social media is free, and you have a huge potential reach for your local audience. Like with instructional videos, you can use it to engage with local customers and build trust in your community.

Post instructions, guides, and advice related to your niche. Answer customer questions, be an expert, and occasionally you can post promos for your business once you have built a good following. So be active on all of them: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and so on.

#6 Create Infographics

People love infographics. It’s a great way to share interesting and relevant information about your field in a way that engages with people. If you make an infographic the right way, it can help generate viral content that attracts more people to your website, social media accounts, and so on.

You don’t have to be a great designer yourself. There are tons of free tools like Appy Pie Design and templates for making great looking infographics, where you just have to have your information ready. It’s free to do, so the hardest part is coming up with interesting information and data to share.

#7 Give New Life to Old Data

People love data, which is part of the reason they love infographics. But if you don’t have the time or expertise to design an infographic, you can still create some content around data. Look up studies and research related to your field. Present it in an article that people will find interesting.

You can mine government studies of your industry, or research other independent studies into your field. It’s a good source of content that attracts the attention of potential customers, and it’s another way to establish that you are an expert.

#8 Use LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social media site that you can use for two different reasons as a small business. First, you can publish industry-specific content that you created elsewhere and share it with local and niche-related groups. That is a good way to establish your business as an expert.

You can also use it to recruit and vet local employees and find good talent to hire employees. Surrounding your business with good talent can pay huge dividends down the road, and it’s free to use as a recruitment tool.

#9 Recycle Old Content

If you’ve published content in the past that got a lot of pageviews and turned people into customers, it’s for a reason. If it doesn’t get much attention anymore, it wouldn’t take a lot of work to make it more fresh.

Look back at your old content to see what worked best. You can do a quick refresh of it to make sure it’s all up to date, and then publish it again. There’s a good chance you will attract a good amount of traffic and potential customers.

#10 Develop a Customer Referral Program

Word of mouth is still one of the biggest sources of referrals your business will likely receive. So it makes sense to create a referral program to give reasons for people to refer you to their friends and family.

You can offer a discount, a free period of service, a free upgrade, or other rewards that a customer would be interested in. It doesn’t have to be something that would cost you a lot of money, but even a small offer is a great way to increase your customer base.

#11 Run Online Contests

People love contests, and it’s also a great way to earn user-generated content where your customers talk about your business online. Have people post on social media using your products for a chance to win a prize, or book an appointment for your service.

That can get people talking to their friends and family to get them joining in. In the end, you might get a lot of local customers participating for a chance to win, for little to no cost for you.

#12 Create Offline (Local) Content

The same content you use to promote your business online can also be used offline. If you have a health-based clinic you can create brochures that are shared to other health clinics in different fields. You can invite local newspapers to events you hold such as grand openings or new product launches.

For any offline content you manage to create, ask the vendor to link back to your website if they also make similar content online. Backlinks are highly valuable and, while difficult to get, are also free.

#13 Form Industry Partnerships

Networking is a way of life in the business world. Why not try and form a solid partnership with other local businesses in your industry that aren’t direct competitors? If you own a doctor’s office, you can form referral relationships with a dentist or other health clinics not in your niche.

You can hold joint events, form referral programs, or create joint marketing programs to pool your resources together. As a small business, partnership marketing is a good way to form mutually beneficial relationships to get another source of customers.

#14 Apply Online for Business Awards

Another way to get a great promotion of your business in your local market is with local business awards. A lot of local newspapers and organizations will hold yearly awards for local businesses in each industry.

You can ask your customers to vote for you in the awards. It’s a great way to get free promotion that establishes your small business as one of the best in the community. If you win, it’s both a good validation that you’re doing things right. You can use that in your content and advertising for the next year.

#15 Print Business Cards

As a local business, you never know when you have a chance to talk about your business with people in your community. It’s well worth having some good quality business cards that you can give you to people. Business cards can be a great marketing tool, for networking and po10tential customer engagement.

You can do a business card exchange with any non-competitive but industry-related businesses you have a partnership with. You have their business cards to give out to your customers, and vice versa.

#16 Host an Event or Class

If you want a chance to establish your expertise and engage with local customers directly, try hosting an event or class. You can show how to use your products better — a car dealership can show how to use child safety features in the vehicles they sell, for example.

You can also host a charity event to get local people involved in a sponsorship you have. It’s good PR for your business, and let’s you get face-to-face with potential customers.

#17 Use Email Marketing

It’s a good idea to keep customer cards on each of your clients. Whenever they contact you online, or sign up for a newsletter, or signing up for a membership, you can get their email. You can use the email list of your active customers to get them to return to your business.

Whenever you are holding a special event, launching a new product, or running a major sale or promotion, send an email out. You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to become customers again if you give them a reason to.

#18 Send Customer Surveys

Customer surveys are great for a local business for two reasons. First, you get valuable feedback from real customers about what they like and don’t like about your products and customer service. Use it to find ways your customers would like you to improve, and do everything you can to change accordingly.

The other way you can use these surveys is for direct marketing. Create a contest for people who submit their feedback in a survey. Get a customer’s email and contact information for future email, SMS or direct mail marketing campaigns you create. For those who give good feedback, you can also ask them to review your business online to grow your review count and score.

Looking for more? Check out the collection of hundreds of actionable marketing ideas.

Use These Tips & Tools to Develop a Killer Local Marketing Strategy

These local marketing ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. You can use them either directly, or to give you as inspiration or as the basis to create your own strategy. Maybe you don’t use any of LinkedIn’s free marketing tools, for example. However, while looking into it you find that their paid advertising platform would work great for you.

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The point of this list of ideas is to get you thinking about your local marketing strategy. There are so many different platforms and avenues you can use to help get more customers for your business. Researching any of the above will help you formulate and refine your strategy into something that works best for you.

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