Marketing effectively isn’t all about the size of your budget; it’s about your audience. Even though you may be faced with a shoestring (or even a nonexistent) budget, one thing you do have is time. You most certainly can market your business on a shoestring, as long as you’re willing to put in the time and effort. Let’s jump right into it.
1) Understand Your Audience
Regardless of your budget, understanding your audience is at the core of being able to market your business so that you attract the right audience.
2) Blog, Blog, Blog
Your blog is the base from which all action should take place. It doesn’t matter whether or not you pay for your blog; everything you do should be on your blog before you post it anywhere else.
3) Facebook Pages Are a Must
Sign up for a Facebook Page for your business, then announce every new blog post, every new bit of information on that page, always linking back to your blog in the process.
4) Set up a Pinterest Account
Pinterest is hot right now. If you can find a way to incorporate pictures for each new blog post, you can promote yourself on Pinterest.
5) Set Up a Well-Made Linkedin.com Profile
Set up your profile and fill it out completely. Seek to improve it at all times, cross-pollinate information from your blog to Linkedin.com. Ask people to recommend you and endorse you. Do the same for others.
6) Use Twitter.com Often
Twitter is a social network in which you can post short 140 character updates often, throughout the day, without irritating others like you might by doing the same thing on Facebook. Use it often to remind people about your blog.
7) Join Yahoo Groups
There are literally thousands of Yahoo Groups that you can join. Join groups that are comprised of your ideal audience members.
8) Use Craigslist to Post Ads
Using a verified email account you can post ads for your business. Choose the right category for your business. Posting between 4pm and 9pm is the best, according to Craigslist.
9) Make Smart Forum Comments
Find forums where your audience participates and make smart comments that show your knowledge about the topic, letting your signature line speak for itself.
10) Use Local Media to Get the Word Out
Most of the time local media can’t find enough stories. Be a story – send them a press release about your business and they’ll be glad to cover a local success story.
11) Utilize Free Directory Listings
There are directories all over the Internet; use them to list your products and services.
12) Use Your Website
Your website is already in place, so use it to its full potential by ensuring that it properly represents your business in full.
13) Become the Expert
People like listening to experts, so become the go-to expert in your niche. Before you know it more people will come to you and ask you more questions, which you can use for more blog posts, and to create new products.
14) Get Involved in Your Community
It will cost you time, and perhaps gas money, but the more involved you are with your local community, the more business you’ll get.
15) Write Guest Blog Post
Find niche sites that speak to your audience and offer to write original blog posts for them on a regular basis. All you need in return is a link to your site in your bio.
16) Publish a Kindle Book
Kindle makes it simple to publish, compile and edit your old blog posts into an eBook for your audience. Give it away free or sell it for 99 cents.
17) Ask Colleagues to Review Your Products/Services/Books
When you produce something new, always ask others to review it for you on their blogs and websites.
18) Have a Contest
Use your blog, social media, and/or Youtube.com to promote a contest with the prize being free product. Get people to vote on the winner, which will encourage sharing among the participants.
19) Give Away Free Reports
“Free” can be worth a lot these days. Create a great report – such as an overview of your niche – and give it away in exchange for email list sign-up.
20 ) Add Social Sharing to Your Website/Blog/Newsletter
Make it simple for other people to share your website, blog, or newsletter by adding social share buttons.
21) Do a Regular Q&A on Your Blog
Utilizing emails, questions found on forums, and other sources, create a weekly Q&A blog post. You can take just one question at a time and make an entire blog post built around it.
22) Repurpose Content into Video
Make your Q&A posts into a video, or make any past “how to” blog post into video. Sometimes people like to see things in other forms.
23) Host a Google+ Hangout On-air
Do your Q&A on Google+ Hangout On Air. Doing a live event can be scary, but it can also be a great way to get new connections.
24) Answer Questions on Google+
Search for and answer questions within your niche by people on Google+.
25) Answer Questions on Facebook
When someone asks a question you can answer on Facebook.
26) Answer Questions on Twitter
A lot of people will pose short questions on Twitter – be ready to answer them either in public or directly.
27) Use Quora to Build Your Business
Quora is a free service where you choose at least five topics and then contribute to questions and answers that are relevant to the topic.
28) Join Relevant Forums
Search for forums about your niche and join those where your audience participates. Then become the resident expert.
29) Join Groups on Linkedin.com
Find groups of both your audience and direct competitors and join them on Linkedin.com. Do not self-promote, but be free and open with your answers and questions.
30) Create Your Own Groups on Linkedin.com
Linkedin.com allows you to create your own groups, so create one in which you can pose and answer the questions you want to, as well as use to promote your blog.
31) Create Your Own Facebook Groups
On Facebook you can create many types of groups, both private and public. Create both so that you can converse with your audience and colleagues.
32) Join Groups on Facebook
Find groups on Facebook that are both networking and marketing worthy. Join them, and participate actively.
33) Upload Videos to Youtube.com
Create videos and put them on Youtube.com, and also embed them into your website.
34) Spotlight Gurus in Your Niche
Create blog posts that spotlight gurus within your niche. When you mention someone, link to them as well. You might even end up with a comment from them, too.
35) Curate Other People’s Content
You don’t have to write all your own blog content, you can curate relevant content from others (as long as you link back to their content in full and only write a blurb about their content).
36) Interview Experts for a Podcast
You can use free services like Skype to record interviews as a podcast. Post them on your site and to iTunes.
37) Transcribe Expert Interviews into an eBook
Repurpose the expert interviews into an eBook. You can make individual eBooks, and then at the end of the year compile them all into a larger volume.
38) Transcribe Expert Interviews into a Blog Post
Likewise, you can transcribe all interviews into blog posts. Some people would rather read than listen. Give your audience options for how they can get your information.
39) Host a Round Table with Experts on Google+ Hangout On Air
Gather up some experts and host a round table on a popular topic. While you’re limited to the participants on the round table, the On Air part is unlimited.
40) Interview People via Skype One-on-One
Skype is a great way to record an interview both in video format and audio format, then later post that recording Youtube.com, your site, or in some other format.
41) Do a Weekly Expert Roundup on Your Blog
Do you know four or five experts? Ask them to participate in a weekly expert panel where everyone answers the same question.
42) Participate in Weekly Expert Roundups on Other People’s Blogs
Be the expert answering the questions for someone else’s weekly expert panel.
43) Check Your Email for Q&A Inspiration
If you’re stuck for things to say on your blog, look no further than your email for questions from your clients. You can take one question and turn it into a blog post.
44) Create a Survey with SurveyMonkey Post Everywhere
SurveyMonkey has a free version that you can use to do a survey of your audience. Facebook and Linkedin.com are both good places to post your survey.
45) Create Follow Ups about the Survey
Use everything you do as blog fodder. Blog before, during and after any significant event, and include a survey.
46) Respond to all Comments on Your Blog
If someone comments on your blog posts, always comment back.
47) Respond to all Comments on All Social Media Accounts
If someone comments on any social media account on any post, try to comment back as often as you can.
48) Solicit Guest Blog Posts
Create some guidelines for guest blog posts on your own blog, and actively solicit guest posts from experts.
49) Offer Your Speaking Services Locally
It can be frightening to speak, but speaking locally can get you written up in the paper, and give you plenty of blogging material.
50) Become a Source to the Press
Whether local or national, becoming a source to the press can get you free media coverage. Check out HARO for more information.
51) Volunteer Yourself & Any Member of your Company as Expert Panelists
Don’t just do everything yourself. If you have a staff, or use contractors, let them also participate in expert panels on your company’s behalf (subject to your supervision, of course).
52) Donate a Large Amount to a Charity Your Audience Cares About
This doesn’t seem free, but add some amount to the price of your products and services so that you can give 10 percent annually to a charity of your choice. Write press releases about it and blog about it.
53) Let Your Audience Vote on the Charity to Donate to
Make it more of a big deal by having your audience vote on which charity will benefit, starting three months before the donation.
54) Submit Press Releases for All Your Newsworthy Activities
If you’re not submitting a press release each month, you’re not doing enough.
55) Organize Local Meetings & Roundtables
Local events can get you some online link love. Everyone who goes to the event will blog about it, and of course you will too. And, there’s that press release you can prepare and submit.
56) Go to Local Meet up Events
Join Meetup.com and find local events to attend. You can become recognized as an expert just by attending and interjecting your knowledge.
57) Offer Testimonials for Vendors or Colleagues
When you post a testimonial, you usually get a nice link back to your site; sometimes you get your picture published too.
58) Ask for Endorsements & Testimonials
Likewise, getting endorsements and testimonials is a good way to boost your business.
59) Create a Free Mobile App
There are some free apps that you can brand for yourself and offer to your audience. It’s a great way to brand your business.
60) Give Loyalty Discounts to Customers
Seeing special offers and sales that available only to new customers can be rough on current customers, so why not offer them loyalty discounts for sticking with you?
61) Respond to Complains Immediately
When someone complains, never ignore it; deal with it immediately in a way that feels like a win for the customer.
62) Use Slideshare.com to Market Your Business
You can open a free Slideshare.com account, which is limited, but provides you with a good start. It’s a great way to share your knowledge.
63) Create a Free How to Webinar or Video
By using Google Hangout or other Webinar Software such as Any Meeting you can teach others how to do something in which you’re an expert.
64) Give Awards for People in Your Industry
As a known expert you can create an award, make a widget, and give out the award yearly to someone who stands out in your industry or niche.
65) Ask for Sponsors for Events
Want to host an event but have no cash? Ask for sponsors. Often if you get sponsors you’ll not only be able to put on an event that’s free for participants, but you’ll also come out with a profit.
66) Publish an e-newsletter
An e-Newsletter is a little different from your basic email list. This is a planned periodic newsletter that you can even sell advertisements in.
67) Offer a Free eCourse on Your Topic
You can do this easily by email using technology you already have such as Aweber.com. Or if you don’t have that yet, you can use Mailchimp.com, which is free up to 500 subscribers.
68) Send Thank You Email for Purchases with an Upsell
Don’t miss out on opportunities to upsell when someone buys something. Your thank you page or thank you email is the perfect place to pitch a discount on another item, or even promote an affiliate product or service.
69) Use Affiliate Marketers
By creating an affiliate program you create an army of marketers who can help your website rank higher on Google Search. Plus, you’ll make more sales.
70) Freely Help Others
Always be ready to help others online and offline. It’ll pay you back in more ways than you can imagine.
71) Use Article Marketing
Article marketing is not dead. You can still find reputable places to post your articles.
72) Build Up Your Google+ Page
Keep filling out and building up your Google+ page. The more your profile is perfected, and the more you perfect anything related to Google, the higher you’re going to rank in their search engine results pages.
73) Set up Webmaster Accounts with Google, Bing & Yahoo
Webmaster accounts are yet another link back to your site. Plus, the information you can learn from each is invaluable for you to boost your page rank.
74) Use SEO on Every Page of Your Site
On page SEO refers to everything you do on every page of your website in order to help search engines find your site and rank it. Don’t overlook the importance of this.
75) Use Off Page SEO
Off page SEO refers to everything you do to promote your website off your site, such as participating in social media, article marketing and so forth.
76) Make Movies or Slideshows of Your Products & Services
Movies and slideshows are a great way to showcase your products & services. People like to see what they’re getting.
77) Attend Networking Events Often
Whether online or offline, networking events can boost your business awareness exponentially.
78) Keep Building Your List of Referrals & Keep in Touch
Don’t just meet someone and not connect. Connect on social media, connect in email and then keep those connections going.
79) Write Personalized Emails to Prospects
When you’ve met a promising prospect, drop them a personal note instead of a canned note. You’ll get a better response.
80) Contribute to Popular Industry Magazines
Industry publications, both online and offline, need contributors. It’ll only take some time to write them, and submit them, but the payoff is well worth it.
81) Become a Go-To Expert for the Press
Your local press needs people they can call on regularly for quotes. Be that person. Contact them anytime there is a story in your local paper with expert commentary. Before you know it, they’ll call on you.
82) Start a Weekly YouTube Show
Instead of just doing a random Youtube.com video, why not start a regular show. Ensure that it’s part of your niche and set up a regular schedule.
83) Start a Weekly Podcast
Guests or no guests, you probably have something to say about your topic that can be put in a weekly podcast.
84) Put Your URL on Everything
Social media profiles, bios, signature lines, business cards, your URL should be everywhere.
85) Submit Your Site to All Directories
Sure, your site will be picked up eventually, but why not submit it to them manually to hurry up the process.
86) Win Awards
If you find any contests to enter, do so, and then try to win. The more you win, the more you have to blog about, and the more people will see you as an expert.
87) Offer Excellent Customer Service
Remember that the word always gets out. If you provide excellent customer service (even if you make a mistake here and there) you’ll be seen more favorably. Do right by your customers.
88) Form a JV Partnership or Two
A joint venture partnership can expand awareness of your business, and encourage others to want to work with you too.
89) Use Free Services for Mini Sites like Google Sites, Weebly or Wix
If you have no money at all, you can still create a website with one of these services. It’s not recommended for long term, but it can do the job for the time being or for a limited-purpose site.
90) Grab Your Google Business Listing
Whether you have an online business or offline business, your Google Business Listing is important.
91) Grab Your Bing Business Listing
Same thing – the more search engines you’re listed with the better.
92) Grab Your Yelp! Business Listing
You don’t have to have a bricks and mortar business to be listed with Yelp!
93) Get Free Business Cards from Vistaprint.com
While not ideal, due to the Vistaprint ad on the back, this is an excellent way for you to get started marketing your business locally and in person without increasing your budget.
94) Encourage & Incentivize Word-of-Mouth
Ask friends, relatives, and customers to tell everyone they know about you and what you do. Give discounts or cash to those referrers when you get a paying client. This is a good use of those free business cards.
95) Utilize Your eMail Signature
Every single time you send out an email, it should include a signature that has links to your blog, social media sites, and a nice signature and tag line.
96) Ask Past Clients for Referrals
Past clients are a good source of testimonials and referrals, but they can’t provide these things if you don’t ask.
97) Offer Past Clients a Deal they Can’t Refuse
If you want your past clients to use you again, offer them a hefty discount to come back.
98) Offer Free Consultations
Every new customer should get at least a free 15 minute consultation. It will make them feel as if they can trust you more when they can talk to you.
99) Host a Big Event & Give Away Your Products & Services
Whether on Google+ or via a webinar, hosting a big event and then giving away a huge prize package consisting of your products and services will make waves.
100) Cross-Promote with Complementary Businesses
If you know businesses that already market to your audience, contact them and make a deal to cross-promote each other’s products and services. This works best if you both have affiliate programs.
No matter how much money you make now, utilizing these free online marketing ideas will increase your bottom line. Marketing on a shoestring budget doesn’t mean you’re limited in what you can do. It also doesn’t matter if you do have the money to spend – most the ideas above are still good ideas to keep your marketing budget small and your business booming.