Many small businesses have faced the cliched conundrum: It takes money to make money. If you operate a small business and struggle to maintain a marketing budget that yields results without breaking your bottom line, you might want to take advantage of the following 10 free marketing opportunities you’re missing. Each has potential to give your business the kick-start it needs to generate cash flow so you can fuel your paid marketing budget – and take some of the profits home with you.
1. Guest blogging
It might seem like everyone and their brother has a blog, but the fact is most small businesses do not have blogs, and of those that do, only a few blog well. Find out what blogs your target customer base reads, then contact blog managers with original and useful blog topic ideas. Most will let you include a bio, and some will let you include a body link or two. If your content is good, it will be read, and customers will flock.
2. Customer referral program
This isn’t a new idea, but it’s a no-brainer that so many small businesses do not take advantage of. The best type of marketing is word-of-mouth, and happy customers are, well, happy to refer their friends to you. Give them an incentive to do so with a referral program that rewards their efforts with a discount or freebie for each new customer they bring in.
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3. Social media
If you’re not at least on Facebook by now, start a page. If you have a page, work it. If you don’t know how, either learn it or hire someone to do it. You can also investigate Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest, among others, but Facebook is the best platform for branding and customer engagement.
4. Market on letterhead and invoices
Every communication you send includes valuable marketing real estate that is rarely used. Place an ad in the footer, in the sidebar, or on the back of your letterhead and invoices to generate new sales.
5. Press releases
Professional press release writers and paid distribution can be expensive (though often well worth it), but you can quickly draft your own press releases and distribute them to local media members, targeted editors and journalists, and bloggers on your own for nothing more than a little time investment. Remember: All it takes is for one major outlet to recognize you to potentially launch a huge influx of customers.
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7. Write a guest column
Contact local media and targeted publishers about writing a weekly or monthly guest column. If they have the need and the room, and you have the expertise (and the ability to write), you can get a gig that’s low on pay but huge on credibility, which you can parlay into marketing prowess.
8. Public speaking
Organizations are always seeking expert speakers; contact them to see if you can line up speaking engagements. I recommend trying to find a new speaking venue at least once per month. You get free exposure to dozens, if not hundreds, of potential clients for what usually amounts to a 40-minute presentation.
9. Join a business networking group
Some national groups, such as BNI, charge for membership, but you can often find local business networking groups designed to help you grow your business (so long as you help others). With minimal time investment and no fees, you can grow a network of word-of-mouth referral partners to help you earn more business for free.
10. Attend local trade shows
Sure, some trade shows charge an arm and a leg for attendance, much less vendor space. But many local trade shows offer free entry – and some even offer free vendor space. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce and CVB for opportunities.