25 Cheap or Free Ways to Advertise and Promote Your Small Business

Small businesses don't have to spend a fortune to advertise.  Here are 25 simple techniques I've used with success.
Small businesses don't have to spend a fortune to advertise. Here are 25 simple techniques I've used with success. | Source

How to Promote Your Business Economically

In a tough economy, people are always looking for creative ways to market their businesses without spending a fortune. With a lot of things competing for our attention, the marketing skills that work are the ones that are unique and multifaceted. There are several creative ways to get your name out, many of which are cheap or free. The top 25 are listed below.

A Website

A website doesn't have to be expensive. A simple website or blog will allow you to share information about your company or business with others. It gives people the opportunity to get to know you. In this day and age a website is a MUST for any business, from individual freelancers to large companies.

You can use free tools like Blogger or Wordpress to start, but you should invest in your own domain name. Web hosting packages are also generally very inexpensive and many offer great tools for building basic websites where no coding is needed. These are great for starting out – later on you should have an actual web designer/developer help you search engine optimize and polish your site with your unique brand to increase your business.

Not ready to build a site yet? At least set up a company Facebook page and promote it.

List Your Portfolio/Website

If you are a freelancer take advantage of the many places to build a free portfolio online that links back to your primary domain. this will help you with search engine rankings while offering more exposure to your business. A good one to try Freelanced.com. They have a really cool widget you can link to on your blog that shuffles pictures of your work and catches people's attention. People can give you "kudos" and recommendations as well.

Business Cards

There are several websites that have fantastic deals on business cards. Design and print cards in bulk to save even more. Every time you go somewhere leave your card with people. Post it on bulletin boards etc. Business cards are almost always less expensive when ordered online, so do your research.

For a special touch, design the card custom, or have one designed inexpensively on Fiverr.com that you can have printed.

Social Media

Use Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ as a way to advertise your business. It's a great way to maintain contact with customers and gain popularity. You can use these tools to host promotions, contests, and other activities. In addition these sites are a great way to share valuable information with others which also lends to your credibility. Write a great article and tweet it out – this will draw new business leads. Don't overdo it though - nothing annoys followers faster than every single tweet being self-promotion.

Mailing List

Give your website visitors the opportunity to sign up for a custom mailing list. Do not use this to spam people, but send out regular valuable content and promotions to keep your clients/customers coming back. A great newsletter goes a long way in developing customer trust and loyalty. Spend time on this, don't just slop something together.

Community Bulletin Boards

Most communities have some locations where there are free bulletin boards to place advertisements. Place fliers with business cards at several of these locations. Make them really stand out from the crowd. For my photo restoration business, I printed my flier on photo paper and attached business photograph postcards that people could take with them.

HubPages & Other Similar Sites

Writing for sites like HubPages or similar sites allows you to write about what you know. Your passion for your topics is a great way to establish your credibility and get new followers. You can also network with other writers and freelancers who share common goals. The back links to your website from your profile are also great ways to boost your own popularity. Do not use these sites for “spammy” purposes however, because it hurts everyone. Do use them as a way to showcase your knowledge by writing meaningful articles, stories, or tutorials that benefit your readers.

Car Magnets

Car Magnets with your logo and URL are a very economical way to advertise every time you drive. They cost very little and can be placed or removed as needed.

Refrigerator Magnets, Notepads, or Pens

All of these can be made up fairly cheaply and used as giveaways or promotional items. They keep your name "in view" and can often prompt calls and new leads. Order online for the biggest savings. Check sites like alibaba even for customizable items. If you are purchasing in bulk; you can often save money using their services.

Event Setup

Set up a table at a local fair, flea market, or other event where you can hand out brochures, samples, business cards etc. You should engage people by letting them enter to win a contest or passing out coupons – anything of this nature. It's a great way to make a “face to face” impression and is usually a lot of fun too. **Be sure to check the laws in your local area concerning these activities!**

Free Samples

“The proof is in the pudding” or so they say. Have free samples available for people to try. When I was selling soaps at craft fairs I would staple little baggies with soap samples in them to my business cards. It was a very economical way to create value and draw future customers.

List on Merchant Circle & Thumbtack

Merchant Circle, Thumbtack, and other similar websites allow you to list your business locally for free. They also give your customers the opportunity to post reviews of your business as well. If you have a brick and mortar store in addition to your online business, be sure you are listed correctly on Google Maps so that people can locate you easily.

Craigslist

Use Craigslist to advertise your services or sell your items for free. Please don't spam or place listings in multiple categories every single day. This will hurt your business and is not helpful. Instead do a nice listing in HTML so that you can use headings and easy to read text and you'll be ahead of most others who post there.

SEO your website locally

SEO (search engine optimization). Your website should ideally be search engine optimized for your local area as well as overall. Targeting your geographic location typically allows you to move higher in search engine queries specific to your area. Think about it when people are looking for a plumber online – they are likely going to search “plumber + your city”. Optimizing for these keywords will be of benefit to your business.

Yahoo Local & Google Maps

Have your business listed for free on Yahoo Local and have markers placed on Google Maps. This ties in to the same premise as above – driving more targeted local traffic your way. It also helps if you have a mobile friendly website or at least a mobile friendly version your main site redirects to. Ensure that you include a Google Map and current contact information so people can contact you easily.


Add Your Business to Review Sites

There are a few websites where you can list your website, offer coupons and specials, and allow people to rate your business etc. These websites specialize in matching local merchants to customers. Setting up links on websites like Yelp, Merchant Circle, and others can help grow your business and also increase your website traffic with back links.

Donate Products or Services to Quarter Auctions

Quarter Auctions are all the rage and are typically used to raise money for various charitable organizations. People who host quarter auctions are always looking for quality vendors to donate items to be auctioned off. During the auction people will learn about you and your business. Donating to worthwhile community causes also develops your reputation.

Exchange Services For Advertising

A great way to reach more people is to trade your product or service for advertising space. If you sell a product other businesses need for example, you can offer to do their project for free if they will in turn place your business cards on their counter. This works well for businesses that complement one another. For example, a few local antique shops have my business cards and fliers displayed for my photo restoration business. I did this by offering to do a couple of free photos for the owners. They enjoyed them so much that they give me word of mouth referral and my advertising is in a niche location that is not directly competitive with the shop owners.

Create a Custom T-Shirt

Have some custom T-shirts, hats or other items made and give them away to friends and family members who will actually wear them. Be sure to wear your own regularly as well. This gets your name/logo out in the public eye whenever you are grocery shopping or running errands, you are also your own billboard. CafePress is a great website to order up a few custom goodies.

Customer Referral Incentives

This works very well. Offer a valuable freebie to your existing customers who refer others or run an affiliate program through your website. Let others sell for you in exchange for great products or even commissions.

Answer Questions

Spend time answering questions on experts sites or answers sites. Websites like Experts123 or Yahoo Answers are a great way to give people feedback and establish your credibility as an expert. Take the time to write thorough, thoughtful answers to people's questions. Sometimes you can back link in your sources and gain traffic to your websites.

Classified Ads in Small Local Papers

Many locations have smaller newspapers that cater to the local area. Classified advertisements in these papers are typically much less than advertising in large papers or print magazines. Look for smaller publications in niche areas also because not only will advertising rates be cheaper, the odds of reaching people interested in your product or service will also increase.

Press Releases

If you do something totally unusual or have something that has great local flare/value you can use a press release to try to generate some publicity. Host a community event or run a contest – anything that can generate some publicity and send out a free press release.

Give Live Demonstrations

If it's applicable to your business, sign up for events or fairs and actually demonstrate your craft or business. Beyond just handing out fliers and freebies, let people actually see you at work doing what you do. This is a great way to generate interest and strike up conversations with others.

YouTube

Create a custom tutorial or some kind of fun video that highlights your expertise, experience, and also your business. YouTube videos often place very high in search engine rankings so focus it to your business and your local area.

Have a Contest or Giveaway

Everyone loves a contest or give away. Let people enter their name for a chance to win an item/service. You can also do essay contests, drawing contests for the kids, etc. Be creative and get people involved. Make sure the prize is something worthwhile.

Partner up and Cross Promote

Find another business where you complement one another but don't directly compete. Work out an arrangement to cross promote each others business or run co-specials.

Have you used any of these techniques to successfully market yourself or your small business?

  • yes - I've tried many of these
  • I've done some of them
  • There's a few things here I haven't tried yet - now I'm thinking!
  • I doubt most of these would work for me
See results without voting

© 2011 Christin Sander

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Comments 17 comments

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 3 months ago from Midwest Author

Thank you CYong74 Glad you found it helpful :)


CYong74 profile image

CYong74 3 months ago from Singapore

Great reference. Very valuable for those starting out.


vietzay profile image

vietzay 18 months ago from Hanoi

Thank you, it was useful and please keep it up


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 18 months ago from Midwest Author

Thanks rmmercer - no time like the present :) good luck if you do! appreciate the read and comment.


rmmercer profile image

rmmercer 18 months ago from Arizona

I love your short, concise ideas. Makes me want to start a business just so I can use some of them!


gpishev profile image

gpishev 3 years ago from Bulgaria

Thanks! Great and useful ways to promote your business. I am currently on the "website promotion" thing :)


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 4 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks for the comment planetway. Glad you enjoyed the hub


planetway profile image

planetway 4 years ago from Centre of the Known Universe

I've tried most of these at one time or another, but not all. Thanks for the extra tips!


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 4 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks for the comment loveme much appreciated :)


Lovelovemeloveme profile image

Lovelovemeloveme 4 years ago from Cindee's Land

some really good ideas on here! thanks fr the good hub.


perassanna 4 years ago

great hub christin S,

some of these are i tried and some are new to me, people who is going to try this should think about the target market of them before try this, coz all 25 techniques wont workout for your business.

my favorite is free samples.


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 5 years ago from Midwest Author

ktrapp thanks for your comments here - I totally agree with you on the "home page" thing. Title tags are very easy. I have used VistaPrint in the past, but there are actually printing services on eBay that are less expensive and very high quality. The bonus they'll print a totally custom design so I can use InDesign and convert it to a pdf and they use all my own fonts/colors etc.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting on the hub :)


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois

This is a very well thought out and comprehensive list. I have done many of these things for myself and some of my website clients. I am amazed at how many businesses do not list their business on Google Places - and it's free. Trying to optimize your business locally is key especially for businesses that offer local services.

I have also used vistaprint for postcards and business cards. They have a lot of templates to choose from and of course you can customize them with your own logo. They are a nice quality too. Sometimes you can get certain quantities for free, but even if you don't the prices are very reasonable.

As far as SEO goes even if someone does their own website without a professional, at the very least they should make a good title tag - not "home page" - that drives me nuts! And of course inbound links are an important part of helping search engines find your site. So why not join the local chamber of commerce and get a link back to your site; does your town's website include a list of local businesses - get a link added if it does; and so forth.

Thanks for all your good ideas!


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

Bookmarking this for future reference, great info.


Davida 5 years ago

Thanks for taking the time to share these great ideas. I would be posting this article to give my MLM team ideas for marketing their businesses.


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 5 years ago from Midwest Author

You're welcome E.M glad you found them useful :)


E.M. Hughes profile image

E.M. Hughes 5 years ago from Kentucky

Fantastic ideas! Thanks for sharing!

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