Owning three small businesses over the years, I’ve tried all sorts of free marketing ideas from flyers that were treated like junk mail to business cards that were handed out and never seen again. Like everything in life, I’ve learned that free business marketing is not actually free, rather it demands an investment of time instead of money and the willingness to reduce my profit margin on initial future business. Then, with time, this kind of marketing grows by word of mouth. Here are the free business marketing ideas I find most efficacious in today’s market.
An effective free marketing idea revolves around incentivizing existing customers to recommend your business to others. Unlike a newspaper or radio advertisement, a direct recommendation between people who know each other will contain an element of trust. To promote my floral home delivery business, I used to give a free bouquet to both the new customer and the referring one. Some companies offer a 10% discount on future services or a store credit to the referring party. You may also offer a rebate check, but this will prove more costly as you’ll be deducting the full retail value from your profit.
Flyers that Work
Flyers offer an effective free marketing tool if used correctly. I designed a flyer on scroll-like paper (found in office supply stores) to establish a sense of aged reliability. I then added the term “family owned”. You can use similar terms like “5 years of excellence”, “Operating since 1992” or “located in the beautiful Bellevue Square Mall across from Nordstrom”, in which case your business will seem reputable because of its location. Finally, I handed out my flyers in places where a core of customers could be found. For example, when I owned a Kosher food store, I handed out flyers at the Jewish Community Center.
Facebook & Twitter
In today’s market, Facebook and Twitter offer a free business marketing opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. It’s easy to create a page on Facebook, which will become an online storefront where you can share business promotions daily, such as discounts or free upgrades, as well as intriguing stories that relate to your business area. For example my friend who owned a roofing company shared a link to a humorous article about the history of roofing and the expression “raining cats and dogs”. Similarly, a twitter account offers another venue for sharing Facebook posts. The more fans and followers a company gains, the more its online credibility will grow.
Pet contests have a way of creating a great buzz. Once your Twitter and Facebook business presence are established, you can advertise a pet contest that relates to your business. For example: if you run a cleaning service, have a Pet Maid or Janitor Contest. Advertise the contests locally with flyers and distribute them to your local Humane Society or vet’s offices. For a prize offer a service or product from your business which you wish to bring to public attention. For example: to create a buzz around my clothing line I offered a free outfit for each member of the wining family.
The best free business marketing in my eyes is one that keeps the customer coming back. Home Depot became famous for offering lessons on a wide range of home improvement projects. In my friend’s guitar store, he invites local amateur musicians to perform every Wednesday, after which he teaches a free guitar lesson. This gives likeminded people a place to come and interact, and your business becomes more than a vendor.
Combining free business marketing with a worthy cause will automatically recommend you by proxy to anyone who believes in that cause. If you espouse a local charity that you believe in, your business will gain the reputation of a key player in your community. I recommend order hats with your company logo. When you volunteer, wear a T-shirt or sweat shirt with the company logo and hand out the hats to other volunteers. Finally, contact the charity to receive flyers or posters and display them in your business.
Finally, to track the success of your free business marketing, ask new costumers how they heard of your business. This will give you a clear indication of where to spend your time on further marketing efforts.
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