Remember when social media started gaining momentum and small business owners everywhere were rubbing their hands with glee? Massive online publicity, the chance to engage with customers and build a personalized brand – all without spending a dime?

OK, so it wasn’t long before Facebook and Twitter caught on to boosting posts and targeting ads, but the fact is, if you’re good at it, you can be successful on social media and content marketing in general without investing your hard earned cash.

What you will have to be prepared for though, is investing your precious time. It would be great to have the luxury of a huge marketing budget like a Fortune 500 company and shortcut your way to the right PR. Paid advertising, remarketing and a whole department dedicated to social media, but a lot of small business owners simply don’t find themselves in that position.

Marketing Strategies Small Business Owners Can Do Themselves

Until you get to where you want to be, you may prefer techniques that cost time, rather than money. Figure out how valuable your time is first – there may be tasks you can delegate to other staff members or outsource – or you may want to try them all by yourself.

Building up your organic traffic on Google works with the right tail wind and the right tactics. If you can get your content to go viral, build links and establish your social proof, you can be successful without paying an advertising or SEO company.

Check out these creative marketing ideas small business owners can do themselves…or as I like to call them, 30 awesome marketing techniques that will cost you time, not money!

1. Create Your Own Wikipedia Page

The importance of social proof and your organic online presence is gaining more power over advertising. A page on Wikipedia is an excellent way to support this for your personal or business brand. Wikipedia is more often than not the first page to show up when you google just about any person or business. Which shows how much weight this important page has in Google’s algorithm. 

2. Provide Product Reviews and Endorsements

If you go about this the right way, providing product reviews and endorsements can be a win-win situation for all. There’s a plethora of online review sites these days, with some 70% of consumers now seeking online opinions before they buy. But writing a review can actually help out your own business as well as the one you’re writing about.

How? By asking the site in question to link back to yours. Make a list of the products or services you want to endorse. Contact their founders and ask their permission to provide a write-up or testimonial on your site. In exchange for your glowing review read by potentially engaged customers; ask them to link back to your site to increase traffic all around.

3. Give Your Customers Freebies

Everybody loves getting something for free. Whatever line of business you’re in, creating perceived value for your customers is always a winning tactic. If you make handmade soaps, then offer a free product after the purchase of every ten. If you sell higher ticket items, create a contest in which you gather information or ideas.

If you offer a service like software or online courses, you could give away free advice, by providing a downloadable PDF. “10 Top Tips for Learning Coding,” for example. Use it as a chance to capture customer information and build your newsletter subscribers and database

4. Create Your Own Blog

Creating a blog is fairly simple with all the resources available to you online. You don’t even have to spend any money to get one up and running. Blogging is a great way of enhancing your content marketing strategy as it helps drive traffic to your site and support your message.

It’s also a great way of positioning yourself and your company as an expert or thought-leader in a given area and providing sharable content for your social media platforms.

5. Comment on Other People’s Blogs

With this might sound a bit passé, commenting on other relevant industry blogs isn’t the same as leaving a link to your site. Dropping links to your site from blogs and forums is now a discouraged practice by Google; but commenting is not. What’s the point of commenting if you can’t get links? Because you can add value and get exposure.

Say you’re in the health and fitness industry. Jot down a list of 10 blogs that offer similar products or services to you. Each time they write a new blog post, read it and leave an effective comment. A lot of your customers will also read your competitors’ blogs. So if you can add a positive comment that also gives an opinion and maybe an extra piece of information, customers will start seeing you as the go-to person for information.

6. Grow Your Social Media Channels

Growing your social media networks helps to build your influence and goes a long way towards validating your social proof. But, before you go gung-ho and try to register for every platform out there, spare some thought for your time. And also your image.

There are tons of social media networks out there, but don’t waste your time on the ones you know your customers aren’t going to be. Facebook and YouTube continue to have the highest number of users. LinkedIn and Twitter are great ways of making contacts that can grow your business. More on that later.

7. Publish Regular Content

Once you have your own blog and social channels in place, be sure to publish regular content. Not only will you keep yourself in the mind of your followers but you’ll attract more visitors and generate more traffic to your site. Consistent posting is key, so don’t open your accounts and leave them hanging.

8. Engage on Your Social Networks

There’s not much point in expanding your social media network if you’re not going to engage with your customers. A positive comment needs to be acknowledged. A complaint provides you with an opportunity to turn a disgruntled customer into an advocate. Ignoring your fan base and leaving their questions unanswered will also give others a bad impression of your company.

Engaging on social also applies to other sites where you can find sources of information and engage in meaningful conversations. It’s a great way of winning new customers as they can see what you have to say and come over to your site to check you out.

9. Grow Your Email List

It can sometimes seem like a mammoth task gathering subscribers for your newsletter. Not everyone appreciates being surprised by a pop-up asking for their details. So make it as easy as possible for people to opt in, by using a program like SumoMe to capture leads quickly. Providing free content and downloads is another great way of expanding your subscriber list.

10. Build Links

Pre-Penguin, link building was relatively easy and link schemes abounded. These days going out and buying yourself a bunch of links will land you with a Google penalty. Anyone who’s been squashed by a panda or penguin will tell you it’s not a very pleasant experience, and kind of hard to shake off.

So, as with all your marketing efforts, make sure your link building tactics are white hat and legitimate. Don’t buy links. Don’t use SEO agencies. Don’t over-use the same anchors or try to manipulate your ranking.

As well as authority and popularity, one of Google’s most important metrics is relevance. So if you’re in the legal niche, try to find similar sites and share your content with them.

11. Find and Replace Broken Links

Broken links hurt your SEO through a two-pronged approach. First of all, no customer likes landing on a page and being faced with an error message. Chances are, they won’t come back. Secondly, broken links have a negative impact on your website’s ranking with search engines. So make sure you don’t have any by using an online tool, like broken link checker.

12. Write Guest Blogs

By now, you may start to be feeling pretty busy and guest blogging is going to take up a whole lot more of your time. But this can be a great practice if you do it well. Try to find blogs that are in the same industry as you, that are popular, or have a high trust flow. There’s nothing like a well-placed link on a high domain site, like Forbes or Huffington Post to position you as a thought leader and raise your SERP.

13. Try a Little Cross Promotion

One of the oldest tricks of the trade, cross promotion doesn’t have to conjure up images of shady salesmen selling you more than you need. All cross promotion is really about is helping each other out.

If you have a copywriting business, it’s only logical that your client may be looking for a website designer. If you work with foreign students, they may need language or translation services. Create a partners page for your site and find businesses who offer complementary (but not competing) services.

14. Host Online Webinars

This may take time and effort to prepare, but hosting a webinar can provide great value for customers, while increasing visibility. It’s also a great way of capturing customer details. If you can collaborate with influencers in your industry, your webinar will be more popular and get a lot of hits.

15. Start a Podcast Series

Podcasts are gaining in popularity because they’re easy to listen to on your way to work, while you’re exercising or driving your car. By delivering a strong and confident voice in your podcast you can gain respect and position yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

16. Help a Reporter Out (HARO)

Help a Reporter Out is an excellent tool for getting yourself cited in online publications and podcasts. Simply sign up as a source and tick the areas of interest to you (lifestyle, business and finance, etc.) and you’ll receive three rounds of emails a day from reporters requesting help with a story.

You’ll find just about any subject under the sun here and a lot of requests that won’t be relevant, but you’ll also find some publications asking for help in your niche. Simply send them a decent pitch (there’s a template for this on their site) and link to your product or website. You don’t even have to write an article, as that’s their job.

17. Reach Out to Journalists

How do you reach out to journalists? The best platforms for this are LinkedIn and Twitter. Find the publications that you’d like to get published on and the journalist who speaks in the kind of voice you’re looking for. Share their content, follow them on Twitter and if they follow you back you can start a dialog going. You may offer an incentive, such as a free product trial, trade or discounted service.

18. Start an Affiliate Marketing Program

This is another win-win situation for all parties and works by offering your best customers a percentage of any work they recommend to you. You get more clients and they get a thank you for referring the business.

19. Send Automatic DMs on Twitter

This is fast becoming a growth hacking tactic and, love it or hate it, a carefully crafted automated direct message on Twitter can work wonders. Instead of some person randomly following and you then dropping off into the Twitter abyss; they’ll remember your name and what you do, even if they don’t react in that moment.

20. Get Active on Google+

You might not personally use Google+, but it’s a great platform to help build up exposure for your brand because it’s Google’s social media platform. Google takes your business’s information and creates a presentation box, which can position your company well. It’s worth working on a great profile here as it will be displayed openly and organically on the web.

21. Try Meeting People Face-to-Face

You don’t have to become one of those people who only talk about business, but then again, don’t forget that every new day brings new opportunities. You never know when you may meet someone who’s interested in your business, so have an elevator pitch ready and a business card handy.

22. Hold a Contest

Contests can be a great way of attracting new customers and encouraging interaction and engagement from your existing ones. The prize can be something that offers great value to your client, without you having to spend money.

For example, if you offer writing or marketing services, you can offer a free feature for a month. If you’re knowledgeable about mobile app coding, you can offer to develop the best app idea for free.

23. Apply for B2B Awards

Apply for business awards in your industry, as this is a relatively easy way of gaining credibility. There are always awards in marketing, PR, advertising, technology, and entrepreneurship. So be on the lookout and apply, as a prestigious award on your site costs nothing and can raise your profile.

24. Speak at a Conference

You might find the idea nerve-wracking at first, but giving a speech at a conference is the perfect way of getting your brand in front of the right audience. If you’re not sure where to start, try turning to Google and look for conferences with the keywords from your industry.

Do you work in Fintech? Technology? Online Marketing? Once the events and conferences begins to show up, you’ll likely find a tab that says “Become a Speaker,” if not, you can contact the hosts and inquire.

25. Upsell Your Current Customers

This is kind of a no-brainer and shouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable for any reason. As your company grows and you offer more great services, offer them first to the people who are already invested in your business – your existing customer base. More often than not, you’ll find that they are receptive to this as you already have a trustworthy, working relationship.

26. Publish Press Releases

There are several great free sites where you can publish press releases. But keep in mind that your press releases should be newsworthy. Launching a new product line may be interesting if you’re sourcing ingredients from a developing country, or working in partnership with a charity. Launching a new website, on the other hand, may not be so newsworthy for the rest of the world.

27. Send Out a Newsletter

Sending out a bi-weekly newsletter is a great way of keeping your clients in touch with your latest developments, offers and exclusive customer discounts. Rather like the press releases, so try to find content that’s actually of interest to your customers. It’s better to send a targeted, interesting newsletter once a month, than an insipid and vague collection of text that leads to loss of subscribers.  

28. Email Marketing

On that note, use your customer database for email marketing, without going over the top. If you bombard your customers with emails, you’ll see a very low click through rate, or people opting out. But if you can send an irresistible offer here, or a relevant message there, sending out emails costs nothing.

29. Bring Old Content to Life

This practice is often called “content curation” and has to do with link freshness. Once you write a blog post, don’t let it get stale and simply fall into the archives of your site. Go back through your posts and link to new articles from old ones, and to old ones from new ones. Interlinking blog articles will increase your search engine ranking and costs you nothing at the same time. Be sure to promote older posts and evergreen content from time to time as well.

30. Add Peer Reviews to Your Site

Peer reviews show transparency and potential customers are far more interested in hearing from a real customer who trialed your service, than listening to your marketing speech. Ask your customers for feedback by sending a simple email when your service is done or their product received. Make it easier for them by giving them check boxes to fill out. Peer reviews are gaining in importance, so harness them for the good of your credibility and trust.

31. Give Out Free Help

Here’s an extra one just for free, and while we’re on the topic – have you ever gone into a store and they’ve changed your watch battery or adjusted your glasses for free? How did it make you feel? In this day and age, we’re simply not conditioned to receive things for free and when we do it leaves a lasting impression. So give out free advice and help people when you can. You never know if they’ll turn out to be your next big client.

Christina is a copywriter, MBA, marketer, columnist and general life enthusiast with a love/hate relationship with monkeys.

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