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17 Ideas to Market and Grow Your Small Business Online

For big businesses, marketing is a breeze. There’s a large advertising budget to dip into, making it easy to get noticed both online and out in the world. However, for small businesses, marketing isn’t so easy. It’s difficult to compete with larger brands and it’s hard to market with just a small budget. Luckily, there are still a number of tactics you can apply. Read on for low-cost and even free marketing options that are just perfect for small businesses, including those that are hoping to scale over time.

Email Marketing

E-mail marketing reigns supreme, so if there’s no other method you’re currently using, start there. Constant Contact and MailChimp are a couple of options. The cost is often free until you have a certain number of subscribers, so you may be able to get away with paying nothing at first.

Why is e-mail marketing so effective? Possibly because it’s highly desired. According to Marketing Profs, one-third of consumers prefer e-mail marketing when compared to other methods. Aim to send one e-mail every week. Once you’ve tested a few days and times, you’ll find a schedule that works best.

Well Designed Website

Make sure that your website is optimized for mobile viewing. People go online on-the-go, so if they can’t access your site from their mobile device, you might as well not have a site at all. To make it easy on yourself, use a website template that will automatically convert to mobile viewing. If you’re working with a designer, make sure they know how to optimize the site for mobile.

SEO

Do your SEO research. No matter what products or services you’re offering, you need to apply SEO best practices. This is the only way you’ll show up in organic search results. When your search engine result placement (SERP) is good, you’ll get more visitors to your website. For most companies, more visitors means more conversions to actual customers. Yes, you can pay for Google Adwords to ensure you’ll show up in certain searches, but organic is still the best option. Today, people are turned off by obvious advertising; you need something more undercover to truly reel them in.

Facebook Marketing

Be smart about your Facebook ad demographics. You can spend $50 a month to reach a small number of people in a broad audience, or you can spend half that amount to reach more people in your niche audience. In the end, you need quality reach; quantity isn’t nearly as important. Play around with demographics and figure out how to reach the most amount of people in your audience for the least amount of money. Then, when you’ve got your audience down pat and they seem to be engaging with you ad, consider increasing your ad budget by a few dollars.

Tap Into Other Businesses

Expand your network. When you work with other business owners, you can tap into their client base without spending any money. You don’t need to become pals with your direct competitor, but you can make connections with people in related businesses.

For example, if you run a bakery that offers single-serve treats, like cupcakes and cookies, partner with a nearby coffeeshop. You can offer coffeeshop customers a discount on baked goods. What does the coffeeshop get? They’re seen as more favorable by their customers. Plus, nothing goes better with sweet treats than coffee! Also make sure to trade coupons, fliers, and website links to further cross-promotion.

Giveaways

Give away free items. You don’t have to hand out your best products, but you can give away freebies to attract new customers. People love free stuff, no matter what it is. For example, if you run an ice cream shop, attend local farmers markets and give away small cups of ice cream. Once customers get your delicious freebie, they’ll be more likely to make a bigger purchase on the spot or check out your shop next time they’re ready for a yummy cone. If you run an online services business, offer a free download, like a helpful marketing guide. Make sure to give away an item that people will enjoy, not something they’ll immediately throw out or lose.

Networking

Even businesses that cater to an international audience are based somewhere. Don’t ignore your community, which is where a lot of your clients are waiting for your type of business. Attend area networking events and make sure to introduce yourself to others. If possible, try to present at some of these events, too. Whenever someone is in the need of your product or service, you’ll be the first person they think of. You can also think of small ways to get more exposure in your community, like creating bookmarks with your logo to leave at the library.

Plan Events

Plan your own event! This is a great way to meet new people and to get potential customers into your shop or eatery. Make it an irresistible event, like an open bar with complimentary snacks, to make sure the room is packed. Or, make it a reservations-only event, so you know exactly what your turnout will be ahead of time. When people have to pay for their ticket, they’re bound to show up. You may also want to throw a charity event. You’ll give back to the community or environment, increase goodwill, and attract new clients all at the same time.

Giving Back

Is there an organization that’s in need of some guidance? Offer to take the lead. Not only will you connect with others and get a platform from which to market your business, but you’ll also get a reputation for being an organized and effective leader. This is one of the best ways you can frame yourself and your company.

Podcast

Have you always felt like you had a knack for radio? Consider starting your own podcast. Yes, it can be difficult to get listeners at first, but it could lead to a very broad reach. If you have a B2B company, interview other business owners. People love talking about themselves and you’ll make new connections through the process. If you have a B2C company, consider interviewing certain standout customers.

Give Advice Away For Free

Be helpful and don’t be afraid of giving some advice away for free. For example, if you run a marketing business, offer some free advice to companies that look like they’re struggling. You’re not replacing their need for a marketer by suggesting how they improve their Tweets or Pinterest posts; on the contrary, you’re showing them that they need extra help when it comes to marketing. Since you start out by providing sound advice, they’re likely to go to you when they decide it’s time to hire a pro.

Know Why You Do What You Do

Make sure to always have your elevator pitch memorized. You never know when you’ll get the opportunity to market your business. You could be doing your laundry when you strike up a conversation with someone and realize they’re in need of your product. Your elevator pitch should take between six and eight seconds to recite, and it should clearly communicate what it is you sell or do.

Coupons

Offer coupons! According to Constant Contact, people will go out of their way to use a coupon. That means that even if they’ve never heard of your company before, they’re likely to purchase something simply because they have a way to save. You can also give coupons to current customers. When you offer a discount on their next purchase or order, they’re likely to return to give you more business.

Good Customer Service

Make sure to maintain your relationships with your current customers. It’s a lot easier to keep a customer than to gain a new one. Make sure that you stay in regular communication with your customer base and that you make them a priority.

Referrals

Ask your current customers for referrals and setup a referral program to reward both your customers and the people they point in your direction. Most people are willing to provide referrals if they’ve had a good experience with your company, but they may need a reminder or an extra push to do it. This is one of the quickest ways to get brand new clients for free.

Tap Into Reporters

Check out HelpAReporter.com. Reporters post queries that they need experts to respond to. If you respond and they use your advice or feedback, you’ll get a free shout-out in their piece. While many opportunities are with smaller media outlets, there are some that are for big media, too. Either way, this is a great way to create buzz and even contribute to your SEO strategy.

Local Sponsorships

Sponsor a local organization. This won’t cost a lot of money and it could result in a lot of exposure for your business. Be sure to pick an organization with the same audience as your business. Every time the organization sends an e-mail or participates in anything public, your business will get a mention.

When marketing a small business, every single dollar counts. Investments have to pay off quickly; the ROI has to be practically immediate. Savvy business owners and marketers can find a way to market any brand for any budget, even if it’s under $300 per month. Believe it or not, some freelancers even find a way to market themselves for free in the beginning. Thanks to available-to-all marketing platforms like social media, plus clever SEO techniques, it’s possible to help your business gain some traction even when you’re working with smaller budgets.