The best things in life are free – why free marketing can still have a great impact
6th September 2019
Looking for a nice return on your marketing investment? What if that investment was zero?
Yes, that’s right, zilch.
If you’re a small business or just starting up, chances are you haven’t got too much money in the pot for marketing your business. That’s not to say, you don’t value it as an important component in your business strategy, it’s just one of those things that falls down the priority list.
But clearly marketing is hugely important. What good is providing an excellent service or product if no one knows about it?
Fortunately, there are some low cost marketing tactics that may even cost you nothing at all. And, if executed in the right way, they can provide you with both instant and long-term results.
Let’s start with one of the most basic…
Word of mouth
Yep, it’s easy to forget this one but you’ll know yourself the power of a strong endorsement. How many times have you asked around for advice and recommendations from friends and family? How many times have you run through reviews and testimonials before making a purchasing decision? Word of mouth is one of the most persuasive ways to get people turning to your business. But, it’s also one of hardest to harness and measure.
First off, underpinning everything, you need to offer excellent customer service. If people feel valued and listened to, you’re off to winner. Then you obviously need to deliver on expectations with your product or service. But, if you offer great customer service, this can actually soften any occurrences where you do fall short.
Harnessing word of mouth can be done in a number of ways. Make sure your website is set up to collect and display reviews and testimonials. Encourage referrals and repeat purchases through incentives. Get business cards printed so you can hand them out to satisfied customers. Ensure you and your staff are always closing a job by slipping in a polite request to ‘let others know about you’.
And, of course, sometimes the magic happens just on its own. If you create enough buzz and excitement around your business, you might just find that does the hard work for you.
Which leads nicely to the next point…
How exactly do you create buzz and excitement? How do you get people talking and writing about your business off their own backs? Well, ladies and gentleman, that is the art of Public Relations.
PR can get a bit of a bad rep as it’s seen as manipulative, but that’s just how it is. You need to be a bit cunning when it comes to securing free media coverage. This is, by its very nature, a hit and miss process. So, what are the best ways you can get that coverage?
One of the most straightforward is to write a press release.
Now, just putting together a bit of factual text about your business is fine but it might not be enough to get people writing about you. It needs to be well-written, have a newsworthy angle, an engaging title, and get to point quickly (journalists are busy people).
Another way is to hook in influential people by sending out samples and trying to get them to endorse your product. This is obviously a massively used tactic in the fashion industry. Have a think about who has influence over your target audience and the ways you could potentially get them to promote you. It’s a gamble but can really pay off if you land your target.
If you want to be a super creative, staging a PR stunt is one of the most fun ways you can generate exposure for your business. Think about your product or service and the problem it solves. Is there a fun way you can demonstrate this that will be funny, eye-catching, powerful, emotional or just plain silly? There are countless examples of successful PR stunts, and some of these may be expensive, but often simple, cheap, ideas can be just as successful.
Creating content is time consuming and can take time to see results. OK, we’re not really selling this are we? But, on the flipside, blogging or vlogging often won’t cost you anything and the long-term impact can be more substantial than those quick-win paid-for marketing tactics (We’re talking about you Google AdWords).
Let us explain…
Any business with an online presence needs to think about SEO. You’ll have seen those words around. This is basically the mechanics of getting your website pages as high up the search engine results as you can. It would take many articles to explain all the factors that come into play when determining the order of search rankings. (Here’s a good one from HubSpot) But one of the key components of SEO is content. You need to have content. And preferably good content.
Firstly, the more pages of content you have on your site the more pages Google will be able to crawl when churning out search results. If you only have the bare essentials on you site, then there’s less chance of this happening. The best way to do this is to have a blog area. That way you can regularly add more pages to your site without cluttering your core site layout. It also means you can talk about a host of topics related to your business which will demonstrate your expertise and add a more human tone to your site. Having a great blog can give you the edge over your competitors..
But don’t just leave it at your site. Guest blogging is another way to do two things: a) raise your profile; and b) generate much-needed backlinks to your site. Backlinks are important because search engines will also assess the quality of your content based on who and how many sites are linking back to it. This then has a bearing on where your pages rank in the search results.
Regardless of your business, there’s always content you can create that can enhance your profile and impact positively on your SEO – and your social media activity as well.
The perfect lead in to our final point…
Social media has been a game-changer in the marketing world. It’s fundamentally changed the way we communicate and, in a business sense, how we engage with brands. The most important thing in relation to this blog is: it’s free!
You should view your social media profiles as an extension of your website in that they are a sales channel. However, just using social media to churn out sales messaging will not win you any friends. Instead, look at social media as a way to humanise your brand and create a connection with your followers. By doing that, you not only get them engaging with your posts but they’ll also feel a kinship to your brand that will increase their likelihood to spend money with you.
Like all the things we’ve talked about there’s no exact formula to this, in terms of what to post. The key is to infuse your voice and personality into your activity whilst at the same time keeping sight of your objectives. Whilst you shouldn’t be too salesy, you also shouldn’t wander too far off the path of what you’re actually trying to achieve. Which is to raise your profile and ultimately boost sales. Clearly this doesn’t list every single marketing tactic you could apply. We’re sure there’s many more. But we have summed up what we think to be the most effective. The tried-and-tested tactics that will set you on the road to business success. So, what are you waiting for?
Huw Moxon is the Digital Marketing Manager for Informi, a website providing free advice for small business owners.