You don’t have to break the bank trying to advertise your start-up business.
There’s no need to get the hammer out and crash open that piggy bank you’ve been using for years. I’ve put together some simple and affordable ways to advertise and market your business on a shoestring budget, so put the hammer away, keep the piggy bank safe and check out these alternative options below.
I know when I started my first business close to 20 years ago, right out of college, everything I did was on a shoestring budget. Everything from grocery shopping to laundry chores included some sort of scrutiny to determine if I could afford to have it, do it or did I really need it?
The same goes for running your business too. You should always look at the advantages and disadvantages of a particular avenue of advertising to see what the return on your investment is going to be. You don’t want to waste money on costly marketing mistakes.
Here are 21 ways to Advertise Your Business on a Budget:
1) It’s important to get your name out there “On The Line” aka the INTERNET, use ‘My Google Business’ page to publish your business name, phone, address and website. When people search for your business or even your kind of services you want your business to pop up in the search.
2) A website is a must! There are plenty of free templates to use to create your own website, check out this one at Wix.com make sure you do a little research to learn how to enhance your SEO (Search Engine Optimization). You want to make it so that your website comes up ideally on the first page of a Google search. Check out this beginners guide to SEO.
3) Create a Facebook™ Business Page and invite friends and family to like and share it. Post daily content to keep people engaged, use pics, videos, inspirational quotes, and graphics, use the business page to let everyone know about your services, upcoming specials or useful relatable articles to what you offer.
4) Create Facebook™ ads to promote your business. This can be far less expensive than say, having a billboard made or advertising on the back of register receipts (which I highly discourage you from doing!) There is a right and wrong way to use FB ads, check out Courtney Foster-Donahue.com for awesome tips and tricks regarding Facebook™ for your business.
5) Find a networking group to join and meet up with other entrepreneurs who can share your info with their clients and vice versa. BNI or Business Networking International is a good place to start. If you don’t see a group to join create your own and invite other businesses to connect.
6) Connect with businesses that compliment yours and find a way to share clients. For example, a dog trainer might connect with a dog groomer, a hair salon might connect with a nail technician, a fitness instructor might connect with a health and wellness store or a landscaping contractor might connect with a home builder. The idea is that you can cross promote each other’s businesses and spread the word about each other’s services in order to grow your client lists.
7) Host an open house at your business. Invite all current clients and their friends and family to a get together with snacks, drinks and maybe some prizes. Use Facebook™ to create an event and invite everyone to your open house. Have other complimenting companies set up a booth or table at your event, they will invite their client list to your event.
8) Offer a free mini class to get people in the door. When I ran a dog training facility, I would offer a NEW DOG 101 class to all brand new pet parents who adopted their dogs from one of the local rescue groups I connected with. I covered simple basic stuff like puppy proofing the home, what toys are the best/worst and how to introduce their dog to kids or other dogs. The class was a great way to get people in the door and learn something valuable as well as a way for potential new clients to see the facility, meet me and hear about all the other awesome stuff we had to offer.
9) Create a Tips and Tricks Sheet to hand out at events or to share with other complimenting businesses. It can include any helpful advice for people that you want to eventually be your clients. Maybe it includes a step by step guide or a how to list or a cheat sheet of some kind. Make sure your business name, logo and contact info are attached.
10) Set up a Demo where you can show off what it is that you do. I used to go to the local parks and take one of my well-trained dogs to show off. People loved to see us working together and would always ask how I trained her to be so good. It was a perfect way for me to tell them who I was and what I did, I picked up a lot of clients this way. You could always set up somewhere with a little A-frame (sandwhich board) sign and some business cards. Drum up business by entertaining your audience with your know how.
11) Create an online Yellow Page listing and a Yelp listing. Gone are the days of phone books and paper book directories, now everyone looks online for a business. Make sure you can be found on all the popular listing sites.
12) Put together a gift basket for a local charity. This is a great way to share your product or even a gift certificate for your services to an audience that may not have been familiar with you before.
13) Write a blog series to post on your website as well as share on your Facebook™ Business page. This is a great way to build brand awareness and become known as an expert in your niche. Share what you know with others.
14) Build a client list with a freebie. Put together some sort of freebie like a how to video, cheat sheet, e-book or a checklist and use an email service like Convertkit, or MailChimp to capture email addresses in exchange for the freebies you offer. Once people click on the link to receive the freebie you now have their email address and can offer them other goodies or promotions you have coming up or you can send them a monthly newsletter.
15) Guerrilla marketing is one of my favorites. It can be cheap or expensive depending on how creative you get. Guerrilla marketing is a way to advertise in a very unusual and typically unconventional way. It’s bold, eye catching and usually gets people to stop dead in their tracks and comment on it, take pics of it or share it with others via posts on social media. Here are some funny examples:
16) A referral program is a great way to advertise and drum up business as well. You can use your current business card layout and add a referral line on the back of the card. You hand the card to your current client and tell them how “a referral is the best kind of compliment they can give you”, the client puts their name on the line on the back of the card and shares the card with their friends or family. When the new client comes in with the card in hand you can give the old client some sort of incentive to invite more people to your business. This is the cheap word of mouth advertising!
17) Reach out to a local news station and pitch to them to run a story on you and your business. Put some news worthy spin on the reason you want them to come out and interview you. Maybe you have a unique spin on a service you offer, maybe you are offering something never before seen in your area.
18) Reach out to your local Assemblyman/woman and invite them to a ribbon cutting ceremony at your grand opening. This worked great for us and ended up as great publicity for the business.
19) Put your business branding on your vehicle. Look into vinyl graphics for your car, truck or van. Make your vehicle a moving billboard. No matter where you go people will see your business branding. The more eye catching and creative you can make it the better the results (think #15 Guerrilla marketing)
20) Find business ambassadors to promote your business. This could be a high school or college student who tends to be socially savvy and likes to post on social media. You can set up a brand ambassador program through a high school or college. The student potentially earns credit while interning with you. They are there to help you on the day to day tasks but their focus is on sharing your business with as many people as possible. A possible example is a photographer who shoots high school senior pictures; the photographer shoots the photos of the senior for free or at a discounted rate, in exchange the student shares the photos with friends and family and talks about who took the photos and how great the experience was, the idea being that the student drums up business for the photographer. We used a brand ambassador for your dog training business. We chose one student to take our classes for free and share their journey from start to finish and everything in between on social media. People became very interested in following the story and ultimately reached out to us for the same results with their dogs.
21) Hold a contest, everyone likes to try to win something. Put together a news worthy contest to get people to enter and promote it on social media. The more people to enter, the more publicity your business gets. In addition, your list of potential new clients grows and grows, after all, these were people that were interested when there was something for free (a possibly win) they might still be interested in becoming a paying customer even after the contest is over.
Sometimes you have to think outside the box when you’re on a shoestring budget. Until you can afford higher cost advertising focus on the grassroots marketing efforts that rely on good old networking, connections, and word of mouth advertising. Your efforts will pay off if you nurture your relationships and don’t let them grow stale. Stay on top of advertising and try multiple methods before getting discouraged and throwing in the towel. Be sure to pick one or two methods to focus on at a time otherwise you won’t know which methods are the best return on your investment of time and money.