How to do free marketing for small business

One of the questions many small business owners ask is how to do marketing with no to low budget. You probably ask yourself the following questions – Do I need a website? How do I start my marketing? How can I get customers? Do I need social media? And this is a big one – how can I do marketing for free? Let me break it down to you. You may need all of the above, or only a few would do.  

First things first, why do you need to do marketing? The answer is you want to offer something of value to customers. There are a few keywords here, namely “offer”, “value”, and “customers”. I try to avoid using the word “sell” because I really want to change people’s mindset about how to do marketing properly. Conceptually, when you try to sell something to someone, your product is not naturally wanted by that someone. It could mean you have the wrong target market. Worse, you may need to spend lots of money to do advertising and promotions. And, as a small business owner, you should invest wisely. 

Before we continue, I want to make it very clear first that there is nothing free in the world. In order to achieve something, you will need to invest one or more of the following – time, effort, and money. There are of course some people who can achieve something quick with less effort. But they are an exception. I don’t want you to look at them as an example to follow. Be prepared for hard work. If you can get there quickly, great! But, if your effort takes time, you wouldn’t be disappointed. In our case here, we will focus on time and effort to do marketing. 

The role of marketing for any business is to create demand. Sorry it sounds boring, but it’s important. If you hope to do financially free marketing, you have to create demand for your product. Ask yourself these 2 questions:

  1. Why would people want to buy my product? I really hope your answer would be that your product solves someone’s problems. 
  2. Who are those people? A buzzword, a boring term for this is persona. What is it? Don’t be scared. Persona is a description of your ideal customers. It could be a fun exercise to describe your customers. For example, you may offer a weight loss program to “Kate”. Kate is a busy mom with 2 kids. She works full time and doesn’t have much time to take care of her health. 

The next step is to find out how your offer is different from other businesses in the market. This is a care question. Why would customers (Kate) care about your product? You don’t have to create a new smartphone to compete with Apple. You just need to spend time in a quiet corner to find your Unique Value Offering (buzzword ALERT!!!). As an example, you are looking for something like this – my weight loss program for Kate is different from other programs because Kate could do it while she is working. The keywords here are working mom, convenient, and time-saving. 

Once you get your UVO (Unique Value Offering), you have to hit it to death. Everything you do in marketing will be around this UVO. When people see your company’s name or your logo or your brand, they will think about this UVO. In a brand positioning world, it means you own the word e.g. Apple = innovation, Volvo = safety, Dominos = pizza. You get the idea.    

Where are we now? At this point, you should have a very good idea of your offer, your customers, and your positioning. It’s about time to tell your story to the world. When I say the world, I mean your business world. You need to be very specific in terms of the market you want to target. You cannot be everything to everyone. It will cost you a lot of money. Besides, if you want your business to be successful in the long run, you will need to build your brand one way or another. Brand building is a time-consuming and resourceful process IF you are not clear about your niche. 

You hear it right. I suggest that you create a small world with a very specific scope of your market. It is much easier to talk to a specific individual (e.g. Kate) than to a group of people. 

The next step is to find ways to communicate with Kate about your product. Below are some financially free marketing ideas that you can start with. Again, you will have to invest in something. If it’s not financial, it has to be your time and effort. 

  • Facebook page. It’s free and super easy to create a Facebook page. The most challenging thing is to post valuable content consistently. Many businesses created a Facebook page and left it without any update for a long time. I need to warn you that it requires a lot of work (posting and monitoring) to have a successful Facebook page. You have to offer content that impacts your customer’s life, and you have to be consistent. Be prepared to be in a long game. Success won’t come overnight.
  • Instagram is also free to create and requires the same hard work to consistently update with inspirational photos. You only need Instagram if your product can drive photo content. For example, if you own a restaurant, you may post photos of your food and your customers enjoy your food. I suggest that you pick either Facebook or Instagram to start with. You don’t need both. If you start with both at the same you will be busy with content creation instead of doing other things for your business.  
  • LinkedIn is great for a B2B business. If your product targets companies, creating a LinkedIn page is a no brainer.
  • Writing a blog. If you have a website (you should), you should have a blog section. It will help with search engine which will generate free traffic to your site. You can offer advice to help your customers solve their problems. 
  • Using intermediary websites. Sorry about another buzzword. If you don’t want to create a website, you can use someone’s else platform such as Airbnb, Menulog, 1300Flower. These websites are a middleman that brings suppliers and customers together. They are commission-based. It could be a good, quick way to put your business out there. However, be prepared to compete with lots of the same business in those platforms. 
  • Participating in online communities. You can easily google online communities in your product area. There are a lot of, for example, small business Facebook groups. When someone asks questions in your area of expertise, you should offer help in the forum. It will help put your name out there.  

There are definitely more ways to promote your business for (financially) free. The most important thing I want you to do is doing the homework of the very first step i.e. identifying your offer and your niche. Marketing is about communicating your unique value offering to customers. You have to be consistent in delivering those values, those benefits to be on top of mind of your customers.  

Apivut @ SiB

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