As a small business, there are many opportunities for growth with a smart marketing strategy.
But you’ve probably noticed a problem. Most of the marketing tactics out there are expensive!
A simple Facebook or Google ad campaign can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
So how can a small business use online marketing without the massive budgets of multinational corporations?
We send thousands of leads to local SMBs every month. Here are 13 free or very inexpensive ways to market your small business online.
1. Set goals and plan
Before you can start developing an online marketing strategy, you need to decide what your goals are.
This will dictate where you focus your efforts, where you choose to spend money, and ultimately how you define success.
If you have a low budget, you need to spend most of your time driving sales. Traffic is helpful, but it will only help your business grow if it leads to sales.
Decide exactly what you want to achieve in the next three to six months with your online marketing plan and write it down.
Do you want to get 50 new leads? Sell $100,000 in inventory? Make it clear so you can reach your target.
2. Build an email list
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: The money is in the list.
The simple truth is that an email list is the single most effective way to market your business online, and it doesn’t require a lot of time or money to get set up.
If you want a free option, you can start with MailChimp. You won’t have to pay a dime for your first 2,000 subscribers.
Grab the code to embed a simple opt-in box for subscribers. Even if you don’t have email marketing in place right now, you should get started with a list right away.
It will return huge rewards months or years down the road.
3. List your business on Google
If you haven’t registered your local business with Google, you’re not on the map!
Solve this problem by going to Google Businesses and selecting Start Now. Follow the prompts and register.
Google uses these listings when it delivers local results, and the money that comes from those local results is no joke.
If you register your business, you will acquire dozens of new customers and start establishing a solid web presence.
4. Boost your best Facebook posts
If you’ve ever tried Facebook advertising, you know the major frustrations.
Facebook Ads tend to be difficult to predict. While they sometimes work well, they frequently fall flat and fail to generate new conversions or customers.
These failed campaigns can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars before you realize the money has been wasted.
So, what’s the solution?
Boost Facebook posts that you know have already done well. To do it, find the Boost Post button at the bottom of your page updates.
If you’ve posted a piece of content with a call to action, like a link to your e-commerce store or email signup page, these are even more effective.
For just $5, you can promote this post to people outside your existing circle of fans and get even more traffic.
5. Run a giveaway
Giveaways and contests are lead generation strategies with massive potential. To get started, check with the regulations on giveaways in your locality.
Some states and countries have specific guidelines on what is allowed, so follow these regulations carefully.
If you’re in the clear, the possibilities are endless. The easiest option is to give away a free product.
This can either be something you produce or a related reward. Whatever you choose, make sure that it’s connected to the heart of your business.
Generic giveaways like Amazon gift cards and iPods make for fun gifts, but they are often unrelated to your company. Even the winners will soon forget what you’re all about.
Instead, offer highly related products, even if they’re small. Tiny rewards, like a one-month free trial or $10 item, can draw massive amounts of new traffic, leads, and customers.
The landing page for this campaign by Fatherly had a conversion rate of 85.94%, according to Wishpond. That’s insane!
6. Ask for reviews
The single biggest factor that influences most purchasing decisions today is customer reviews. How much time did you spend on TripAdvisor the last time you went on vacation?
According to Small Business Trends, reviews produce an average 18% uplift in sales.
While you can’t control what everyone says online, you can ask happy customers to post honest reviews of your business.
First off, identify the most important places for your reviews to appear. If you have a physical product, this may be a site like Amazon. For a local eatery, Yelp would be your go-to spot.
Whatever the location, send an email to recent customers (particular ones you know enjoyed what you have to offer) and encourage them to post a review.
If someone didn’t have a good experience, ask them to contact you. This allows them to get their problem resolved instead of posting a negative review.
7. Create a Facebook Page
The most powerful way to develop a brand is by building a loyal community around your product or service.
By appealing to a select group of people, you establish rapport and build a loyal following that wants to pursue what you have to offer.
This is how major companies have succeeded, from Apple to Pinterest. They started by building a community of loyal fans, then opened that community to others.
You can do the same with a Facebook Group. This can either be for your existing customers or for those who are interested in what you have to offer, even if they haven’t bought from you.
Provide extra resources and behind-the-scenes information for this group. As you build a loyal community, they’ll spread the word about your business.
8. Set up an online referral program
If you have happy customers, you can leverage that by offering a referral program.
This is a way to encourage your customers to share your product or service with their friends and get them to sign up.
Referral programs don’t have to be complicated. Simply use software like ReferralCandy and add the list of contacts you’d like to refer.
When someone works with you, provide them with their own URL for referral sales. Explain how much they’ll receive if someone signs up using their link.
Encourage them to share with their friends, but don’t push too hard. As your clients grow to appreciate and trust your brand, they’ll happily share with friends who would benefit.
9. Optimize your website for mobile
Data from Nielsen indicates that more people live in households with a smartphone than a household with a personal computer.
Clearly, mobile marketing is a must for any small business owner. So how are you going to reach out to those customers?
The answer is simple: You need to optimize your website for mobile traffic. This is probably easier than it sounds.
To get started, see where your site ranks right now. Open it up on a mobile browser, or even use the mobile test view on Google Chrome.
Once you have a feel for how your site displays on mobile, work to improve it. Update to a mobile-friendly theme, or even install an alternative mobile theme for your site.
If your site wasn’t prepared for mobile before, your online marketing campaigns will be exponentially more effective now that you can reach this huge market.
10. Include testimonials on your website
The most persuasive way to encourage others to invest in your site or product is through testimonials.
If you don’t already tell stories from customers who are excited about how well your product or service works, it’s time to add those stories to your online marketing strategy!
The easiest way to start is by contacting former customers who you know achieved success or enjoyed the product.
Encourage them to write to others explaining why they did business with you, what appealed to them most about the product or service, and any success they achieved with your help.
Post these prominently on your website, and include a photo if you get their permission.
11. Fix Google’s issues with your site speed
If you’re struggling to acquire search engine traffic, it could be because Google is penalizing your site for its speed.
But if that’s the case, you don’t need to guess at what’s the problem.
Google has its own tool to let you know any issues your site has. It’s called PageSpeed. You can easily track and repair any issues that might push you further down the search results.
If you’re unsure about how to solve one of the problems Google recognizes, you can hire a web developer to repair it.
The good news is that the problems you’ll encounter here are usually quick fixes, and the cost of solving them is usually a few hundred dollars or less.
12. Improve your site’s conversion
To build generate more leads from your website, you’ll need to learn who your visitors are.
Some of you have hundreds and even thousands of clicks each month, but no one gets in touch with you… What’s wrong?
Imagine if 1,000 people came into a physical store of yours, simply to leave 1 minute after.
This is a low-priced, fully-functional program that allows you to easily include pop-ups and other high-converting options for your users.
13. Test your site design
Every site has room for improvement. I’m constantly testing things on my own site!
To ensure that you’re converting as much traffic as possible, acquiring new leads, and making new sales, you need to test your website and improve the process.
To get started, I recommend you download a program like Optimizely. This will allow you to easily split-test elements on your site.
It is crucial for you to find a way to attract them, but also to convert them in contactable leads.
Once you improve your conversion rates, keep testing.
I’d recommend running a split test at all times. Always have one possible change in testing mode to see if it outperforms your current site layout.
Online marketing doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.
If you’re a small business with a low budget, you don’t have the luxury of spending tens of thousands of dollars.
Instead, you need to work smarter, not harder. With some careful planning, you can create a digital marketing plan that skyrockets your success.
If you feel you need help analyzing and making your business better online, head over to Toolbox.