The zero dollar marketing plan

When you’re first starting out with a new business, money is often very tight.  While there’s no such thing as ‘free’ in the business world, a little time and sweat equity can be a good substitute for money when it comes to starting out with your marketing.

There are several marketing channels you can take advantage of without spending a dime.

Social Media

It’s important to be where your customers are. Setting up pages on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and anywhere else that your potential clients find yourself can make it easier to engage with your potential customers. It’s important not to let these pages get too stale. If you’re on social media, it’s imperative that you post at least once a month so that people know you’re still active. Having a poorly maintained social media presence can be worse than having no social media presence at all. If your last post was from 8 months ago, potential customers may assume you’ve gone out of business and move on.

Classifieds Sites

Classifieds sites such as Kijiji, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace can be great places to advertise your services.  They all have free tiers for placing ads with optional upgrades to improve visibility.  When placing an ad on any of theses sites, be sure that the headline very clearly states what it is that you do.  In the description be sure to include all the services that you provide with detailed explanations including any keywords people may be looking for.  For example, if you’re an auto mechanic be sure to list the manufacturers of cars that you work on. These sites will search the descriptions when a visitor is searching for a product or service so the more detail you have, the better chance you have of showing up in search results.  

Networking Groups

There are many networking groups out there and most are hungry for new members. These groups have the added benefit of helping you get to know other business owners in your area who you might be able to form a mutually beneficial working relationship with.  There’s are referral based groups like BNI.  These groups exist with the intention of sending referrals out for the other members of your group with the knowledge that you’ll in turn get referrals back.  The focus tends to be on helping out other rather than yourself which may seem counterintuitive but it truly does work.  There are usually multiple BNI groups in any city and they allow non-members to visit up to two times before they expect you to apply to join. 

There are also networking groups geared towards specific industries such as the Rising Tide Society, a networking group geared towards Creative Professionals with chapters in many cities across the world.  These groups are less about marketing and referrals, and more about getting to know the other people in your industry.  This can be very beneficial for a new business starting out. Established businesses often charge higher prices and may have more business than they are able to handle themselves.  For established businesses, knowing a newcomer to the industry can be a good referral partner for these businesses as they have somewhere to send clients who may be looking for a lower cost alternative or simply excess business.  These groups can also be a great way to better learn about your industry, learn from the mistakes of others and can be a huge kick-start to your business.

Business Directories

It is incredibly important to get your name out there.  The most popular sites are Google Business and Yelp.  Having your site listed on these platforms can help improve your credibility as a business.  Even if you don’t have a physical address for your business, you can still list your site on these services with the option to not show a physical address.  There are also local business directories for pretty much every city in the world.  These usually have a free option to get your business listed.  

Facebook Groups

There are a myriad of buy and sell Facebook groups and undoubtedly you’ll be able to find one where people are often looking for someone who does what you do.  Being able to put your name out there when someone creates a thread looking for the services you provide can pay dividends.   Even if the thread creator doesn’t go with you, others will see the post and in turn your name.

The Bottom Line

It takes time to build up your business to the point where you can afford to start putting money back into it. These channels allow you to advertise without spending any money on your marketing. As a new business owner (or perhaps just one going through a troubling time) you’d be remiss to miss out on any free marketing opportunities.

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