Whether you run a small local business like a barber shop or you're a freelancer who offers his or her services to customers all around the globe, it pays to advertise online. And when you don't have the budget to support a paid advertising campaign, you can choose from a number of free marketing opportunities.
Free Online Classifieds
This can depend heavily on the type of business you run, but it may be possible to post free classifieds ads on websites like Craigslist to promote your products or services. Offer a good description of what you have to offer and remember to update your listings (or post fresh ads) periodically to maintain a steady flow of potential leads.
Social Media Channels
Businesses of all sizes can benefit from leveraging the power of social media. This can help not only in building up a brand presence online, but you can and should also use social media to engage with your customers and help generate referrals. The exact tactics and strategies will vary between platforms, so what might work on a Facebook business page may not be as effective for a Twitter marketing plan. Pinterest is a great platform to explore if your ideal customer profile fits with the demographics of the popular site.
Particularly if you have a physical local business with a brick and mortar location, online business directories can be a tremendous resource if you want to advertise online for free. Get listed in Google Search and Google Maps for free, being sure to provide useful business information like a description, address, and operating hours. You'll find the process is similar for sites like Zomato and Yelp as well. Creating a company page on LinkedIn can be useful too.
It may surprise you to learn YouTube is actually the second largest search engine on the internet, beat out only by Google itself. Creating a YouTube channel isn't nearly as intimidating as you might think, but the benefits can be truly tremendous. Create compelling videos that demonstrate your expertise or provide additional value to your current and prospective customers. Product overviews and tutorials can be great.
White Papers and Infographics
White papers are authoritative reports or documents that explore or explain complex subjects within a given industry. A business white paper can serve as an excellent marketing tool because it can help to demonstrate your expertise in your niche. In addition to publishing the research report on your own website, you may explore where you can submit a white paper for free. Infographics can serve a similar purpose and have the potential of being shared online or even going viral.
Social Bookmarking Sites
Related to but distinct from social media sites, social bookmarking sites empower users to share online content they enjoy with other users on the platform. This natural curation process, which can be largely democratic in nature with upvotes and downvotes, can help to expose your company brand and what it offers to new audiences.
One of the key tenets of internet marketing for small businesses is to add fresh content regularly to your company website. Depending on the kind of business you have, it may not be appropriate to add and remove products all the time, but that's where having a company blog can be an excellent solution. A frequently updated blog keeps the site content dynamic, and it provides an "excuse" to share this fresh content with your newsletter subscribers and social media followers.
Discussion Forum Signatures
Seek out discussion forums that are relevant to your industry. While being careful not to be too outwardly promotional, as this can get you banned from many sites, offering your insight and participating in conversations can help establish you as an expert in your field. Take advantage of the signature you can append to each post, as it is here that you can mention you are the "CEO of Company XYZ, a leading provider of ABC widgets."
Promote Your Business Online
You don't need to have a massive marketing budget to be effective with promoting your business on the internet. There are many free avenues worth exploring if you're willing to put in the time to manage them well. Be sure to measure and track your performance so you'll know where your effort is delivering the best results.