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I remember when I first started trying to get my business out into the online world. I didn’t have hundreds or thousands of dollars to market myself. All I had was $100 in my account and the drive to succeed. But reading about ads, paying for influencers, and everything else confused me. How did I expect to be found in a sea of businesses and websites just like mine? Who was I to sit there and try to make a name for myself?
However, because of my determination and grit, I learned that you can market your business, both online and off, without spending a small fortune. And when you’re first getting started, you have to find creative ways to get your foot in the door. When you’re learning how to market your business, and trying not to spend money, you just have to get creative.
Free Ways To Market Your Business
Okay, first let’s talk about the completely free things you can do to get your business out there.
Utilize Social Media
While social media may seem like a time suck, it is one of the best free ways to market yourself and your business online. The key is to find the platform you’re good at and be consistent with it. For example, my two favorite platforms are Pinterest and Instagram. When I look at my analytics, I know that many of the people who find me on social media do so through Pinterest and Instagram.
Things may be different for you. Maybe you’re good at Facebook, or Twitter. Maybe LinkedIn is where your audience is. And that’s fine! I always suggest to start on all platforms, and then hone them down based on who you’re attracting. So in other words, if you find out that Instagram isn’t gaining traffic, but Facebook is, focus on Facebook.
Tell Your Network
Everyone has a network. It could be friends. It could be family. Hell, it could even be people you game with online. But I can guarantee you that even if friends and family can’t use your products or services, they know someone who can. And, it’s completely free to tell your network about the products and services you offer.
That’s actually how I’ve gotten clients and customers. They heard from someone else that I specialized in something, and they purchased from me. Remember the old saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? That’s completely true. But you also don’t have to know top leaders in your industry in order to market yourself and build a business.
Go To Networking Events
Which brings me to my next point. While friends and family can get your started on your way to selling your products and/or services, going to networking events is still worth a try. Now, as an introvert, I can’t say that I’ve done this fairly often. However, the few times that I have, I have walked away with more knowledge, more contacts, and even a new client a few times.
While there are some networking events that cost money in order to attend, there are also a ton of free events in most cities. I don’t live in a “big” city, but even where I am, you can typically find one or two free networking events happening every weekend.
I highly suggest looking on sites like Meetup and Eventbrite to find free business networking events in your area. These can be a great way to work on pitching your business and getting your name known.
Who would have thought that you could volunteer, feel good about it, and also market your business? This was one of the fastest ways I grew my business offline.
I’m not saying to go volunteer at a soup kitchen and then try to pitch your services/products to vulnerable people who obviously have bigger things to worry about. Please don’t do that. Don’t be that awful person that tries to take advantage of people for your own gain.
What I mean by volunteering is taking some time to give back to places like community organizations, non-profits (especially those that work with small businesses and entrepreneurs), and even professional organizations (like your local Chamber of Commerce). Don’t pitch your business, but show that you’re capable of helping, and have expertise and knowledge that you can share.
Trust me, putting in the work and not asking to be paid for it can get you noticed. Due to my volunteering efforts, many people recommended me when it came time to actually pay someone to do certain work. I’ve gained many contacts and customers, just by being a helpful citizen and showing off my knowledge (for free).
When I first started my business, the only thing that I really knew how to do was work hard and prove myself. At the time, I wanted to be a virtual assistant and help with admin tasks. But, I needed to find clients that were willing to work with someone with no experience! So, instead of trying to wait for clients to show up and find me, I went to them. At one point, I was pitching 50+ people a month, just to work with them. I started with the bloggers and entrepreneurs I admired the most and worked my way down the list.
Back then, I was a virtual assistant, and I just knew that I could help people manage their menial tasks that they didn’t have time to do. So that’s what I pitched. I would find their emails, and then just flat out ask them if they needed any help managing their business. Sure, many people didn’t reply. I’m sure they thought I was a scam or spam. But that didn’t stop me. I just kept pitching myself.
And because of that determination, I was able to gain new clients, without any experience. And some of those clients are still my clients today, even though I’m no longer a virtual assistant and have moved on to higher-level work.
So, if you don’t want to market yourself offline, pitching yourself online is a great alternative. You can find a specific niche that you want to work with (like food bloggers). Or you can just start pitching to websites, companies, and entrepreneurs that you admire and follow.
Ways To Market Your Business For Under $25
Okay, let’s say you have a little money to spend on marketing. That’s awesome! While there are plenty of free ways to market yourself and your business, having a few dollars to spend certainly doesn’t hurt. So let’s talk about them.
Pay For A Shout Out/Social Media Promo
There are quite a few influencers online who will shout out your business or allow you to create a promo for $25 or less. For example, I follow a project manager on Instagram who offers “$25 Small Biz Promos” on her Instagram every Saturday. I’ve personally followed some of the people who promote on her profile, and have seen their businesses skyrocket, just because they invested $25 every few weeks.
However, if you choose to go this route, I highly suggest making sure the influencer is legit, and that they can actually help you. Don’t just pay $25 and expect a bunch of customers/clients either. Sometimes promos work, and sometimes they don’t. But if you’re doing the work on your business consistently, you can get quite a few sales or clients from promoting your business on the right influencers profile.
Pay For A Branded Email Signature
A branded email signature just screams “professional” and “I know what I’m talking about”. And they don’t have to cost a fortune either. There are quite a few ways to create your email signature online. HubSpot has a free email signature that you can create. If you want something a little more robust, WiseStamp only charges $6 a month.
You can also create your own, using one of the many tutorials that you can find online. However, if you want something easy, or if you’re not very tech savvy, those two websites are the way to go.
I highly suggest including your name, title (like virtual assistant or project manager, just to name a few), business name, website or social media channels, and a CTA (or call-to-action, something for people to check out or purchase). That way, you can prove your legit, and give people a chance to work with you.
Pay For Ad Testing
I only recommend ad testing if you know what you’re marketing for your product/service, and if you can learn how to do it the right way. Almost every social platform offers a way to purchase ads. However, paying for ads won’t help your business if you don’t know your market and what you’re selling.
For example, my business is catered to mom entrepreneurs who want to make more money without working so much. So when I create an ad, I keep that target audience in mind. I also make sure to offer a product or service that I know they will want to buy, like my consulting calls or my new membership program, both of which are perfect for mom entrepreneurs. I also make sure to set a price limit, so I don’t go over the budget that I have.
However, I’ve only ever created ads on Instagram, because they’re easier for me than Facebook or Pinterest ads, and they pay off for me. Your experience may be different, so just test and see what works for you. Just don’t forget to set a budget so you don’t overspend!
Use Business Cards
Yes, business cards are still a thing! And something that I’ve personally done is leave my business cards in high traffic areas, like coffee shops and libraries. And while it may seem wasteful, almost every time I’ve left a business card, I’ve been contacted by someone who saw it and needed my help, so they paid to work with me. Don’t underestimate the power of a good business card.
The great thing about business cards is you can get a lot for super cheap. Sites like VistaPrint and Moo have business cards on sale for less than $25 for 100 cards. Imagine what you can do with 100 cards! And, when you’re at networking events or talking to friends and family, hand out your business cards then too. Friends and family can pass them along, and people you network with may keep them and contact you when a need arises.
Ways To Market Your Business For Under $50
Once you start making some money and have a little more room to spend on marketing, here are some other things you can do.
Host A Contest
Look, people love free stuff. Whether it be gift cards or a free product, many people participate in contests in the hopes of winning something. If you choose this route, I highly suggest using an email marketing system (more on that in a second), and getting subscribers to your email list while hosting the contest.
Here’s how I recommend you host a contest and market your business properly.
- Decide what you will offer. Will it be a $50 Starbucks gift card if they sign up for your email list? Will it be a free ebook or mini-course if they join your text list? Or, will it be a free coaching call if they fill out a form?
- How will you announce this contest? Will it be just for people who follow you on Instagram? Will it be on your Facebook page?
- How will you choose a winner? There are random raffle websites that you can use, but you’ll need a way to organize everyone to apply. This is why I recommend having an email list for them to join, or at the very least have them message you their email.
- Any other details? When does the contest in? When will you announce the winner? And also, make sure you get their permission to share their information so people know the contest was legit! I would suggest making it a requirement to use their first name and a photo if they win. That way, people know you’re legit, and you can use the winner and contest as more marketing material.
Something that I did was offer my strategy call for free for one person. My strategy calls are normally $197, but when I first started, I didn’t have many people who booked with me (which is understandable, I had to prove I was worth it). So, I hosted a contest for a free strategy call. To join the contest, people had to sign up for my email list and tell me one thing they wanted to change in their business. I marketed the contest on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
I got 150 people on my email list just from that contest. But only 10 people did the second part of what I asked, which was to email me and tell me what they wanted to change in their business. So, between those 10 people, I picked a winner. We had a great call, and she actually shouted me out on her social media and email list.
AND, I still got to keep the 150 people who signed up, many of whom went on to purchase something else from me in the future. Yes, some unsubscribed when they realized they didn’t win, but most didn’t because they loved my free content and lower-priced products. So it was a win-win-win for all of us. And all it cost me was 90 minutes of my time.
Pay For Email Marketing
Remember how I said we’d talk about this in a second? Yep, now is the time. If you really want to market your business to an audience, you need to build your own. There are many different ways to build an email list, but the key is to get people to sign up, offer those people valuable information, and sell to them every now and then. If you have an email list that knows, likes, and trusts you, selling to them shouldn’t be hard. I personally use MailerLite for my email marketing but have thought about switching to ConvertKit or AWeber. However, there are other email marketing platforms as well, including MailChimp, ConstantContact, and Keap.
Get A Sign For Your Car
This may sound very MLM-ish, but here me out. If you have a business where you can offer tangible products or services (aka things you can ship or do locally), why not get a sign for your car? You can slap it on a window or a door, and that way people see it if they’re near your car.
You don’t have to get a wrap for your car, because those are expensive and could damage your car, but a small sign shouldn’t cost too much, and is marketing material wherever you go.
Offer A Referral Credit
While this doesn’t cost you money up front, it is a great way to get some new clients. I actually had a referral program as a virtual assistant. If a current client recommended a new client and they signed up to work with me, my current client got 1 free hour of services and the new client got a discounted rate for 20 hours. Sure, the lost me some money here and there, but my clients loved it and I was able to sign up new clients without having to pitch anyone. They came to me through referrals!
If you have a product or service that you can “discount” for certain people (like referrals), you can market that and gain new customers or clients through the people who already purchase from you!
Marketing Yourself & Your Business Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive
As you can see, there are so many ways to market your business online and off, without spending a lot of money. Most of these I’ve personally tried myself, and have proof that they work. As long as you have the drive to work on your business, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars just to be seen. Show up, do the work, and use these clever and almost free ways to market yourself. People will find you in no time.