Starting a brand new business can be expensive, yet you can’t ignore marketing if you expect to bring in new clients. So how exactly can you market your new business if you don’t have any money for marketing?  Check out the list of ideas below for 6 free marketing ideas for start-ups.

Get social

Getting started on social media to promote your small business won’t cost you anything but your time. The key to being successful in social media is to pick two or three platforms to start, and consistently be engaged on those channels. Yes, there are many, many more platforms than just three, but when you’re first starting your business, time is a premium, so it’s better to choose just a handful of social networks, set them up correctly, and work them effectively. Which three should you choose?  Well, it really depends on what kind of business you have. If you have a marketing strategy already created (do you?!), then your strategy will help you decide which platforms are best for you. Are you B2B?  Then one good platform to be on is LinkedIn, which is designed for the B2B audience (though most certainly there are B2C’s on there as well). Here’s a great little article on how to use LinkedIn for your small business marketing. Facebook is another great platform whether you’re selling services or products to businesses, consumers or both. Facebook provides great tips on how to get started on the platform, and while they do suggest Facebook ads, it’s not necessary when you’re first starting out. Get a good idea of who your audience is and how they interact on Facebook before you invest in paid ads. Is your product visual?  Then get on Instagram or Pinterest (or both!). These platforms allow you to promote your business visually, and the platform is designed for others to share your content.

Spread the word through public speaking

A great way to get in front of potential clients is through public speaking. This can be small workshops, roundtable discussions, or panel discussions. It allows you to get in front of an audience you can connect with and speak about a subject you’re an expert in. There are all kinds of networking groups, business groups, chambers, etc. that love to have guest speakers come in and speak. Most likely you won’t be paid for your time, but it’s great exposure where you can meet prospects face to face, showcase your expertise and your business, and help get the word out.

Start blogging

If you have a website, you should have a blog, and write on a regular basis. The benefits of maintaining a blog are numerous; here’s just a few:

  • It drives traffic to your website
  • It converts traffic into leads
  • It helps showcase you as a subject matter expert

Blogging is one of the more effective, FREE ways to market your business. The key is to plan ahead as to what you want to write about, what concepts you want to convey, and who you want to reach. Then let your creativity and expertise take it from there!  An onsite blog is a must for start-ups looking to generate business through marketing.

Email marketing

Yes, there are several email marketing platforms that are NOT free, but there are several really good platforms that can be used at no cost to you, as long as you don’t have a huge mailing list. One platform is MailChimp,  You can actually add a MailChimp form to your WordPress site so visitors can sign up for updates from your start-up. You can also add a signup form on your Facebook page.  Why email marketing?  Ever hear the phrase, “the money is in the list”?  There’s a reason for that. The more you can grow a contact list that is interested in receiving information about your goods and services, the more engaged you can be with that audience. At first, it may be difficult to grow that list as a start-up, but over time, more people will join that list. They key is to give them a reason to join. A few ideas to grow an email list include:

  • Giving away free content or a free product or service in exchange for signing up for the list (free guide downloads are great for this)
  • Adding a signup link to your email signature line

Here’s a great list of ideas on how to build your email list.

Offer a free consultation or a sampling of your product or service

Nothing attracts people like “free”. A free consultation. A free 30-day trial. A free product sample. People love free. The key to success with this is to be sure you actually get something back for offering something free. Usually that’s the person’s contact information so you can continue to communicate with them. Just be sure to be clear with people what they’re getting for free so no one feels like there’s a bait and switch going on. For something to really be free, it has to provide value for the person. Remember, the goal is to promote your start-up business, so you want people to walk away feeling they gained something, but be sure it provides a value for you too!

Build a referral program

One item many start-ups struggle with is asking for referrals, yet that is one of the easiest ways to get new business! Get more referrals by asking. It really is that simple!  Make it a habit that whenever you’re speaking with someone to ask for a referral. Ask your satisfied clients if they know of anyone who might be interested in your product or service. Chatting about your business in a casual conversation? It’s still OK to ask for referrals! Something as simple as, “If you know of anyone who might be interested, please share my contact information” will work. Just be sure you’re clear about what kind of client you’re looking for so the referral isn’t an unqualified one. Again, it’s free marketing; it just takes your time….and a little practice to get comfortable with asking!

Starting a new business can be tough. These 6 free marketing ideas for start-ups will help you get the ball rolling in promoting your business.

Patty Hughes
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