While marketing is a critical function best left to those who are experienced in the various tactics available, not every company has the luxury to pay someone to manage their marketing. Small businesses know the importance of staying the course regardless of the current environment, but if you’re a brand new startup, or one of the millions of small businesses hit especially hard lately, you may need to handle your own marketing until the economy gets better. We put together a few reliable free marketing tactics for startup and struggling small businesses to help you market your company during these tough times.

Leverage content to reach your audience

bloggingPeople are looking for information to help solve their problems or educate them on a topic. Now is the time to double down on creating content to help your prospective customers look to you as a subject matter expert. If you haven’t started an onsite blog, now is the time. Create a library of helpful, informative blog posts to answer the questions people are asking. Create checklists, videos, podcasts…. whatever you can to help showcase your expertise and the value of your product or service. Writing is free, so no cost there (but time!). You can create checklists and even infographics using a free graphics program like Canva. And yes, you can shoot a video for free too from your phone. People are looking for information, so don’t worry about perfection.

Participate in social media

While you can place ads and sponsor content, if you have the funds, you can effectively participate on social media channels for free. Understanding where your target audience is will help you decide which platforms you should be on. This will be the ideal vehicle to share all that great content you’re creating and engage with your prospective clients.

Contribution marketing

volunteerAlso known as “cause marketing,” this is a great way to help others right now while giving your own startup or small business a bit of exposure. There are individuals really struggling right now. How can your business help? Volunteer time?  Donate product? What about your vendors? Is there a way you can either partner with them to reach more customers or perhaps help introduce them to prospective clients?  Contribution marketing means offering a product or service that fills an immediate need. Even struggling small businesses can help! Entrepreneur wrote a great article on contribution marketing. Definitely worth the read!

Work with the press

Another free strategy is responding to queries from journalists on services like Help A Reporter Out (HARO), as they are constantly looking for experts in a range of fields. HARO can be a great source of authoritative backlinks to your website, can help boost content rankings in search engine results, and shine a spotlight on your company.

Try guest blogging

guest bloggingThere are a lot of industry sites that might be scrambling just like you are but are still in need of quality information. That’s where guest blogging can be an ideal fit. Tap your network of businesses and see if they’d accept a guest blog post from you. Of course, the post can’t be a blatant sales pitch about your company, but it can showcase your expertise and link back to your website for more information. All it takes is your time and expertise. There are plenty of solid guest blogging opportunities once you make the effort to reach out to industry websites looking for solid information.

Be a guest on a podcast

Just like industry websites, new industry-related podcasts are popping up all the time, and they’re all looking for industry experts that they can interview to provide their listeners with valuable information. While some opportunities may be limited while we’re all social distancing, there are opportunities to, as they say, phone it in. Reach out to those podcasts and see if they’d be open to a guest who will share their industry expertise. It’s free, but a great way to get exposure and market your startup or small business.

Email marketing

emailThough many email marketing platforms come at a cost, Mailchimp does offer a free version that you can use to stay in front of your audience. It’s fairly robust and will allow you to send emails in a variety of different formats. Do watch your list size; once you exceed their limit for the free version, they’ll start charging, so be sure you keep your list in check.

There are several effective options for startups and struggling small businesses. Hang in there, and no matter what, keep marketing! Your hard work will pay off, and your small business will survive and thrive.

Patty Hughes
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