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21 Ways to Get Marketing for Free (or Almost Free)

Published on: May 24, 2022

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Small businesses have plenty of things to pay for and sometimes marketing is at the bottom of the list. That doesn’t make the need for marketing ideas any less critical, though. Marketing is how you build your brand, and without it, no one will know who you are or what your company can do for them.

Someone once said the best things in life are free. That can certainly be true when it comes to marketing. So, consider these marketing ideas that won’t break the bank.

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Free Marketing Ideas

If your marketing budget looks dismal, free is an excellent place to start.

Social Media 

Social media is the most obvious way to get some free small business marketing. There are many ways social media can fit into your marketing strategy and setting up business pages for your company is absolutely free.

Remember that half the world visits social media sites multiple times a day. For good reason, platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have become staples in the business world. According to Meta, which owns some of the top social media platforms globally, 83 percent of Instagram users claim to find new products on this platform.

An excellent place to start is by setting up accounts for your business on the top social media sites used by your target audience. For young people, that would probably be Tik Tok. For B2B markets, look to LinkedIn, and reach just about anyone you want on Facebook and Instagram.

Not only does social media give you an internet presence and a way to communicate with your prospective customers, but it also puts a human touch on your brand. It gives you a chance to interact with your audience in real-time and that type of authenticity helps build trust that will grow.

Online Business Directories

Half of the challenge for small businesses is to find their way to the top of those search results pages. That requires an internet presence. Social media is a practical place to start, but it won’t be enough.

Business directories are another free way to get your name into the cloud. Sites like Google, Yelp, Best of the Web (BOTW) and Spoke post information about businesses, but you have to sign up and create a profile.

Also, don’t neglect industry directories. Check out the top organizations within your industry and see if they offer business directories. Also, consider niche business associations like the National Association for Women Business Owners.

Own Your Brand and Your Online Presence

There is more to building a brand than just coming up with a company name and logo. It is essential that you take ownership of your brand by doing what you must to promote it. That means a lot of DIY footwork.

Create a Website

A company website is one of your most critical marketing assets in today's digital world. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, either. Some sites will let you establish a website for little to no cost, such as Wix. Think of your website as your virtual place of business. It is the place people can come to learn more about your company.

Blog Regularly

Blogging offers two real benefits for small businesses. It is one more way to build up your brand's online presence: the larger your internet presence, the better your ability to rank high in search engines like Google.

Also, blogging helps establish your brand as an authority in your field. For example, a plumber might post blogs about DIY plumbing problems, so those following it will call them when they have something they can’t fix.

The key to a successful blog, though, is regularity. Search engines look for regular blog posts to help establish your business authority. If you let your blogging slack, you might lose your position in search results.

Email List

Email lists give you another way to communicate with your customers or leads. It also costs you nothing but time. You can allow visitors to your website or physical location to sign up for emails from you. Then, you have to send out emails to stay in touch.

It is a practical way to offer discounts or let them know about new products or services. Most importantly, though, it keeps your brand name on their minds.

Start a YouTube Channel

With an audience of more than two billion people worldwide, it’s not hard to see why having a YouTube channel makes sense for small businesses. Like maintaining an active blog, YouTube offers brands a way to become authorities in their field.

Blogging tends to be hit or miss when it comes to measuring engagement. Videos, however, open up a new avenue for creativity. YouTube also offers a livestreaming option that companies can use for demonstrations, live events, and product launches.

It is easy to engage with viewers via the comments section, and YouTube offers a subscription service, so your target audience can be notified every time you post. As a bonus, you can embed your YouTube videos on your blog and social media.

Learn Search Engine Optimization

Everything a business does online can improve where they land on a search engine results page. The key to making that work is to properly optimize your online assets to get the most out of them.

Search engine optimization or SEO is critical to any marketing plan. Many factors go into SEO, and they are all essential. They all go into making your company more visible on the internet, which drives traffic to your website and can lead to increased revenue. There are numerous SEO gurus that provide plenty of free content on their websites to help you learn SEO, so you can research and learn this all on your own if you are up for it.

Pay Per Click Advertising

Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising is not free, but it tends to be a low-cost marketing solution. Unlike traditional ads like you might see on a billboard or in a magazine, you only pay for PPC when it works, such as when your ad is clicked. You have full control over the budget for your ad, too.

You can boost your ad distribution to websites and demographics that best serve your interests, helping ensure you get an adequate return on your investment with PPC.

Maximize the Relationship With Existing Customers

Online marketing strategies have two purposes: to bring in new leads and customers and reinforce the brand relationship with existing ones. That second part is just as critical as new leads.

Customer loyalty stimulates free marketing via word of mouth.

Run Contests and Coupons

Reward your customers with things like coupons and contests. This is a chance to get creative, too. You can increase engagement by hosting hashtag games on social media, running giveaways for shares and likes or giving away prizes in exchange for data such as an email address. You can use that email to keep them informed on upcoming events and new promotions, send coupons or just keep in touch.

Word of Mouth - Incentivize Customer Referrals

Word-of-mouth marketing can be organic from loyal customers, but it can also be incentivized. For example, you provide your current customers with a discount or reward every time they recommend a friend or family member to your business. It’s a chance to turn loyal customers into advocates for your business.

Ratings, Reviews and Testimonials

A 2021 survey conducted by Bright Local found that 77% of consumers always read reviews before buying a product or ordering a service. It is a statistic that tells you how critical online reviews are to your business.

One way to ensure you get reviews is to sign up for platforms such as Google My Business and Yelp. There may also be industry-specific directories that offer reviews. For example, a hotel will want a profile on TripAdvisor. Likewise, a medical practice or professional will want one on HealthGrades.

Once your brand has profiles in all the right places, encourage your customers to give you a review. It is a little like seeding a tip jar. You get a few and they will build.

Reviews can be both good and bad, though, so it is vital to monitor yours and address any criticism. If possible, respond directly on the platform, so anyone who reads the review sees you have good customer service.

Local Networking and In-Person Relationship Building

Even in today’s digital world, in-person and local business marketing will matter to your brand. Being a part of your community allows your brand not just to make a difference but to become a name people recognize.

Neighborhood Groups

Neighborhood groups are an excellent place to start. They exist both online and off. Consider platforms like Nextdoor and city pages on social media.

You can also join local organizations such as the Better Business Bureau and sponsor local events. Maybe you can sponsor a runner in the local marathon who wears your company logo on a shirt. The cost is minimal, but the marketing is potentially priceless. You might even see your brand name on the local news.

Exhibit In or Sponsor Local Events and Festivals

Consider industry events in your area. For example, a healthcare business might take part in a health fair. A candle company might have a table at a few local craft shows. Again, the point is to let people see you in the community.

Attend Industry Events and Conferences

Make a point of attending national conferences and trade events too. It is a chance to bring all your marketing efforts together. For example, you could livestream the event on social media and post the video on your website.

Trade shows are a chance to build referrals and sign people up for an email newsletter. Although there is some cost involved in trade shows and conferences, it should pay off for the brand.

Use Your Vehicle as Advertising

Sometimes you have to use what you have handy, like your car. It costs just a few dollars to add a logo to your car or company vehicle. That way, wherever you go, people see your brand.

Sell or Give Away Swag

You can also buy things like pens and coffee cups with your logo. Have one on the counter or your desk when filming a video.

Also, consider them for giveaways or sell them at a discount to loyal customers. You can even give them away at events.

Partner With Other Local Businesses

Partnering with local businesses has a double advantage. You might save some money bartering with other companies. For instance, you might work with the copy store. They give you copies for free or at a discount and you post about them on social media and put up posters in a physical location.

Host an Event or Teach a Class

These are marketing tactics you see a lot in larger retail companies such as home goods stores or craft supply shops. They sell their participants goods they can use on a project and then teach them how to complete it.

If teaching a class doesn’t fit your business profile, consider hosting an event in your store or sponsoring one locally. You could offer free health screenings, for instance. Restaurants can host exhibits for local artists or bring in a local author for a book signing.

Get Involved With Local Charities

Getting involved with local charities is a great way to reach out to the community. You could host a food drive, for example, for the local food bank. You might have customers drop off pet supplies for a nearby animal rescue.

Get Help From Your Friends and Family

They are most likely your brand's biggest support network, so why not turn to them for help with marketing. Give them business cards and ask them to follow and share your social media pages.

Hire a Marketing Student or Recent Grad

If you are a business struggling to make sense of marketing, let a marketing student or recent grad help you out. They may be willing to consult with you at an affordable price in order to gain much-needed experience and build their marketing portfolio.

At Husson University, we offer an online business administration degree for future business professionals. If you want to help your company grow, consider earning a bachelor's degree in business administration from Husson today!


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