Pop quiz: What do you do when there is no money in your business’ budget for advertising? You get creative. Obviously, you would not have any customers at all if you never let the world know that your company exists, and you should not rely solely on word-of-mouth to spread the news. It’s good that your company’s name is listed in the phone book—well done—but you cannot stop there. Referrals passed from person to person is free and arguably the most effective kind of advertising, but you will also have to consider other avenues if you want to maximize your exposure to the market. Though you will have to spend some money for supplemental advertising, these are a few solutions that will help you get it done.
Everyone has heard of Kickstarter, and there are other sites that provide basically the same service. There have been countless success stories of individuals and groups who have used this strategy to promote, as well as raise funding, for every purpose under the sun. Artists raise money to pay for their first album, community organizations get new projects off the ground—even small businesses have been able to gather startup funds by way of crowdfunding. There is virtually no limit; anyone can get the money they need to fulfill their goals by simply asking friends, family, and the greater public to donate to a project. All you have to do is put together a short explanatory video, outline specifically what their money is going toward, and provide an incentive to motivate them to donate, such as an invitation to an unveiling party when you reach your goal. As long as you are very transparent with people about the details of your project, there is a good chance you will have success using this tool.
Pay for it Yourself
Let’s not be complicated about this. If you do not have the money to advertise, start saving money to advertise. Devote a special account with the self-imposed condition that you cannot touch this money for any other purpose, and start building an account that you can draw from for the sole purpose of advertising for your business. You may be thinking, “Well, yeah of course I need to save money—like I’ve never thought of that before.” The reason this is worth mentioning, however, is that there is never really extra money; business owners usually recycle surplus revenue back into the business. That is precisely why this little personal savings account can work so well. When your business earns a little more than your target for the month, quarter, etc., you can easily throw that money into an account designated specifically for advertising purposes. You can even supplement these funds by adding a fixed percentage of your revenue, regularly, into this dedicated account.
Though this peculiar type of loan has been used mainly as a vehicle to help individuals to break the cycle of poverty and build credit, it is now increasingly popular among struggling businesses, and even established business owners. These are very small loans which the borrower can pay back over an extended period of time with relatively low interest. Especially if all you need is a little capital to place some extra advertising, this route could be helpful. Instead of going to a bank or investor and securing a large loan, which is unnecessary for such minimal funding, you can take out a microloan which your company’s ledger will most likely barely notice.
A Few Free Advertising Options:
Social Media and Online Accounts
By advertising special offers, coupons, and discounts through these channels, you can promote your business for free and, if the promotion has real value, extend the reach of your advertising even further when people share this content. If you have a sale running, then you can boost its exposure by posting it on social media. The whole world is getting on the bandwagon of social media, and more times than not, this is where they are finding information about all kinds of businesses and organizations. It is one of the best platforms for advertising at no cost.
Make sure to also register your business on sites like Yelp, Yahoo Local, Google places, etc. These online directories can make up a huge portion of a business’ traffic.
Local Publishing Media
Local media will also publicize your promotion (once again—if it has real value). Maybe your business is launching a new product, or even just sponsoring the kids’ hockey team in town. Give the local paper a press release about it. This is a great channel to spread the news because local newspapers are always looking for stories in the arena of local business, and community newsletters will certainly be happy to publish articles for businesses who sponsor local events.
Content Marketing Blog
Become known as an expert in your business. This method of advertising is already ubiquitous among business owners, being a perfect extension of your online content. If your company has a website, you can attach a blog to it, discussing on a very regular basis topics related to your field; this will draw traffic to your website through keywords that are being searched every day. Not to mention, when people read the content in your blog, it instills a trust that you know your stuff.
These are some good suggestions to start advertising for little to no cost, and you can certainly find other methods if you get creative. Only keep in mind that projecting the best image possible is key, and if you do that, the only thing left to do is get the word out!
Here’s another post that shows you how to inspire word-of-mouth, the cheapest advertising of all:
How to Inspire Word-Of-Mouth: Better than a Billboard
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.