Whether it was putting an ad in a newspaper, recording a jingle for the radio or shooting a commercial for television, marketing campaigns used to require a lot of cash. While those methods still exist, the Internet has opened new avenues for businesses to market their products and services for free.
Here are seven ways to promote your business without spending a dime.
As the most popular social networking site, Facebook gives businesses a free outlet to reach millions of potential new customers. Similarly to how individual Facebook users can create personal pages, businesses can set up their own dedicated page on Facebook to help grow their venture, build brand awareness and develop relationships with consumers. Besides providing all the business' vitals – including name, location, phone number and Web address – the Facebook page gives businesses a forum to speak to their customers about company news, special promotions and new products. Many businesses also use their Facebook page to run contests and free giveaways as a way to attract new shoppers.
The popular micro-blogging site Twitter is also a way to reach new customers without the expense. Twitter offers businesses a platform for connecting their brand with things people care about. The social networking site bills itself as a canvas for telling engaging stories, broadcasting content, connecting directly with consumers and driving transactions. The site provides businesses with a unique opportunity to see what their customers are saying, ask them questions and respond to their concerns. Businesses can also use Twitter to run special deals and promotions.
Local Listing Services
For many consumers, the Internet is the first place they look when searching for a business. Since local search entries are often the first choices given in a search query, businesses can easily attract new customers and clients by simply making sure they are listed on the sites. The local search listings offer businesses an easy way to highlight their location, hours and contact information. The most popular local search listing sites are Google Places, Yahoo! Local and Microsoft Bing.
Press release websites
Getting a little free publicity from newspapers, radio and television stations and blogs is a great way to attract new business. One way to catch the eye of the local media is to send out releases touting new products or services, as well as company news and special promotions. In today's digital age, many journalists search through press release websites for new and interesting story ideas. A number of websites, such as Free Press Release, PR Log, 24/7 Press Release and I-Newswire, offer the opportunity to post press releases on their site for free. In addition to exposure on the site, the releases are distributed to major search engines, making their reach even greater.
Few things create buzz for a business more than a great viral video. While not every video will become a huge hit, they do provide a more engaging way to get information to consumers. While a normal ad won't do the trick, businesses can use creative videos to build new interest in their company. Examples include videos of company parties for those who were unable to attend, how-to videos for consumers looking for more information on using a product or service, and video confessionals of happy customers and clients. While posting videos on YouTube remains the most popular route, small businesses also can take advantage of other sites like Viddler, Vimeo, Dailymotion and Ustream.
While it is true of all social networking sites, using Pinterest successfully requires more than just cramming products and promotions down consumer's throats. Pinterest gives users their online pin board, where they can "pin" up links and photos to things they like and are interested in. However, businesses only posting pics of their products on the site won't find many new customers. In order to be successful on Pinterest, businesses must think about the type of content their customers would be interested in. Instead of just sharing images and links to existing product pages, blog posts and websites, businesses should share content that other users will love sharing. A bakery, for example, might use Pinterest to post cupcake recipes, frosting tips, party ideas and other topics for followers.
Similarly to Pinterest, businesses using the photo-sharing site Instagram must be more creative than just posting picture of products if they want to win customers. It requires building a following of users that want to see their point of view, whether they're selling something or not. When posting promotional photos, they must be creative. For example, restaurants might show photos of people eating their food, while fashion retailers can post pictures of customers wearing their clothes. The site can also be used to host fun contests that involve customers posting their own photos of them using a business' product.