5 Ways to Market Your Business for Free (or Nearly Free)

When you don't have a big budget to market your business, creativity can work just fine.

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By Jonathan Long • Feb 2, 2017 Originally published Sep 9, 2016

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A lot of entrepreneurs get discouraged because they don't have massive marketing budgets and assume there aren't effective ways to promote their business without deep pockets. This is far from the truth.

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Even with an unlimited marketing budget, you still need to develop a creative campaign that will produce results. Marketing is more about your message and finding ways to get it out there than it is the amount of money you have access to. When you are working with a limited budget, creativity is your biggest asset. Here are five ways to market your business, even if you have zero budget.

1. Build an active and loyal social media following.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter give you direct access to millions of potential customers, located all over the world. You aren't going to attract followers by just being average. There are far too many options out there. You will need to put out interesting and unique content in order to build a large following.

As you build your social audience, you will create a valuable asset that allows you to market over and over, without it costing you a dime. Make sure you don't overwhelm your social audience with constant promotional offers. If someone follows your business on social media, he or she is obviously interested in what you offer. You don't need to flood your audience members with direct advertisements; that flood will turn them off and cause them to disconnect with your brand on social media. Instead, subtle and clever posts will naturally spark interest in your brand.

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2. Develop referral partnerships with businesses that share your audience.

This is a very easy way to place your brand in front of a very targeted audience and quickly build a customer base and generate revenue, which in turn will give you more working capital to scale.

You will have to identify potential referral opportunities that will complement the product or service of the partner. For example, a web design company could set up a referral agreement with a local attorney that specializes in corporation filings. The attorney could send the web designer interested clients and be paid a flat fee per deal or a percentage of the sale.

It's important to set up a deal with two things in mind -- longevity, and keeping the referral partner happy, so he or she continues to funnel business your way. While this strategy will eat up a portion of your profits, it will also allow you to build your business without the advertising expense.

Related: The 3 Steps to Building a Winning Brand Strategy

3. Constantly engage with your current customers.

Who are the best customers? Repeat customers.

You should have an email list of all your customers, and make it a point to touch base with all of them often. Rather than send direct-sales offers, send interesting information related to your industry.

A ticket reseller, for example, should segment a customer list into groups based on the types of events they've purchased tickets to in the past. In this context, the reseller might send everyone on the "sporting events" list an email when a milestone is reached or some significant news breaks, like a major trade.

This kind of marketing keeps your brand fresh in the minds of your customers. That way, the next time they're in the market for what you offer, you'll be the first company they think of.

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4. Get out on the streets.

Too many new entrepreneurs think that you can come up with a business, slap together a website, sit back and wait for the money to roll in. There are many success stories about how startups grow into multi-million dollar businesses, and while there are plenty of examples, the media never talks about the early-days struggles.

Successful businesses gain the traction that eventually equals success because of their founder's hustle. They eat, sleep and breathe their business. You can't be afraid to dive in and do the ground work yourself. So, pound the phones all day and night to generate sales. Hit the street, and go talk to every possible customer you can put yourself in front of.

It doesn't cost you anything to hustle, and the end result can be very rewarding.

5. Do something virally outrageous.

Dollar Shave Club launched with a very creative video, which quickly went viral. The video definitely had shock value and caused people to take notice. This helped the company quickly build its subscriber base, which allowed it to scale and claim the majority stake in that market.

Related: The 8 Fundamentals for a Successful Inbound-Marketing Strategy

If instead Dollar Shave had put out a dry video that was nothing more than information about its service, it would not have received the media attention and free promotion it was able to take advantage of because of that viral video.

Something outside the box can really pay off. Oh, by the way: Dollar Shave Club was just acquired for $1 billion, cash.

Jonathan Long

Founder, Uber Brands

Jonathan Long is the founder of Uber Brands, a brand-development agency focusing on ecommerce.

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