Small budget? 12 ways to promote your local business for free

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  10/11/2018
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Advertising can be expensive and well out of your budget if you’re just starting out as a freelancer or small business.

But with a smart approach, there are a few ways you can promote your business in your area for free.

You don’t have to run a full-page ad in your local paper to let potential customers know you’re open and ready to do business.

The internet is teeming with marketing platforms that don’t cost a dime – you just need to know where to look.

Before the internet, small businesses only had a few ways to sell their products cheaply, through methods such as flyer printing or sponsoring small local events.

There are now all kinds of possibilities on the web, you just need to know where to look.

With some clever marketing, you can put yourself firmly on your local business map, without paying a dime!

Here are 12 ways to promote your business locally for free:

1) Make sure your website adds value

Whether you’re targeting local or international customers, your website should clearly explain what you’re doing, be easy to find and navigate, and be attractive.

If you don’t have a website, you need to create one now. Having a working website is important for marketing your business.

Depending on what you sell, your website serves as a lead generation tool, online brochure, catalog and source of information for your potential customers.

Jouw website als online catalogus en informatiebron

If you can’t afford to hire someone to custom design your website, create it using one of the companies like Wix, Jimdo or even WordPress if you want to put in a little more time.

These all have templates and tools with which you can easily create a basic website.

Semrush content audit tool
Semrush content audit tool

What should you pay attention to when building your website?

These are the points to keep in mind when setting up or rebuilding your website:

How goal-oriented he is
The quality of your content
How easy your website is to use by the intended audiences
How well it conveys your brand identity
How Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Friendly It Is
Use and integration of social media channels
Eligibility for Mobile Internet Users

2) Make blogging a high priority

It is important to add a blog to your website as it will increase your chances of getting noticed and content marketing will help your SEO as you can use important keywords and phrases in your blog posts.

Websites are crawled quite often, so it’s always important to have fresh, high-quality content.

Writing a regular blog also gives your audience the opportunity to interact with you by posting their comments on your posts.

For example, make use of those quiet moments in your business to either put something on paper first or, if you have the opportunity, immediately grab the laptop and add a new piece of text to your website.

Maak bloggen een prioriteit voor je lokale zaak

Don’t forget to add social sharing buttons to your blog posts so that readers can easily share them and more people discover you and your business.

Make your blog as personal as possible to get people involved with your brand.

A blog not only helps your business build a name through followers, but is also a way to connect more directly with your consumers.

But remember that one of the most important keys of blogging is to:

Create new content on a set schedule as you build a following. A sleeping, abandoned blog is worth nothing
write super-comprehensive and helpful content according to good SEO techniques when you want to use your blog to be found

One does not necessarily exclude the other, but neither do they necessarily have to be applied. As long as you are clear about the purpose of your posts.

3) Distribute a press release once a month

It is important to keep in touch with the local newspaper and submit press releases that give you the opportunity to get free views.

These can be anything from hiring new staff to winning a new client – it doesn’t have to be big news, just something to let local businesses know you’re there.

Building relationships with editors and journalists will help ensure that your press release is read and hopefully published.

Talk about what makes you unique

Look for something unusual about what you do and make it known.

Send press releases to local newspapers, radio stations, cable television stations, and magazines whose audiences are likely to be interested in buying what you’re selling.

Also, publish the press releases on one or more online press release services and be sure to include links to your website.

To increase your chances of publication of the material, send a photo (but not to radio stations) with your press release.

Editors of print publications often need “art” (drawings or photographs) to fill space and break up the gray appearance of a page of text.

Write an article that demonstrates your expertise in your field. Send it to non-competitive newspapers, magazines, and websites in your field that accept submissions from experts.

Be sure to include your name, company name, phone number, and a reference to your product or service at the end of the article.

If the editor can use the article, you will get your name in print and your contact information may also be printed for free.

Publish your publicity yourself. If you do get publicity, you must get permission from the publisher to reprint the article with the publicity.

Make photocopies and mail the copies with sales letters or other literature that you use to market your product or service.

The publicity clips give credibility to the claims you make for your products or services.

4) Use Email Marketing Software to Increase Sales

This method is fast, effective, direct and easy to design.

You can also track and understand exactly how your email marketing software is growing your business and how individual customers are responding so you can increase sales over time.

To get full value from your email marketing, make sure you regularly update and grow your database and try to get your audience to sign up.

There are many self-service email platforms available (like the brilliant Drip), or you can decide to get help from a specialized email marketing agency.

Email campagnes die werken

(Image: wishpond.com)

5) Start using videos to promote your business

YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine, so it makes sense to create a YouTube channel and use proven video marketing tactics, such as “how-to” style video content and response videos, to boost search visibility. improve and generate potential leads.

Video interview lokaal voor content

(Foto: roberthalf.com)

One idea is to conduct individual video interviews with local newsmakers in your niche via Skype. After you’ve recorded the video, to maximize the benefit:

Post it on YouTube
Embed the YouTube code on your website
Transcribe the video with a cheap tool
Post the transcribed text on your blog for search engines to find

Or you could host an online seminar and share it on your website and across social media networks – a perfect opportunity to gain exposure.

6) List your business in popular local directories

Helping customers discover where you are is critical and one of the best ways local businesses can be found online is by adding their business to the top online business directories.

There are a number of popular online directories, including Google, Bing, LinkedIn and telephone directories. Make sure to post your details in all of these places because if you only post to these top positions, you’ll miss an opportunity to be found by clients looking for your services.

7) Be active on social media

Knowing your target audience is important as it is one of the most popular ways to get noticed.

You can promote and communicate any news item and event with your audience and publish your blog content through the most common media channels, including Facebook, Google+ LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.

While Facebook and Instagram work best with ads to promote your content, linkedin and twitter are still wonderful media to be found with microblog content.

Embrace social media

Social media isn’t just a tool to gain exposure – it has now become a necessary time investment for any business.

For example, networking on LinkedIn — both on a personal and company level — can be another way to help your startup.

Post interesting information and images to your social media accounts regularly. The information or photos should be of interest to your audience.

Tips on how to improve their life or business or special offers are likely to get the most likes and shares.

Then if you want to spend a little bit on your marketing, pay to enhance your most popular posts on social media sites.

Target the boosted messages to groups of people who are most like your customers to improve your brand awareness among those most likely to become customers.

Put multimedia on YouTube and Flickr

YouTube offers a free way to distribute creative promotional videos, but to succeed you need to post content that people want to see and that is relevant to your business: a simple ad won’t work. You have to provide value to the viewer.

A Flickr profile can also help by giving you a place to compile all the photos for your business and link back to your website.

8) Verify your listing on Google My Business

Previously known as Google Places and now Google My Business. It’s a way to verify on Google maps where your business is physically located.

This can be verified by anyone in the company.

Google will send a PIN to your exact business address, and as long as someone puts that PIN on your listing, it means you’ve been verified and can receive the benefits.

These include increased chances of appearing in local Google searches, the ability to link your Google+ profile to your local listing, and the ability to get reviews from your customers that then appear as star ratings in search results.

The best thing about this is that it is completely free. The downside is that the PINs through the mail can take weeks to arrive, so if you’re given the option to verify over the phone immediately, do so.

9) Attend local networking events and build connections

The best way to meet new local contacts (and potential customers) is to get out and network.

Make a point of attending events and meetings focused on your business topic, and participating in conversations by asking questions or volunteering to speak at a live blog conference.

Not sure where to find local events? You can search for local events by region and place on, for example, meet-ups.

If you’re just starting out and don’t have business cards and business stationery, get them made right away.

Your business card tells potential customers that you are a professional who takes your business seriously and you need to have something to hand out at these events.

Be sure to include your website address on your business card and any handouts you create.

If possible, also include the link to your main social media accounts.

Sign up for an email service provider and send an email newsletter and/or promotional offers to customers and prospects for your business.

Be sure to request permission to send email before putting a person’s email name on your list.

A good way to build a permission-based email list of people who want your mailings is to give something away.

It could be a free ebook, or even a free tip on how your prospect can get started with something basic.

For example, if you’re a health coach, you could provide people who sign up for your free newsletter with a fact sheet of “10 Easy Ways to Lose Weight Without Dieting.”

An email service like Constant Contact or Mailchimp makes it easy to manage your list and send professional-looking mailings.

Put your business cards in the hands of anyone who can help you in your search for new customers.

Call your friends and family and tell them you started a business. Visit them and leave a small stack of business cards to hand out to their friends.

Give different business cards to your customers if you are a service provider.

That way, friends and neighbors can ask them for a recommendation, so they can easily pass on your company name and contact information.

Talk to all the suppliers from whom you buy products or services. Give them your business card and ask them if they can use your products or services, or if they know someone who might.

But above all, take them with you to local events.

Keep the business cards in a pocket where they are easy to reach.

Don’t forget to ask what the people you speak to are doing, and really listen to them. They will be flattered by your interest and will be able to remember you better as a result.

Pay to join those groups that attract your target customers.

If the group has a website and publishes a list of members on the site, make sure to include your name and website link.

Get actively involved in 2 or 3 of these groups. That gives you more opportunity to meet potential prospects.

But remember: opportunists are quickly noticed for what they are and get few cases.

While you don’t want to get involved with too many time-consuming organizations, you can – and should – make real contributions to especially successful events by providing actionable ideas and helping projects where possible.

Also join a relevant online community and contribute

Every niche has online communities that you can join. But simply signing up for a forum and occasionally posting about your business isn’t helpful and is likely to annoy people.

Actively contribute and bond with the community while keeping your business out.

Passively promoting your business by putting a link in your signature or only mentioning it when the context is appropriate works much better in communities and for building bonds.

10) Guest post on someone else’s site

Writing a blog for someone else’s site is a great way to get more exposure for your business and a reputation as an expert – especially if they are well known in your area.

Posting a guest blog gives you an excellent opportunity to make new connections with bloggers and hopefully attract some loyal readers.

These readers can develop into customers, so posting blogs will benefit your sales. Make sure you meet Google’s guidelines for posting to a guest site.

11) Ask for work or leads

Contact nonprofits, schools and colleges, and even other businesses that have customers who may need your services.

Network with others who do the same type of work as you. Let them know you’re available to handle their overtime work.

(But don’t try to steal their customers, a message will come out and it will surely ruin your business reputation.)

Offer to be a speaker. Corporate conferences, volunteer organizations, libraries, and local business groups often need speakers for meetings.

You will benefit from the brand awareness, contacts and publicity you get as a speaker at these events.

If your product or service is appropriate, give demonstrations of it to groups or individuals who may be interested.

Or teach others how to use a tool you use in your work.

12) Learn to ask for referrals

Ask existing customers, prospects and casual acquaintances if they know anyone who would also be good customers for your company.

If you get them, follow up on the leads.

Partners who sell for you

Use other people to sell your product or service.

Instead of (or in addition to) selling your products yourself, look for partners, resellers or people who will generate leads for you in exchange for a commission on sales.

Make sure your pricing structure takes into account the fees or commissions you have to pay for all sales that are made.

But it’s a good way to increase sales without a marketing budget. After all, you only pay when a sale is made and then you pay for it with a part of the profit.

Partners to sell with

Get together with companies that serve the same market, but where you sell different products and services.

Make arrangements to promote each other’s goods and services by directing leads back and forth, sharing mailings, and creating links.

Use each other’s network and attention:

information in each other’s store
promotion in each other’s newsletters
appear at each other’s events
add flyers to each other’s packages

Plan for Success

What is the best way to promote your business? How can you promote your business and your name to attract potential customers, especially if money is tight or you’re just starting out?

How can you let people know about your business in the most affordable way?

Promoting a business is an ongoing challenge for small businesses. Whether you are just starting out or have been doing business for years.

But there is one key element that will help you immensely in all of the above approaches: plan your attack.

You will waste valuable time and money trying to market your business without defining your marketing strategy first.

Start by identifying who your best prospects are, then determine the best way to reach them. Be as specific as possible.

Is the decision maker:

the company’s CTO,
the director of human resources of
a 37-year-old working mother?

Can you find them on Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube or Instagram?

What about in-person networking at local business meetings?

Will you find people at that particular event who are likely prospects for you or who know you and could recommend to potential prospects?

What about advertising? Will customers search for your type of product on Google or Bing?

Do you want to start promoting your business at the beginning of their buying cycle, or when they are almost ready to pull out their credit card and make the purchase.

Write down your answers and use them before starting a new marketing tactic.

          Joost Nusselder, the founder of Decision Tree is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new tools en tactics. He's been working on a portfolio of niche sites since 2010. Now since 2016 he creates in-depth blog articles together with his team to help loyal readers earn from their own succesful sites.