Marketing is a crucial aspect of home business success. If people don't know about your product or service, they can't buy it. Some kinds of marketing cost money, such as website hosting and email list management services. However, some of the most powerful and effective marketing tactics don’t cost anything at all.
More than anything, good marketing is all about knowing your market. What does your market want or need? How do you entice them (with words, graphics, or video) to check out your business for those wants and needs? Once you know who your market it is, what it wants, and where to find them, apply that knowledge to the following 10 free ways to market your business.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Every home business should have a website, and while owning a website isn't free, you can optimize your website for search engines without spending a dime. Search engine optimization is about including keywords and phrases that are common with people who use search engines to find things related to your business. Using keyword search tools can provide important insight into what your market is looking for so you can provide it. SEO also involves putting keywords in your webpage's meta title and meta description to help search engines find and rank your website.
Consumers today want to interact with the companies they do business with. They also rely heavily on recommendations made by their friends, family, and others. Social media makes it easy for you to benefit from both of these trends. Through social media, you can share information and promotions, communicate and engage with your market, and benefit from the buzz your audience generates through shares. By being responsive to people who engage with you, you show that you care and you can increase loyalty and improve your chance of referrals.
Be a Guest
Sharing your expertise through articles or interviews is one of the best ways to get in front of your market. You may land an opinion piece on someone else’s website, get interviewed on a podcast, or guest lecture for a webinar or online summit. Articles and interviews allow you to show off your expertise and credibility in a way that's more genuine (and more effective) than a traditional ad. Don't limit your guest appearances to online events. Print publications and TV shows often need experts and guests. Getting an interview, whether it's on a podcast or a local news show, is all about submitting a media pitch that excites the editor, producer, or host.
Similar to being a guest writer or interviewee, free publicity offers credibility that will increase market response more than traditional advertising. The trick is to submit a newsworthy PR idea relating to your business. A press release isn’t an ad, so you can't just send an email about your business to a newsroom. Your PR pitch needs to contain a news hook, such as winning an award, reaching a milestone, or connecting your business with something going on in the world (like volunteering resources to a worthy cause). A great resource that media outlets use to find guests and experts is Help a Reporter Out (HARO). You can join for free and then respond to media queries.
In a joint venture, you partner with someone in a similar industry, usually in a cross-promotion, although there are a variety of ways to form a joint venture. For example, you can work with a partner who promotes your home business in exchange for you helping to promote their business, or in exchange for monetary compensation (like a percentage of the sales). The success comes in getting your product or service in front of another audience.
Affiliate marketing is similar to joint ventures in that another business promotes your product or service in exchange for a commission based on the sales facilitated. The difference is that a joint venture is usually a one-off event, and it usually involves a small number of partners. An affiliate program, on the other hand, is ongoing, and you can have as many partners as are willing to promote what you offer. Although you might need to invest in an affiliate software system, finding affiliates is, for the most part, free. You only pay them if they deliver results.
Like managing a robust social media presence, participating in online groups can be time-consuming, but when it's done well, you will reap many benefits. For one, it's a free way to learn about the needs and trends of your market, which helps you better hone your product or service. Second, it provides a way to help others and share your expertise, which builds rapport and credibility. If you help someone through a difficult situation, they'll want to learn more about you and the services you offer. However, success in discussion groups comes from being helpful, not from overtly promoting your business.
Visual content has a higher chance of gaining traction online, and, fortunately, it’s not hard or expensive to create a promotional video. Sure, you could pay professionals to make a high-quality video for your business, but with extra effort, you can do the whole thing yourself. You can make a video using your computer’s webcam or a cell phone. Most computers and phones include free video editing software, and it's free to upload videos to YouTube. The trick to successful videos for business marketing is to be helpful (i.e., tutorials) and/or entertaining.
Speak or Teach
Having credibility is an important part of marketing, which is why it pops up a lot (like with being a podcast guest or making PR pitches). Especially on the internet, people need to feel like they're working with honest, quality businesses. Speaking and teaching is another way to show off your expertise and build credibility. Sometimes you can get paid for it, as well. You can use a free service such as Google Hangouts to offer an online seminar, or contact local groups about speaking to them. For example, many towns have adult education programs that could use some expertise from a local business owner. You can also look for any civic groups in need of speakers.
Offer a Freebie
People love a good deal, and deals don't get much better than freebies. Many entrepreneurs offer freebies with a subscription to their newsletter, but that's not the only way a free item can help. You can offer a free sample or free 15-minute coaching call. The idea is that once people have tested your product or service, they'll want more—and they'll be willing to pay the next time around.