For your small business to prosper, you must find ways to advertise locally at low cost or for free. If this describes you, there’s good news: Social media platforms like Nextdoor provide great opportunities for small businesses to advertise to local customers for free. Don’t forget in-person advertising to complement your online presence.
Here are 4 free marketing ideas that your small businesses can use to kickstart word of mouth advertising to your target audience in your target market.
1. Claim your business online
Most search engines and social media platforms provide listings for local businesses. Your listings make it easy for customers to find information such as your physical address, phone number, and hours of operation. Your customers can also ask questions and leave reviews at many of these sites.
Be sure to claim your business’s local listings so you can manage the information found there. To do this on Nextdoor, claim your Business Page. Claiming your Business Page ensures that you will show up when Nextdoor members are searching for your business, the products, and/or services you offer. It also enables you to post important updates or information, like new services or offerings, into the newsfeed of your local community. Learn how to do this here.
Once your Nextdoor Business Page is ready to go, claim your listing on Google My Business (GMB). Your GMB page helps Google manage your business’ information online. This step enables you to achieve visibility and high rankings in Google Search and Google Maps. For example, when people search for “auto repair near me,” your body shop will appear in local results using the information in your GMB listing.
Next, focus on Facebook. Google and Facebook will create business profiles automatically, so make sure to update the listings. You could lose out on new customers if they encounter incomplete or inaccurate information.
If you offer professional services, like accounting or in real estate, make sure you have a free business page on LinkedIn.
There are also many online directory listings where you can post a business ad for free. Check your online presence using this free tool.
If you do this well, your business can have a solid online presence for free. That’s why this should be your first step—even before creating your own website.
2. Communicate with customers online
Once your business has an online presence, use it to interact with customers. Respond to questions promptly. Thank customers who write positive reviews. And address any gripes, minor or major.
Be proactive by posting new products, sales, events, or other announcements for free on your online business listings. You may also choose to market on additional social media channels like Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, which, when leveraged the right way, can be free advertising.
Here are 3 great ways to promote your business on social media:
- Pictures of your inventory: Whether you’re a boutique featuring the latest fashions, a florist displaying elegant bouquets, or a barbecue truck showcasing mouth-watering ribs, showing customers pictures of what you sell helps them see why they should stop by your business.
- Pictures of your people: Personal relationships are vital in building a loyal customer base for your small business. For example, showcase your employees! Research shows that people respond most favorably to advertisements that feature real people.
- How-to tips: You became a small business owner because you’re passionate about your expertise. Sharing your knowledge is a neighborly way to tell people about your business. Answer questions, offer tips, and post videos on your social media. Or, publish YouTube videos and write blogs. Your target audience will thank you if you share good information. When the time comes that they need an expert solution, you’ll be top of mind.
3. Events: At your business and in the community
It’s great to advertise online, but you also need to meet potential customers in person.
One way to meet prospects is by participating in events, whether it’s hosting one or participating in community activities.
Say you’re a boutique clothing store. Consider offering a prom dress drop-off at your store so they can be donated or repurposed. Or, if you’re a cafe or bookstore, partner with local real estate agents for them to host a home-selling workshop. By giving people from the community an opportunity to interact with your business, potential customers can learn about you without the pressure of a transaction.
In the community, check out conversations happening on Nextdoor, social media, and newsletters where members in your neighborhood may post about upcoming local events.
Contact the organizers and see if you can get a physical presence such as a booth at the event. A table with face-painting for kids, bottles of water, or a small giveaway is a great way to gain exposure for your business. Events are also a low-cost way to get free products and business cards in the hands of potential customers.
Consider a volunteer service project with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, the United Way, or your local chamber of commerce. Team-building events let you interact with other people who care about your neighborhood.
Don’t forget to take pictures—you can share them on social media to promote a good cause while introducing people to the friendly faces in your small business.
4. Gather subscribers for an email list
Whether you’re communicating online or meeting people in person, ask for their contact information.
This will let you communicate with them regularly and build a relationship with potential customers. Sending people an email newsletter with your weekly specials, new products, and holiday hours is a free way to remind them about your business. Email providers like MailChimp offer a free tier of service that will fit the email marketing needs of many small businesses.
If you create a YouTube channel, a blog, or a podcast, invite subscribers there. Having a bigger digital marketing audience gives you more power to share your business name for free.