10 ways to promote and advertise your business - for free! 

Chloe Bell Content Journalist at Bionic by Chloë Bell on May 28th 2021

Getting your business name out there can be tricky. And, given the number of ways you can use to get your name out there, just deciding how to promote your business can be every bit as tricky.  

You may be wondering how much money you’ll have to fork out to secure a mere handful of customers. But there are lots of free resources out there that you can use to your advantage and lots of these things can really help small businesses gain exposure.  

When you’re searching for ways to promote your small business, the power of marketing shouldn’t be overlooked. In general, it’s advised that you spend between 9% and 12% of your overall budget on your marketing strategy. After all, if you’re selling a great product but no one hears about it then you won’t be reaching all your potential client base. 

But when you’re a small business or just starting out, you may find it’s not possible to dedicate that much money to marketing. 

Minimizing costs is vital for small business owners and money-saving advice can go a long way. With that in mind, here are ten ways to promote and advertise your business all for free! 

How to promote your business 

1. Charity links 

Getting your business involved with local charity events is a great way to help your local community and improve your reputation at the same time. It can highlight that your company cares about local causes and is supportive of charity work. 

Plus, it can also be a great opportunity to network with other business and you can secure some free advertising if, for example, you set up a stall at a charity fair. 

You can get creative and think about strategies that will advertise your product but also help others. If you run a coffee shop, you could give customers the option to reserve a beverage for a homeless person when they are paying for their own.  

The idea of pre-paid coffees is great - not only are you doing something charitable for your community but you're also attracting positive attention to your business. 

2. Local News 

Local newspapers usually have great relationships with local businesses and often it's more of a partnership. The paper gets a good story while your business gets some free coverage and the opportunity to reach more customers.  

You could contact your local paper and offer to provide helpful tips in your business’s area of expertise or suggest writing a regular column.  

You could ask the news desk if they would be interested in covering your shop opening or new product launch. Building a good relationship with local media helps strengthen rapport, plus it builds trust with your customer base as they get to read about you in local print before they decide to come to you. 

3. Radio 

When you’re thinking about where to advertise your business, radio often doesn’t spring to mind instantly as it can be extremely expensive.  

However, you could volunteer to take part in a local show where you'll get the opportunity to talk about your business, enabling you to generate publicity without having to pay any fees.  

Or you could call up and give your opinion in phone ins about topics that are relevant to your business. For example: if your local station was speaking about businesses going green and you’d just launched a campaign where you’re urging customers to bring back packaging to recycle in exchange for a reward, then you could phone up and tell the listeners this. 

If you live in a smaller town, you may have a better chance of getting airtime on local radio, especially if your advice will benefit the listeners. You could suggest holding a Q&A session where people are invited to call to ask for advice in areas where your business can help, this enables them to get real time answers, but it also establishes a connection with your own business brand. 

4. Networking 

Networking is often overlooked but it can be a vital tool in boosting your business reach. Whenever you get the opportunity, step outside, and meet new people as well as other local businesses. Try to give out as many business cards as you can, if people have something physical to remember your business name, then they are more likely to recall you. 

By meeting others and speaking about your company, you'll help yourself stand out and people will be able to put a face to the name of your business, it’s far more personal and can go a long way in building that customer relationship. 

You can create meaningful connections and engage with people directly or you can link with local people online, joining social media groups is a great way to reach a larger audience. 

5. Get found on Google 

Google My Business is a great place to start when you’re trying to boost your company online. When you sign up, your information is uploaded to Google Maps and Google+ so that customers can find your business easily, even if you don’t have a website. 

Listing your business on Google My Business is completely free and Google’s popularity makes it a worthwhile step to take. 

When you register, you can benefit from your business appearing in Google Maps, this includes directions straight to your door as well as localised search results. 

6. Get a website 

Websites are a great way to showcase your products, let customers know what services you provide and just make sure you’re staying present in the community. 

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a website for it to be effective either, you just have to put some time and effort into making it look professional.  

Site building options like WordPress and Wix are free to use, and you can get some really polished looking results. 

A website is a great way to boost your business, display what you offer and ultimately tell potential customers what you can do for them. 

Check out this simple guide to setting up your first website with WordPress for more ideas. 

7. Social 

Social media is one of the most relevant marketing tools for business in present day. Instagram and Facebook are easy to use, and you can set up business pages on each so you can show off your services and take orders. 

Setting up social media accounts is completely free, and you can build a lot of interest by regularly posting to gain interest. If you decided, you wanted to use paid advertising at some point further down the line then you can do this too.  

Posting content that relates to your business helps people stay interested and helps you stay current. 

For instance, if you run a hair salon, it would be a good idea to share your advice or views on hair products or comment on interesting articles about new hair styles.  

This way, when people visit your social platforms, they can be sure to find up to date and interesting information, not just sales talk about your business. 

8. Free Directories 

The Yellow Pages used to be where you went when you were looking for a new business to use but as technology becomes more present, online directories seem to be the norm now. Every time you place yourself in an online directory, your chances of being found online increase, so it’s important to be listed in as many as possible. The top four are: 

Google My Business 

Google My Business is a web directory hosted by Google and is a free tool to use. You are able to incorporate Google maps into your information and change your business details so that your customers can learn more about what you do. To find out more about Google My Business, have a read at https://www.google.com/intl/en_uk/business/  

Thomson Local 

Thompson Local is a directory that focuses on local businesses. It was printed as a booklet up until 2016 and was thought of as the rival to Yellow Pages. Now Thompson Local is available online and you can search via keywords to find the business that you want to know more about. Check out more about Thompson Local here https://www.thomsonlocal.com/ 

Yell 

Yell is the UK’s leading business directory and offers a web version as well as an app so customers can easily look up potential businesses they might want to work with. Yell.com also has a lot of good tips, tricks, and guides that you can read through. See what Yell can offer your business here: https://business.yell.com/ 

Free Index 

Free Index lets you read business reviews for free and is a really useful tool for both businesses and customers. Consumers can also get quotes for whatever they need. Free Index is popular with businesses because it is free for them to advertise on. You can find out more about Free Index here: https://www.freeindex.co.uk/ 

9. Email Marketing 

Email marketing has been an effective marketing strategy since emails were first introduced in 1965, they have steadily grown to become a great tool for any business big or small and act as a simple way to reach a lot of customers all at once.  

MailChimp is a great free to use option for email marketing and is perfect for small businesses with fewer than 2,000 subscribers. When it comes to building your mailing list, it’s best to think about your target audience, as this will allow you to keep the emails relevant to them. 

Using email marketing can be an easy and effective way to promote your business for free, here are a few tips on how to go about creating your email marketing strategy: 

  1. Grab the reader’s attention: 
    Try using symbols or emojis on your email subject lines as they are a simple way to achieve a higher click-through rate. Anything that will initially spark the reader’s interest is great.  
  2. Make the content relevant: 
    Although you want to grab the reader’s attention, make sure you’re keeping it relevant to your business. Say you display a heart emoji in your subject line to convey a love for coffee because you run a coffee shop. It would make sense to include a more relevant emoji like a coffee cup, then your customers won’t be confused about what it is you sell.  
  3. Be brief: 
    In your email, try to avoid writing a lot without giving any meaningful advice. If you’re not brief in your email, people will lose focus and click off before you get a chance to get to the main point. Have a go at writing test emails to friends and family until you find the perfect balance of quantity and quality. 

10. Customer reviews 

Review sites can have a big impact on a customer’s decision to use your service. Lots of people now check out a business's reputation online before even considering buying from them and a negative review can have a big impact on future relationships with your customers. 

It’s worth checking out your business on review sites to see how you’re rated and if there are any negative comments, you can use the criticism to reassess the way you do business.  

For example, if you own a pet shop and someone comments that you don’t sell a certain brand of parrot food, you could begin to stock that brand. Let the consumer know you have done so, and you may even win back their custom as well as showing that you listen to your consumers. 

You can also use review sites to interact with customers, thank them for good reviews or calm disgruntled situations.  

Responding to positive reviews will make the customer feel that their opinion was valid and could encourage repeat custom. On the other hand, if you receive a critical review, you can also comment, apologizing for any mistakes to convey your commitment to meeting your customers' expectations. 

So those were Bionics' top ten tips to promote your business for free. By following these simple tips, not only are you advertising and spreading the word about your business, but you are setting yourself up in good stead to continue to grow.