Getting started in business isn’t cheap. After funneling your life savings and maybe a risky startup loan into equipment and inventory, you’re already operating on a thin wire and probably won’t see a steady salary for at least a year.
If that’s your case, you certainly don’t want to fling open the doors on Day 1 of your startup to a chorus of crickets, but you also don’t want to further your miles-high debt with flashy marketing.
Getting your name out there when your business goes live isn’t always easy, and definitely not always cheap. But you can start the marketing mobile on the cheap – free, actually – if you have enough time and the right resources.
Get Found Online
Long gone are the days when prospects first look to the Yellow Pages to find a service or their new favorite restaurant. Make it a top priority to establish your business presence online (even without a website). No one can visit your business if they can’t find it, so displaying your biz online is crucial.
Directories like Google My Business, Manta, and Yelp! will list your business for free, including your business name, address, phone number, website info, and other pertinent information. Yahoo and Bing also offer business listings, so take advantage.
One caveat here: if you want to get found, it’s imperative to make sure your info is consistent across each directory. Small differences can affect search engine results, which could cost you potential sales. Keep the info fresh – if you move or change phone numbers, make sure you remember to update each directory that hosts your info.
Email Like The Pros
You know those well-branded, professionally crafted e-newsletters and sale alerts that make their way into your inbox? It looks like those emails take days to construct with the help of an entire digital marketing team. But with enough time and a little artistic knowledge you can actually create high caliber email campaigns yourself with free email marketing solutions like MailChimp.
Tools like MailChimp are the startup business marketer’s best friend for the mere fact that they cost nothing to use (not even a free trial or credit card on file!). Providing a simple, even-a-monkey-can-do-this step-by-step interface, you can create an email from start to finish in minutes (or hours, depending on how much content you want to send), and start blasting your brand and making impressions in every inbox.
Brownie Points: As if free emails weren’t enough, MailChimp also offers tracking and activity reports so you can continue to cash in on the cash flow from your email campaigns. See who opened your email, who clicked your links, who gave you a bad email address (shame on them!), what time your emails were opened, and other awesome metrics. Take this info and run far with it as you laser-focus your marketing.
Be Your Own Graphic Designer
Did you know the average graphic designer charges $75-$150 an hour? It’s not cheap to get a good design, but it’s certainly not a cost you should eliminate, either. However, you can save yourself some money by not outsourcing every time you need an image.
If you plan to blog on your website, have collateral material on hand, or use social media in some capacity, then you will most definitely need a source of quality images to use. (And no, you can’t just use images found on Google. There are copyright laws, you know.)
Canva.com is a free software that helps you to create high quality, professional-looking images. You can use their library of free (or dirt cheap) images to make infographics, invitations, flyers, store signage, social media thumbnails, and more. If you can use a mouse, you can use Canva.
For those who are more adept at creating images and editing photos, Sumopaint.com is the free online version of Photoshop. Use it right in your browser to do everything that you would have done in Photoshop, for a much more appealing price (nothing, to be exact).
If the creative muse isn’t striking you over the head at the moment you need an image, there’s nothing wrong with using one that’s already been made by someone else. Flickr.com provides an endless resource of high quality professional and amateur photos that are available for you to use as you wish. Be careful though, and make sure you are filtering your search by ones that are allowed for commercial use. Also, if a photo is tagged as available for use under the Creative Commons license, be sure you properly attribute that photo to its owner.
Make Friends on Social Media
What once started as a way for a business to differentiate itself from the competition has now become standard business practice. These days, your business’s Facebook page or other social channels are simply an extension of your website, if you have one.
Social media doesn’t cost a penny out of pocket to set up, but it does require heavy time investment, especially in the beginning. If you don’t want to shell out for a social media managing service, like SocialPilot or Hootsuite, stick with one or two social channels that you can easily maintain without letting it fall to the back burner.
If you don’t have a website, it’s even more important to get (and stay) engaged on social media, as your customers will rely on social channels for everything they want to know about your company (business hours, address, phone number, reviews, etc).
Blast your blog posts, contests, new products, sales and specials, anything that will keep your name on your target’s mind. Make sure you keep your info current and post often, as old business news brings about a sense of failure. Above all, track and measure engagement, and continue to tweak your social marketing for best results.
Present Yourself As An Industry Expert
You know you’re good at what you do, and you know what you’re talking about. Now you need to rally the masses and get them to believe it, too. Consider guest blogging on sites within your industry to surround your name and business with attention from readers who are interested in what you have to tell them.
Anytime you can get your name out to potential customers and position yourself as the leader in your industry, you should. It helps legitimize your place in the field and makes you the go-to source for anything related in that field.