Hi! And welcome to episode 7 of Startup Marketing. Today, I’m breaking down my favorite and free marketing strategies. Last week, I talked about the importance of putting together a marketing plan to help grow your business and increase profitability. Now, if you listened to that episode and thought, “um that’s great, but I don’t have any money to invest in marketing”, have no fear. There are free and useful channels that you can employ. 

First, let’s start with the one that everyone thinks of right away: social media. For good reason, social media is an easy place to start. Chances are, you already have a personal network that you can leverage to start promoting your business. Now, I know some of you are thinking that you don’t want to be one of “those” people on social media who’s constantly peppering their friends with requests to buy things. Trust me, I can relate. But, there’s a middle ground to being totally silent and someone who’s obnoxious about it. Start by setting up your business pages. Once you’ve got those ready to go, share your new adventure on your personal page; some of your friends and family may have no idea what you’ve been planning to start a business! So tell your story loud and proud! Your business is going to be a big part of your life from now on. You’ll be able to feel the love and prime your friends and family to show their support. After you’ve shared your story, invite your friends and family to follow, share and support you on social media. I like prefacing the request with some real honesty because, when the invite comes, it feels less like you’re just trying to sell your friends and family something. Plus, you likely have someone in your network that can help refer others to your business, so make sure you consistently share your business posts to your personal pages as well (this is something I still have to remind myself to do). It doesn’t cost you anything to be on social media, which is why it’s always the first stop for people starting their businesses, but being present on social media and growing your business takes time and thought. Something we’ll go through in a future episode. 

One thing to note: When you’re choosing what social media platforms to be on, don’t just choose the ones you like to be on. Conduct some good old fashioned market research and see where your ideal customers are hanging out and start there. Having a solid social media presence doesn’t do anything for you aren’t in the right spaces. 

Facebook and Instagram are often the first stop for new business owners and, I believe, staples your social media (as long as they make sense for the type of product you sell and your target audience). But don’t forget about LinkedIn and Pinterest. As well as exploring newer social media platforms like Snapchat and TikTok. If you’re service-based, LinkedIn will likely help you connect with people who need your services. And Pinterest, while often thought of as a social media channel, functions more like a search engine. 

Now, let’s talk about Pinterest. You may not be thinking of Pinterest as a must-be spot for your small business, I didn’t either, but listen to this: Pinterest recently hit over 10 million unique visitors making it one the fastest growing websites! The site is notorious for converting viewers into buyers faster and more frequently than any other social media channel. 47% of users log on to make purchases—that’s insane! Pinterest reaches 83% of women ages 24-54 and 40% of US dads say they use Pinterest. 78% of Pinterest users say that even the ads are useful. And overwhelmingly people feel like the platform is positive; a welcome win for brands in today’s day and age. Every pin you create gives you the opportunity to put a URL back to your own content or website on it, which means you can drive more traffic with your pins. You can add a “pin” button to your website, which allows people to save information directly from your website and you can do an incredible amount of research to see what’s hot in any industry so you’re creating products and services your ideal audience finds valuable. If you’re not on Pinterest, create a business profile today and get pinning!

Once you have your social media channels set up, the next stop is an email provider. There are plenty to choose from out there and they range from free if you’re under a certain number of subscribers to relatively inexpensive per month; think around $20. Pretty affordable. The most popular free email marketing provider is by far Mail Chimp. Another one to consider is Mail Octopus. You’ll find mixed reviews on any service you google, so my recommendation is to pick a couple to research, then pick one and go with it. You’ll end up in analysis paralysis if you try to compare too many. 

You’ll also want to look at the services you already pay for. For example, if you have a website, sometimes they come with a free email engine. If you use square, you have access to customer emails that they input at checkout. So, before you sign up for another service, check to see if you’ve already got access to one. For the record, the email provider I use is Flodesk. They’re still in beta, so there are some small features that I’ve noticed are missing, overall, if you haven’t used an email marketing platform before, Flodesk is by far the most intuitive I’ve used. Having worked in at least three other email marketing platforms, I prefer Flodesk because I don’t get lost in the system. The templates are clean with a modern aesthetic and easy to edit. 

Which leads me to my next most favorite way to promote your business for free: collect email addresses and send emails. I know, it sounds super obvious if I’m recommending that you have an email platform. Capturing email whether through offering free resources if you’re a service provider or when customers check out when they purchase a product is the smartest thing you can do for your business. Why? Because you OWN these email addresses. When you grow an audience on social media, your communities are beholden to those channels. So, if Facebook or Instagram disappears next week and you haven’t ever collected email addresses to stay in touch with your community, they’re completely gone. But, collecting those email addresses is the best way you can grow and market your business. These are people who have given you a precious resource, their email address, in exchange for your content and offers. This will definitely be a future episode to do a real deep dive.  

Next, Create a Google My Business listing. This is an easy way to build an outside link to your website, which google likes to see and helps you rank higher in search results. It’s relatively easy to do. Simply log in to the google account that’s associated with your business (or create one), go to google.com/business and click “start now” in the right corner. Add your business name and fill out the information about your business, then select your business category, add your website and phone number, and finally choose a verification method. If you’re a new business (or even an existing one looking to gain more visibility on google), this is a great place to focus your early efforts. If people are searching for a product or service near them, they’re likely close to purchasing said product or service. Once you have a Google My Business page set up, make sure you put your best foot forward and include nice photos and edit the “info” section to be as up to date as possible. 

Finally, let’s talk about creating a website. I believe a website is critical to your business. The short reason why is because it again, gives you a space to thoroughly tell your story and promote your brand that you own. I hesitated to include creating a website in this episode because it’s technically not ‘free’. You will have to pay for your URL on a yearly basis, but it’s a relatively minor cost. I also hesitated because I don’t want to make building a website seem like it’s the easiest thing to do. Some of you may be the types of entrepreneurs who can learn and tackle anything; others may not be the kind who want to give away their precious time to learn something so completely outside their scope. Whichever kind of entrepreneur you are, it’s totally ok. 

I’ll be honest, I have a wordpress site and when I started creating it, I thought it was going to be pretty simple having managed a wordpress website that had hundreds of pages. I was quickly humbled to learn that managing a website and being able to understand what web developers are saying is not the same thing as being efficient at building your own site. In fact, I have a good friend of mine who’s a web developer that helped me build mine and there are still days when I have to slack him to answer questions for me. So, for those of you who like to dig in and learn something no matter how much time it takes you, add a website to your “free” list. If you’re like me and you’d rather pay someone to do it, put the website on your expense list. In the end, my friend built my site, I designed it and then I hired someone to write copy and do the search engine optimization work for me. I took the middle ground. It’s totally up to you, but for me and my clients, I always always recommend a website. If you’re not sure where to start with a website, start by checking out sites like Wix, Squarespace, WordPress, and Showit. Then, stay tuned, I’ll be doing an entire episode in the coming weeks to do a deep dive into how to choose a website platform. 

To recap, there’s five things I love for small business owners to do that are free marketing strategies:

  1. Social Media
  2. Email Marketing
  3. Pinterest
  4. Google My Business
  5. Create a website

Download my free checklist at: get authentic branding.com/resources to keep these in mind. Next week, we’ll build on from these strategies and discuss some paid options to add to your list. If you’re ready to brand, grow and market your business and need a partner, send me an email by visiting my website: getauthenticbranding.com.

And of course, if you enjoyed today’s episode, please rate, review and subscribe to help other women like you find my podcast.

Until next time!