Business owners just starting their professional ventures are likely to face a major challenge when it comes to balancing their many start-up expenses with the limited funds available until the money starts coming in. So when it comes time to allocate a marketing budget, you may think that there are simply bigger fish to fry (lease payments, salaries, and materials are just a few upfront costs that come to mind). However, spreading your name and building a brand are paramount to your success; if no one has heard of you, your sales are bound to be a bit lackluster and this can quickly quash your professional aspirations. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to go about marketing your new business on the cheap (or even for free). Here are a few of the best options.
1. Directories. Getting listed is a good place to start, and there are several options. The best thing you can do for your website when you’re first starting is to list with a variety of directories, but particularly those that cater to your industry. There are all kinds of free services you can use, but keep in mind that many are not particular about who they allow to list, so you could end up with your name alongside some unsavory characters (adult entertainment, gambling sites, and so on). Paid services may be a better choice and they come with a wide price range.
2. Ad sharing. For most new businesses this is par for the course. Ad sharing allows you to post banners ads on other sites (often for free) with the caveat that you create a banner for your own site that features a variety of ads for other businesses. Just look for a service that allows you to choose the type of businesses that will be featured on your site (to ensure added value with relevant ads for your visitors).
3. Forums. Networking is essential to any business, new or old, so joining forums is a must; the benefits are unquestionable. As you get to know your colleagues in the online arena you can tap them for advice on any problems you’re experiencing with your startup. And nurturing relationships with others in your industry could lead to endorsements, cross-promotions, or even collaborations down the road, all of which are great for your business.
4. Blogs and social networking. Starting an on-site blog is a great way to entice traffic to your site, but you should also promote on related blogs. Don’t spam their readership with links; that will only get you banned. Instead, post useful commentary or ask about writing guest posts as a way to add links in a constructive (and appreciated manner). And when it comes to social media, create professional profiles on several sites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare, etc.), take the time to keep them current, and always be on the lookout for up-and-coming outlets to join.
5. SEO (search engine optimization). You may not have the money on hand to hire an SEO agency, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use this optimization strategy on your own. Of course, there is a bit of a learning curve so don’t think you can pick up a book today and be an expert tomorrow. But with a few simple lessons (and continued learning) you can increase traffic, expand your web presence, and get your name out to your target demographic. It’s well worth the effort, especially if you don’t have the money to hire a pro.