Free: one of the most popular words in advertising and a great way to bring in new customers. Imagine getting free advertising for your business. Traditional, four-color glossy, high-priced ads have their place for major brands, but most businesses cannot and should not spend their entire marketing budget on advertising. So how does a small business compete? By using these ten free or low-cost advertising options.
1. PRESS RELEASES
While you might think it is difficult to work with the media, think again. News outlets need content for this 24/7 information-addicted world. With all that space to fill, getting at least a little blurb about your business is a snap as long as you follow a few guidelines. The most important rule is to keep your press release newsworthy. You may be asking, “How is my home-based business newsworthy?” A really simple press release that is almost guaranteed of getting published is an announcement such as the opening of your business, a grand reopening, adding someone to your staff, or receiving a certification or award—each a newsworthy item. If none of these examples work for your business, consider tying into the hottest trends in the media. Right now, everything Earth-friendly is a big story. For example, if you operate a mobile cleaning service, send out a press release that you have recently switched to all natural cleaning products and operate out of a hybrid car to reduce the carbon footprint of your business. Be creative and look at what the media is covering, and spin it for your home business.
2. WRITING ARTICLES
Articles position you as the expert in your field and showcase your ability to help a potential client with your product or service. Here is an example: January is National Organization month. Your business is helping people get organized. A great article could be titled, “Pinnacle Organization Offers Five Ways to Get Organized During National Organization Month.” Then, without being self promoting, offer advice on the top five ways of getting organized. Normally, you will get a byline and a little blurb at the end of the article on how to contact you.
3. SOURCE LETTERS
A source letter is an overlooked form of free advertising. A source letter is contacting a media person and explaining to him or her in either e-mail or letter how you can be a source for future articles. As stated before, we are living in a society that constantly wants new, fresh information. By being an available source to reporters, you get free advertising for your business, because they will credit the information to you and all you had to do was answer a few questions.
This type of free advertising takes time to develop, but hopefully you are volunteering for a cause you feel passionate about. If you do not feel passionate about the cause and the only reason you are volunteering is to network as well as promote your business, there will be irreparable damage done to the reputation of your business. With that being said, volunteering for an organization can put you in contact with people that are interested in using your products or services and they have already seen the type of work ethic you have through your volunteer services.
5. BUSINESS CARDS
Normally people already have business cards, so why not use them to further advertise your business? Use the front of the card for contact information and the back of the card to provide something of value to a potential client. To use the organization example above, have the top five ways to get control of your space. Another example is a project manager could have the top five ways a project can stay on track. To make sure your business cards are extremely effective, use a readable font. It may look elegant to have a script font that looks like handwriting, but it is difficult to immediately read and if people have to think just to read your business card, they will move on even if you have the most useful tips on the back.
Flyers are an easy and low-cost way of getting the word out about your business. The beauty of the Internet is that you never have to leave the comfort of your home office to post a flyer. Flyers can be either graphically designed for posting at a local community centers, chambers of commerce, or businesses. Make sure to ask before posting any information. On the Internet, you post a flyer without graphics on sites such as https://minneapolis.craigslist.org/, https://www.webclassifieds.us/, http://www.finditclassifieds.com/, and http://www.usnewspapers.com/.
Partnerships can be difficult to negotiate, but once they are in place and all the expectations are understood, these are a great form of free advertising. You can partner with your competition or a business that offers a product or service that dovetails into your own. To partner with your competition means if one of you is too busy to take a project on, then the client is directly referred to you and in the future you return the gesture. To partner with a business related to you means a copywriter and graphic designer have a standing agreement that if a client needs a service from both parties, they team together to provide all the services for the project.
A great way to get press coverage, articles, and possible partnerships all rolled in one is hosting a contest. For example, a marketing professional and graphic designer team up to create a marketing makeover contest. The marketing professional develops a marketing strategy while the graphic designer creates all the collateral for the makeover. The contest gets a media sponsor and then finds a business to donate printing for the new collateral in exchange for the media coverage. Just make sure when using this advertising method not to give away too much of your time, talent, or product.
Sharing your knowledge of what you do is a great way to obtain free advertising. Local chapters of the Small Business Administration are normally looking for professionals to teach others how to succeed in business. You can also host a class at a local community center or library. Another teaching outlet is approaching the local community college to teach for its adult learning program or even its associate level classes. Teaching seminars over the phone in the form of a tele-seminar or over the web in a webinar are also possibilities.
Provide the audience with practical useful advice, and they will love you. Give them handouts, whether it is a copy of the PowerPoint presentation slides or a sample of your product or service, and they will see the seminar as a valuable event then spread the word.
This is not the place to sell your product or service. When people think they are attending a seminar to learn something new, only to found out that you are giving them a sales pitch and they need to buy something before they get anything useful, the audience becomes hostile. The last thing you want in a room full of people that are your target market is hostility. People are taking precious time to attend your class or seminar, so do not abuse their trust by trying to sell them something. When you are open about sharing information, people will trust you and in turn hire you or purchase your product or service because you are not pushing it on them.
To promote the seminar, send out a press release announcing your teaching event, and the media may start calling you for expect advice on your services or products because they see you are in a position to teach others about your success.
10. SPEAKING EVENTS
Similar to teaching, speaking events come in all shapes and sizes. You can volunteer to speak or even be a highly paid keynote speaker for a trade association convention. When pursuing this avenue of advertising, consider joining a local chapter of Toastmasters to hone your speaking skills. To find venues, contact local chambers of commerce and speaking associations.
Don’t just use the word FREE in your advertising copy. Use it to further your business. By using these ten simple steps, your business will increase cash flow and sales without going broke buying conventional advertising space.