This article was written for an industry publication, and I have altered it to make it less industry specific; these tips go across the board, and are useful for any budding businessperson.
‘Advertising’ can be a scary word, instantly making you hear the cha-cha-ching sound of cash leaving your business bank account before you’ve even got started, but it is not just something for the big brands and billboards, you can do plenty of advertising for absolutely free, here are my top ten tips…
1) Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Friends Reunited, Facebook, Myspace – this list goes on… social networking is a super way to get your brand recognized – It is free to join and easy to do. Add your personal and business profiles to these sites, and ensure you check out privacy settings if you want to keep some details from public viewing. Expert Jonathan Pollinger provides tips on using networking sites to benefit your business on his website.
2) If you are holding a local event or special offer, write the details on a card or if you already have posters use them, and ask as many local shop owners as you can to display them in their window. They are often happy to do this, as it can entice customers inside their store. Even try town halls, libraries, gyms and fashion stores – you will find that other small-to-medium local businesses will be more than willing to help, unless of course they are direct competition.
3) How many times have you headed to YouTube for a quick entertainment fix? Millions of viewers search for ‘How to’ or advice videos too. So, set your channel up for free, and upload some informative videos, where you can instantly advertise your knowledge and your business. You can add links to your site and associative tag words to increase the chances of people finding your channel… and the bonus here, is that you can actually make money from your channel!
4) By setting up a blog for free, [e.g on WordPress or Typepad] you can write about your business, the benefits of your services and insert interesting images. Always add a link back to your business website or to your email address, and make comments on other people’s blogs and websites, they may reply or link back to you.
5) Do you have a website? You can do it for free… branding and marketing work hand-in-hand with advertising, and there is nothing better in our modern world of the web than having your very own space to advertise your services. Check out Wix.com, WordPress.com, they are fantastic tools for small business or sole traders who have neither time nor money to invest in a professional web designer. Choose from lots of templates, and you can even direct your domain name easily too.
6) Check out directory websites or search for websites applicable to your industry, as you will be surprised at how many allow you to list your details for free, which means when somebody is searching for the service or product that you provide, then the details are more likely to rank higher in search engine listings. Yell.com allows free basic listing for local businesses, with the option to upgrade if and when you choose.
7) If you have a website or you are planning to do a ‘free’ one as suggested in Tip 5, then a great way to advertise is to do link swaps… it is very good for search engine optimization having external links to your site or web space. Avoid swapping links with sites that you do not feel represent you as a business… reputation is also important when putting your name out there and this is where advertising crosses over with PR.
8) Affiliate advertising is fantastic for professionals in the same industry or complementing industries. For example, if you are a massage therapist you could have your details passed on and advertised by somebody who is a Reflexologist, or even a hairdresser or beauty therapist. If you are a bricklayer, then it could be beneficial to affiliate yourself with a reputable and qualified plumber, or other tradesman in the construction industry. This works both ways, so you would also pass on details to your clients about your chosen affiliates. You are in affect sharing the same client base, but for different services. It is a trusted form of advertising, as the client will have faith in the word of a professional they already have experience with.
9) Word of mouth is likely to be one of the strongest types of advertising in your business – so take advantage of this! Have a look at some marketing options to ensure that your current client base will do the hard work of advertising your services for you, to colleagues, family and friends.
10) Do you have a car? Adding a nice sign to your window, advertising your services is a great idea – get arty and ensure it is bold and to the point. If you choose to add a little investment then you can buy car magnets, which are relatively inexpensive and have maximum effect for local business potential.