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You’ve heard it before… “Nothing is really FREE!”   Well, there’s some truth to that for the following reason:  What doesn’t cost you money is going to cost you in TIME.  There, I said it.  It will cost you something.  But there’s still good news here… Keep reading!

If you have more time than money, there are 5 really great avenues to promote your business online for little or no cash that can make a real difference in the calls, leads and sales you get.  Let’s take an “overview” look at these options briefly here in Part 1 of this series.  I’ll follow this article with additional posts in the series with details and specifics for each of the 5 main avenues discussed here.

Keep in mind in every instance below, EVERYTHING you send, say, do and distribute is a part of your public image and marketing efforts.  Make a solid professional impression that will win you sales!

1.  Your Company Website

If you have a website, put it to work for you!  If you don’t have one yet, you need to get this piece in place as soon as possible.  It will be the online hub (and first point of contact) for all your advertising, marketing and online activities.   Your customers should be directed to your site and find immediate answers, products and means to contact you directly.

Whether it’s professionally developed or a DIY site, make sure it looks good, talks to your ideal customers, and is optimized to be found easily in search results.  Many free and low cost tools exist to make this possible.  (Part2: Make the Most of Your Website.)

2.  Email Marketing

This is likely the highest return on the lowest investment of both time and money.  Email Marketing is extremely beneficial for most small to medium sized businesses (and many large ones, too).  This permission-based marketing medium allows customers to control the types of communications they receive and help you grow your customer base by recommending and sharing your information and offers with others.

Email marketing also allows you to be helpful, visible and relational.  You can reward loyalty, inform clients, and promote new products or services to an already interested group.  Make sure your campaigns are targeted at your audience, use a 3rd party Can-SPAM compliant service, craft AMAZING titles and hooks… and make sure you are consistent in publishing dates.  Don’t pummel users with email, but publish on a regular schedule you can manage.  Depending on your staffing, skills and comfort level, you may publish once a week, every 2 weeks or even once a month.  Just make it reasonable and stick with it.  (More details coming in Part 3.)

Social Media Marketing3.  Social Media Marketing

If you haven’t heard of social media marketing yet, you’ve been stuck in your conference room too long!  Seriously, a lot of business owners are shy about using social media for marketing purposes, due to a variety of concerns.   Social media has unique rules and a few safeguards should be in place, but the potential benefits are amazing considering the virtually nonexistent cost.

Tools (like hootsuite.com, a personal favorite) make social media marketing more manageable for busy business people and their staff.  You can post to all your accounts at once, schedule posts in advance and monitor all your feeds in one dashboard.  It will still take a time investment, but these tools help reduce the time you have to invest.  (Details on Social Media Marketing in Part 4.)

4.  Free Press Release/Public Service Announcement (PSA)

This marketing avenue is a little more time investment heavy in that it takes a bit of real writing, but the potential returns are quite valuable.  I’ve seen a well crafted & resourced press release turn into a full page feature article.   So, the questions become “How do I write a press release that will get me attention?”  and “Where do I post this press release?” We will take a deeper look at both of these portions in Part 5, but for now here are a few tips:

  • Create a compelling Headline
  • Craft a powerful Hook]
  • Provide all the Facts in Article form
  • Include Media
  • PROOF your copy

A quick Google search will yield a ton of options for free press release distribution.  Once it’s ready, post and share.   More on Press Releases, PSAs and Digital Releases.

5.  Paid Ads/Traditional Media

This is where you’d have to invest a little cash to make the wheels turn, but you can take advantage of a variety of ad types and controls to govern how much you are spending, where your ads are displaying and what kind of search terms are involved.  You really don’t have to spend a fortune to get started.

Some of the ad types available include:

  • Targeted Social Media Ads
  • Pay Per Click (PPC), AdWords, Context Ads
  • Website banner ads
  • Radio Spots
  • Traditional Print Media

Sum it Up:

No matter what marketing media you choose to use, always make sure you have invested some time and maybe even some money into developing the right look and message to reach your target audience.  The most carefully and faithfully executed plan will not produce good results if you are sending the wrong message.

With Little or No Cash, you can still make a BIG impact on the bottom line!

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Cindy is the founding President at 17blue Digital Agency. She's passionate about helping businesses create traction for their brands, reach their goals and make a difference in their communities.