For many small businesses, marketing can seem like an extravagance that only larger companies can afford. However, especially today, there are many marketing tactics that can have a big impact on your business that don’t cost an arm and a leg – if anything at all. The Internet has made it possible to get the word out about your business in a way that was never possible years ago. You may be investing your time, but you need not have to invest a lot monetarily. Here are the top ten ways to market your small business for next to nothing:

  1. Leverage social media

One of the least expensive ways to promote your business is through social media sites. The type of business you have will determine which sites will be most effective. For instance, if you sell a service that doesn’t provide a large gallery of project photos (think accounting, law, etc), Instagram and Pinterest are probably not good ones to focus on since they rely heavily on pictures and other images to communicate. Focus instead on sites like Facebook and Twitter, where it is easier to build awareness and authority for your business. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Once your page is set up, be consistent with posting in order to create the perception of a stable, well-run business.
  • Encourage customers to post positive reviews on your social media pages. Add a link from your website to make it easy and fast for them.
  • As you complete projects, post before and after photos.
  1. Send monthly marketing emails to customers and prospects

Email marketing gets a bad rap, these days. It’s true, some companies are intrusive to the point of spammy with emails, but consumers still cite emails are one of the strongest influencers in purchasing decisions. Clean up your customer list, and make it practice to gather email addresses from potential customers. This is easy enough to do if you are in a service business that gives out proposals or bids, as you’ll usually be delivering your proposal via email. These days, email marketing is easy even for a novice, with software services like MailChimp, ConstantContact, and others. There is often a free version of the software available, and the entire process is completely automated: so, no design skills required! Here are some ideas for things to include in your email blasts:

  • Project before and afters
  • Testimonials
  • Specials, discounts, or promotions
  • News related to your business or employees
  • Other relevant, useful information to potential customers, such as DIY articles
  1. Optimize your website

So what exactly does it mean, to “optimize” your website? Your site is in competition with the multitude of other websites online with similar content. When someone does a search online, search results are delivered based on the browser’s ranking algorithym. While quite technical, ways to ensure you rank higher than your competition are not. It takes some time, but the results can be dramatic. Here are some of the easiest things to do for a non-geek:

  • Make sure your site is indexed. If you didn’t hire a professional web developer to create your website, there’s a chance that the site wasn’t submitted to the major search engines for indexing. Indexing by Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc., means that the site has been officially scanned and will be considered for ranking. Here’s where you can submit your site to Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
  • Every page on your website should have a title and subtitles. Make it easy for search engines scanning your website to understand the site’s structure and hierarchy. Most important is the page title, which should describe the page’s content. Be sure to include the most relevant keyword(s) related to each page.
  • Create page titles and descriptions. Hopefully, you have an easy to use content management system (CMS) for your website that allows a non-pro to quickly change text and pictures. In your CMS, you should be able to go to each page on your site and add brief text that clearly describes the content of each page. While this information is not visible to searchers, it IS visible to search engines. In fact, page titles and descriptions are the first things that Google considers when determining your site’s page rank.
  • Add alt descriptions to your images. Search engines can read text on your website, but not pictures or images. If you want the imagery on your site to be considered in page rank, add alt text to all of your images. Again, this is something you should be able to do from your CMS. Alt text is simply a concise written description of each image on your site. When writing the text, not only should you describe the image in a few words, but you should also include the name of your business or a few keywords related to it.
  • Add more internal links within your website. Internal links not only help users navigate your site, they’re great for SEO. Search engines, just like humans, can click on links in your website in order to navigate. And if you blog, internal links are especially important. Be sure to use them to send readers to other, related blog posts or content in your site.
  1. Add testimonials and reviews to your website

Today, many people rely on recommendations from others to make decisions about the companies they do business with. Testimonials from real people are always a stronger motivator to hire than straight marketing lingo. Add a section for reviews to your website, and make it easy for customers to jump online and add one on their own. You can also add a link from your website to your company’s Google Maps listing so customers can review on Google, as well. Positive Google reviews are a strong signal to Google to rank one website higher than a competitive site, so this tactic alone can be a big boost to your website’s SEO.

  1. Add a blog to your website

Nothing says “authority” like a strong blog that showcases your expertise in your field. Use your blog as a platform to educate potential customers about the ins and outs of your business. Are you a painting contractor? Write blogs of interest to DIY’ers, such as “top 10 tips for a perfect paint job” or “why the right painting tools matter”. You can also cover topics such as “choosing the right paint contractor” or “the year’s trendiest paint finishes”. You can also write answers to some of the most commonly asked questions you encounter in your profession. As a professional in the industry, you will have insight that translates easily to a short blog post. The purpose of a blog is two fold: to position you and your company as knowledgeable experts and to provide additional content to move visitors further along in the decision making process.

It’s true that for most of these ideas, a website is foundational. If you don’t have a website yet and want to hear about less expensive alternatives to developing one, contact Inovail. Our innovative Lead Flow websites may be the perfect solution!