Updated: Feb 23
If I told you that marketing doesn't have to be expensive. Would it surprise you?
It is harder now to achieve organic (free) growth on social media, that much is true. But coming up with fantastic marketing ideas to help get your small business in front of the right audience doesn't have to revolve around social media.
Some of the most effective ways of marketing a small business are actually free.
If you've ever thought how do you promote a business on a low budget? Or how can I advertise my small business for free? Then I hope the following article will give you some creative marketing ideas.
1. Create a brilliant publicity stunt
You have probably seen business owners using publicity stunts before. One of the best known is Richard Branson who is famous for his PR stunts to advertise Virgin. Some examples of the Richard Branson PR stunt include: ice cubes with his face on them used in airline customers drinks, dressing up in drag, kite surfing with a naked girl on his back, and wearing saucy 'stiff competition' slogan underpants. Hardly the shy retiring sort is he.
But, you don't need to go that far, literally. Do you remember how Sir Captain Tom Moore captured the hearts of the world with his simple plan to walk 100 laps of his garden? All in the spirit of fund raising. He became a PR darling after that. One brave old man raising funds for the NHS became known all over the world.
So to move on from celebrity publicity stunts, what makes a good PR stunt and how can you create one? PR experts agree that a good stunt needs to be three things. Visual, clever and reactive.
Can you create something with what you already have that gives you clever and disruptive advertising?
Let's get specific. If you work in the food service industry, could you create the biggest donut ever made for your local area?
Could you make the largest Yorkshire pudding?
The longest vegan hot dog?
If you can use a branded food stuff to include in your attempt, it could result in the brand being used amplifying the PR you generate.
If you make clothing for children, how about organising your customers in an attempt to all wear the same item of clothing on a certain date? A pre covid marketing idea would have been to encourage people to all turn up in the same location, but now? Maybe the most people on Zoom at anyone time wearing a yellow spring jumper!
You get the idea. A good PR stunt should encourage others to want to photograph it, share it on social media, or to get involved too. I'd love to know if you come up with some great ideas of your own.
2. Ride on a trend
What you really want to generate with your low cost marketing ideas is advertising without money.
Traditional advertising works when a company who own a certain medium ( TV channel, billboard, radio station) put a product in front of other people in exchange for money.
This time you want the audience without the expenditure. No money marketing.
So you need to be clever. Every single news outlet needs content.
What can your business do that will reflect a trend that lots of people are interested in?
For example during the initial Covid outbreak we were all encouraged to display rainbows in our windows.
Many people had their children draw the rainbows, but the rainbow trend went much further. People were producing rainbow earrings, rainbow clothing, rainbow bags, and rainbow jewellery. There was even rainbow food.
The media lapped it up. Rainbow coverage was huge. People who got featured sold out overnight.
Look at the current situation in 2021. What trends can you see coming through?
Many people say that short content is becoming increasingly important. My marketing tips for small businesses this year would certainly include looking at how to bring super short video into your marketing mix.
Could you create a series of helpful super short tips? People are more likely to listen to a 30 second tip than a 30 minute one. But they will probably watch quite a few of those back to back before they get bored.
What could you do with that idea?
3. Host a panel
These days there are zero barriers to holding panel events. So if you are looking for promotional ideas for small businesses then hosting a panel might be a great suggestion.
In fact an exciting social media tip is Instagram is soon to allow more than two people to go live together. So if you love a live chat you'll soon be able to do it with more than one person!
Panel events remain popular because they maximise the star power with each participant you add.
Think about what your super power as a small business owner is, and look around for people you could team up with.
Virtual events are so low cost, the only cost really is the time we invest. But the benefits are massive, here are a few:
Shared announcements on multiple websites
Cross promotion on lots of email lists
Sponsorship revenue for brands who want to be associated with your topic
Follower growth on associated platforms
The list is endless! And this one really is perfect for the service providers among you who want marketing ideas for events.
So there you have it, three low to no cost ideas that will help you get your business in front of lots more people for pretty much nothing apart from your time.
Create a publicity stunt, ride on a trend, and consider a panel event.
I hope this article has given you some idea of the kind of marketing you can do with no budget.
Marketing is one of the most important things you can do as a small business so don't let it dry up.
Thanks for reading
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For even more low cost marketing ideas why not buy my book?
If you would like even more low cost marketing ideas I wrote a book. 100 Marketing Tips for Small Business Owners. Check it out here
Shona Chambers Marketing is a Marketing Agency based in SE London.
Specialising in helping Small Business Owners and Freelancers with their Marketing.