There are so many ways to advertise online for free that it is easy for the average business owner to forget that they are neglecting their bread and butter (local ads) in the process. And anymore, you don’t have to spend crazy amounts of money to spread your name throughout your immediate geographic area. Here are just a few ways to get the job done on the down-low.
- Word of mouth (brand ambassadors). Is there anything better than a trusted opinion to steer consumers towards new products and services? If you advertise in the online arena you probably know that the current push by most businesses is not to shack up with the person on Facebook who has the most “friends”, but rather to infiltrate small, tight-knit groups where every member is known and trusted, since the latter tactic is much more likely to deliver on referrals and follow-up business. It’s the same in real-world marketing. If you can wow one customer enough to engender loyal patronage, you’ll no doubt get the unsolicited rave reviews that will prompt their family and friends to check you out.
- Block party. If you’re new to an area, a great way to garner local business is to introduce yourself to the neighborhood with a block party. Get a few local businesses on board, secure city approvals (and permits), and then turn the parking lot into a party on a Friday night. You can all offer your particular talents to make the night a success (area restaurants can provide food, a party planner could hook up a DJ, and other businesses could pitch in a few bucks if their particular goods or services don’t apply). All you really need to do is have everyone hit up their mailing lists, set up booths to interact with potential customers, and then see if you can’t get a few free plugs in the local media by inviting pundits to appear.
- Volunteer work. Although some people feel that time is money, it doesn’t really cost you anything to volunteer within your community under the name of your business. And you should encourage your employees to join you in your efforts to give back. Supporting the community that supports you is not only the right thing to do; it’s also a great way to advertise for free.
- Cross promotion with neighboring businesses. Most businesses simply don’t realize how much they could all benefit from cross promotion. Find nearby vendors that are related to your line of work and see how you might share customers. For example, a salon and a catering company probably have a lot of common clients seeking services for events (weddings, for one) that they can refer to each other as a way for both to get more business (and to offer added value to customers).
- Adequate signage. You could go all out with airships and blimps that have your name plastered on the side, but that will cost you an arm and a leg with no guarantee that your AirSign aerial advertising will even be seen. Instead, invest in creating attention-grabbing signage for your storefront to bring in passersby. Okay, so this isn’t free, but you have to spring for a sign anyway so you might as well spend a bit up front to make this quintessential advertising tool worth every penny. And P.S.: if your sign is visible from the street but not the sidewalk, think about implementing some killer window art or a sandwich board to divert foot traffic through your front door.