Cheap or free marketing steps your small business can take right now
Last week I lost my sole remaining client to COVID-19.
Figuratively, not literally, I hasten to add.
In the current economic climate it was no surprise, but equally, it was a sad moment – and one I’d hoped wouldn’t arrive.
To mitigate some of the financial worry for the client, I’d proposed reducing their bill by £50 (a fifth) a month and even offered to upload their blog posts for them, to make sure they continue to put out marketing collateral during this time.
Why? Because for all the chaos it’s caused, COVID-19 has also created an unprecedented opportunity for small businesses to suddenly become more visible and – with the right strategy – more profitable, too.
But, for so many businesses like my client’s, the marketing budget is fast becoming a luxury they can simply no longer afford.
So, what now for my own freelancing? Do I twiddle my thumbs and ruminate on my misfortune? Honestly, I’ll admit I spent a couple of hours doing just that. But then I began to consider how these businesses – now tasked with managing their own marketing – could still take some small steps to improve their position when we emerge the other side of the COVID nightmare, or at least negate any potential losses from months of putting the marketing on hold.
Even if you’ve had to cancel advertising or reduce third-party promotional activities, there are ways to keep your small business visible with little no to budget. Here are some simple – and hopefully helpful – marketing steps you can take right now.
Build up your Google reviews
If you serve customers in your local area, having a Google My Business profile is a free and easy way to show up in local search ahead of much bigger competitors. You can post updates, images and more via your listing, as well as build up customer reviews.
More than 80% of shoppers read local business reviews and the average consumer reads ten reviews before making a decision, so it’s worthwhile building up at least this number via Google My Business. The more reviews you have, the better your business should perform in local search.
If you need to build up your reviews, just ask – put a call out on social media or get in touch by email and offer an incentive, such as a discount on customers’ next order or entry into a prize draw for participants.
Optimise your website for SEO
Now is the time to check your website’s SEO to make sure your customers can find and engage with your business.
First off, check the back end of the website – does each page have the necessary meta information containing the keywords you want to target? Have you added alt tags to your images? Is the content on each page at least 300 words?
All of these factors contribute to your overall SEO performance and are relatively simple to resolve yourself. Plugins like Yoast are user-friendly even for the non-techie folk among us and can assist with easy on-page website optimisation without the need for a developer.
Having a business blog is a great way to keep customers updated and depending on the type of business you run, your blog might be where you post interesting news from your industry, in-depth personal insights – or a bit of both.
There’s a reason why companies spend 46% of their budget on content creation: per dollar, content marketing produces three times as many leads as paid ads in search. That’s not to say that a small business will achieve these amazing results overnight, but if you’re not creating content, you’re not even giving yourself that chance.
Think about what matters to your customers, how what you sell solves problems, and write about it. Be sure to include focus keywords and a few images, too – download images for free at Unsplash, Pexels and Pixabay. If you’re not a natural writer, our proofreading service is designed to help businesses on a budget hone their copy at a fraction of the cost you’d pay for ghost-written content. Contact us to find out more – prices from £20 p/h.
Connect with potential partners
Not of the romantic kind, but of the professional variety. Looking for partnership opportunities can be a great way to build brand awareness and broaden your network while also planting the seed for future opportunities.
If you sell products, look out for relevant stockists to maximise opportunities for sales or consider brand ambassadorship via a commission scheme. If you want to get your name out there, get in touch with relevant publications about producing an opinion piece or look out for speaking gigs via industry events – some of which are still taking place virtually.
Social networks are ripe with potential, too – Instagram in particular is perfect for connecting with like-minded businesspeople and even for directly selling products, thanks to shoppable posts. I speak from experience here, having been approached by suppliers for my side-biz via Instagram and also happening on partnership opportunities.
Create a social media marketing plan
If your business uses social media to attract and engage with customers but you haven’t really created a plan, doing so takes around half an hour and is time well spent.
All the major platforms have easily accessed analytics information that reveals the majority of what you need to know about your audience, including their age, gender and location, when they’re most active and on what kind of device. You can assess which posts perform best, which flopped, and look at why – maybe it was the time of day, the day of the week, or maybe the content just didn’t resonate with the audience.
Once you’ve figured out what works and the best days and times to post, create a plan and come up with some topics so you can plan ahead and schedule posts – HubSpot has a fantastic template with lots of national days for inspiration.
These are just a few pointers to get you going; I’d love to know your cheap and free marketing tips. Follow me on Facebook and let me know if you have anything to add – I’ll create a bigger post with your suggestions. Thanks for reading.