32 Ways to Advertise Your Business—For Free!

Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood

Editor-in-Chief at Fundera
Meredith is Editor-in-Chief at Fundera. Specializing in financial advice for small business owners, Meredith is a current and past contributor to Yahoo!, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, SCORE, AllBusiness and more.
Meredith Wood

Advertising for your business doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, it can be free and a lot of fun! In today’s digital world, there are countless ways to harness the power of the internet to your business’s advantage, along with even more old-school tactics that can be just as effective.

To get your creative juices going for that next perfect marketing opportunity, here are 32 ways to advertise your business that run the gamut but won’t run up a massive bill.

1. Reward Social Media Sharing

It’s always great to find new customers, but it’s also important to show your appreciation for those who are already loyal to your brand—especially if they’re willing to shout it from the proverbial rooftops! Providing discounts to your followers who share about your brand on social media rewards their loyalty and gives you a boost. After all, word-of-mouth endorsements from friends are still the best form of advertising around.

2. Cultivate a Cadre of Brand Ambassadors

George Clooney probably fetches a pretty penny for his work as Nespresso spokesman, but there are other ways to get your brand’s name out there without the seven-figure price tag. Focus on social media influencers who might not be A-list celebrities but who have established themselves as prominent figures in a circle that relates to your brand. Gaining an endorsement from such a person strengthens your brand’s presence in that world.

3. Look Within for Positive Word-of-Mouth

Your strongest advocates for your business might just be under your own roof. An employee who is willing to share positive things about their company on their personal social media accounts can grab the attention of potential new customers, so incentivizing that behavior is a savvy business move. Platforms like Dynamic Signal make it easy for businesses to encourage their employees to serve as brand advocates for their employers online.

4. Have Fun with Interactive Content

Who can resist the allure of a clever internet quiz? Interactive content is entertaining and puts your brand in a positive light in your customer’s eye. With quizzes and surveys that encourage users to share their results on social media, you can expand your brand’s reach further. This has the added bonus of converting your loyal brand followers into brand ambassadors on their own social media platforms.

5. Let Your Customers Peek Behind the Scenes

Whether you use YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, share a video! This could be an interview with a member of your staff, a tour of a manufacturing facility, or a montage of your participation in a recent trade show or industry event.

Giving customers a greater sense of what goes into making your product not only lends your business credibility regarding transparency—it also lets you show your team and your brand’s personality, and define your company’s unique point of view in your market.

6. Play Game Show Host for a Day

Who doesn’t love free things? A giveaway of your product or service can grab the attention of those who might not usually spend their hard earned money with your business. Alternatively, ask those who are already brand loyal to participate in a contest where they generate testimonials or share positives stories about your business online under a designated hashtag. That can generate a lot of positive buzz in a short amount of time.

7. Put a Face to Your Company’s Name with Live Video

CEOs such as Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Steve Jobs are inextricably linked with their brands. Customers feel like they know them personally, and that is part of the fabric of the brand loyalty that Facebook, Tesla, and Apple enjoy. Using live video through Facebook or other social media channels can humanize you and your business, and make any customer even more likely to become a repeat customer.

8. Trade in a Thousand Words for a Picture

If the adage is true, then Instagram lets you do a lot of talking in a very short amount of time. While Facebook still dominates in terms of overall number of users, Instagram followers for certain brands—including titans like Nike and Starbucks—have surged lately. And with younger demographics turning away from television and spending more time on social media, there’s a huge benefit to focusing your marketing efforts here.

9. Share on Snapchat

No longer just a social media tool for the high school set, Snapchat has done a complete about-face to become a powerful tool in the arsenal of the biggest brands around. It’s great for many things, including promoting upcoming events, sharing exclusive “behind the scenes” content, or giving followers access to special deals or coupons. Using the ephemeral nature of the medium to your advantage is the key to maximizing Snapchat’s effectiveness.

10. Use Pinterest to Pique Interest

Pinterest dubs itself “the world’s catalog of ideas.” In a world that is turning away from traditional print media and becoming increasingly enamored with its digital counterpart, a site like Pinterest becomes essentially a curated magazine that your company should strive to grab a page in. Beyond that, looking at boards on Pinterest will help you identify trends that your customers are following and tailor your own product offerings to best fit in with, or outdo, the latest fad.

11. Participate in Twitter Chats

For those unfamiliar with the concept, a Twitter chat is a moderated conversation on a specific topic that occurs on Twitter at a designated date and time and is organized under a designated hashtag. Whether you’re hosting or participating, Twitter chats are an excellent way to network, share ideas, and gain new social media followers. If Twitter chats sound appealing to you, consider using tools like Tweetchat and Nurph that are designed to optimize your participation.

12. Use LinkedIn Groups to Expand Your Network

The Groups function on LinkedIn is a great way to find like-minded individuals and other entrepreneurs who can provide you with advice on running your own business. On the flip side, it also gives you access to a targeted group of people who you know will have an interest in your product or service. LinkedIn even curates a list of groups you might be interested in based on your profile and interaction with the site.

13. Partner with a Fellow Small Business Owner

Wine and cheese, movies and popcorn, high heels and gel insoles—some things are meant to go together. Reach out to other business owners whose goods and services complement yours, and see if they’re amenable to creating a cross-promotional deal with you. This can be a great way for you both to tap into each other’s respective established client bases and expand your own.

14. Do Good, Feel Great

Partner with a well-respected local charity to increase brand awareness while doing good for others. Whether you choose to launch a campaign where donations are made based on the number of users sharing a certain message on social media, ask customers to donate a dollar or two to a given cause when they make their purchase, or use your business’ resources to boost awareness for an important social issue, there are lots of ways for your business to give back while also gaining awareness for your brand.

15. Become A Modern-Day Picasso

Flash mobs were all the rage a few years ago because they were a lighthearted, eye-catching, and potentially viral video-inspiring way to gain attention for a brand. You can do something similar on a smaller scale by creating a unique storefront display that will get the locals talking or using a service like Moo.com to print custom stickers for your business. A chalk mural can be similarly attention-grabbing, and its transitory quality makes it a good way to advertise an upcoming sale.

16. Hit the Streets

Nothing stands out on a roadway full of silver, black, and navy cars quite like a vehicle covered in bright, bold lettering and designs. Auto wraps are typically made of vinyl, and they let you turn your car into a four-wheeled advertisement for your company. The cost of wrapping your car varies depending on vehicle size and whether you opt for a full wrap or partial decal. If you like the concept but don’t feel comfortable with the honks and stares, you can use a site like Carvertise.com to find drivers who are willing to let you advertise on their cars.

17. Engage with Your Local Community

For many small businesses, getting involved in community events can be a win-win. Donating your goods or services for a silent auction for a local charity, blogging about your staff’s recent stint as volunteers at a nearby soup kitchen, or sponsoring a music or arts festival in exchange for advertising in the program or on banners at the event will give exposure to your brand while supporting worthy causes in your own backyard.

18. Plan an Event

It’s great to connect with your customers online, but sometimes it’s nice to see them in person, too! Hosting an event can come in many different forms. Maybe it’s a champagne and canape soiree at your store to celebrate the introduction of a new product line. Maybe it’s a Q&A with a respected thought leader in your field that your customers would love to meet. Either way, this puts you face-to-face with the people who follow your brand and gives you a powerful chance to make a strong positive impression.

19. Say “Hello, New Neighbor!”

The psychological principle called the mere-exposure effect dictates that people develop a preference for certain things merely because they’re familiar with them. This principle explains exactly why you want to be the first business someone comes across when they relocate to your neighborhood.

Partnering with large businesses, realtors, or moving companies to offer discounts or participating in welcome packages for new residents will put you top of mind for your new neighbors. Then, when they drive by your storefront, they’ll be more likely to stop in—not just because of the discounts, but also because of psychology!

20. Make an Appearance in Clients’ Inboxes

Email marketing is an easy, low-cost way to get your brand in front of your customers. Unlike blogging or podcasting, emails give you a way to reach out, rather than waiting for customers to come to you. And with services like MailChimp, which offers up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails monthly for free, it’s really a no-brainer. Just be sure not to overdo it; only reach out when you have something of real interest, or you might find yourself filtered into customers’ junk folders.

21. Get Out on the Airwaves

The overhead cost of starting a podcast is minimal—a high-quality microphone can be found for less than $100, and free editing software like GarageBand or Audacity make creating high-quality audio a breeze. Take those two tools, throw in a quiet room for recording, and voila! A podcast is born. Creating episodes on a consistent basis will drive clients back to your website regularly to check out your newest episode. Plus, you establish yourself as an expert in your field and build the consumer’s trust in your brand.

22. Appear as a Podcast Guest

If hosting your own podcast sounds like too much of a commitment, start with appearing on popular podcasts in your industry. Podcasts with an interview format are often looking for guests, giving you an easy opportunity to be featured in this format.

Research podcasts related to your business, and then reach out to the host with a well-organized pitch that fits with their target audience. This lets you tap into the podcast’s established audience and bring their attention to your business.

23. Become a Blogger

Like podcasts, blogs give you a way to build a steady readership and drive visitors to your site on a regular basis while proving yourself to be a thought leader in your industry. Blogs are even easier to get up and running—all you need is a computer and an internet connection! With blogs and podcasts, consistency is important. Create a calendar for releasing material so that there aren’t gaps in content that cause your readers to lose interest.

24. Guest Blog for a Day

Guest blogging is an alternative for those who aren’t able to commit to maintaining a regular posting schedule for their own blog. Look for opportunities to blog for those who write about your industry. Pitching a story idea to someone is an opportunity to reach out and expand your network. Even if you don’t end up blogging for them, you’ve made contact with an influencer in your field and can establish a relationship with them moving forward.

25. Host a Webinar

Most business owners hear the same questions over and over from their clients. Taking these questions and turning them into topics for webinars makes you the go-to source for information for both established and potential clients, strengthening your existing relationships and helping to forge new ones. And with a high-quality camera on every person’s smartphone, creating webinars and other video content is easier today than it has ever been.

26. Conquer Your Stage Fright

Like blogging and podcasting, public speaking opportunities let you brand yourself as a thought leader in your given area of expertise. It also gives your company exposure and provides you with the added benefit of in-person networking with those who attend the event. Finally, public speaking gets you and your business’ name on publicity materials for the event and allows you to capitalize on their marketing efforts.

27. Serve as an Expert Media Source

When a journalist needs a source, they often turn to Help a Reporter Out (HARO) to look for experts in a given field. Huge media outlets like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Reuters turn to HARO for sources, and connecting with journalists from these publications can get your name and your business out there in a big way.

28. Establish Your Yelp Page

Yelp is often the to-go place for consumers looking for a particular good or service. Yelp’s reach is wide—you can find everything from hair salons to hardware stores to taco trucks reviewed on the site. And with over 100 million users on any given month, that’s a lot of people who could stumble across your business!

29. Target Industry-Specific Review Sites

There are lots of industry-specific review sites that you can put to work for your business. For restaurant owners, there’s the old stalwart OpenTable, plus newer platforms like Resy and Reserve. Those in the home, yard, auto, and health businesses have Angie’s List. Focusing on an industry-specific site allows you to be found by those who are searching specifically for the goods or services you offer.

30. Invest in Low-Cost Facebook Advertising

As a baseline, every company should create a Facebook page. Those pages are free to create, and with Facebook’s unmatched reach, it’s a vital tool in any company’s online marketing kit. Facebook advertising is the next step; the Ads Manager tool makes it so you can tailor your advertising based on your target audience, budget, and objectives. Once your ads are up and running, you get access to detailed metrics that reflect the effectiveness of your campaign so that you can tweak your efforts.

31. Focus on Google+ to Maximize Search Visibility

Google is the world’s most powerful and popular search engine, so having them on your side is important. Google+ lets you customize the URL for your page, include an SEO meta description of your business, and establish authorship to ensure that Google knows about the content you’ve created. Being smart in the creation of your Google+ page can ensure that you shoot to the top of search results and boost your business’ profile.

32. Dabble in Online Trends

The team at the ZoomData office participated in the Mannequin Challenge. Patrick Stewart did his part for a good cause with the Ice Bucket Challenge. We even watched Hillary Clinton learn to “Dab” on Ellen. Taking part in online trends can be a way to get your brand out there. And who knows? That video may go viral and give you tremendous exposure. Keep in mind, though, that not all online trends are created equal: Think carefully before participating, and be sure to steer clear of anything that could be controversial.

The most important thing to remember is that finding ways to advertise should be an enjoyable process. If you’re having a good time and putting your best foot forward, your customers will have a good time right along with you!

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood

Editor-in-Chief at Fundera
Meredith is Editor-in-Chief at Fundera. Specializing in financial advice for small business owners, Meredith is a current and past contributor to Yahoo!, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, SCORE, AllBusiness and more.
Meredith Wood

0 Comments

Our Picks

Ready to Grow Your Business?