30 ways to...market your business on the cheap

Dan Martin
Former editor
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Although marketing should be a crucial part of any business owner's strategy, without a huge budget it can seem difficult to get a company's name out there. However, the modern business world throws up a host of cheap and even free marketing opportunities which are perfect for the small business entrepreneur.

  1. Be sociable

    Facebook logoYou can't fail to heard about the Web 2.0 phenomenon and the rise of social networking. Websites like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter are all the rage and are being used by businesses of all sorts and sizes to promote their products and services. A group on Facebook for example allows you to network with clients and customers looking for the very sort of thing your business is offering. Use it to promote your offerings and keep people up-to-date on the latest content on your website. You can also use social networking sites to email members.

  2. Become a video star

    Post videos promoting yourself and your business on sites such as YouTube and Google Video. If your video is amusing or informative, word can spread fast and before you know it, it has been emailed all over the place bringing great publicity for your business.

  3. Blog your business

    blogBlogging is a great way to keep your website fully up-to-date. Outdated content can be a real turn-off to site visitors so ensuring it remains fresh is vitally important. As well as blogging specifically about what your company is up to, you can also write your opinion on subjects affecting your sector, your customers or events in the news. Blogging software such as Wordpress which can be incorporated into your website is available online.

  4. Win! Win! Win!

    People love free stuff so why not run regular competitions? Organising contests relevant to big sporting events or specific times of the year such as Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day is one good way of promoting your company and making people think favourably about it.

  5. Rewarding loyalty

    loyalty cardThere's nothing to stop you copying the techniques of big businesses and providing your customers with a loyalty card. This method is particularly useful for retailers, cafes or food stores but can also be used by online businesses. Encourage people to collect points or stamps in return for a free gift or service when they've reached a particular total.

  6. Share your expertise

    There are always thousands of events which need speakers and publications which need content so why not offer your expertise? Seek out events and exhibitions focusing on your sector and contact the organisers about being a speaker. Similarly, online and offline publications – particularly those in your local area – will generally be happy to consider articles and most will be happy to give you a byline and a website link. Find out the names of local journalists and get in touch. And if you feel you are particularly knowledgeable sign up to media contact agencies which put journalists in touch with experts in particular fields.

  7. A sporting chance

    football matchYou may not have the resources of AIG to spend on sponsoring the likes of Manchester United but you are likely to be able to afford sponsoring a local sports team. Backing an amateur or school football squad for instance and getting your company logo on the players' shirts can be a cheap and effective way of raising your profile in the local community. And you never know, the team may end up doing a Havant and Waterlooville and end up playing at Anfield.

  8. Testimonials

    If you've got lots of happy customers, shout about it! Get them to give you a quote saying why they liked your product or service and put it on your website or promotional literature. Also consider fuller case studies which new customers can read to find out how great your company is. Be warned though, don't make up testimonials; you will get found out!

  9. Become a campaigner

    protestorIf there's something that the government is or isn't doing that is really winding you up, then start a petition. Setting up petitions on the Downing Street website has become hugely popular and is a great way of promoting your business. During the recent controversy over the government's capital gains tax reforms for example Duncan Cheatle of networking group The Supper Club started a petition which attracted more than 18,000 signatures. As a result, he was quoted in several media articles by journalists seeking comment on the issue.

  10. Network online

    Internet services such as UK Business Forums allow small business owners to network with thousands of other entrepreneurs. If you become a regular poster who offers useful advice you will soon be seen as an expert in your field. As well as promoting your firm to other companies you can also use forums to actually do business. Make sure you have something worthwhile to say though, as spamming will do you no favours.

  11. Network offline

    handshakeSimilarly, there are a host of offline networking meetings available. Run by several organisations including business groups and trade associations, the events allow you to network face-to-face with other business owners. Make sure you take along and business cards and if possible prepare what you're going to tell people about your business in advance.

  12. Join a trade association

    Joining a trade association or business group such as the Federation of Small Businesses, Forum of Private Business and British Chambers of Commerce not only brings credibility to your business but also a whole host of other benefits. Most offer cost effective advertising opportunities in member publications and access to cheap networking events. Many also run their own award schemes which, if you win or are nominated for, can be a great way to publicise your firm.

  13. Poll crazy

    surveyWith the plethora of news pages both online and offline, journalists are always looking for stories so carry out some research and send out a press release. Several online tools such as Survey Monkey exist which allow you to gather survey data while forums such as UK Business Forums allow paid-up members to carry out online polls. When you've got some data put together a well written press release that has a story to tell. You could consider taking on the services of a PR company to help you but it is very possible to do it yourself. If you're happy to spend a bit of time searching for the email addresses of journalists from particular publications it can bring big benefits.

  14. The customer's always right

    It may be obvious but ensuring you offer good customer or client service is essential to building business success. Answering calls and emails quickly or at least having a useful answer phone message is key. In these days of online forums and social networking websites, negative comments about your business can spread like wildfire so it's vital you stay on top of it.

  15. Business cards – don't forget the back

    business cardCards are a key business tool so make sure you have some to hand out at meetings and networking events. Although it's not necessary to spend thousands, quality and look is important. Make sure the cards include all your contact details such as email address, direct line telephone number, postal address and website url. And don't forget the other side. Use it to outline the products, services or benefits offered by your company.

  16. Use RSS feeds

    Adding Really Simple Syndication feeds allows visitors to be automatically alerted to new content on your website. It is also good for search engine optimisation purposes. There is various free software available online which allows you to add RSS feeds including FeedPublish and FeedForAll.

  17. Stay in touch

    handIt's all very well attracting new customers but making sure they come back for more is a different matter. A newsletter can help do that. Gather email address from customers and ask them if they're happy to receive future communications. Send out a regular e-bulletin outlining your company's latest news and special offers. You could also include articles on subjects of interest to your customers or clients which brings added value.

  18. Be a winner

    Entering award schemes is another great and cheap way of promoting your business. Many are available with an international, national or local focus. Most are free to enter and if you're nominated you're likely to be given a free dinner at a posh awards ceremony! If you're successful make sure you make the most of it. The majority of organisers will have a PR team on standby to get the news into the media but even if they don't contact local journalists immediately after your win and let them know. Adding 'winner of X award' to your website is also beneficial as is posting about your success on online forums. Prestigious national schemes like the Queen's Award for Enterprise, the highest honour that can be bestowed on a UK business, are particularly valuable. And of course, don't forget The Pitch.

  19. Be a guerrilla

    gorillaGiven that guerrilla marketing is defined as an "unconventional system of promotions on a very low budget, by relying on time, energy and imagination instead of big marketing budgets", it is particularly suitable for small businesses. Many options exist but a great buzz around your business can be gained from staging some sort of wacky event and getting your staff to dress up in silly costumes. Famous guerrilla marketing incidents including men's magazine FHM which projected a 60% high image of a naked Gail Porter onto the Houses of Parliament and website About.com which sent out fake hitchhikers who handed promotional masks to drivers who picked them up.

  20. Charity begins at home

    Offer to clean or paint a local community centre, give money to the local Scouts group or offer your staff up for creating a garden in a local school. Make sure you invite the local press along to any charitable event you stage and mention it on your website. You could also consider backing a cause long term. Pick a charity and make regular donations. Many charities will put a link to your website on their website in return. You could also raising money through events such as marathons and fun-runs and encourage customers and clients to sponsor you.

  21. Send out products for review

    checklistIf you sell a particular product, contact relevant publications and ask them to review it. Editors are always looking for content and if you get a good write up it's a great thing to put on your website.


  22. Bookmark your website

    Add your website to the new breed of social bookmarking websites. By adding pages from your website under relevant subject tags using services such as Del.icio.us, Technorati and Digg other internet surfers looking for the sort of information or services you provide can view them. If someone finds your website, likes it and bookmarks it will benefit your business in spreading the word. You can also add buttons to your website which link directly to the bookmarking sites.

  23. Don't forget your people

    employeesIt's not all about customers and clients, your employees matter too. In fact, they are your most valuable asset so make sure you treat them right. Ensuring you provide an enjoyable and rewarding place to work can only benefit your business. Visiting customers or clients will notice it and staff will talk to their friends and family about how great their boss is. Offering regular rewards, bonuses and social events are good ways to keep workers happy but often just a simple 'thank you' will go a long way.

  24. Get accredited

    Receiving official accreditation from schemes relevant to your industry can help your business stand out from the crowd. Gaining such recognition can be pricey but will be worth it in the long run. As well as accreditation initiatives pertinent to particular sectors, more general schemes such as Investors In People exist.

  25. Tell your friends

    friendsIt's another simple one but something that is often overlooked. Tell your friends, family and neighbours and anybody else you come across about your business. It's free publicity and you never know who they know.

  26. Easy contact

    Making your company as contactable as possible is important. Different people like different methods so offer them all: instant messaging, email, telephone and mail.

  27. Text-tastic

    mobile phoneAlmost everyone has a mobile phone so don't ignore it as a marketing tool. Get customers to opt-in to receiving text messages and send them regular company updates and special offers. But don't go overboard or people will class you as a spammer.

  28. Free advertising

    Several directory websites provide free advertising for businesses. Craig's List and Gumtree are just two examples.

  29. Partner up

    heartGet in touch with other businesses and see how you can work together. And don't just limit it to the UK; partnering with businesses overseas can also be beneficial. Swap links to each other's websites or trade advertising space. You could also publish articles in each other's e-bulletins and promote each other's product or service launches.

  30. Signature

    An email signature is another often neglected marketing tool. As well as your contact information such as website url and postal address, add details of current special offers or new product/service launches. Modify your signature on a regular basis to keep the content refresh. Remember, especially if you're messaging the general public, that you never know to whom your email may be forwarded.


Please login or register to join the discussion.

By Txtlocal
14th Oct 2008 23:09
In response to Robert Jackson - please call me any time on 08450093182 to talk about SMS text communication for your business. Have a look at http://www.txtlocal.co.uk - it is free to sign up and play with the service, and you also get a free keyword/number combination so your customers can opt-in (text WORD to NUMBER to join our SMS text club!).

The only cost to you are the SMS credits themselves - prices betwen 3p and 8p depending on how large a bundle you purchase.



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By Anonymous
02nd Apr 2008 12:59
Anyone use internet based text messaging, used to be free services available?


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By Anonymous
20th Mar 2008 10:09
One CRITICAL qualifier I would add is to START by identifying your target audience.

Is it 'everyone'? Is it all/any small business owner anywhere in the UK? Really?

The more you can focus and clarify your target audience the more you can refine your marketing efforts and avoid wasting time spraying your marketing efforts all over the place.

'Spray and Pray' marketing is frustrating and time consuming. Of course, you can get lucky too if you have the time to spend exploring, testing and experimenting with different opportunities.

I use many of the methods listed above to promote the Tax Advice Network but our target audience is accountants so I endeavour to focus on those opportunities that are likely to be seen by accountants.

Mark Lee
Tax Advice Network

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By JElder
18th Mar 2008 09:35
As well as networking events, don't forget to ask existing customers for referrals - they will have customers and suppliers that may also need your services.
As an incentive, you could offer discounts or similar for each referral.

Synergy Connections Telemarketing services

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By Anonymous
16th Mar 2008 11:07
It's been a long time since I read such an up-to-date proffesional article. So first of all - thanks. All I want to add is an invitation to an on-line print shop web site where you can find pre-designed templates for business cards, flyers and all kinds of printing products for advertising and promoting businesses. The address is:
Although the author dedicated only one short paragraph for printed means - still it's very important and handy to deliver while face to face contacts.
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By PricelessPR
17th Jun 2009 13:31
When it comes to adding value and creating new business, it would also be foolish to overlook PR. Traditionally, small businesses and entrepreneurs may have been priced out of this option, but things are changing. There are PR companies offering new solutions and I feel it's only fair to include my humble firm in that. The reason being that we offer a professional PR service with intelligent press releases distributed to the media for just £199 a month. We cut corners, not costs. Thanks, David
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By Dan Martin
17th Jun 2009 22:18
You make a good point David. PR is certainly of huge benefit to small businesses but many entrepreneurs often believe that taking on the services of expert is out of their price range. Also, developments in social media does mean it is possible for many business owners to do their own PR. However, maybe one effect of the rise of the likes of Twitter and Facebook is that PR companies are bringing their prices down to attract small business clients. Dan Martin Editor, BusinessZone.co.uk
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By YODspica
29th Jul 2009 02:09
If it wasn't for all the free new media currently available online, I don't think I would be able to be noted as I have been so quickly and thus generating a lot of interest towards my business. As a result, I can only say thank you to UKBF for having a free membership option, where all pennies count in a small business. YODspica.com
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By arithmo
02nd Sep 2009 13:59

I'm surprised you didn't mention the Software Satisfaction Awards, as they are run by Sift and your article is about cheap methods of publicity after all!

Seriously, these have proved to be a really great source of very valuable publicity for us as a fledgking software supplier (online accounting software since you ask). Just entering allowed us to say something, then being shortlisted meant we could get much more publicity, local newspapers, social networking, updating our website with the details. All good stuff.

Julian Shaw

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By ssehdev
30th Apr 2010 23:15

I know seo has got a bad name from many people claiming to get you onto the first page of google, blah blah

But there are simple and easy things to do to benefit from long tail seo.  Take a look at a tel domain that lets you create subdomains with keywords.  These are actually getting indexed today and found by search engines.

Take http://oxfordstreet.tel for example.  Even though its not on top when searching for oxford street, if you do a longer search with a store name you'd be pleasently suprised at the results.

To talk to us more and learn about this very easy and cheap technique contact us at http://DotTelAds.com or just via any of our tel sites out there that cover most business areas, professions and locations.


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By paulgm_2000
06th Jan 2011 09:18

Wow, great article. I've been looking for something like this for ages, thanks!

I have used networking to go use in the past by going to local trade shows and there are loads of business clubs and free networking events around too. I always seem to meet at least one person who can help my business in one way or another!

I also think getting listed on business directories is a minimum requirement too, like yellow pages and other online ones like Scoot.com. Just found a site that submits to all of the UK's business directories and it's only about £15. www.getlisted.tv.

Thanks again for the article! :)

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