How to Promote a Business Online Without Spending Money?

One of my favorite shows is Queer as Folks, a trailblazing show on Showtimes at the turn of the century. In one episode, Melanie and Lindsay wanted to remodel their attic into an artist studio. Their friend suggested that there are three factors to any construction projects: quality, time, and money.

The interesting lesson here was that these three factors are interlinked:

  • One can have something fast (low time), but it will be expensive (high money), in order to do a good result (high quality)
  • One can have something cheap (low money), but then it will take longer (high time), in order to do a good result (high quality).
  • One can have something fast (low time) and cheap (low money), but then the result would suffer (low quality)

I have found that lesson from construction has wide applications in business!

Money doesn’t grow from trees. Therefore, it is often that business owners may ask the question?—?how I can do X without spending much money? Let’s see if can apply the above three factors of success in answering this question.

If we want results, without money, we would need to invest time.

Specifically, for promoting a business online, there are several tactics for considerations.

Search Marketing

Nowadays, Google is not a noun. It is a verb. Everyone Googles when they need something. Therefore, search is a fundamental part of any marketing strategy. As a business, we want to be there to be found when someone is looking for the type of product or service we have to offer. Big brands invest heavily in search marketing. They can also influence search results by paying a great deal for high ranking content, by influencers or journalists. Without money, we would have to invest differently.

Search marketing and content marketing go hand-in-hand. Invest time in generating quality content that would rank in search. Spend time to conduct research on keywords. What are people searching for? By understanding what people want to know, we can develop a content strategy that addresses our audience and generates content that would be search engine friendly.

Build relationships with influencers by providing value to them (e.g. guest posting). Generate content that adds value to the community. In time, the search engines will find us.

There are various types of content: text, graphics, videos, and more. People have different preferences, so it’s wise to consider re-purposing our content in various ways. While our website would become the central hub for our content, consider various ways it can be further distributed, and therefore enhancing our reach.

There are a lot of tips out there on how to improve search ranking. However, search engines continue to update their algorithms to stop people from gaming the system. So, there is really only one rule that always works. Search was built on people’s need to find content. So, create good content that people wants to find.

Social Media Marketing

Social media is the new public square. It is where people gather. It is where people have discussions and conversations. It is where people learn the news (real or fake). It is an important channel to be found if we have a product or service to offer.

All social media channels have options for advertisers. There are also plenty of influencers willing to sell their following to the highest bidders. Agencies await with promises to generate contents designed to go viral. With money, a brand can be built quickly via social media.

Without money, we would have to spend time. Find a community on social media that may want the service or product we provide. Interact with members of that community. Contribute to conversations where we can add value. Research tags that we can follow, as well as contribute to tags that can help bring us a following.

Follow these seven steps in building a sustainable social media strategy:

Step 1: Listen, Analyze, and Compare: To start, we need to first understand where our audience is at currently.

Step 2: Choose the Platforms: Next, we need to determine which social network we would want to use based on where our target audience is.

Step 3: Research Content For Creation and Curation: We would already know what types of content work best for our audience based on our research in Step 1. While it’s good to be unique, it’s important to tailor to our audience.

Step 4: Identify the Social Team: We would need someone who would be responsible for maintaining these accounts. This work takes time! For some of us, it’s a team of one for everything. That’s okay, as long as we still plan the time.

Step 5: Humanize and Engage: There are a lot of automation tools out there. However, social networks are platforms for socializing. The key is to maintain consistent interactions with our community.

Step 6: Build the Toolbox: There are a lot of tools to help us execute our social media plans from social listening, post scheduling, analytics, and more. As we grow in our social media savvy, we can continue to add to our toolbox.

Step 7: Select Metrics to Track: As the saying goes?—?What gets measured gets done.

Getting started on social media can seem intimidating at first. But it really can be a game-changer. No industry has mastered social media quite like the food truck business. Wafels & Dinges is one of the most successful food trucks in New York City. They have won their audience with Twitter. They have been delivering a consistent brand voice on social media, using some of their long-time employees to nurture these precious relationships with their customers.

I once asked them, “Your Twitter stream is hilarious. Who does your Twitter?”

Joe. He’s been with the company since the beginning. He really started responding to Twitter on the train on the way home. It’s between Joe and Thomas and others who were with the company since the beginning that really developed the voice of the company.

Email Marketing

Finally, the holy grail of marketing on the internet today remains to be email marketing. There is a lot of discussion about how emails are dead. There are plenty of spam filters. Perhaps, one day, email marketing will die, but that day has not come.

Honestly, when was the last time you opened a promotional email? I opened one very recently, from one of my favorite stores selling me their latest styles. As long as the message is relevant, it will find an audience.

There is very little way to find shortcut in email marketing. In the past, big brands can buy lists and spam. But laws and spam filters are making it more and more difficult. Email marketing is where the playing field is fairly level for big and small players alike. Time and effort will pay off.

Consider these six keys to email marketing success:

1: Avoid the Spam Filter: Get permission to email them. But people aren’t afraid to flag an email as spam even if they did give permission. So, we must invest time in understanding our audience, so we can clearly align our email messaging with their expectations.

2: Build the List: Email marketing plan relies heavily on the fact that you have someone to email to. Therefore, the subscriber list is an important marketing asset.

3: Measure and Analyze: What gets measured gets done! What needs to get done doesn’t stop at sending the email, but in making the sales and beyond. We must take care to track through the entire journey.

4: Personalize Responsibility: Use data to determine how to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time (but do not cross the line to being creepy).

5: Put Existing Customer First: It’s always cheaper and easier to keep a customer than to get a new one!

6: Automate: To be successful as an email marketer, there is a lot to do. The good news is there is a lot of opportunities to automate the process in order to make the job a little bit easier.

By now, it is probably obvious how businesses can promote their products and services online. In order to get results without spending money, we must invest our time. We invest our time to find our community online. We work to provide value to our community on a consistent basis, building our reputation and ultimately our brand. In time, our community would find us useful and learn to trust us. As a result, they may be interested in learning more about us and ultimately may consider buying from us.

Time is money. We can have results without investing our money!

It may not be easy, but the investment of our time will pay off in the end.

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