Promote your business with a budget of zero

As much as some marketing agencies may lead you to believe, you don’t have to have a huge marketing budget to promote your business. In fact you can do it with no money at all. Completely free marketing. I know this because I did it. I started my business with no money, just a head full of ideas.

You can create powerful marketing campaigns to promote your business. It doesn’t matter if you’re thinking of starting up or you’ve been established for years, free marketing is going to save your bottom line and increase your profit margin.


free marketing tips and advice - marketing on a budget

Before we get into the juicy bit, here’s the sensible bit that some businesses forget:

Identify your target market

Know who your target market is. You need to truly understand who they are, where they live (not literally – that would be wrong) and how they behave. What motivates them, what newspapers they buy, do they follow the advice of friends or do they research online before purchasing your type of product?

Get into your customer’s shoes (again, not literally).

A good way to do this is to invent some personas that represent your target market. This will help you to visualise your customer, so you can really put yourself in their shoes. Give names to your personas. For example, lets say you run a BMX business in Salisbury. You create a persona named Jack, aged 13. What does Jack do? He lives in Salisbury, he likes to spend time with his friends, he’s highly influenced by what they say and do. He reads BMX mags, goes online a lot when he gets home from school, uses twitter and facebook, visits the local Salisbury BMX ramps at weekends, goes to BMX competitions and trade shows. He has a paper round and a low disposable income and is motivated by giveaways, discounts and the chance to win cool stuff.

Now you know all about Jack, you can decide how best to promote to him.

free-marketingSo here’s the good stuff. Here are some marketing channels that will cost you precisely nothing to do.

You will know most of these, you may do some of these. I’m not suggesting any of these are ground breaking ideas – they’re common sense. But that’s what good marketing is. Creative common sense.

Facebook and Twitter marketing

  • Run a facebook and twitter profile. In fact, you don’t even need a website at the early stages of your business, as long as you have a home for your content and a social media profile can do just that.
  • Run a marketing competition to win some gear where entrants are required to like or retweet to be in to win.
  • Encourage interaction with your brand by posting comments, videos and photos and asking people to submit their own (brand interaction is a fast track way to getting fans not just followers).

Press release marketing

Talk to the local press and the specialist press (in Jack’s case, Bike magazines, websites and bloggers). Tell them you’re launching a new business, maybe even give something away to their readers. Or give something away to the editor. Can you offer them a chance to get a free product or service from your business in exchange for some editorial coverage?

And make sure you provide them with a professional photo of you and your business – this will significantly increase the chance of your press release being published.

Blog marketing

  • Setup your own blog using something like which is an easy to use blog platform. Write about cool stuff and link to it from your facebook and twitter accounts.
  • Guest post on other people’s blogs. This is great because it raises awareness of your business and it offers them something in return. When you identify a blog you want to approach, make sure you have thought about the content you’d like to write for them. Do your homework on them and learn what topics they like to cover. And make sure your content is exclusive – nobody wants second hand content.

Email marketing

Gather people’s email addresses, either on facebook and twitter, or in-store if you have one. Run a competition which captures their email address in the process

Signup to a free email management system like Mailchimp and choose a ready made template that fits your brand, and send emails to your database of email addresses.

Get to the top of Google without even having a website

Get signed up on all the top business directories like,,,, plus any local directories that may exist in your area. These directories are spending a vast amount of effort and money in getting their website to the top of the search engines. They’re doing all the work for you! If you can piggyback this by listing on there, you could find yourself at the top of Google in no time.

Ecommerce marketing

If you want to sell products online, you may consider setting up a Google Shopping, Amazon and eBay seller’s account. These are instant shop windows for your consumers. It’s a whole lot easier to get into one of these shop windows (which are the equivalent of Oxford Street in London) than get people to your own website (which is the equivalent of an unnamed street in Skegness).

Real world marketing!

It’s not all about being online. In fact, if you run an offline business then you cannot neglect offline marketing. People buy from people, and people still need human interaction. We’re not in the year 2093 yet as much as some digital marketing agencies like to believe. Whilst online marketing can be effective and low cost, it can also be the easy option and not necessarily the right option for your business to sit behind a computer screen and not leave home. I wrote an article that questioned whether some businesses get the return on investment for the time they spend on social media.

‘Pick up the phone’ marketing

If you want to do B2B (business to business) marketing then a simple solution is to make a phone call. Introduce yourself as a new business. Other businesses can be very receptive to this, it’s not like cold calling the general public, which is why so many successful B2B telemarketing companies exist. Try finding a good B2C telemarketing company, it’s not easy.

Direct marketing

Write a letter to your target customers. Make it interesting, not just a bland ‘To who it may concern’…’we thought you might be interested…blah’. Send a business card sized envelope, with a business card sized message inside that says ‘hello’ alongside your logo. Ok so it doesn’t have to be this, but the point is to make it interesting. The letter doesn’t have to do the converting, it just has to break the ice for when you make that phonecall. Or if you don’t want to follow up with a phonecall, at least the letter is introducing your brand. It doesn’t have to say everything about your business. Yes, you care about that stuff, but no one else does.

Graphic design

Everyone knows a friend, or at least a friend of a friend, who can do graphic design. Increasingly businesses are trading services instead of making direct payment. This could work for your business and not cost you a penny. Beware though. Make sure you work with a graphic designer who has shown your their portfolio and you like their work.

And to save money on your graphic design, write the content yourself, making sure you have a smart headline that is showcases why someone should choose you. All too often some businesses get bogged down in how the design looks, or when it comes to content, they try and cram in as many features as possible. This is simply off-putting for the end customer. Finally, try and make your graphic design creative. Don’t just follow the herd, do something that stands out and will get noticed. Creativity and imagination are free too!

Hopefully these are some things you can use to apply to your business.

What free marketing methods have worked for you?

Steve Landon, director at Landon Marketing and Design