51 Low-Cost or No-Cost Ways to Promote Your Business

Posted on 19 February 2011

This is a blog post by Jamie Turner, re-posted here with his permission (as you’ll see in his article, he even ASKED me – well, all of his readers – to re-post it!). See his bio at the end of the article, and follow him on twitter.

Not long ago, I sat down and came up with 51 low-cost or no-cost ways to promote your business during a recession. There are enough good ideas here that you should be able to use a good number of them for your business and, as a result, grow your sales and revenue.

We’ve broken them down into several categories to help you segment and prioritize which ones you’d like to use.

Here goes:

New Media Ideas:
1. Upload presentations on your area of expertise to SlideShare (best if you’re in a service business or if you’re a consultant). Do this regularly. It generates buzz and increases visibility.

Here are some fun, innovative and inexpensive ways to grow your sales and revenue.

2. Supercharge your blog by writing one new post a day for 45 days in a row. It’s what Chris Brogan has done (several times) and it’s made him one of the most relevant social media bloggers today.

3. Create a LinkedIn Group around your cause or discipline. Don’t just do this, do it, then put some effort into promoting it. It won’t work unless you nurture it and add relevant content just about every day.

4. Create a Facebook Group. Ditto.

5. Create a YouTube Channel. The best way to do this is to offer “How To” videos. Please don’t upload 5 minute videos from the CEO that regurgitates old press releases. Just don’t do that. Really.

6. Create a viral video. Way harder than it looks. Just search under “Funny Office Videos” in YouTube. Still, if you can make it work, it’s worth it.

7. Send a message to a prospect via video on Facebook. It’ll help you stand out. Just use your webcam. Easier than you’d think.

8. Get a Twitter account. Don’t over-promote yourself or your company. Instead, provide useful Tweets on a regular (daily) basis.

9. Do a social media scavenger hunt to get prospects engaged with your company or brand. Place code words in your Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace pages. Add them to your Twitter page and your website. The first customer prospect to collect all of them wins $100.

10. Comment on other people’s blogs. Provide really useful stuff, too. Don’t just say, “Nice post.” And don’t bother putting your web address in your response since it’s usually recorded in the response anyway. Just be a good member of the blog community and write something useful and helpful.

11. Do a webinar. Make it interesting. Don’t over-sell your product or service. Just be helpful.

12. Make sure your blog is built INSIDE your website. When you use Blogger or some other free service, you’re not driving traffic to your website, which is where you want people to go. So, for example, make sure your blog is at www.MyWebsite.com/blog, not www.MyWebsiteBlog.com.

13. Re-post someone else’s blog posting on your blog. Give them credit with a link back to their site. Get their permission. (If they know anything about generating awareness, they’ll gladly let you use the posting. Hey, why don’t you re-post this blog on your website?)

14. Ask a friend to write a guest post for your blog. You’ll get a break from writing your blog. Plus, they’ll promote their article to all their friends and associates.

15. Contact high school and college friends on LinkedIn and Facebook and tell them about your business.

Time-Intensive, But Big Impact:
16. Interview local CEOs for an eBook. This accomplishes two things. First, it gets you in front of high-profile businesspeople who may be future clients. Second, the final eBook is a great door opener when you promote it to other businesses.

17. Conduct primary research that your customers/prospects would find interesting. Offer it for free  — provided they supply their name, company and email address.

18. Hold an International Party at your home.  Set up different rooms with food from different countries. One 60 Second Marketer staffer did this several years ago and the party is still talked about today.

19. Hold a Battle of the Corporate Bands party. There are a ton of corporate bands out there who would love to play for free. Bonus Points: Donate money raised at the event to charity.

20. Conduct a Chili Cook-Off. This one has been done to death, but it still creates buzz and builds awareness.

Oldies but Goodies:
21. Create a referral program: It’s an old idea, but a good one. If your Customer Lifetime Value is $1,000, then giving a $100 gift certificate every time you close a customer is money well invested.

22. Start an eNewsletter that provides tips and techniques. This is perfect if you’re, say, a real estate agent. Provide tips on home staging. Mention your services in the margins.

23. Create an online magazine. This has worked like gangbusters for BKV, the parent company of the 60 Second Marketer. It’s a lot of work, but may be worth it.

24. Write hand-written thank you notes. You’ll be surprised at their impact.

25. Return calls from salespeople, even if you don’t want their product. They’ll be so flattered, they’ll talk your company up to everyone they come in contact with.

26. Hold an open house at your office.

27. Better still, throw a party for your suppliers. They’ll be flattered. And honored.

Charitable Affiliations:
28. Donate to a charitable cause on behalf of your customers or clients. Let them know, but not in an overt or obnoxious way.

29. Sponsor the Kids 4 Kids program at A School Bell Rings. This is a program that engages elementary schools in the U.S. to raise money to build schools overseas. It can build awareness for you and your company in the process.

Personalized/Customized Ideas:
30. Go to one of those pottery painting stores you find in the mall that fires the pottery you’ve painted. Paint a coffee mug for your clients. Give it to them. They’ll think of you every morning. Seriously.

31. Buy a bottle of wine, take the label off and put a new one on with your company logo on it. Give it to a high-value prospect.

Buzz Marketing and PR:
32. Ask your friends to talk you up. It works. Really. And it’s cheap.

33. Write your own eBook. It worked for David Henderson. He wrote a useful eBook and, in the process of promoting the eBook, promoted his traditional book as well.

34. Write an article for a magazine. Or write an article for a blog.

35. Write a press release each week for 8 weeks in a row. Make it relevant and helpful. Don’t broadcast it out — send it to specific journalists who you’re familiar with.

36. Give away a week’s stay at your lake/beach house as part of an online promotion on your website. Don’t have a lake or a beach house? Borrow a friend’s!

37. Sponsor a company service day where every person in the office helps clean up a park or an old cemetery. Promote it. Gently.

38. Take a journalist out to lunch. They’re interesting people. Don’t sell your story too hard. Just build a relationship and follow-up a week later with a good story idea.

39. Invite your biggest customer out to dinner. Simple, yes. But it works.

40. Get a local high school group to help you clean up a park. Put 30 ten dollar bills under 30 random pieces of trash. Tell the kids. The park will be clean in no time.

41. Get 10 members of your office to go down to the street corner to raise money for your local Red Cross. Wear hats with your company logo on it. Donate the money to the Red Cross.

42. Give one of your products away.

43. Give 10 of your products away.

44. On one random Tuesday every month, give your product or service away for free for one hour. This is especially effective if you’re a restaurant, a florist, a spa or even a dentist. Make it a random Tuesday for just one hour. Macaroni Grill did this when they first opened their doors as a way to build mid-week traffic. It worked like gangbusters.

45. Call in to a radio station talk show. Mention your company name gracefully.

46. Contact the producer of the TV news with a good, relevant and helpful human interest story.

47. The Programs Director at most local trade organizations is almost always looking for people to do speeches at upcoming events. Contact them. Be prepared to send them a one-sheet on your topic and why it’s relevant to their audience.

48. Always be the first person to ask a question at a luncheon or event. There’s usually a pregnant pause when the speaker finishes and says, “Any questions?” Be prepared for that pregnant pause and be the first to ask a question. Identify yourself and your company. Ask a smart question. Or ask a mediocre question. But ask!

49. Talk about your business at parties. C’mon, get over it.

50. Ask your building if you can put a sign up in the elevator about your business.

The wildest and Craziest Idea of All:
51. Take 500 $1 bills with a yellow stickie on them. Write your URL on the yellow stickie with a mention that the first person to contact you off of your website gets another $500. Go into an office building, a mall or a hotel with an atrium. Throw the 500 $1 bills with your URL on them off the balcony. Video tape it and upload the video to YouTube. Promote the YouTube video on your website. Watch the buzz start flowing almost immediately. Seriously. It’ll work.

That’s all folks. These are some of the best ways we know of to grow your business with little or no money. Oh, and one other thing — our attorneys say that if you try idea #51, it’s at your own risk. We aren’t responsible for twisted ankles, fist fights or riots.

Are there any other ideas we missed? Tell us what you’ve done!

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Written by Jamie Turner, Chief Content Officer of the 60 Second Marketer, the online magazine of BKV Digital and Direct Response. Jamie is also the co-author of How to Make Money with Social Media.

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