I gotta be honest guys, between last week's shop launch and next month's Squarespace Course launch, in addition to this being a pretty busy season with my client work, I was starting to think I was about out of things to write about and the motivation to write those things. The urge was strong a few times to just let the blog slide for the next couple of weeks while I finish the course modules and wrap up some other projects.
But I made a promise to myself, and to you, at the end of last year, that I was going to post something here every Thursday come hell or high water. It may not always work out exactly as planned, but Consistency is definitely a big theme for me this year in the business and my personal life. I like Consistent me better, so I want to make sure I keep my promises, no matter how much I'd like to quit early some days and curl up on the couch with the latest episode of This is Us (I know it's not just me, c'mon).
Luckily, I had a few post ideas still up my sleeve for the pre-launch period, and I knew this one would be helpful for some people. There are a metric crapton of posts out there about marketing your small business on the cheap... I know because I checked with most of those while writing this. But a lot of what I ran into was the same old tired advice from 1994 and a lot of filler. So this list is sans filler (You already know you need business cards. Really guys?) and includes some of the things I did when I was first starting out in business myself. I used a lot of these to grow a successful graphic design biz as well as help grow a construction company and a home services company.
So without further ado, 15 easy, creative, and inexpensive marketing ideas for you to chew on.
1. Talk to people. Like a person. Engage in conversations, ask what they do, talk about what you do. When I was just starting out I probably earned more jobs chatting with people in the checkout at the grocery store than any other way.
2. Take a dozen donuts to the office. Marketing to realtors, property management, dentists (maybe go for a veggie tray here), or anyone else that works in an office? Feed them. Chat them up. Get to know them.
3. Answer questions on Facebook. Join Facebook groups where your target audience hangs out. Spend 20 minutes a day searching for an answering questions related to what you do. Don’t push your services, just be helpful. This is probably the second most effective method I used starting out.
4. Run an Instagram mini-series. Write 7 tiny blog posts (about 2 paragraphs each) that teach your potential clients something. Use Canva to make killer matching graphics for them. Post one each day on Instagram.
5. Host a Q&A on Facebook or Instagram. Announce that you’re going to answer questions about your industry in a FB live feed for 30 minutes on Wednesday. Then do it. Even if no one shows up you can answer frequently asked questions and the video will stay on your page after the fact.
6. Create a referral program. Do you have a small but loyal following? Let them know that if they send you a new paying client you’ll reward them with a discount off their current or future service, a small free product, or something else.
7. Start using your email list. If you’ve been collecting emails but aren’t communicating with your list it’s time to start. Pick 2-4 days per month and send them something. Aim to give value first and promote second when writing your emails.
8. Ask for referrals. I know. This one seems scary. But if you need to drum up business fast turn to your already happy past clients. Don’t send out a desperate cry for help, but do ask if they know anyone you should be introduced to.
9. Share great content. If you enjoy writing, start a blog. Write things that improve the lives of your readers in some way. Make people laugh, educate them, share content that’s relevant to what you’re offering. If you don’t enjoy writing you can make videos, curate lists of resources, or start a podcast. Even if you just write a useful tip on a post-it note with a Sharpie every day and share it on Instagram, do something.
10. Host a local workshop. If your audience is local try hosting a workshop to educate them on an aspect of your business. Don’t just try to sell them your services, teach them how to do something, or explain something complicated in a simple way, then tell them what you do and how they can contact you if they want to know more.
11. Host a webinar. If your audience isn’t local take the advice from above and apply it to hosting a webinar instead. If that makes you nervous or sounds expensive you can always bring on one or two people from complementary businesses to help you out.
12. Partner up. If you’re a makeup artist maybe you could partner with a local photographer or bridal boutique to advertise, hold events together, or refer clientele to each other. The key is to find someone in the same industry, but not in competition for the same clients, and share the expense of advertising plus expand your reach to each other’s client base.
13. Check in with past clients. Don’t ask for a referral this time. Just shoot them an email or pick up the phone and ask how their product/service is working out for them. Ask if they have any questions if that’s applicable. You’d be surprised how often this turns into a referral or a repeat customer.
14. Make use of your email signature. This can be a great place to share your website and social links, but you can also take it a step further and include info on a current promotion you’re running or your latest blog post.
15. Send handwritten thank you notes. And birthday cards if you have that information. This works best for service based businesses, but if you sell a product why not include a handwritten thank you when you ship it out? This won’t necessarily garner any new business, but good word of mouth is an excellent marketing tool, and impressing the pants of people is a great way to get good word of mouth.
16. Bonus Tip! Do one thing every single day to market your business. It can be a tiny thing. Pick something from this list, or make your own list so you don't run out of ideas. Just do something. Five minutes a day of intentional action beats sitting on your ass wondering where your clients are any day.