Whether you're a boot-strapped startup on a shoestring budget or a blue chip company with a giant stack of cash in the bank, every company can use free marketing ideas to promote their brand, products, or services.
After digging deep into my bag of marketing tactics from over the years, I've pulled together 63 free (or almost free) marketing tips and tactics that any business on the planet can use big or small to generate publicity, buzz, and awareness on the cheap.
- Author and publish guest posts on high profile or well-trafficked sites in your niche. It's a great way to promote both your brand and your expertise. Free guest blogging communities, like My Blog Guest and Guest Blog It, are a good starting point.
- Find bloggers to review your products. Use simple query operators, such as "[your product type] + reviews [or] review" (e.g., "lingerie reviews"), to locate promotional review opportunities for your product offerings. You can also use free link building tools from Buzzstream to generate prospecting queries.
- Similar to leveraging product reviews for free promotion, mine the search results for bloggers who host product giveaways, using simple query operators, such as "[your product type] + giveaway" (e.g., "charm necklace giveaway").
- Hold a sweepstakes, contest, or a giveaway on your site, promote it on your site, and on your social media accounts for some free buzz.
- Pool proprietary data from your organization's niche, industry, or even customer database (get customer consent and anonymize the data, of course) and compile it into a free report, like the HubSpot State of Inbound Marketing Report or the Veracode State of Software Security Report.
- Leverage social media and social distribution channels to both demonstrate expertise in a subject and to share your content.
- Make content distribution frictionless by adding social sharing icons site-wide (Facebook, Twitter, Google+). Use a free Wordpress plugin like Sharebar or have a Web dev resource implement developer sharing code, like Facebook's "Like" button code.
- Answering questions is a great way to build relationships and your expertise while helping others unselfishly market your brand and you can do this on social sites:
- Answer questions on Google+
- Answer questions on Facebook
- Participate on the Q&A website Quora and build your business.
- Join relevant or niche-related groups on LinkedIn and answer group questions and post news and event about your organization.
- Leverage inboxQ to find and answer questions on Twitter.
- If you're in the clothing, fashion, beauty, entertainment, design, photography, food, jewelry, or a similar lifestyle-niche business, you're a natural fit for image sharing on Pinterest, which can generate great exposure with high quality photos of your products. Here are 56 Ways to Market Your Business on Pinterest.
- Given that YouTube is the world's second largest search engine, create a YouTube Channel and leverage proven video marketing tactics, like "how-to" style video content and response videos to improve search visibility and potentially drive leads.
- And make sure you claim your social media profiles with a tool like KnowEm.
- Join forums that are relevant to your companies niche, join in the conversation and offer insightful and helpful answers to questions.
- Blog, blog, and blog some more. Give your wisdom and experience away for free. Leverage your blog to build relationships and build brand awareness.
- Spotlight individual thought leaders: ego bait-type posts are a great way to connect with influencers in your niche, who in turn can help expose you and your company to their audience.
- Run a big best blogs in your niche type post featuring a bunch of great blogs and bloggers. Again, this is a form of ego-stroking that builds relationships, social engagement and many of participants will help promote the article. Tip: create "best blog" badges that blogs on the list can add to their sites.
- Run a big group interview - helps you build relationships and brand evangelists within your niche, gets links, social media engagement and you can potentially create a super authoritative document that ranks for a competitive topic.
- Do individual video interviews on news-makers in your niche via Skype. Post them on YouTube, embed the YouTube code on your site, transcribe the video with a cheap tool like CastingWords, post the transcribed content on your blog for search engines to grab.
- Run a weekly roundup where you highlight blog posts from around your industry; helps you make friends and valuable connections. Tip: be sure to @ the bloggers on Twitter from your roundup each week.
- Turn inquisitive emails from clients or notable comment questions from your blog into Q&A type blog content; mention the client or question-asker in the post and link back to their website or social profile (good for relationship building, word of mouth marketing, etc.).
- Run reviews on and help promote beneficial products or services in your niche (ego-stroking, relationship building).
- Create an online survey and host it on your blog (you can use Survey Monkey or a free WordPress plugin like WP-Polls to manage results).
- Then create a follow-up post announcing the results from your survey on the blog, add pretty data charts to your blog post, issue a press release.
- Respond to all comments on your blog; engaging with your readership and nurturing a community on your blog is a fantastic and low effort way to build your brand and your site's following.
- Solicit guest posts on your blog and get free user-generated content and make friends in your niche.
- Sign up to get free media opportunity alerts from HARO (Help Out a Reporter), which will connect you with reporters who need expert insights for their stories.
- Flipping the HARO idea around, if you've got a bunch of in-house experts, leverage that asset and create an expert's page on your site and offer free expertise to authoritative publications/personalities - many universities have success with this same strategy.
- Volunteer your company's founders or thought leaders for interviews at other publications and blogs
- Give a donation to a local organization or a national charity and get exposure on their donors page and potentially a link back to your site.
- Sponsor an event and get listed as a supporter on their event site.
- Organize a local Meetup event (if you get someone to sponsor it, it'll probably be free).
- Speak at a local Meetup event; generate exposure for your company and services and position yourself as a thought leader.
- Offer a testimonial or endorsement for a vendor or colleague on their website.
- Ask for a testimonial or endorsement from your clients. It's a free form of proof of concept for your products and helps instill trust, which can lead to more sales.
- Create a free tool, gadget, widget or app and brand it with your company logo and in some cases embed a hyperlink back to your website to raise the "SEO value" or your own site. Advertise your free tool on your blog, issue a press release, conduct outreach to industry sites that might cover it, look for free tool directories or a free distribution platform like Upload.com to get exposure.
- Or get even more targeted and build a tool or feature you know a thought leader will love and give it to them for free (make them a brand advocate).
- Leverage the "Freemium business model" and give away some part of your product functionality for free because "the concept of free" makes people feel like they have nothing to lose.
- Sell your products and market your business on Craigslist.
- Join the local chamber of commerce for free brand building and studies show that 63 percent of consumers want to buy from local chamber members.
- Reward your long-term customers with loyalty discounts (word of mouth marketing, brand advocates).
- Respond promptly to customer complaints (again, and can't say it enough, word of mouth is the best marketing tool, free or not).
- Use SlideShare to market to a large audience for free: post presentations, case studies, create how-to-guides, repurpose blog content, etc. The domain strength of SlideShare alone helps your content rank well.
- Engage with popular blogs in your niche via intelligent comments. Link back to relevant value-add content on your site where applicable.
- Help influential people in your space promote their own products on your blog and on social media (I guarantee that most will return the favor and help promote your stuff too).
- Create a free how-to webinar or video.
- Create awards for your industry, promote it on social media, reach out to everyone nominated for an award, create branded badges for the winners.
- Partner with related, established but non-competitive companies to co-sponsor webinars, white papers, etc.
- Create a free newsletter signup on your site and publish a free newsletter each month. Tip: to get fresh content on the cheap, you can repurpose content from your blog, Webinars, turn a white paper into a series of newsletters with a link to download the rest for free, and so on.
- Offer a series of "free tips" to people who have given you their email address.
- Offer live chat and live customer support on your website.
- Market other products, services, upgrades from your company in your thank you emails and pages.
- Create an affiliate program; determine if it makes the most sense to skip the third party providers or do it yourself.
- Attend industry conferences and chronicle the conference (live blog sessions, take pictures at events, etc.).
- Ask employees to link to products/offers from their personal sites and profiles, as links raise the "SEO value" of your website, which can drive higher rankings.
- Give a discount to people who share your product (tweet, blog, etc.).
- Build charitable donations into your pricing (percentage of your profit goes to charity).
- Organize a campaign against a particular injustice in your niche and get free publicity.
- Think totally outside the box and do stuff like helping others with no expectation of reciprocation, which can cause really cool things to happen for your brand.
- Read blogs, subscribe to RSS feeds of top marketing blogs and get even more free, or almost free ideas, each day to help market and grow your business on the cheap. This big list is a darn good place to start.
(Thanks to my business partner Tom Demers for adding some great suggestions to the list.)
Finally, check out the comment thread below. I'm encouraging everyone who reads this article to add more ideas to the list, which hopefully will elicit even more free marketing ideas.
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