So, what is marketing? Marketing includes all the ways you can promote your business and bring awareness to your brand. Whether your business is just starting or decades old, every company needs marketing on some level in order to grow.
Traditionally, marketing included: organic word of mouth, paid ads (newspapers, print magazines, billboards, bus stop posters), and online ads (on blogs and websites). But now, there are so many other types of marketing you can do (many of which are free and organic but still involve a little elbow grease!). Most small businesses don't have a ton of funds to spend on marketing, especially right now. So how can you still market without spending money? Here are a few of my favorite ways to organically market your business:
- Word of Mouth—This may seem like marketing from the old days, but for many businesses it still works. Word of mouth completely varies by your industry. Some people rely on it solely, and some don't rely on it at all. But if your business is a service that is unique or specialized, chances are happy clients and customers will tell their friends. This applies a lot to service-based businesses (like hair stylists, accountants, house painters, fitness trainers, lawyers, etc.) where the preferences or needs are specific and regional. But even if you think your business is not one reliant on word of mouth, you should still make sure every customer is happy so they can say great things about your business if it should come up in conversation! ALWAYS ask for referrals and testimonials when you have a happy customer or client.
- Social Media—This option is absolutely free, has unlimited potential, and can be completely run by you (at first). It's true that it takes time to grow a following on any social media platform. But the most important thing to do on social media (whether it's day 1 or day 4982) is to tell a story…in YOUR own way. How you choose to tell your story is what will attract more potential customers to you. Your feed should be a mix of organic, lifestyle content that fits with your voice and brand and informative and inspirational posts that showcase what you and your business offer.
- Email Lists—Email lists have made a comeback in recent years as we have less control over how many of our followers actually see our social media posts. You can't always rely on an algorithm, so email lists give you more control as you know that email will definitely land in their inbox. Email lists have evolved from super fancy to more basic. There's been a trend in recent years to keep email newsletters simpler and more conversational. The key is to still connect with your email subscribers in a way that feels like you, and make sure your emails are not only about selling things. Offer free content, tips, and have conversations they'll enjoy there, too. Also, commit to sending regular emails (once a week, once every two weeks, twice a week, etc.) so your subscribers know to look forward to them and feel like they are getting something special in their inbox.
- Cold Outreach—If you're a freelancer looking to attract more clients, cold outreach is the number one way to get businesses to know you exist. This could be through mailing the creative director a sample of your work, emailing a link to your reel, or DM-ing the brand to find out how to submit your work for their consideration. The same goes for finding retail customers to pick up your line at wholesale. Send them samples, line sheets, look books, and anything else that shows them who you are and what you offer. You can't sit around and expect brands and clients to find you!
- Networking Groups, Classes, and Events—Whether it's a regional groups of like-minded business owners, an online class for growing your business, or a fun event where others might attend (once the world is back open again), take the opportunity to meet people both virtually and in real life. While this may not naturally seem like marketing, getting to know others not only offers you a community in which you can turn to for advice and help, but it also exposes you to more people who can learn about what you do and potentially become word of mouth advocates as well.
- Referral/Affiliate Programs—If you have a product-based business, signing up for a referral or affiliate program puts you on the radar of bloggers, editors, and influencers who use those programs to earn income. It allows them to find you to potentially promote your work in their gift guides, round-ups, daily looks, and more because they also have incentive to earn commission should one of their followers buy your product. While this will cost you a small percentage of your profit, these are sales you're making that you wouldn't have otherwise.
- Gifting—Bloggers and influencers have become a major player in helping to market both products and services as they have their own set of trusted followers who love to see the influencer's favorite things to buy, wear, eat, use, and live with. This option requires a bit of budget by way of the cost of your products and shipping and handling. Or, if you offer a service, gifting it will could include your time and any tools or equipment you may use. I wrote a more in-detail PDF about gifting and pitching Influencers right here.
If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below in the comments, and I'll answer for you! Also be sure to sign up for our Oh Joy! Academy mailing list (mid-way on that page) if you want first dibs on new classes when they launch!