Is there such a thing as a free lunch?

Fuel Marketing Blog ImageRecently I was invited to a seminar entitled “How to market your business without spending money” and as a marketer that intrigued me enough to sign up. In over 25 years as a marketing professional I have never seen any marketing that was completely free. Plus there’s that nagging voice in my head that keeps chirping in with “does free have a value?”

Free marketing sounds fine and dandy in principal and whilst I do agree that no money is changing hands, business owners need to be aware that in order to do any marketing (free or otherwise) successfully you will need to commit plenty of time to planning it, doing it and following up on it too! And let’s face it when you are a business time really is money, so be carefully how much time you give to each of these activities and of course monitor and measure the results for a return on investment. Remember, every claim on your time needs to earn its place!

So what is this free marketing that people are speaking of, well here are my thoughts on cost, but not time free, activities that you can get involved in:

1.    Word-of-mouth (referrals and recommendations)

Remember consumers listen most to other consumers' opinions, not to marketing messages. And whether you want it to happen or not customers will talk about your business, so you need to focus at least some effort on exceeding expectations and achieving quality – this applies to the service/product in question, your price and any discounts, how it’s delivered, your customer service, areas for adding value and of course your communications too.

2.    Networking

The more people you tell about your business, the greater chance you have of them trying it out. So putting yourself out there at events, seminars, exhibitions, business expos/shows, meetings (online or offline) etc. is a great way to increase your marketing reach. Whilst some networking activities involve a charge, there are plenty that are free, Remember to take your business cards and practice your elevator speech and always remember that everyone is a potential customer or a route to other customers.

3.    Social media

Sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn can provide a plethora of opportunities for free marketing if used well, and if your target audience use them too. Online forums and discussion groups can also work well. Just remember that frequency is important so don’t start something that you have no intending of doing a minimum of once a week, more is obviously preferential.

4.    Email newsletters

An email newsletter is a simple way of keeping your business fresh in your customers' minds and, if you offer exclusive deals through a newsletter, readers will often send it on to friends - meaning you reach even more potential customers. However Mail Chimp and other software can make the whole thing easier for you when it comes to design and distribution. Just remember to send it regularly, make sure that the brand is consistent, the content is fresh, easy to understand and act upon, check that the title is appealing and of course include plenty of calls to action and links to your website. Don’t forget to follow strict data collection/protection laws as most people still don’t.

5.    Blogging

Blogging is a great way of increasing traffic to your website as well as demonstrating your expertise, showing your relevancy and comments on topical issues and of course opening up a little about the real you to help more people connect with you and your business. Plus if you find businesses with some synergy and an overlapping customer base, talk to them and see if you can blog for each other. It’s great fun and of course means that if you blog weekly you may only have to write one or two blogs yourself every month instead of four!

6.    PR

 Write your own press releases and then build a network of relevant media contacts so that you can disseminate the information to them. Having media friends make the whole thing a lot easier but as a starting point, I would do your research as to which journalists are the ones who can help you and then try to find out their contact details using social media channels, websites and of course attending specific events, where a few journalists are often in evidence.

For help with free or paid marketing, call in the experts, then you can devote your time to running your business, whilst your marketing consultant does the rest. For expert marketing advice and help with implementation, contact Vicky on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing.co.uk