The small business marketing checklist: 5 easy, free ways to spread the word about your company

Lindsey Vontz

You’ve got your new company name, you got a logo you love. Ideally, you’ve given some thought to your brand: what makes you different and memorable, as well as how your product or service fits the needs of its target audience.  

computer on wood table

Now it’s time to reach prospective customers.  We know you’re busy getting your business off the ground and perfecting your product. At 99designs, we’re all about removing obstacles for busy entrepreneurs. That’s why we’ve created this list specifically for small business owners with tight budgets and precious little time.

Here are five easy ways to spread the word out about your awesome product, without breaking the bank.

1. Put your name, logo and contact information on every single touchpoint with the outside world

It’s not enough to put your logo on your website, especially when you’re first starting out. You have to make it incredibly easy for people to remember you and find you on the world wide web, and that means always being one click away when interacting with your audience.

It sounds so simple, yet it’s often an overlooked step.  Here are four places you can put your information.

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  1. Your email signature (with a link to your website and your phone #)
  2. Your business cards
  3. Your social media profiles (see tip #3)
  4. Your packaging (pro tip: stickers or tape can be an affordable stop gap)

Note: This won’t be the marketing tactic that catapults your business into the stratosphere (unless you’re incredibly lucky, or you have some very famous friends), but when you’re first starting out, it’s an important first step. Not only does it establish your business as “real” to your contacts in the outside world, but it’s the very first step in helping people remember your name and growing word of mouth for your business. Without this step, your next efforts may go to waste.

2. Start a blog and write about what you know (as it relates to your business)

stevenjacobs90

Content marketing and search engine optimization. Those are things only big fancy companies with big fancy marketing departments do, right? We’ve got good news for you. You can create a blog that will help improve your search engine ranking for free. No coding wizardry needed. And better search engine rankings means more visitors and more customers. Here’s a super simple guide to get you started.

Not sure what to write about? Put yourself in your customers’ shoes.

  • What sorts of things are they searching for? Create a list of questions your customer might be asking that you can use your expertise to answer.
  • Then go ahead and Google the questions on your list. If you can’t find any articles right away, you’ve found your opportunity.
  • Ready to take this to the next level? Our friends at Shopify wrote a great guide for beginners on conducting keyword research.

3. Start communicating on social

Approximately three-quarters of shoppers today will research a company online before making a purchase. Companies can no longer expect their target customer to take them at their word. One of the easiest ways for your customer to determine your credibility is to check you out on social. Need more proof? Currently, one in every ten online purchases around the world originates from social media channels. The good news is, you can get started for free.

evankirstel

Managing several social media channels as a small business owner can seem daunting. We don’t recommend being on every channel right away, since it can be a lot to manage. Start with the channel that’s most relevant to your business and expand from there once you feel ready. Here’s a helpful guide by industry.

  • Once you have your channels, it’s time to start posting. Here are a few really helpful tips to get you started, no matter which channel you’re focusing on.
  • Have a wellspring of patience, and a knack for navigating websites that some may find maddening? You might be uniquely qualified to tackle Redditas a marketer, which puts you ahead of the game. Here’s a great beginners guide to Reddit, when you’re ready.

Are you running a local business? Check out Alignable, the free network where business owners meet to increase word of mouth marketing and generate referrals.

4. Start building your email list

Email remains one of the most cost-effective channels for marketing departments all around the world.  Don’t believe us? According to the Direct Marketing Association, Email marketing yields an average 4,300% return on investment for businesses in the United States. And companies using email to nurture leads generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost. And nurtured leads, on average, produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities compared to non-nurtured leads, according to Hubspot.

Not sure what to send? Here are a few types of emails you can send, depending on your audience and offering:

  1. A weekly newsletter with top posts from your blog, or other content most relevant to your email audience
  2. A promotional email with discounts or special offerings on your product
  3. Product updates or company announcements

Just like your blog, email marketing is most effective when you put yourself in your customer’s shoes, and focus on their wants, needs, concerns, and questions when it comes to your business. Pay attention to your favorite brands and your competitors.  What emails are you most likely to read?  What makes you take action?  And like the rest of your branded materials, emails to your customers and prospects should always look professional. Here are some free templates to get you started.

There’e a lot of software out there to help you manage your email list and automate distribution.  Here are some useful email tools for small businesses

5. Get Creative

zackgregory

When ridesharing app Lyft first got started, they printed their logo and a coupon code on coasters. They sent their small staff to bars in the few cities they were operating, and sat back as they watched their app downloads soar.  

Airbnb got their site free distribution by coding a set of tools that made it possible for every user to cross-post their Airbnb listing on Craigslist. These specific examples of guerrilla marketing won’t necessarily work for your business or industry, but if you put your own creative thinking cap on, you might find your own ingenious way of growing word of mouth for your business for next to nothing.

Remember, you don’t necessarily have to tackle all of these tips at once. Do one thing thoughtfully every day, and watch your business grow bit by bit. Don’t expect overnight success, but if something you’re doing isn’t working, tweak it or try something new. Take every failure and apply the learnings. Good luck!

For more resources to help your business grow, check out our featured partners page for special deals and discounts for 99designs customers. 

Industry

Tool

Resource

Real Estate Branding             Bigger Pockets: The Keys to Branding Your Real Estate Business”
Homespotter: “The Beginner’s Guide to Personal Branding for Real Estate”
Blogging Placester: “How to Write and Publish a Real Estate Blog Post in 20 mins”  
Social Sprout Social: An In-Depth Look at Real Estate Marketing for Social Media   
Email Constant Contact: How to Turn Your Email Newsletters into Prime Real Estate
Grassroots Fit Small Business: 50 Real Estate Marketing Ideas The Pros Use
Artists, Musicians, and Authors Branding Fast Company: Mastering The Uncomfortable Art of Personal Branding
Blogging Smart Blogger: 49 Creative Geniuses Who Use Blogging to Promote Their Art
Jane Friedman: How to Start Blogging: A Definitive Guide for Authors
Social Sonic Bids: The Introverted Musician’s Guide to Social Media
The Creative Penn: Social Media Tips For Writers With Frances Caballo
Email Mailer lite: Email marketing for art: practical tips for artists & art galleries
Sonicbids: 5 Great Email Newsletter Services for Musicians  
Grassroots Author Media: 89 Book Marketing Ideas That Will Change Your Life
Retail/Ecommerce Branding Shopify: 5 Brand Strategies to Uniquely Position Your Ecommerce Business Above the Competition
Blogging Shopify: Why Every Ecommerce Business Needs a Blog (And 9 Ideas to Get You Started)
Social Magento: 12 Social Media Tactics to Drive Traffic to Your Ecommerce Site  
Email Digital Marketer: The Ultimate Guide To eCommerce Email Marketing (Online Retailers, This One’s For You…)
Grassroots Imperfect Concepts: Grassroots Marketing Tactics That Can Help You Grow Your Business
Tech/SaaS   Branding Chargebee: SaaS Branding: What Makes Your Startup Special?
Blogging New Breed Marketing: 7 Examples of Brilliant SaaS Content Marketing
Social Inturact: Social Media Best Practices for SaaS Companies
Email Chargify: 8 Must-Read Resources for SaaS Email Marketing Success
Grassroots Kissmetrics: How SaaS Marketing is Different from Every Other Type of Marketing
Health Branding Lexology: Branding 101 for Healthcare Providers: A Refresher
Blogging RX MD Marketing Solutions: How to Start Your Medical Blog
Social Forbes: Social Media For Health Care, Who’s Doing It Right
Email Carecloud: How Your Practice Can Succeed With An Email Newsletter
Grassroots Hubspot: 8 Examples of Brilliant Healthcare Marketing
Roswell Park: Guerrilla Marketing Your Practice

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