Photo courtesy of Queen City Vintage
One of the biggest obstacles small business owners face? Coming up with creative ways to market their business without breaking the bank.
Sure, it’d be nice to be able to throw upwards of $1,000 at Facebook ads each month, purchase an awesome late-night commercial spot on a local news channel, or hire an agency to manage all of your marketing for you. But let’s be real: If you’re a local business owner (especially one who’s just starting out!), a bunch of extra marketing dollars are probably not at your disposal.
The good news? There are tons of great ways to market your business online for absolutely free— it just takes a good amount of effort, creativity, and constant experimentation.
To help you get started, here are 5 super easy ways to market your business online for free that you can get started with right now, plus examples from local businesses who already have these strategies down pat.
1. Set Up a Google My Business Listing
In case you’re not already familiar, Google My Business (GMB) is a free and easy-to-use tool provided by Google to help businesses manage their listings and get found by potential customers in their immediate area. Think of it as the Yellow Pages of the Internet.
Since there’s no spend required to use Google My Business, it’s a great option for businesses with physical locations looking to expand their local reach without using valuable marketing dollars.
Check out our article How to Set Up and Fully Optimize a Google My Business Listing for a step by step guide on how to claim, and more importantly, optimize a GMB listing to get more traffic.
Local Example: Queen City Vintage
Queen City Vintage, a vintage clothing store located on Hertel Ave that buys, sells, and trades vintage clothes & Buffalo sports apparel from the 70s through early 2000s, is a great example of a local business with a fully optimized Google My Business listing.
Because their listing is fully optimized with the best, most accurate business categories (think vintage clothing store instead of just clothing store), business information, website links, reviews, and photos, GMB helps them show up higher and more frequently in relevant Google searches.
2. Collaborate With Other Businesses
Another great way to get your business in front of new eyes with little to no money spent upfront is by teaming up with other local businesses looking to do the exact same thing. And the best part about being in Buffalo? You have an incredible community of local businesses to choose from.
If you’re new to the world of collabs, the key to success is finding other businesses that:
- Are related to your business or operate in the same industry as you
- Have audiences with similar interests & demographics
- Can bring a whole lot of passion and creativity to the table
Local Example: Fattey Beer Co x The Sugar Palette
A great example of two Buffalo businesses coming together for awesome collabs is Fattey Beer Co., a craft beer market that sells local and national brews, and The Sugar Palette, a local baker who whips up dazzling cut-out cookies, cakes, and other delicious treats.
With one serving alcohol and the other sweet treats, they make the perfect pair for pop ups, specialty cookie and beer tasting packages, and more.
3. Get Involved With the Community
When you think about the best ways to market your business, chances are your mind immediately turns to online methods— but don’t forget about how valuable it can be to market your business offline, especially in a tight-knit community like Buffalo.
Increased community involvement can greatly help market your business by:
- Boosting your business’s reputation
- Generating positive PR buzz
- Keeping you top-of-mind when consumers are searching for the types of products/services that you offer
And not for nothing, community involvement is more than just a great marketing tactic. It’s a way for you to get to know your market area better, build genuine relationships, and so much more.
Local Example: Paloma Exchange
Paloma Exchange, a local thrift shop on Grant street, is a great example of a local business that continually gives back to the community. Each month, proceeds from their City of Good Neighbors collection are donated to a local charity. In the past they’ve raised money for fantastic organizations like HOPE Buffalo, The Pride Center, and more!
4. Optimize Your Instagram Profile & Photos for SEO
In 2021, it’s safe to say that Instagram is not only one of the most popular social media apps out there right now, but it’s also one of the best ways local businesses have to market themselves for free.
Instagram users all over the world are using the platform like a search engine now more than ever before— whether it be for deciding what brunch spot to go to this weekend, browsing a local boutique’s inventory, or planning a full-blown vacation. (Or staycation!) So it just makes sense that Instagram SEO strategies are the perfect way to increase your reach on the platform without spending any money on running ads.
Check out our article 5 SEO Tricks to Help Increase Your Reach on Instagram for an in-depth look at how to make these strategies work for you!
Local Example: Selfie World Buffalo
One of the best (and easiest!) Instagram SEO strategies is tagging your photos with geo-locations— but there’s a right and wrong way to do it.
Geo-locations are a big factor that plays into Instagram’s algorithm determining what content to push out to users’ Explore pages.
If someone engages with a lot of content tagged with Buffalo, New York geotags, for example, that user is much more likely to discover your content organically through their Explore page if you also tag your content with a Buffalo, New York geotag— even if that user doesn’t follow you.
Take Selfie World Buffalo, for example: if you search for their location on Instagram, you’ll see that the first photo that comes up under “Top Photos” is one from their business account, which is a big deal when it comes to users seeing your content in the algorithm.
This is also important since geotags aren’t just relevant to local users— they’re also super helpful for out-of-towners who might be looking for an awesome restaurant to eat at, a fun place to shop, or just something generally interesting to do while they’re in town.
About one third of travelers reported that they use social media to plan future vacations, find travel tips, and look at photos of places they hope to visit during their trip, so if you’re a restaurant, bar, or generally tourist-y location, you’re definitely going to want to start using geotags on Instagram asap!
5. List Your Business on Step Out Buffalo
Did you know Step Out Buffalo has a ton of free ways to get free promotions for your business?
From Step Out Buffalo’s free community updates and deals to our free event and business listings, there’s lots of ways to easily get your business in front of a larger, more engaged audience at no cost.
If you’re new around here, below is an exhaustive list of all of the opportunities available for free on the Step Out Buffalo website to help businesses to expand their reach:
- Step Out Buffalo Event Listings: These can cover virtually any event of any size, both in-person to virtual. If you’re hosting an event, people probably want to know about it, and we’re here to help spread the word.
- Step Out Buffalo Community Updates: Great for sharing business updates like updated seasonal hours, new services offered, etc.
- Step Out Buffalo Deals: Ideal for driving customers to your business with exclusive specials, discounts, offers, etc.
- Step Out Buffalo Business/Restaurant Listings: These cover basic business information such as address, phone number, hours, curbside takeout available, etc.
Pro tip: We’ve got the inside scoop on how to maximize the views and traffic you get from these listings. Check out our articles below for more!