For this article I have put together a selection of free online and offline advertising ideas. These are ideas I have either used myself successfully or seen others such as my clients have success with. No matter what type of Business you run be it online or offline these free advertising ideas will be of great help.
1) Facebook. www.facebook.com
Whatever you think about Facebook (FB) it is one of the most powerful advertising tools about.
At present there are close to a billion users and when they join and as they use Facebook they give away information about themselves as to what they are interested in.
This means that you will know exactly who on FB will be interested in what your business is about.
If I were starting my business all over again then my number 1 choice for advertising would be FB. I would be giving this a large part of my attention.
What to do
With FB you first want to set up a free account and then create an interesting profile. This is your profile that everyone will be able to see so make sure you use a decent photo of yourself and fill out the details with quality information rather than silly, jokey stuff.
TIP: If you already have a FB account and you want to use that for promoting your business then great but if you would rather not then create a separate account and use that instead.
You want your profile to be as professional as possible but without being boring. You can put your Website Address in your profile that will become a link people can click.
What you also want to do is put some relevant messages about your topic of business on your FB page or wall as its known. In these messages you can also put your website address that people can click on. When you do this FB will create some images found on your website to be in your message.
When your profile is complete its then a case of interacting with others and creating relationships with people who are interested in what your business is about.
You can do this by first finding groups on FB that are similar to your business by using the FB search bar at the top of your FB page.
EG: if you have a website promoting men’s fashion then type into the search bar exactly this or find and type in groups that your target market would hang out on.
You can then join these groups and start leaving messages about your business on the group page. When you do this, anyone else who has joined this group or is a fan of it will see your post on their own FB wall. Some groups have thousands of members. Can you see the potential.
You can also make contact with the members of these groups and become friends with them.
Just click on their photo and then on their own FB page click the “Add Friend” button.
When people start accepting your friend requests and you start posting messages about your business on your own FB page, they will see these messages too and we know that they are interested in these messages because they are members of a group similar to your business or your target market.
As with all social sites it’s about creating relationships and FB is no different. And even though you may only be connecting with one person at a time, on FB they in turn may have thousands of connections and these other connections may have thousands too who will all see your interaction with the original person. It’s a viral thing that can spread like wild fire.
2) Twitter. www.twitter.com
Another social site that you can use for free and again like Facebook you can target people who will be interested in what you do.
You start following people who would be interested in your type of business and in return they follow you.
It’s a similar procedure to FB as in you create a decent profile and then you start connecting with people and posting Tweets (messages).
Again it’s a viral thing where your Tweets can be seen very quickly by many thousands of people and lots of them can be interested in what your business is about.
3) LinkedIn www.linkedin.com
Although LinkedIn is primarily a business social site that people use for job searching or networking it can be a very good place to promote your business. At present it has over 300 million users.
Now not all business are suitable for LinkedIn. You would not go there and promote beauty cosmetics. But if your business is about something that could help people with their careers then you may be in the right place.
Examples of this could be a business involved in self-improvement, personal development, working from home. Perhaps your website is about public speaking or resume writing. If it’s along the lines of business people and things they would like then LinkedIn is a great place to go.
Again as with FB and Twitter it’s all about making connections and getting yourself out there. But the difference here is that it’s a much more formal way of connecting.
Imagine everyone on LinkedIn is wearing a shirt and tie rather than on FB where everyone is in jeans and Tshirts.
You want to make a professional profile that states some of your qualifications and careers to date as well as information about your new business as this is obviously what you are there for.
You can find relevant groups and relevant people on LinkedIn to connect to by using the search bar
As with the other social sites you should be adding messages about your business and market so that any of your connections can see this on their own social pages.
4) Online Classifieds
There are many of these free online classified sites with relevant categories that you can place an ad and get viewings for your business.
The biggest globally is www.craigslist.org which allows you to place ads in cities all over the world , carefull though as lot of the larger cities, particularly in the USA you will have to pay for.
If you are using Craigslist in Europe then my advice is to only post in the larger cities such as London, Paris, Madrid etc as posting in smaller towns in my experience does not bring much response.
Another huge classified site is www.Gumtree.com which is particularly good for the UK market for about any type of business you can think off?
There are many other free classified sites online that you can go to, just Google something like “free online classifieds” or “free UK classifieds” and take your pick.
My advice with this type of advertising is to be very consistent on a daily basis. It’s no good placing an ad a week and expecting miracles.
5) Shop Notice Boards.
A lot of large supermarkets/stores will let you place a small ad on their notice boards for free. Go round your local area and find as many as you can.
Be aware that your ad does not stay up forever so you will need to place new ones every few weeks.
The type of ads I mean will be postcard sized and you want to make them stand out from all the other ones around it.
You may find that some will charge a small fee for doing this. If so and you are happy to pay then purchase a month or even a year in advance as you can save a lot doing this.
6) Email Signature.
This is simply where you put a little message at the bottom of every email you send out.
It will have a quick message about what you do and your website address that people can click on. Just think of all the emails you send out, every one of them could be promoting for you.
You can set this up so it’s done automatically (check your email settings) for you within your email system so that every email you send has this signature at the bottom.
Don’t make the signature too long, just a quick message and then your website.
7) Article Writing.
Not for everyone but if you are happy to sit down and write some good articles of between 250 and 1000 words then you have a great opportunity to advertise your business for free.
The way it works is by you writing articles relevant to your business and then uploading them to an article directory.
The article directory then lists your article on their site. Your article is then seen by people doing a search online.
These article directories are the same ones I talked about in section 8 .
The advantage of all this is that at the bottom of all your articles there will always be showing whats known as a resource box.
This box will contain a little message about you and your business as well as your website address of which people can click and go to your website.
Article writing is a great way to quickly get your content ranking and showing in the search results of Google because you are piggy backing off the success of an article directory that is already ranked high with Google.
A good article can be picked up by lots of people who read it and then click on your website address.
Or they can freely copy and paste the article on to their website and it will still include your resource box with your business link in it for everyone to see. This is great free advertising.
One of the best sites to join and upload your articles to is www.ezinearticles.com but if you Google “article directories” you will find many more you can post articles to for free.
Forums are great places for interacting with people who will be interested in your type of business.
What you do is find forums that are specifically about the type of business you are in or where your target market would go. Then you can start answering or posting questions as well as interacting with other forum members.
And with each post you make you can have your website address at the end of your messages.
Now if you’re interacting genuinely and not just spamming your products then people will be inclined to click on your website link.
This is a bit like the social sites where you create relationships but with forums its more about creating credibility with the way you behave and answer people within the forum itself.
And be careful, if people think you have just gone there to promote your business or products you will get black listed fairly fast.
The best way to approach it is by having a real genuine interest in answering peoples questions and comments, this way they will be more inclined to visit your website and view your products.
Whats good to know here is that a lot of these forums content including your interactions will be picked up by Google for people to see when they are searching for similar information.
TIP: Not all forums allow you to leave website links within the comments or they may require you to post a certain amount of comments before you are eligible to leave a website link.
To find suitable forums just use good old Google. EG, if your business is around cooking then look for cooking forums.
9) Q&A sites.
Similar to forums but with the sole intention of answering questions and at the end of your answer you can have a clickable link to your website.
It’s fairly straight forward, you simply look for questions you can answer that are to do with your business and you answer them as best you can. If yours is the best answer then you will get recognition for this and you will start building up your credibility.
Again remember to be genuine here and not just spamming your products otherwise you will be shut down, believe me, I learnt the hard way. Plus a lot of these Q&A sites allow Google to pick up the content and spread it around the internet which means your answers and website address will be out there too.
Three good places to join are,
10) Video Marketing.
Why not make a quick video and upload it to the internet using sites such as www.YouTube.com or www.viddler.com
Make an informative video about an issue people may have within your particular market with a link to your website that has more content about this issue and a product that helps.
You don’t have to be Spielberg here, you don’t even have to be in it, just your voice with some pictures or even have an animated video made.
If you want a video made for you then go to www.fiverr.com I recently had an animated video made by someone on Fiverr that cost $20 for a 2 minute video promoting my business.
11) Contact Marketing.
A good old fashioned conversation or better known as contact marketing.
If you’re comfortable doing this then when you’re out and about strike up some conversations with strangers, don’t go out deliberately looking for people but the ones you casually encounter during the day. Invariably the talk will come around to what you do and then you can do some self-promotion.
This is really a great way to promote your business as it immediately creates a connection with your potential customer that they can still remember when they do visit your website.
My advice here is to have something to give them such as a business card. Yes I know this is about free advertising but you can go to somewhere like www.vistaprint.com and get a few hundred made for less than £20 / $30. Or if not get some details off this person and email your details over to them.
12) Commenting/Back linking.
Adding comments to websites/blogs that are in your market and similar to your website content is a very quick and very effective way to advertise.
Find websites/blogs that are in your market and leave a comment at the bottom of any articles you see on the site.
Read the article first so that you can leave a genuine comment. When you do this you can normally leave your business website address for people to click on as well.
People like to read comments and if your comment is on a high ranking website or blog then there is a good chance a lot of people will see it and your website address too.
Plus the more credible back links (placing your website address around the internet) you have on high ranking websites similar to your own then the better Google will love you and rank you higher (see below for more info on back linking).
13) A4 Tear offs.
Now this idea may seem very basic but it’s one I have used and many others as well to generate income with.
Simply create an advert on your computer in Microsoft Word or some similar program, nothing fancy, just some exciting words about your business or the products or service you offer.
Then at the bottom create some vertical sections that have your website address in it. This part is the tear off bit.
Now print your advert off and then use some scissors to cut around the website address part but still leaving a part of it attached to the main piece of paper.
You can then place these ads all over your local area or wherever you like. I put them in bus stops, at cash dispensers, anywhere there is a high volume of traffic or where my target market is.
What will happen is anyone who is interested in your advert can simply tear off your website address and check your site out later. Very effective and very free.
14) Back Linking
This method is one of the most important things you can do for your websites search rank with Google which ultimately leads to free advertising.
The idea is to be placing your website address all around the internet on places that are especially similar to your business market. You can leave your address anywhere but its more effective when its relative to what you do.
Now if you’re doing some of the other methods of advertising I have suggested earlier such as Q&A sites or Forums or Commenting then you will be naturally back linking as you go along.
But I make it a habit of leaving my website address whenever I get the opportunity online. If I have to leave my name somewhere then I will write my website address with it too. Any opportunity and I will leave my website details.
And here is a little tip, you want to be putting, http:// in front of your web address.
EG, my website is, www.nick-squires.com but in this case I would write it, http://www.nick-squires.com
This way you make it a clickable link and easier for Google to notice it.
Google can then see that your website is appearing more and more around the internet which starts to tell them that your website is becoming more and more popular.
This gives them more reasons to rank your website higher and show it more times to the people doing a search through Google looking for information about businesses like yours.
They in turn visit your website and Google again sees your website is getting more activity so again it ranks it higher. It’s an endless circle that gets better and better for you.
15) Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Strictly speaking this is not a method of advertising but if applied correctly it will bring you lots of traffic and customers and all for free.
SEO is all about configuring your website so that the search engines like Google know what your website is about and in turn they can place it in front of the right type of people doing a search online.
SEO is one of the best things you can do for your business which is why I have devoted the whole of section 19 to it and I strongly recommend you read it and implement the advice.
Do you want some help with your business?
If your looking for some help with your marketing then why not leave me a message on the Contact Me Page and I will get back to you or if you are looking to start an online business and you are not sure of the best way to go about this then why not leave your details on my Coaching Course Page. I will then be in touch to explain all.
Nick Squires-The English Entrepreneur