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24 Free and Low-Cost Marketing Ideas

Updated: Dec 23, 2023

Small boxes and magazines for a spa brand
Image source: Wix media

Many small businesses, especially startups, operate on a small marketing budget. Thankfully, many marketing strategies do not require a significant financial investment. In fact, because of technological innovations, the time has never been better than now for small businesses to create effective marketing campaigns and get the word out about their businesses without breaking the bank.

This article presents 24 free or low-cost ways to promote your small business. Check out the list to see if one or more of these strategies could fit your business well. The list is organized into the following strategy classifications: Digital Marketing, Networking and In-Person, Traditional Marketing, and Other Marketing Strategies.


Digital Marketing

1. Create a free Google Business Profile

I am putting this strategy first because it is one of the easiest and most effective ways to promote a local business with a physical location or defined service area. A Google Business Profile will give your business a more prominent placement on local results and Google Maps. Verify your ownership, then complete and optimize your listing. Request customer reviews from clients and strive to get good customer reviews through high customer satisfaction. Responding to customers' reviews also boosts your visibility in local searches.

2. Social media

Tablet screen with social media related drawings
Image source: Getty Images

Social media is a free way to increase brand awareness, engage with clients and potential customers, and establish yourself as a trustworthy business. Focus your efforts on the social media platforms that best fit your business. Seek education on effective marketing methods on those platforms and experiment to see what works. Consider establishing a business account on major platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube.

You can use social media to

  • Communicate with followers and the public to promote your brand and increase community and engagement.

  • Request feedback from followers–you may consider doing a poll.

  • While getting permission is often advisable, you may tag other businesses or people (e.g., satisfied customers) to extend your social media reach and potentially attract new followers and clients. You can also encourage others to tag your business.

  • Use hashtags to increase your visibility on social media. Location-based hashtags are crucial for local businesses. Use hashtags consistent with your brand identity to establish yourself in that sphere.

  • You may also consider trending hashtags or specific hashtags (analogous to long-tail keywords)

I’ve noticed that some small local businesses do not have a website and seem to get all the online marketing they need from a Facebook business page. Building and maintaining a website can be costly and/or time-consuming, particularly for individuals with limited knowledge of technology. LinkedIn can also be a powerful marketing tool for certain professions and businesses, including Business-to-Business (B2B).

3. Publish quality content on your blog or website

Good content can earn the trust of potential customers and help establish yourself as an expert in your field. Creating content that engages readers and answers their questions can drive sales and should also increase your website's authority in search results. Ensure you incorporate the keywords you target into your content to optimize SEO.

4. Recycle good content

If you have a blog post that generates much interest, consider using it to make a video or infographic. Or, combine various articles you have written to create an eBook. The eBook can entice site visitors to sign up for your newsletter.

5. Video Marketing

A video play button
Image Source: Lumine Images

Technological advances have dramatically dropped the barriers to producing and editing video over the last two decades. Video is an engaging and impactful medium many businesses use to promote their products and services. You might consider the following video types:

  • product demo

  • instructional/how-to video

  • a video where you discuss an important topic in your field

  • an interview with an expert

  • a typical advertisement

  • a behind-the-scenes look at your business

For example, an exterminator might post a video about a particularly interesting termite infestation (with the owner’s consent). A tree professional could show a sped-up video of a large tree being cut down. Such videos are often interesting and shareable and can create awareness of your business. After producing and editing your video, post it on social media channels like YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram.

6. Take advantage of promotional offers for digital advertising

I’ve recently seen discounts or promotional offers for Facebook, Instagram, Microsoft, and Google ads. Various web hosting companies offer special deals on digital advertising as part of their subscription packages. When I started my first business years ago, I took advantage of a special offer from Google Ads and received a free advertising credit. I felt like that gave my business a much-needed boost to get off to a good start. You may want to review PPC principles before diving in and starting your campaign to make the most of your promotional credits.

7. Work on local SEO

Local SEO consists of efforts to improve the visibility of your business in local or “near me” searchers. Check out our article 10 Ways to Improve Local SEO. Improving Local SEO is often a gradual process and may require a substantial investment of time, but placing well in local search results is often well worth the effort.

8. Newsletter

Email marketing is a great way to solidify your relationship with regular customers and get your message out to potential customers. You might use these to introduce new products or services or generate buzz with special sales events. Sending regular but not too frequent emails brings your company to mind and lets the recipient act on your invitation. Businesses frequently offer a discount or special content piece, such as an eBook, to encourage people to sign up for their newsletter. Use an email marketing service, such as Constant Contact or MailChimp. Some email marketing services have a free version for small campaigns, such as if the number of email addresses on your list is below a certain threshold.

9. Infographics

A man in front of a infographic.
Image Source: Getty Images

Creating quality infographics can be a powerful way to increase traffic to your site. Infographics are very shareable because they have key information in a visually appealing and easy-to-understand format. As people share your infographics, referral traffic, and backlinks will increase. You can use various free software tools, such as Canva, to create top-notch infographics. Be aware of intellectual property issues when creating infographics, such as using proprietary data or images without permission.

Networking and In-person

10. Work on your elevator pitch

People talking in an elevator
Image Source: Getty Images

You likely have frequent opportunities in various social situations to inform people about your business. If you need more such opportunities, consider becoming more involved in your community. Take advantage of opportunities by always being ready with an effective elevator pitch. It should feel natural and normal and not canned. If possible, adapt it to the person you are speaking with in terms of their occupation and tastes. You have to make a pitch in under 2 minutes and often under one. Make sure it is a two-way conversation.

After you have been promoting your business for a while, you will be better able to anticipate and respond to questions. You may consider using statistics related to your business, social proof, or telling a story that conveys your message memorably. Be confident and friendly, and leave them with a good impression of your competence and expertise. Even if that individual is not your next client, they may remember you and refer someone else to you if your pitch is compelling.

11. Attend business events to network

There are excellent opportunities to network at trade shows, continuing education events, industry conferences, and job fairs. Bring business cards, be proactive and outgoing, and learn from others about their businesses. Events with an educational component may give you fresh ideas on how to help your business succeed. Many people at these events have a wealth of knowledge you could benefit from, and you can make meaningful and valuable connections with other professionals.

Consider business networking organizations such as your local chamber of commerce, Business Networking International (BNI), and Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO). You can also search for events and networking opportunities through websites like

12. Attend community events

There may be local or community events that can provide you with networking opportunities and brand exposure. Consider annual festivals, farmers markets, and contests. For example, if you sponsor a 5K race, your logo may appear on the banners and shirts provided to entrants. You could also get brand exposure if there is a raffle and your product or service is one of the prizes. You may consider getting a booth at a farmers market or other event.

13. Business cards

Business cards are an indispensable part of business marketing strategy and provide a lot of bang for the buck. Effective business cards are readable, aesthetically pleasing, and consistent with your brand guidelines. Give them out like candy–the card may provide an extra reminder of your business, resulting in a referral sale. Contact us today if you want

A business card
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us to design a business card for you!

Consider having a digital business card ready as well by presenting a QR code on your phone. This is an excellent backup in case you don’t have your business cards and run into a potential customer.

14. Referral groups

While they go by various names and configurations, referral groups can benefit multiple professions. The groups can be relatively small and often only allow one individual per industry/profession into the group. Group members help each other by referring their connections to other group members and perhaps helping to promote those businesses online or through joint marketing endeavors.

15. Go door to door

A salesman at the door
Image Source: Getty Images Signature

This strategy works well for some types of businesses, such as some home services businesses. In my city, a peddler’s license is required to knock on doors, but no license is required to leave a door hanger or printed material. Walking house to the house could be a great way to promote your business and get some exercise at the same time!

16. Encourage employees to promote your business

Employees can help promote your business through word-of-mouth referrals and social media. If the business has a commission-based pay structure, it will motivate employees to promote the business. Even in that case, training employees on practical ways to promote the brand is helpful. In that training, consider asking employees for ideas about how they can help with marketing–that may create buy-in and provide you with new strategies to consider. You might encourage employees to share something about the company on social media, such as a special event. Employees who are treated well and trained as ambassadors can use their social media networks to create considerable brand exposure.

17. Run an educational event,

Woman speaking at an event
Image source: Wix media

class, or webinar

Teach a class in your subject area that potential clients would be interested in. This will allow you the opportunity to interact with the attendees. Furthermore, because you will be presenting for a substantial amount of time, they will get to know you and remember you.

18. Be proactive in seeking referrals

Consider directly asking customers for referrals. Some of your customers may have connections to others in need of your products or services, and your invitation could be the nudge that helps them remember someone to connect you with. You could systematize requesting referrals as part of your website’s email campaign

or invoicing systems. It often helps to offer an incentive for a referral, such as a discount on a future purchase.

19. Partner up with another business for a particular purpose

This partnership could be a special event, a charity project, a promotional giveaway, guest blogging, a joint video, podcast, or webinar. These partnerships can introduce your business to the audience of the company you are partnering with. Partnerships can allow you to do larger-scale projects that would not be feasible without one or more partners. Make sure you clearly delineate each partner’s role in the joint effort so that it is a success and not hampered by misunderstandings.

Traditional Marketing

20. Place branding on a vehicle

This marketing method can have a spectacular return on investment. Magnets, bumper stickers, and window decals are inexpensive methods of letting people know about your business and your contact information. Suppose the car is on the road all the time for deliveries, service calls, or other business. In that case, it may make sense at some point to upgrade to something more visible and aesthetically appealing, such as a vinyl graphics or a custom vehicle wrap.

21. Signs

Think about where you could put a low-cost sign or other visual display. Perhaps you could place a sidewalk sign with some humor in front of your store to attract business. Many businesses place eye-catching advertising on exterior windows. Contact us today if you want us to design signs, banners, brochures, or other visual designs for you!

Other Marketing Strategies

22. Take good care of existing customers

I appreciate that my mechanic calls me a few weeks after service to ensure everything went well with the repair. A personal thank you note can also be a nice touch. Customers are more likely to come back if they are treated well.

23. Business awards

If you have been in business for a time, consider applying for business awards. Some awards are specific to certain industries or based on geographical location (e.g., “Best of Iron County”). The winners often display the award badge online and in marketing materials. Awards badges are a method of offering social proof and conveying the message that the business is trustworthy, does quality work, or excels at satisfying customers.

24. Customer referral program

Offer your customers an incentive for referrals, such as free or discounted products or services. Customers can be effective brand ambassadors because they have some familiarity with your business and find value in the products or services you offer. Be aware of industry-specific restrictions, as certain professions either do not allow or have restrictions on referral compensation.

Thanks for reading, and we hope you enjoyed this article! Subscribe to our newsletter to receive our upcoming articles in your inbox if you would like to discuss how we can help you reach your marketing goals.

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