Marketing is what you need to help people find your wonderful business. We know that “social media is free” – but how do you develop a plan? How would you know if it’s working if you had one? Why does so much marketing advice start with the assumption that you’ve already been in business for years? How do you actually make free marketing effective? Here at drlisadotco, we don’t believe that business owners should be doomed to fail if they can’t afford our services right away.
What should I do if I have no money, but I need my business to generate some?
I’m going to start by assuming that you already know exactly what you’re selling and you’ve done the customer research to be sure that the people you intend to sell to really do need or want the product or service you provide. If that’s not the case, stop reading this right now and go do that. All your marketing efforts are doomed to fail if you are talking to the wrong people.
So, you know what you’re selling, you know your potential customers or clients want it – and now you need to let them know you have it.
This is the start of your content marketing plan. Most of the experts I’ve read say that content marketing starts with analyzing your site traffic and social media analytics to see what resonates. But you’re new, so that’s not helpful. Keyword research is how you kickstart the process and use the data that Google and other sources so generously provide. Moz offers an in-depth intro to keyword research here, in their Beginner’s Guide to SEO. Neil Patel offers an awesome tool to help you out – for free: Ubersuggest.
Content Writing & Distribution
Since you know where your customers and clients are (hello, research!), you can strategically provide the answers to the questions you found in your Keyword Research. That is your content, whether you deliver those answers via articles on your website and in guest posts on others, videos or images just about everywhere, or speaking opportunities with targeted audiences.
Remember, if your budget is zero dollars – you have to do the work yourself. If you’re stressed and overworked, know that you will be even more overworked, but making this business thing work is one of the keys to your future freedom. If nothing else, save some coins to that you can offload some of the writing to a professional. Fiverr has an extensive marketplace of affordable (and surprisingly good) content writers waiting to help you out. Just make sure the pro you choose is providing you with original writing and not recycled foolishness.
Shareworthy Images (& Video)
Canva is your new best friend. First, learn to take better pictures with your smartphone (head over to Youtube and study), and pull them into Canva to use them in new and creative ways. Work hard to use similar/related colors, shapes, and filters to give your posts a polished and cohesive look. This is how you start to present your business as a brand.
Your smartphone is also an excellent video camera, so set up a nice, uncluttered corner of your home as your “studio” and get busy. Notice that I advised you to pay a copywriter and NOT buy such-and-so equipment. You can get a selfie stick at the dollar store last I checked, but even if your arm gets tired, get those videos done. You’ll probably find a phone-sized tripod next to the selfie sticks.
Networking & Leads
If you need and want to socialize in person, I understand. There is definitely value in being visible, and those “in the field” Instagram posts can’t all be from your driveway or the local coffee shop. On the other hand, there are many ways to truly connect with potential colleagues and clients online. My favorite place for that is LinkedIn, followed by Twitter.
There are some great guides out there to help you build a winning profile and use LinkedIn’s free service strategically to develop new business. (I like Nina Zipkin’s advice here, William Arruda’s advice here, and Adrian Hopkins’ advice here.) Twitter gives you the opportunity to jump right into conversations without having to awkwardly wait for an opportunity to introduce yourself and contribute.
Other social media platforms are great for increasing your business’ visibility – especially if you’re in a photo-friendly industry – but LinkedIn and Twitter have been great for businesses of all types, and have saved me from having to brave rush hour traffic for the business card handoff Olympics at some bar or other. Of course, you can follow the drlisadotco team on LinkedIn and Twitter if you’re looking for content to curate and share.
Recommendations & Testimonials
You need social proof, and people like to talk about their great stuff. If you trade services for favors, ask for a recommendation. If you volunteer your time, ability, and skills – ask for a recommendation. And of course, when you get paid for a job well done – ask for a recommendation.
Having a track record is how you prove that you know what you’re doing and that you’ve already made others happy. Ask for permission to post them on your website, and provide links right in your request for recommendations on Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook, as well as any other review site that is popular with your customers. Draft an email with all of the links in it so you can just copy and paste to send with your invoice receipt.
Measure Your Progress
While the ultimate measure of whether your business is successful is whether or not you get more clients, your revenue alone won’t tell you why it’s happening. You need to measure understand how your prospective customers interact with the content you put out, and how they behave after that interaction. That is, did they see your new blog post on your Facebook page and click through to your website to read it? After reading, did they read another post? Did they send you an email via the contact form on your site? Did that email turn into a warm lead? Did you close the sale?
You need to be able to track all of that activity for every piece of content you publish so that you know what to make more of, and what to put away. Facebook and Twitter offer general data on your posts to their platforms, and Google Analytics will tell you all about what’s happening inside your website. I won’t lie to you, Google Analytics can be challenging to set up and understand if you don’t do it for a living. This is another area where hiring a pro at Fiverr might be a worthwhile investment if you have a few coins to spare.
Now get to work making free marketing work for you.
I’ve mentioned a lot of third-party platforms for sharing your message. However, ultimately, you’ll need to have your own digital real estate in order to grow. That means you need a website. With a budget of zero dollars, there are a lot of free website builders that will fit the bill – nicely – for the time being. However, as soon as you can, move to a self-hosted platform. That way, your data is always yours, and so is your traffic. Get out there and start telling your story!