The 30 Best Ways to Promote Your Business in 2021—With or Without Money
In order to survive and grow, your business needs customers. In order to get customers, you need to promote your business. In the good old days, this was a matter of deciding between a flyer, a brochure, a postcard, or an ad in the local newspaper.
But in today’s digital world, the possibilities are endless (read: overwhelming).
So if you are struggling to figure out the best ways to promote your business; or even just what your options are, you are (a) not alone and (b) in the right place.
In this post, I’m going to cover the 30 most effective ways to promote your business, whether you have no budget, a limited budget, or some wiggle room. We’ll go over how to spread the word with respect to:
- Search engines (namely, Google Search and Maps).
- Social media channels (including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok, and Pinterest).
- Online directory listings (there's more to them than you may think!)
- Your local community (events, sponsorships, and press).
Promoting your business is a must if you want to stand apart from your competitors and out to your customers, so let's get started with the most popular channel: Google.
How to promote your business on Google
Using Google to promote your business is a no-brainer. Capturing more than 90% of the market share, it’s one of the best ways to get in front of consumers that are actively searching for solutions. Here are the best ways to use Google to get your name out there:
1. Create and verify your Google Business Profile
Your Google Business Profile (Google's term for your Google listing) is what allows your business to show up in Google Maps results, the local section of Google Search results, and also—when someone types in your business name and location—the right-side Knowledge Panel in Search results. As Google gets better and better at catering its results to the searcher’s location, this free listing should be a top priority.
The key to using your Business Profile to promote your business is to verify ownership of your listing through your free Google My Business account. Once you have ownership, you can optimize your listing to show up higher in search results and for more relevant searches.
If you’re ranking on Google Maps or showing up in the Local Pack (as seen above) of regular results pages (this is very doable), your business is basically promoting itself 24/7. Even better, you can publish posts directly to your Google listing, putting attractive promotions in front of your audience at a time when they have high intent.
For a deeper dive into this very free, very effective method of promoting your business, visit 13 Google My Business Optimizations for 2020.
2. Get a website
Every business needs a website, no matter how old-fashioned your business or clients may be. Your website is the go-to for current and prospective customers. Even if they find you on social media or Google, they will want to go to your website and, like your Google listing, it serves to promote your business around the clock.
A good business website not only serves as a promotional tool in and of itself—it tells the story of your business and what you offer, provides contact information, and reflects your brand’s personality and distinguishing characteristics—but it is also essential for measuring and improving the success of your other promotional tactics.
For example, when you run ads, you need landing pages, which live on your website. When you post helpful information on social media, it should link to its home on your website. With all of your marketing channels flowing into your website, you can use analytics to see which strategies are working best and get invaluable insights about your audience.
Although there are completely free solutions to get a website in place for your business, almost inevitably you will need to move to some form of a paid website if you are serious about promoting your business. Having your own domain name, a professional look and feel, and the ability to scale and add features as needed are all essential for growth.
3. Implement search engine optimization
It’s one thing for you to promote your business; it’s another thing for Google to promote your business. SEO is a set of practices that align your business with Google’s ranking algorithm. But because this algorithm has evolved to use machine learning and user behavior to produce the most accurate and quality results for searchers, optimizing for search engines is really just optimizing for searchers—particularly those searching for what you have to offer.
SEO isn’t just one tactic, but many tactics that collectively work together to improve your rank. Also, because Google has superb location-based results, you have just as much of a chance as big retailers to show up on the first page of Google— without spending a dime! (With the exception of the costs to get a website, of course).
SEO tactics to promote your business include:
- Adding relevant (industry- and location-based) keywords to specific places on your website.
- Producing original, high-quality content regularly, with tagged images.
- Maintaining high page load speeds and security.
For more SEO tips, check out this post on The Top 10 Google Ranking Factors of 2020 (+How to Optimize for Them).
When your business is ranking high in results, Google is basically promoting your business for you—and not just to anyone, but to the people searching for what you have to offer. Doesn't get much better than that.
4. Create a business blog
We just touched on this in the previous strategy, but content is such an important driver of SEO that it really deserves its own category as a promotional strategy. A blog is not LiveJournal for businesses. Sure, you can create some posts about milestones and events, but a lucrative business blog is one that produces educational content, in your brand voice, around questions and terms your ideal customers are searching in Google.
An example of a targeted blog post from our friends at LOCALiQ
These questions and terms are called keywords, and the more content you produce targeting these keywords, the more opportunities you create for your business to show up in search engine results pages. Great blog posts can be any of the following:
- How-tos and instructional posts
- Lists of strategies and resources (top 10, 5 best, 3 crucial, etc.)
- Q&A or interview writeup with an industry expert
- Thought leadership posts
- Example/template posts
- Guest posts
- Customer testimonials or case studies
- Seasonal posts (such as this one)
For help finding keywords and creating SEO-friendly blog posts, check out these resources:
- WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool
- What is SEO Content? A Guide to Creating Content for SEO
- Blog SEO Tips for Non-SEOs
5. Share your content
A blog that shows your expertise, approachability, and genuine desire to help your audience is the perfect promotional tool for a business. So don’t just publish posts—promote them! On social media, via email newsletters, or even turn them into downloadable guides to help you collect leads. Better yet, if you produce content with shareability in mind, your blog posts will likely get noticed by other credible websites who will mention and link back to your site on their site or social media feeds—promoting your business for you.
6. Run Google Ads
While SEO will help you to get to the top of results pages, it is a long-term strategy that can take weeks, even months to start seeing results. For more immediate exposure, and if you have the budget, Google Ads is the way to go. Google Ads ads show up at the very top of search engine results pages, above organic and local listings. And of the search engines available, Google is by far the most popular not only because they control the largest share of search engine traffic, but also because of its high level of flexibility, ad building features, and detailed performance metrics.
Though mastering Google Ads takes some time as well as plenty of trial and error, an optimized campaign is far worth the investment. Advertising on Google can be done through text ads on the Search Network or branded banner ads on the Display Network. You can check out our Google Ads crash course here.
How to promote your business using online directories
Consumers routinely visit online directories to search for and vet businesses that fit their specific needs. These sites tend to be high-traffic, long-standing websites with high domain authority, so it’s not uncommon for your profile page or your business name to show up on the first page of Google through one of these domains. Online listings do not take long to create and can help enhance your online presence, promoting your business to nearby, high-intent customers.
7. Create listings on the major directories
Smaller directory sites pull data from larger ones, which means that by creating listings on the major sites, you’ll also likely begin showing up on smaller directories automatically. Below is a list of the major directories to start with. All of them are free, but often have paid options for advanced features.
- Google (see tactic #1)
- Applicable niche directories like TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, etc.
- Better Business Bureau
- Foursquare (Even though it’s dead as a social platform, its data is used by thousands of platforms.)
- Yellow/White Pages
For a deeper dive, check out this post on the Top 10 Free Local Listing Sites.
8. Optimize your listings
It’s one thing to create a listing, but it’s another to optimize it. By filling out every field in your profiles, adding photos, and collecting reviews, you can improve the appeal of your business and rank above competitors in searches. It's also important to make sure your information in all of your listings is consistent with the information on your website. Inconsistencies can cause the Goog to raise an eyebrow about your trustworthiness. Finally, be sure to monitor your listing and fix any inaccuracies, which can happen when listings are auto-populated. For more ways to optimize your listings, use the same post I linked to above (but I'll link it here just because).
9. Get online customer reviews
We just mentioned collecting reviews, but because reviews are so important for small and local businesses, they deserve their own section.
Word of mouth is one of, perhaps the most, powerful way of promoting your business to the right people. Testimonials on your own website are great, but reviews on official platforms like Google, Facebook, and Yelp are even better.
These websites can increase your exposure, and because they have measures in place to prevent fake or spam reviews, people trust the reviews here more than anywhere else. Plus, reviews are a major ranking factor for local search results. To get reviews, check out these posts:
- How to Ask for Reviews (with Examples)
- Get More Google Reviews with These 16 Tried and True Tactics
10. Monitor and respond to reviews
Many online directories allow anyone to add a listing, so even if you didn’t list your business, it may still be on there, collecting reviews. Be sure to claim your listings wherever possible, and monitor these sites frequently. This way you can respond to reviews—which is another great way to promote your business. Not only can you resolve (and even reverse) negative reviews, but the way you answer reviews (positive and negative) can reveal your brand’s values and give potential customers an idea of what it’s like to do business with you.
How to promote your business on social media
Social media is another free way to get the word out about your small business. The most popular business accounts are Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter, but make sure to consider using other sites that might be specific to your niche, such as Pinterest or Reddit.
11. Prioritize Facebook
Facebook is the largest social network online and it can be a great way to keep in touch with existing customers and to reach new customers. Promoting your business on Facebook can vary substantially depending upon your industry, but here are some basics:
- Create a Facebook business page with your contact information and a CTA.
- Use Facebook events to promote and maximize attendance to your events.
- Run Facebook live sessions, of tutorials or behind-the-scenes sneak peeks.
For more ways to promote your business using Facebook, take a look at our post 22 Facebook Marketing Tips for Small Businesses on a Budget.
12. Connect and contribute on LinkedIn
LinkedIn has become more than just a place to post your online resume; it’s also a place to join in on group discussions, connect with potential customers, form new partnerships, or just to do general online networking. Potential customers can check out you or your company before doing business with you to find out how many employees you have and to get more information on the background of the company personnel.
You can also promote your business indirectly on LinkedIn by providing perspectives in group discussions and/or providing links to relevant content on your website. Just make sure you're not always promoting your own content.
13. Upload videos to YouTube
Video marketing is a great way to promote your business, and YouTube lets you do it for free! Promoting your business via YouTube is an effective way to help potential customers or clients connect with your business. Putting together a quick overview video of your business and then uploading it to YouTube gives you a nice sales tool that you can post on the homepage of your website or circulate in emails to prospective clients.
You can also post educational videos, tutorials, or how-tos in your YouTube channel in order to get discovered by people looking for what your business offers. There are plenty of affordable options out there for making videos; just check out our post on DIY at-home videos. You can also add videos to your blog posts which can enhance their SEO quality, such as with this WordStream post below:
Note also that videos tend to show up in results for very niche searches, sometimes at the very top, like this one:
14. Advertise on YouTube
As with the other paid strategies mentioned in this post, YouTube advertising can be an investment that pays off if it's done right. You can advertise on YouTube by creating video ads that play before videos in relevant categories, or through text ads that appear in search results:
15. Engage your audience on Instagram
Despite being one of the more recently launched social media platforms, Instagram is the third most popular platform out there. With its diverse posting formats (permanent images, short-lived Stories, IGTV series, live sessions, Story Highlights, and more), there exists a variety of ways to use Instagram to engage your audience and promote your business. You can:
- Promote your sales and deals with hashtags to expand your reach.
- Run contests with a free or discounted product/service to generate positive buzz (and obtain a list of leads to reach out to).
- Offer advice and tutorials to stand out as a go-to resource.
For more ways to promote your business on Instagram, check out these 11 Instagram marketing tips.
16. Share on Twitter
Twitter is another free channel that can be used to promote your business online—mainly if your audience is comprised of 18-24 year-olds. It tends to require a bit more activity to build an audience, but if you’re consistently active, you can master the platform and experience its benefits.
You can promote your products or services:
Or simply invite nearby customers to stop in:
17. Give Pinterest a shot
While Pinterest is fundamentally focused on sharing photos, the fact that your photos can link back to your website creates an opportunity to promote your business and drive more traffic to your site.
Pinterest is especially powerful for ecommerce businesses looking to reach a female audience (Pinterest users are heavily skewed towards the female demographic). If this fits your profile, you may want to think about getting active on the Pinterest network.
18. Try out TikTok
TikTok was only launched in 2016, but it has already surpassed Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Pinterest in active users. Its ease of use in creating compelling videos with special effects makes it a great video marketing platform—and not just for Zillenials. You can jump right on the platform to provide how-to, tutorial, or behind-the-scenes videos, but you may want to promote your new Tik Tok channel across other networks, as with the example below:
19. Join online communities
One of the best ways to get a hand up is to offer a hand up to others. Join communities and groups relevant to your business or industry on LinkedIn, Reddit, and Facebook, and offer people good advice and suggestions when they have problems or questions. (Make sure your own profile information points back to your business, of course.)
This is a great way to build a genuine reputation and form solid connections with people relevant to your work. What goes around generally comes around. And remember that while you’re helping one person with their query, you’re being observed by a thousand silent others who will see your name and what you’re doing.
20. Try an influencer marketing collaboration
Your business can be a part of communities both geographically-based and niche-focused, and influencers are celebrities within your niche. They’re not on the red carpet or hosting their own talk shows, but they are highly respected, wildly popular, and deeply trusted experts in your niche. Influencers have a large social media and/or blog following, which means that getting mentioned or featured by one of these influencers can promote your business to a massive, relevant audience.
Influencer marketing is a careful strategy, however. Before reaching out to an influencer, take the time to familiarize with their accounts across all networks; comment on, like, and share their content; and be sure to approach them with a specific ask and something of equal value in exchange. For example, you might offer them a month of free classes in exchange for a review on their blog and mentions on social media. Or you might offer to write a high-quality guest post on their blog that benefits their audience while also supplying a backlink to your site.
Here's an example of an influencer in the automotive niche (David Patterson) promoting a local auto shop:
And here's an example of an influencer in the home and parenting niche (Leticia Barr) promoting FabFitFun:
21. Invest in social media advertising
Social media advertising is among the most forward-thinking, highly-utilized, and profitable forms of digital advertising today. More than 3.6 BILLION people use it and it’s constantly evolving to offer ease-of-use and exceptional value for your advertising dollar. When done right, paid social promotes your business to a highly targeted audience with these advantages:
- Familiarity: meet people on the channels they use most
- Cost-effectiveness: advanced targeting ensures your ads are shown to only the most relevant audience
- Supporting content: your organic posts serve to support your sponsored posts.
- Brand loyalty: attracting more followers to your accounts helps to build community and loyalty around your business.
- Analytics: know what’s working so you can allot your budget accordingly
How to promote your business in your community
For local businesses, the community is a critical component of their success. Retailers and restaurants understand this implicitly, of course, and even those businesses focused more on the wider world still have a considerable attachment to the place or places in which they operate. That said, let's talk about a few ways to promote your business in your community.
22. Strive to get local press
For some reason, the idea of pitching your business happenings to the local press feels intimidating, but the truth is, local blogs, newspapers, online publications are always on the hunt for fresh content.
Reach out to your local news sources and see if you can contribute an article—whether it’s a thought leadership piece, a list of resources, or a newsworthy update about your business. If your business’s story is compelling enough, you might even be able to get someone else to publish a featured write-up.
You can also ask to write about an event you are hosting in your community, or invite a local writer to attend for free in exchange for a recap.
If you have a little more budget, you may even consider a public relations partner, firm, or app to get your stories published in multiple media sources. If your budget is a little bit lower, you can publish your own press releases through companies like www.prweb.com. These press releases may get picked up by some media outlets and they can also help your search engine optimization by providing links back to your website.
23. Form partnerships
Partnering with non-competitive businesses that serve the same clientele can be a great way to promote your business in your local network. Once you have established a relationship, you can cross-promote each other’s services through your email lists and in-store flyers or coupons, or by engaging them through social media. Don’t be afraid to get creative to maximize the promotional value of the partnership.
24. Network network network
Attending local networking events is a great way to increase your presence in your community. This works better for some types of businesses than others. If you provide services directly to other small businesses or consumers, then local networking is going to be far more rewarding than if you sell products online, for example. However, every kind of networking helps, even if it’s just to share ideas and inspiration with other business owners.
Whether online or offline, inexpensive marketing techniques like these can get your business humming with the energy from new customers and clients.
And if you do partake in networking (I'm not trying to tell you how to live your life, but you should), do not miss out on my nine networking email templates, like the one below:
25. Attend, host, or sponsor local events
Even in a world that is increasingly digital, attending, hosting, or sponsoring events in your community is a great way to promote your business while strengthening your connection with local customers.
You could run a class at your location, offer to teach a class at a school, library, or other local establishment, or even just host a fun seasonal and/or family-oriented event. Leverage the time you put into creating and teaching the class by having a friend take video of you teaching, then put that video on your website and on YouTube.
26. Try out direct mail
Despite the dominance of digital media today, sending postcards, flyers, letters, or other types of mail can still be a very effective way to promote your business to nearby customers. One of the biggest challenges with this promotional method is that you can’t exactly target your mailings, so you’ll need to print out and send a high volume of mail in order to get a response. The benefit is that if you get it right, promoting your business through the mail can help you get new customers with a very repeatable process.
You could also send your loyal customers little gift packages during the holidays to keep them coming back and (most likely) promoting your business to their friends and family.
27. Advertise locally and offline
Newspapers, magazines, radio, and even television are some other traditional places for paying to promote your business. If you are considering promoting your business through print ads or any of these offline strategies, the key is to make sure you are tracking everything so that you can know the effectiveness. For more local advertising tips, head here: 10 Effective Local Advertising Ideas for Small Businesses
Other effective ways of promoting your business
These three promotional strategies are last but definitely least—they're just a bit miscellaneous with regard to the way I grouped the strategies in this post.
28. Attend trade shows
If you are targeting a national audience and you want to sell your products to retailers, going to a big trade show might make sense. If you are unsure of how beneficial the trade show will be for you, and you have some time to figure it out, you might consider just attending as a visitor before investing the money in your own booth. If you have a good relationship with a company already planning on exhibiting at a trade show, they may let you “hang out” in their booth for a portion of time, where you can observe and learn, and maybe even promote your business free of charge.
29. Run email marketing campaigns
Email marketing has been around for ages, but the strategy has by no means become less effective over time. In fact, 77% of people prefer to get permission-based promotional messages via email versus other modes of communication. Email is a popular channel for consumers and businesses alike:
- People like to stay informed.
- People constantly check their email.
- Email offers detailed reporting.
- You can segment your lists for targeted, personalized emails.
- Email marketing generates a 30x average return on investment.
- Email marketing platforms offer flexibility, creativity, and most importantly, ease of use.
For more tips on using email marketing, check out my post on How to Write Undelete-able Promotional Emails.
30. Make advocates out of your employees
Good leadership and proper treatment of your employees will naturally turn them into advocates for your business. Hold brainstorm sessions, encourage employee blog post contributions, host fireside chats, get them involved in local events, run family and friend promotions—value them and they will value the business they work for. You can then encourage social media sharing and equip them with news and tools to effortlessly spread the word about your business.
Bottom line: you can effectively promote your business, with or without money
There are a plethora of options when it comes to promoting your business, no matter your budget. Implementing the strategies in this post is sure to pay off, especially if you regularly review and revise your strategy.
We’ve covered a lot in this post, so let's recap to wrap things up:
- Create and verify your Google Business Profile
- Get a website
- Implement SEO
- Start a business blog
- Share your content
- Run Google Ads
- Create listings on the major directories
- Optimize your listings
- Get online customer reviews
- Monitor and respond to reviews
- Prioritize Facebook
- Connect and contribute on LinkedIn
- Publish videos to YouTube
- Advertise on YouTube
- Engage your audience on Instagram
- Share on Twitter
- Give Pinterest a shot
- Try out TikTok
- Join online communities
- Collaborate with an influencer
- Advertise on social media
- Seek after local press
- Form partnerships
- Network, network, network
- Host, attend, or sponsor local events
- Send direct mail
- Try local offline advertising
- Attend trade shows
- Send marketing emails
- Form employee advocates
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