Imagine a perfect world where your marketing budget is unlimited. Imagine the award-worthy TV ads you could make, the impactful billboard posters, the PR firm on retainer! Now, welcome back to reality - that place where any promotional activity seems out-of-the-question costly, particularly if you’re in the early stages of establishing your business.

Here’s the good news: with a little research and time, there are plenty of ways to promote your business for free, or at a minimal cost.

E-mail Marketing
The e-mail newsletter is an effective form of online marketing that’s proven to provide a high return on investment. And with free services like MailChimp, it’s easy to get an entry level version set up.

Before starting, take the time to learn best practices. Content should offer information that your customers will care about. The purpose of e-mail marketing is to drive readers to your website or shop, so give compelling reasons to do just that with discounts and promotions. The best part is, if your e-newsletter strikes a chord with readers, it can easily be forwarded to new potential customers as well.

Remember, make sure you’re aware of Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) which, in short, means you’ll need to get permission to contact your customers before sending them anything.

Social Media Marketing
Using social media is a great way to promote your business. But it’s only effective if done properly.

Some platforms won’t be as useful for you as others, so don’t sign up to every single one. If you’re selling a product that looks great in photos, consider Instagram. If you want to encourage conversation, try Facebook or Twitter. But if you do utilize more than one platform, free tools like Hootsuite can help you coordinate your efforts.

Your goal should be to engage, entertain, and educate, so keep an active presence and create posts that are conversational, casual and of value.

Some social media platforms will only let you get so far for free. They’ll eventually throttle your organic search results and you’ll need to pay to continue growing. But that’ll be a sign of your marketing success, so it’s not the worst problem to have!

Articles, Ads and More
When you’re on a budget, promoting your business in the media requires a creative approach. Look for local papers and relevant magazines in your area and offer to provide free content in the form of an article. You’re not creating an ad so this isn’t the appropriate time to make a hard sell. Try forming an article around a timely community issue and mention how local businesses, like yours, address it.

Look into posting on websites like Kijiji and Craigslist too, if they’re a good fit for your customer segment. These sites present a localized way to advertise for free.

Remember, while these techniques don’t have a set up cost, they do cost in terms of time. So use yours wisely by researching the most effective ways to implement each one – and good luck!

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