When I started my first online business venture, money was tight. I knew I was offering something people wanted but I was having a hard time getting people to know about it. It’s a common small business problem, one I’m sure many of you have faced. If your business is in a similar situation, keep reading.

I thought that to really reach the number of people I wanted, I’d have to employ a costly marketing firm. And when I say costly, I really mean it.

I got a few quotes from some local SEO businesses and other marketing “experts”, and some of them ran into the thousands. When I had a closer look at what they were really going to do for me, I started to question how much I really needed their services.

The thing was, time was something I had plenty of. Yes, setting up my business had been time consuming, but after an initial busy few months, I was stuck twiddling my thumbs waiting for business to walk through my (virtual) door.

If you don’t have any time to spare, those marketing experts might be right for you. But as someone who had more spare time than expendable cash, I made an important decision: to try and market my online business myself, without spending much (or any) money.

How to Quick-Start Your Online Business Marketing on a Tight Budget

If you’re wondering how to start a business with little money, here’s how I did it:

Social Media

When you think about it, now is probably one of the easiest times to promote your business without spending much. And that’s because of social media. If you can get your message to go “viral”, it’ll spread for you. A good social media presence actually gets your followers to do the marketing legwork for you.

When I first started thinking about social media, I was skeptical. A few people had recommended it to me, but I thought it was mainly for staying in touch with friends and family or interacting with celebrities.

I was wrong. Social media is a hugely powerful tool for small business. It was for mine, and it could be for yours.

I noticed that one of my employees was spending a lot of time on social media. Instead of punishing them, I brought them on board by “promoting” them and giving them the title of social media manager. It gave them more responsibility and turned their time-wasting into something productive.

We made social media our priority, and results soon started to follow.

It’s important that you’re consistently active on social media, and that you offer incentives to get people to follow. Every follower you get is expressing loyalty to your brand. It means they’re open to your message and open to spreading it to their extended family and friends.

But you’ve got to offer them value. People don’t want to be treated as cash-cows. Offer exclusive discounts or run special contests for your followers. Make them your priority when announcing new products or other special offers.

We started doing this, and it really worked for us. Not only did social media give my business a direct communication path to existing customers (something that wasn’t  so easy prior to using social media), it also helped spread the message of our business. That meant it helped us grow. Social media is a powerful marketing tool that you’d be foolish to ignore.

Building an Email List

When I was new to internet marketing, I didn’t really know what an email list was.

Here are the basics: Every time someone visits your site, you try and get their email address if you can’t sell to them straight away. Offer something free, like a report, in return for them “opting-in”. You can then carefully promote other offers to them directly.

A lot of internet marketing professionals think email marketing is the only way to really make money in the business, and while I don’t necessarily agree with that, it can still be a good addition to your site.

When I first starting learning about email lists, I was concerned that they seemed a bit “spammy” and exploitative. Like most of you, I’d been bombarded with tons of unwanted emails that I didn’t really sign up for. That’s why it’s important that you build a list properly and treat it with respect.

Don’t trick anyone into signing up. Offer them value up-front and be straightforward with them. Don’t bombard them with tons of emails every day, just hand-pick a few valuable offers that they really could be interested in. Make it quick and easy for them to unsubscribe. And don’t sell your list to other marketers.

I started carefully building a list by offering a free 20-page report. It was actually something I had previously sold for $10, so it was decent value, and not some throwaway trash.

While some people like setting up an autoresponder with emails going out every day, I thought that was overkill. So, I made sure I only emailed my list a few times a week with genuine content and valuable offers, and I saw my sales start to grow.

Content Marketing

I knew I was producing great content for my site but very few people were actually getting to see it. That’s when I started looking into content syndication and partnering with other authorities in my niche. I actually got some of my posts syndicated on a few major players in my industry and it was a huge boost to my business.

Content marketing has got to start with great content. Poor quality stuff isn’t going to do anything for you. Not only is it hard to get syndicated, nobody will share it and nobody will want to see more.

Once I knew I had some great content, I got it syndicated in the right places. The great thing about syndication is I got some extra link juice for Google and I also got direct traffic from the sites where my content was published. It was win-win.

Conclusion – Low-Budget Tactics to Promote My Online Businesses

Marketing strategies for ecommerce can get complex, but these three tips helped me start marketing my online business without costing a penny. They were the jump-start my business really needed, and when the money started flowing in, I could begin to think about other costly marketing avenues like paid advertising.

Even now, I still use these low-budget tactics to promote my businesses online.

Peter Ellington has been writing about internet marketing for a number of years and enjoys sharing his knowledge with those new to the industry. He knows how important a business education can be, and that’s why he also works for a private tuition site in Singapore.

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Staff Writer