While you may have grand visions of growing your business, it’s not uncommon to feel stuck on the next step… how to grow brand awareness.
Any and every new business owner has been here before.
The obvious and clear strategy has always been advertising. The good news is that there are a ton of creative ways to fuel your business growth that do not necessarily require massive marketing budgets.
When I first started (one of) my online business(es), I was able to grow my audience and build my brand with many of the strategies below before I ever invested my first dollar in Facebook ads (or any kind of ad).
While marketing strategies may (and will!) look slightly different for anyone, don’t let the deep pockets of other online businesses lead you to believe that investing thousands of dollars in advertising out the gate is the best way to grow your brand now.
This is not to discredit the effectiveness on online advertising. However, in this guide I’m going to share tried and true marketing strategies to growth hack a business, that do not ALL require ad spend …. that I wished I had known when I first started my business:
60 Ways to Market Your Business Online
1. Create an attractive website
This is step one for a reason. A clean, nice-looking website is the first step in building your online brand. It provides a professional first impression and a way for people to learn more about your brand and/or a way to contact you.
If you haven’t set up your website already, I recommend WordPress and Bluehost (for website hosting). Bluehost integrates with WordPress, so you can literally have a site up and running in 30 minutes for less than $3 per month.
2. Build an email list
First you will need a way for people to opt in to your email list. I could write an entire post on how to build an email list but at a minimum, you need a place for people to sign up for emails on your blog. Having and building an email list is so critical for outreach and engagement.
3. Research the competition
What is working for them? You need to perform some competitive intelligence to determine the best use of your time and resources. If they are doing online advertising, what ads have been running the longest? If their strategy is working for them, it will probably work for you too.
4. Set up your social media accounts
Depending on your business and market you may decide which social channels make the most sense. Branding your business with a social media profile is also just a form of free advertising.
5. Automate collection of customer testimonials
A (now) well-known chiropractor in Austin has amassed hundreds of five star reviews using this strategy. When you visit his office, he collects your email for appointment reminders. Embedded in the email appointment reminder is a link to rate his business on Google. Check out services like More Reviews Now that automate customer feedback and post testimonials directly on your website.
6. Build a sales funnel
If you have an online business, sales funnels will help you automate your business. A sales funnel is the process and strategy of converting leads to paid customers. Each funnel needs to be carefully planned, usually involved some sort of offer or “hook”. It is so important to build your sales funnel in order to quickly and effectively scale your business. There are some excellent platforms and funnel building tools available that are designed (through extensive research) to drive high-conversions. My favorite by far platform is Clickfunnels. Sign up here for a 14 day trial.
7. Link your personal and business Facebook accounts
To do this you will need to go to your profile and add your business page as your current workplace. Make sure your privacy settings are “public”!
Your Facebook connections can now see and easily connect with your business page. They can also more easily refer others. Even though Facebook business accounts can interact with other accounts, sometimes people want to see a face connected to a business. When you engage with other accounts or pages, others will be able to click on your profile and make the connection to your business.
8. Join social media groups
Now that you have social media profiles, start engaging with people and pages in your space. Not only will engaging with prospective customers provide you with insight to the way they think and the challenges they face, but it will give you an opportunity to offer any solutions you may be able to offer and promote your business. Many social media sites have these types of groups you can join (some requiring approval) starting with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
9. Send handwritten direct mailers
People are completely inundated with (and numb to) forms of digital advertising. Marketing emails can be highly effective, of course, but the sheer volume that consumers receive can prompt “inbox blindness”. Handwritten direct mailers are complete pattern interrupt sales strategy that give you a chance to stand out and be heard.
10. Interact with your audience real-time
The world of social media is noisy and crowded which means it’s getting more and more difficult to get the attention of followers and prospective followers. Organic reach and audience engagement has been continuously plummeting, especially since these platforms have prioritized paid advertising. The good news? New platforms like Instagram stories and Facebook live provide a way to engage with your audience organically. In fact, it has been shown that Facebook Live videos generate an average of 6X greater interactions than regular videos.
11. Get active on Quora threads
One way to establish yourself as an authority on a topic or industry is to engage on relevant Quora threads. This won’t work for every type of business, but can be a very effective way for some to gain exposure. You will have the option to provide a bio associated with your account or even link to a website.
12. Participate in other forums
This could be forums unique to your business or generic ones like Reddit. This is a great way to build brand awareness and engage with prospective customers as long as the thread is relevant to your business, allowing you to establish yourself as an authority and offer some kind of value.
13. Engage on Twitter
Leverage the powerful hashtags to find topics, communities, and people that are in your space and start a conversation. This is another shameless way to plug your business and yourself.
14. Add social sharing plugins on your site
In general, ask people to share your content (whether it’s through your blog or social media). If you don’t ask the answer is always no! And mostly people may not realize you need or want them to share your content! Be sure you add the social plugins to your site, like Social Snap, to make it as easy as possible for people to share your brand or your content.
15. Run a viral giveaway
Are you still not getting the response you’d like to see with your freebie giveaway in exchange for a share? How about running a viral giveaway. If you’re not familiar this means giving some kind of added incentive to those that share. For example, I have seen many people successfully leverage social media to offer prizes (as simple as free coffee from Starbucks) in exchange for sharing content. One site to check out that is specifically geared toward growing an email list through viral giveaways is KingSumo.
16. Get on Pinterest
Leveraging social media, in particular Pinterest, has been once of the most effective and efficient ways to grow my brand online. I have written several blog posts on how to market your business on Pinterest. Here are a couple worth checking out:
17. Boost organic reach on Facebook
Real quick: again organic reach is the number of eyeballs on your content without paid distribution. People use social media for brand awareness, so unless you have some cash for ad spend (and even if you do), you want your organic reach HIGH. Why is organic reach declining? More content is published than there is space in the newsfeed, and the algorithm favors content that is most relevant to the users and their interests. It is a good idea to maintain a good mix of promotional AND social content to cultivate a community–be human, Facebook likes this. Here are a few more quick tips:
- share posts from your Facebook page on your Facebook profile
- use hashtags (don’t go overboard, two hashtags will do)
- check out Facebook Insights and experiment/identify optimal posting times
- publish videos natively on Facebook, shown to be the strongest performer in the NewsFeed
- Use compelling visuals/images
- Use organic post targeting (not only for paid ads!) to ensure your posts are reaching the right audience
18. Build hype for a product launch on Product Hunt
Product Hunt is a place online for users to share and discover new products, apps, and websites. The idea is for “hunters” to post new products and users can upvote or comment on the product. It has a very engaged audience of innovators, founders, and adopters that can help you grow your brand. This is the forum where cutting edge tech journals go to browse new and trending products and ideas. For the right business, this is the perfect forum to execute a strong launch and/or lock in new PR opportunities.
19. Become an SEO ninja
If you are actively posting content on your blog, you MUST also be optimizing your content for keywords to also optimize your traffic.
20. Set up your own affiliate program
If you have devoted supporters that might be willing to promote your product in exchange for some kind of bonus or commission you can create your own affiliate program. You will need a way of tracking referrals or sales but the concept will be the same to give you more feet on the street.
21. Craft compelling copy: viral headlines
Producing content is great, but only worth the effort if people are actually reading it. Writing a killer headline is key. Check out my blog post 150 Tips to Create Attention Grabbing Headlines Even If You Aren’t a Copywriter.
22. Write guest posts
The sweet spot would be finding a business/blog that is bigger than yours, in the same niche but non-competing. Run a guest post concept by the owner and be sure to add a bio at the end of the post so the audience can find you online. The beauty of guest posts is that they serve as continuous “advertising” to your business. As long as the post is live, you should expect to see new visitors to your own site.
23. Run a challenge
One way to bump engagement and build excitement is to run a challenge. The more excited the people are about the challenge, the business, the more likely they are willing to share. Excitement is contagious and everyone loves a little healthy competition!
24. Offer access to an exclusive group on social media
This could be as simple as creating a private Facebook group. You are essentially offering free access to YOU in exchange for their engagement. Plus, people love being part of something exclusive.
25. Set up a customer loyalty program
Loyalty programs have been around forever and work for virtually any business. Did you know it costs as much as 3x more cash to acquire new customers that to sell to customers you already have? Leverage your biggest advocates and supporters; take care of them and they will take care of you.
Maybe you are a chiropractor and your buddy is a nutrition coach. Cross-selling and joint ventures with colleagues in similar industries (but non-competing offerings) is the perfect way to mutually grow your businesses. Maybe one of you has an online webinar about joint health while the other has a nutrition Ebook. Why not promote one another’s products/services to your respective email lists and see where that gets you?
27. Create your own buzz
No need to hire a professional PR firm. There are sites like Help a Reporter out that allow you submit ideas for stories. Have a big product launch coming up? Have a recent brick and mortar opening? It’s worth a shot.
28. Create a free offering for people to share
If you don’t get the response you’re looking for with a simple ask, give your followers something to share to spread the word. They will naturally want to reciprocate if the freebie is something of value that they are naturally compelled to share with others. This freebie could be something like “an ultimate guide to __”, a short e-book, or any kind of exclusive gated content. Of course, the type of freebie you offer will vary widely based on your line of business.
29. Use Hashtags
Hashtags work the same way as keywords and they are an incredibly effective way of reaching your audience. They serve a a way to categorize content so that your audience can find posts that are relevant to their interests and join the conversation. I touch on the topic in my article How to Grow your Pinterest Traffic in 2020. Same rules apply to all social media platforms re: hashtags.
30. Conduct a webinar
Speaking of webinars, this is a great strategy to boost brand and convert cold leads and traffic into engaged subscribers! It’s also a great opportunity to plug other paid offers and products.
31. Upload a recorded video of that webinar
Having a recorded webinar gives you more flexibility into how and when you share. For instance, if the webinar includes a description of your offering, you can use that recorded video for social media and paid ads to attract new subscribers.
32. Create some Evergreen content
Evergreen content is content that is always relevant just like evergreen trees are green, year-round. This type of content is weighted higher by search engine algorithms because it has no expiration date and has keywords that are relevant over time. Search engines are less likely to consistently pull up content, however, that suggests the content only covers a certain time period, like “Top places to visit in 2018”. Evergreen content will help deliver traffic to your website and put you in a better position for SEO rankings over time.
33. Craft an elevator pitch
Coming up with an elevator pitch may seem fundamental but it is also critically important. You need to be ready to engage and sell a prospective customer on your business in less than a minute.
34. Be a guest expert in someone else’s offering (webinar, ebook, etc.)
Similar to the concept of a guest post, the idea here is to establish yourself as an authority in your niche. This strategy works best if you are in non-competing but complementary lines of business. As long as you are offering value to your colleague’s audience, they will most likely be comfortable with you introducing your own offering. For example, if your colleague runs a fitness gym, you could be a guest speaker on nutrition and plug your custom nutrition coaching or diet plans.
35. Join Yelp and Google Maps
This is particularly important if you have a brick and mortar business. People need a way to easily find you, right? Also be sure to add your address to Facebook.
36. Add conversion tools to your blog
Depending on the blog platform, there are plugins typically available that will pop up and collect email addresses for new visitors.
37. Reward check-ins on social media
Or run a contest! Again, this only really works if your business has a physical location but it helps with engagement and visibility on social media. The Facebook algorithm, for example, “likes” both of these things.
38. Run seasonal deals
Everyone loves the thrill of a bargain! Leverage the seasons, the holidays, anything to get that extra sale. The ultimate goal is not just to make a single sale or small profit although that’s great too. The idea is to leverage the holidays (that have become highly commercialized) to offer discounted products and gain new customers and long-term subscribers.
39. Offer free coaching or time with you
Same concept as other freebie sales magnets, the idea here is to offer complimentary sessions or one on one time to provide value.
40. Create a compelling, viral image to share on social media
Instead of trying to reach people with messaging, why not try something highly visual? A well designed infographic or even meme are sought after and one way to capture the attention of prospective clients. If you are talented in design, I recommend Canva. Otherwise, you can always hire someone on Upwork or Fivver to design an image to your specs.
41. Consider selling your product/service other marketplace sites
If you are selling a physical product on your site, you should also consider leveraging other marketplace sites like Etsy and Amazon for products, or Udemy and Fiverr for services. Yes, you will have to pay them a small commission, but your reach and exposure could be significantly greater and worth cutting into your profit margin to scale your business.
42. Paid social media traffic
If you have the budget and no time to waste for organic traffic, the fastest way to market your business online is via paid ads. You set your own budget (and it doesn’t have to be astronomical whatsoever) to see what channel and strategy works best for your business.
43. Paid ads on Adsense
Or banner ads… there are other options out there if you think your audience spends less time on social media, or you just want to mix things up…
44. Score a “celebrity” spokesperson or endorsement
Is there someone in your community (or well known to your target audience) that would be willing to endorse your product or service? This person doesn’t have to be Oprah. It could simply be a local athlete or a local restaurant owner. If your business is primarily online, perhaps there is an influencer that would be willing to plug your product or service, in exchange for free product.
45. Throw a party
Do you have a big launch coming up? Are you rolling out a new offering? Find a way to drum up excitement and throw a party!
46. Post videos on Youtube
I’m specifically referring to promotional videos here, although consumers are increasingly preferring video consumption over other forms in general. Think of this as a way to broadcast a commercial for free. Make sure you optimize keywords and hashtags on your vidoe since Youtube is a search engine in itself. Don’t forget to post this video on your blog and social media as well!
47. Co-market with peer bloggers
I have seen this work really well on Instagram, in particular. The first step is to identify bloggers with a similar target audience demographic. Come up with some kind of prize, let’s say a gift card to Starbucks. Offer that prize to followers of both of your accounts that follow your pages and subscribe to your newsletters. This allows you to tap into each other’s followers and grow your email list.
48. Host a podcast
Much like video content, Podcast consumption is high and sky-rocketing. You don’t have to overcomplicate your podcast. It could be as simple as covering some of your most popular blog content in audio format. And if your head is already spinning at the idea of starting a podcast, don’t let this overwhelm you. There are some great options for Podcasts newbies out there. You may also want to check out my post: The 3 Best Podcast Hosting Sites
49. Comment on related blogs or blog posts
Once you have identified well-known and relevant blogs in your space, commenting on those posts is one of the evergreen ways to build brand awareness online. Make sure to leave thoughtful comments to avoid seeming spammy. Doing so will help bring exposure to your own blog and you as the face of your business.
50. Ask customers and former customers for referrals
The statistics are there that people are significantly (4 times) more likely to buy if they are referred by a friend. The lifetime value is also significantly higher when compared to customers that are not gained from referrals. There is no one better than an actual customer (or former customer) to ask for a referral.
51. Write testimonials for others
First step is to identify a business owner is a complementary niche. Then you can reach out and offer to write a testimonial (assuming you support) their product or service. This will give provide you with more exposure to your brand when they publish the testimonial on their website. And they might just be willing to return the favor.
52. Network, follow and connect
Use whatever platforms and channels make the most sense for your business to connect. Connect with colleagues in your industry on LinkedIn, follow pages and people on other social networks in the same niche.
53. Swap interviews with podcasters
If you have a podcast, or you know of a relevant podcast show/host, one way to gain exposure and allow people to learn more about your business is through an interview.
54. Publish your content on Medium
Medium is a platform that aggregates compelling ideas, knowledge and content from across the web. You are able to submit your blog posts, allowing readers curious about the same topic to stumble across your content.
55. Add a “hook” to your header
Entice and reward new visitors to subscribe to your site with a free offer. The key is get them on your list so that you can ultimately convert them from visitors to subscribers to customers.
56. Diversify your offering
What are the pain points of your customers? What else can you sell them to add value? Consider diversifying your offering to include complementary services and expand your business.
57. Offer a free trial
Consider offering a free trial of your service and earn their business as a paid customer.
58. Send out coupons
Entice new subscribers with coupons or offers from time to time. If you have a brick and mortar business, places like grocery stores may be willing to keep a stack of your coupons at the checkout for customers to collect.
59. Optimize your website for mobile devices
As you probably know, most google searches are performed on mobile devices. Make sure your site looks clean and intuitive when a prospective customer accesses it from their phone. The Google algorithm also rewards sites that are mobile optimized with higher ranking.
60. Know when to get more help
If have been able to quickly scale your business (good for you!), know when it is time to hire out some help. You have several options here including hiring a virtual assistant or integrating an app like Intercom that will allow customers to communicate with you directly on your site, through social media or email.