Published in May-Jun 2016
One of the reasons why I absolutely love having been born in the internet-era is that there are so many tools and technologies available that the old refrain of “I don’t have money” can be largely thrown out the window when it comes to marketing our businesses.
Let’s clear up some misconceptions first. You don’t need money to have passion. You don’t need money to have ideas. You don’t need money to build up an audience. You don’t need money to have a presence on the internet. You don’t need money to start marketing products and services. You don’t need money to authentically market your business online.
You do need money to scale up and expand, hire people and talent, and invest back into your business.
So, I call BS on those brands who won’t market their business online because they believe they are limited by funds.
Here is how to market your brand using free tools and existing resources.
1) Let’s say you are a brand with a great company culture. Your employees love you, your partners love you and your customers love you. Your objective is to market your culture in order to attract the best talent.
Here is how you can do this without spending any money.
Find out who among your employees is a natural with a camera (phone cameras are acceptable) and make them the director.
Gather all your employees, suppliers, contractors and customers who are likely to say great things about your company culture, and interview them on camera. Make sure you get them to speak about how they are part of forming the culture and what they love best about working with your company.
Compile this video using a free video editor such as iMovie (for Mac) or MovieMaker (for Windows). Bonus: learn how to edit on-the-job.
Improve the audio using free software Audacity.
Add original free music if needed, from SoundCloud’s royalty-free music archive (and give credit to the artist).
Upload your video on all your social media properties, such as Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, with previews on Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, and embed on LinkedIn, SlideShare, Medium, etc.
Ask your audience to share the video. Obviously, ask the people who are featured in the video to share it too.
Email the video to your newsletter subscribers and/or internal company.
Send a press release to your local publication about your company being rated highly internally for company culture.
Send an email to organisations which conduct research studies into company culture, workplace satisfaction, gender diversity and similar topics. They may be interested in including your perspective thanks to the video content you have already compiled on the topic.
Bonus tip: Ask your CEO or some other company influencer to go on a live AMA session about company culture on Twitter or Facebook (cases-in-point: Telenor’s CEO did this in 2013 and the US Consulate General, Karachi does this on their Facebook page.)
This example can be extended to any organisation wishing to showcase any part of their business. You have all the tools you need to be the media.
2) You are a college or university wanting more students to sign up for free demo classes as a precursor to enrolment.
Choose five to 10 of your best instructors and classes you want to attract students to.
Work with each instructor to compile a one hour online class on their subject.
Use PowerPoint (for Windows), Keynote (for Mac) or Google Slides to develop the presentation.
Record narration over the slides using the computer’s webcam or a basic microphone. (Tip: Often your smartphone will record better audio than your computer will. Try downloading the free SoundCloud app to record audio and then transfer the files to your computer.)
Add in PDF notes, worksheets or exercises which complement the online class.
Upload the entire course on your website or use a free course hosting site such as Udemy or Thinkific. As the class is free, you will not need to add any payment processors.
Advertise your free class to existing students to pass on the word and to niche online communities who are likely to be interested. For example, if one of the classes is on learning to code, find related programming and/or educational groups on Facebook and tell them about your free class.
Use Mailchimp or other free email software to capture the email address of the students taking the free class. This will give you the opportunity to market other material to them in the future.
Email students who have taken the free class, inviting them to register for your next academic session.
This example can be replicated by any brand that wants to use education as a means of attracting potential customers. Brands in the health, nutrition, fitness, sports, education, IT and related fields can all produce free course content to market their business.
3) You are a startup that makes financial software to enable people to better budget and take control of their finances. You need to market your software to individuals in need of money management.
Create a free blog using either Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace or another free blogging tool. You can upgrade later to WordPress or another professional website if you have zero funds to invest in domain and hosting. Make sure your blog links to your software or app.
Come up with 100 topics around money, finances, budgeting, investing, saving, personal finance and similar.
Convert those 100 topics into content ideas that will last for at least three months. For example, if you post once a week, you will need approximately 12 good content ideas to start with.
Create a free content editorial calendar using Google Calendar and plug in the dates you will publish the content.
Create a free lead magnet to drive email signups. The freebie should be something your audience can immediately use, such as a free budgeting calculator, or a guide on saving money. Use free email software such as Mailchimp to place an opt-in box where people provide their email in exchange for your freebie.
Guest blog on other personal finance blogs to gain exposure and drive traffic back to your blog. Make sure your author bio includes a link to your blog and a link to your freebie.
Find influencers tweeting about money-related topics and offer them the use of your software for free in exchange for an honest review and a shout-out. Use free tools such as Twitter Search or Buzzsumo to find influencers with your keywords.
Answer questions on Quora, LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups, niche forums such as The American Express Open Forum etc., to build your expert status on the topic.
By now, I am assuming you can see where I am headed with these examples. Using content and social media you can market just about any business for free, or almost free.
The problem is not a lack of resources, but a lack of resourcefulness. You can do a lot with free tools or really cheap tools; it’s just a matter of starting with what you have and improving and reinvesting as you go along.
Money is not a major obstacle to marketing success anymore.
I think a much more significant issue is creating creative content that your audience will eat up. Everyone has access to the same tools and tech. The challenge is to use those free resources to create engaging content. So, are you up for the challenge?
Salma Jafri is the host of the weekly video show ‘Content Marketing Tips’ on salmajafri.com.