$0 Marketing Ideas for Local Businesses

Owners of local businesses, especially ones that are just starting out, almost always find themselves stuck in a conundrum. A vicious cycle of sorts, if you will. And that’s this one:

Marketing your business when you’re on a tight budget can be difficult. You can’t go about splurging money on banners, Google Ads, and events if you’re not sure about the ROI they can offer you. But the problem is that, if you don’t market your business, then it’s likely that you don’t get any new customers at all. What do you do in this kind of a scenario?

What if I told you that there is a way for you to market your business effectively without spending all your money on it? In fact, what if there was a way to market your company on a $0 budget?

Well, there is, and that’s exactly what I’ll be elucidating in this post. Note that even if these marketing techniques don’t require you to spend any money, some of them will be a little more time-consuming than others.

Now, without further ado, let’s talk about some marketing techniques that won’t cost you a penny.

1. Using social media and your network

Now, this might not be rocket science, but there’s no denying that the best way to start off  when it comes to marketing on a $0 budget is using your network, getting referrals from your friends, and getting your business on social media.

Recent studies have spoken about how most consumers discover businesses on Facebook more than any other source. One of the reasons that back this phenomenon is the fact that users spend over six hours per week on social media. So, the first step that you need to take is to create social media profiles for your business on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (the three most used social media sites in the USA). You can use a tool like Namechk to check the availability of usernames as well, across all social media sites.

Once you’re done getting listed online, you need to make the best use of your own existing social media handles and your friends + family network to give your business the boost in marketing that it needs. Get people to talk about your business and spread the word about it in their circles, and invite people that you know and trust to give your business’ social media handles a like or a follow.

After this, it’s up to you! Post content about your business, industry, and trends in general that are pertinent to you to grow your following. Using memes and funny comics to promote your business can do wonders, as can asking people who visit your business to post about it on social media or “check in” on Facebook.

2. Getting your business listed online

Talking about building an online presence for your business – getting your business listed online is probably the cheapest and best way to make sure that customers can discover your business. If you take a closer look at the study that I mentioned earlier, you’ll notice that Facebook was closely followed by Google and Yelp in the list of websites that customers use to discover businesses. Another study (cited below) talks about how 47% of customers discover new products using search engines.

If you’re a local business, one of the first things that you need to do to improve your local marketing is getting listed online, and especially on Google. One of the biggest reasons that you should do this is that Google automatically ensures that customers find businesses that are closer to them, particularly if they used a “near me” search to discover a business. It also helps that there has been a 150%-900% growth in the usage of near me searches over the past two years.

A simple test to figure out whether this is true is searching for “(type of your business) near me” on Google. This is what the Google search results page for the term “restaurants near me” looks like.

Now, if you own a restaurant, and you’re sitting inside, searching for “restaurants near me”, and your business doesn’t show up, then you’ve got a problem on your hands!

You also need to make sure that your business is listed on other apps such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other search engines as well, like Bing and Yahoo!

Thankfully, getting your business listed online is easy, and more importantly, it’s free. For starters, you can get listed on Google My Business, and move on to working on getting yourself listed on other websites/apps. If you’re not sure about how to do this, or unaware about the different business discovery websites out there, you can check out this list of “how to get listed online” articles.

3. Content

There’s no escaping the term “content” if you’re searching for posts online about how you can market your business on a budget. Writing content is the one definitive way for you to establish yourself as an authoritative figure in your industry, and this will help your business also gain more popularity through you.

Now, traditionally, you’ll be expected to write content on your own website’s blog, but this needn’t always be the way for you to go about your content marketing. Moreover, with changing times, the way people put out and consume content has also changed. Video marketing is very “in” right now, so you can always try and start a YouTube channel and grow your following from there, especially if your business is about aesthetics, like a painting company, auto shop, or interior design firm (this interior design company has a huge YouTube following that helps them reach more potential customers).

Another great place to start would be Quora. Quora is famous for rewarding experienced people who write authoritative answers, and answering a lot of varied questions about things in your industry can help you slowly garner a large following. Writing answers might be time consuming, but it is a great way to impart knowledge to others, while building your own name.

There are plenty of other options as well, if you’re planning to use content to market your business. You can create infographics using free tools like Canva and post them on your social media sites, and you can make a “DIY” series on your website’s blog.

Everything on the internet is content, only of a different kind. You just need to find out what works best for you and your business, and you can get started with it right away.

4. Use email marketing

Now, if you’re thinking, “Not emails! Aren’t they expensive?”, let me assure you, they don’t need to be. Mailchimp, for instance, has a forever free pricing plan that allows you to send up to 12,000 emails per month to 2,000 subscribers.

Emails can be a great way to generate more revenue for your business. You can ask your customers for their emails and you can send them promo or review generation emails later to try and make them repeat customers or increase your business’ star ratings. Once you have a substantially large customer list, you can even aim to keep your business on the top of their mind by starting off nurture campaigns and cross-promoting your content. The possibilities for what you can do with emails is endless, it’s up to you to make the most out of it.

With these 4 ideas, I’ll conclude this article. Keep in mind that these are not the only 4 things that you could possibly do to market your business on a $0 budget. There are ideas waiting in every corner for marketing your company efficiently, even if you don’t want to spend too much on doing it.

Before I sign off, I’d like to give you a book recommendation – Guerilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson, written specifically for small businesses that are looking at marketing themselves better on a tight budget. I hope you find reading this useful, and that you have fun coming up with innovative ways to market your business!


Harsha Annadurai works as an Inbound Marketer at Synup. His excessive love for music and football has led many to believe that he was a jukebox in a football stadium in his past life. You can follow him on Twitter @harshaannadurai.