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How To Promote My Business For Free In South Africa
Probably one of the most frequently asked questions on Google is "How to promote my business for free", everyone wants to know the answer, but so few want to walk the path because let's face it, it's tough. Marketing your small business is an everyday battle, not everyone is willing to show up for, and I don't blame time, its time consuming and doesn't always guarantee results.
It's often best to pay someone to promote your business or spend money on ads, but unfortunately, not everyone can get into the pay to play space or has the margins to play around with to try and reach their audience with a profitable ROI.
It's even harder when you have no brand recognition and no established audience, and you're out there hunting down leads either online or offline. Marketing your business for free is not impossible. Still, it can be tough, it's not a path everyone will be willing to take, but if you are committed and want to make this work without spending on advertising or branding then here are a few tips for you to consider.
1. List yourself on directories
If you don't have a website, local directories are a great place to start, and if you do have a website, it can't do any harm getting all relevant web directories to send links back to your site. South Africa has several directories you can take advantage of depending on your niche and on how willing you are to go and sign up on all these sights. All you would require is a free email account which you can create with services like Gmail, yahoo mail or proton mail and use that to register with these websites.
I would also recommend having a cellular phone number in case prospects prefer to reach you via call, text or Instant messaging and be sure to list this email address and phone number on all your directory listings for consistencies sake.
Protip! If you do end up changing your contact details, I encourage you to and relook at all your directory listings and have them updated.
2. Advertise with classifieds
If you're looking to sell, then it makes perfect sense to hang out in places where people are looking to buy, and that is without a doubt classified websites. It's the digital bargain hunters dream, people visit these sites with the sole intention of buying and browsing for deals, so listing your offerings on these sites for free should be a habit of yours. South Africa has several classified sites that allow you to post your ads for free, so why not make use of their offering.
3. Press releases
Each time your business does something relevant or newsworthy don't sit on the story, use it as an opportunity to get some free press. News sites and PR websites and even radio stations love a good entrepreneurial or social upliftment story. Formulate your story and reach out to local media like radio stations, newspapers, and PR sites and see if they would be willing to share your story with their audience.
PR mentions in media feel far more organic to the reader and provide you with a level of credibility you cannot buy with advertising. Remember not every story is PR worthy and takes a good pitch to have journalists and the media foaming at the mouth about publishing what you have to say so pick your moments and be patient.
Protip! In the meantime try to build contacts with your local media until the time is right for a PR pitch.
4. Leverage social media
The golden age of social media has passed, those days of signing up and getting free access to newsfeeds have long gone, and the businesses that took advantage of it are now well established. Posting is still part of the ecosystem and its important to show consumers that you're active and engaging, but it's very rarely going to get you any leads.
Free Social media is now about reaching out directly, following the right hashtags, commenting on users content you think would be interested in your brand or service or DM'ing them directly. It also involves reaching out into the correct groups or even creating and recruiting clients to your groups.
You can easily spend hours reaching out to hundreds of people and yes it is a grind but its a great way to create personal lines of communication and moving them into direct channels later down the line.
5. Create guest content
There is no shortage of sites open to guest post submissions, and South Africa is no exception with several websites open to guest writers. Each site has their publishing standards and niches so you'll need to research to see which ones would apply to you and your audience, once you've done that reach out and pitch them with an idea.
Guest posting is particularly useful for entrepreneurs who practice as freelancers, rather than a business because you get to promote your name but if you have a business, it doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a shot.
Guest blogging also creates legitimate backlinks to your content which is right for your Google ranking. If you're not much of a writer, then try to position yourself as an authoritative guest on podcasts or in videos related to your field of expertise.
6. Partner with other businesses
Entrepreneurship isn't a solo journey, and the more friends you make along the way, the easier it becomes to call in favours or pitch ideas. Businesses are all trying to provide their clients with better value, and if you can pitch that to a business owner, as to how you can improve or supplement their services, they will often take you up on the offer.
Businesses often partner up on a campaign to benefit mutually from the same marketing. Depending on your niche, it could be a complementary service like a makeup artist combining with a hairstylist and sharing their clients and doubling up on service.
These collaborations can be as simple as mentioning each other in social posts and sharing those posts with their followers to as complex as creating a combined service; it really is up to what you both are comfortable with committing.
7. Host a workshop
Hosting a free workshop can position your brand as an authority in your field. A one-day or evening workshop held on your premises will cost next to nothing and will spread the word about your business. If you don't have an office, partner with another company, restaurant or guest house and share the marketing opportunity, this is also good for networking.
Just ensure the topic is something you know well and relates to your business' offering in some way. Oh and don't drag things out too long, gauge the room, make sure people feel their time was well spent and take feedback from attendees to improve your workshops.
8. Constant networking
Networking isn't all about fancy boozy lunches or breakfasts at the hotels it can be conferences, in Meetup groups or at workshops, always be on the lookout for ways to connect with other people and businesses. It's a place to make contact and learn, please don't become that person that's always pushing their services on people at social events.
No one wants to go to a party to be sold something by a pushy entrepreneur. If it comes up naturally, though, be ready with a brief pitch and a business card.
9. Sign up with an online community and also contribute
The internet has a niche for everyone; there's always someplace where like-minded people tend to hang out, for you. This could be Facebook Groups, WhatsApp Groups, LinkedIn Groups or Message Boards in your niche or area. Be warned this is not a place you can rock up to and start posting links and promotions, you can and WILL end up frustrating community users and be kicked out.
Instead focus on contributing to the community by answering questions and giving sound feedback, advice and tips. Actively add and also develop a connection with the community while maintaining your service out of it. Passively advertise your service by placing a link in your signatures or stating it only when the context is ideal.
10. Creating direct lines of communication
The quickest way to anywhere is a straight line, so I find it strange that entrepreneurs ignore this option. When meeting people via your efforts above make sure to grab their contact details, be it in offline or online interaction, it could be an email address, or a phone number and start creating a customer list.
Categorise each of them by the prospect, client, repeat customer or referral and reach out to them either via email or instant messaging when you have an offer that would interest one of your categories and don't blast the same message to everyone. That is the quickest way to kill lines of communication, a little subtlety and finesse go a long way when it comes to reaching out to people directly.
Free marketing comes at a cost
If you've made it this far into this post, then I salute you, it's not an easy read, the realisation of the amount of effort it requires to promote your business without bankrolling advertising can hit you like a tone of breaks.
While these tips may be free or of little cost to use to advertise, on the one hand, it does not guarantee sales, and secondly, it takes away valuable time you could use for operational tasks or active lead acquisition.
This list provides you with a range of options, but it's up to you to pick the ones you are most comfortable with executing and then doubling down on the methods you feel work best for your business.
Tell us your story
Have you used any of these free marketing options? How have they worked out for your business or side-hustle? Let us know in the comments below, we'd love to hear your experience.
If you would like to know more about marketing for your small business then don’t be shy we’re happy to assist. Simply contact us
Are you looking to promote your business?
South African small business owners can create your free business listing on nichemarket. The more information you provide about your business, the easier it will be for your customers to find you online. Registering with nichemarket is easy; all you will need to do is head over to our sign up form and follow the instructions.
If you require a more detailed guide on how to create your profile or your listing, then we highly recommend you check out the following articles.
If you enjoyed this post and have a little extra time to dive deeper down the rabbit hole, why not check out the following posts on promoting a small business.
- Don't Ignore These 4 Digital Marketing Tips for Small Businesses
- 8 Ways Small Businesses Waste Money Marketing
- 7 Outside the Box, Ways To Market Your Small Business
- 10 Content Marketing Ideas For Small Businesses
- How South African Small Businesses Waste Money
- 10 Free Marketing Automation Tools For Small Businesses