11 Free (and cheap!) Marketing Ideas

shout it out photo

{photo by 24gotham- free advertising at its finest!}

Last week, we talked about online advertising: why you should, what to expect from it, and where you can do it
But, maybe your advertising budget is all spent for the rest of year
(budget? I'm supposed to have a budget?) Or maybe you're just looking
for some ways to supplement your paid advertising to get even
more people over to your shop.

Well, here are 11 free, and cheap,
marketing ideas that'll help you spread awareness of your shop without
breaking the bank. None of them are new ideas, just little reminders
of what you can do (especially during the upcoming holiday season) to
help your business out!

1. BLOG!
If you don't already have a business blog,
start one!  Blogging is a great way to gain rapport with customers,
keep people updated on your business, and send people to your shops! 
It's time consuming, so be prepared, but it can be very worth your
while. Plus having an outlet to share your creativity, passions and
inspirations is always fun, no matter who's reading it!

2. Send a newsletter
Newsletters are a great way to
stay in contact with your past customers and give them incentive to
shop again. You can send one out to announce a sale, a special deal
just for them, introduce your new line, let them know what events you'll be
participating in, etc. I recommend using a newsletter service that will build your
mailing list using opt-in forms (don't spam anyone- only send to people
who've signed up!) and help you create newsletters. These are usually
paid for services, but are inexpensive investments. I use (and love
and recommend!) iContact, but there are lots of similar services out there. Google away and you'll find them!

3. Participate in giveaways
You can donate some of
your goods to a giveaway and get instant traffic to your site for a
really minimal investment! There are many blogs who run giveaways
often, and you may even try contacting ones who don't to see if they'd
be interested in sponsoring a special one just for you :)

4. Participate in special blog features
Getting your shop mentioned on one of your favorite blogs
is obviously great exposure, but can sometimes be hard to do. An
easier (and often forgotten) way to get mentioned is by submitting
yourself to one of their special feature topics! Check out the blogs
you read often. Do they need people to interview? Do they frequently
feature guest bloggers? I'm always looking for people for my handmade spaces feature. Heart Handmade wants you to Shop + Tell. Design*Sponge is always on the lookout for good before and after projects. These are examples of great ways for your shop to get noticed, and you'll be helping us bloggers out too!

5. Do link swaps
One of the first things I did to
gain traffic to my first jewelry business was to find like-minded
business and ask them to swap links! If you have your own website set
up, a links page is a great asset to keep your bookmarks handy and
introduce customers to other indie businesses. If you have a blog, you
can trade blog links with people as well. We have a great community, introduce yourself with a simple email and ask for a trade!

6. Spread your business cards/promos around
The
initial cost of getting some business cards printed can be pricey, but
you can also make some yourself cheaply! Promos like stickers, buttons
or magnets are a good idea too. Once you have some, be sure to leave
them anywhere you can! Post them on community boards in your town,
leave them at restaurants, hand them to anyone you meet whom you speak
to about your business and include them in all orders. It's an easy way to
network. One of the oldest ways in the book, but it works!

7. Social networking
Yes, it's hard, nay impossible,
to keep up with all the latest and greatest social networking
doohickeys, but if you can narrow it down to a favorite or two that you
have time to keep up with, it really does help bring traffic to your
site. You can show off your latest designs on Flickr, set up a Facebook, Myspace or Indiepublic page for your business to keep customers informed, Twitter your way til Sunday, get LinkedIn to business contacts…  The possibilities are endless, find the network that suits you best!

8. Participate in forums
Not only are forums great
places to go when you need some helpful advice or inspiration, they're
also great ways to get some traffic! At places like Craftster or The Switchboards,
you can meet contacts, make friends, learn about business
opportunities, share your knowledge, ask questions…all the while,
sharing your site with people along the way!

9.The Sampler
The Sampler is the first of its kind, wonderful way to introduce your shop to a greater community. Check out The Sampler site
for all the info on how it works. Basically, you send samples of your
items to them and the Sampler folks combine them with all the other
samples they receive to make great little gift boxes. Then, they send the
gift boxes out to indie shoppers who have subscriptions and media
people (like me!) who might write about the goods they find. It's a
cheap and fun way to get the word out!

10.Wear your goods
If you make clothing,
accessories, jewelry or anything else you can carry with you on your
body, wear it! And wear it often! Then, when you get a compliment and
a "Wow, where'd you get that?" next time you're out, hand them a
business card! Don't forget that you are your own best sales tool and you can effectively be a walking
billboard to show off how great your goods are.

11.Have an email signature
One of the absolute
easiest ways to share a link to your site (that I see SOOOO many people
forget about!) is with an email signature! Include a link to your shop
along with a tagline perhaps and any other pertinent info you want to
share. It's standard, it's not spamming, it's not slimy, it's a must do. You can also include a link to your blog, flickr site, or anywhere you
wouldn't mind people checking out. Include these same signatures on
your forum profiles for a double whammy. 

These are just a few of the ideas I've personally used to help with
my own marketing efforts. They each take time and energy, which I know
is often in limited supply for us indie entrepreneurs, but if you start
implementing them, little by little, the pay off can be well worth it.

Know of other free or cheap marketing ideas that have worked for
you?  Please share in the comments below, we'd all love to hear!

9 Comments

  1. These are GREAT tips.
    Thank you, thank you!

    Reply
  2. Thanks for the great tips, I don’t have a shop yet but I’m working on it. Right now I just have blog that I would like more traffic on. I think these ideas will help, thanks so much.

    Reply
  3. I’ve just added a blog to my website and have not had one hit. I’m new to this website stuff. I had to close down my jewelry/bead store due to the bad economy. I don’t much like cyberspace, I don’t understand the lingo. It seems weird and impersonal.
    I’m a certified personal trainer, group fitness and yoga instructor so I’m use to face-to-face, personal interaction.
    I’ve been out in cyberspace blogging feverishly. What am I doing wrong. I know my website and blog need help. I had so much inventory from my shop and tried to put it all on the website. I need to stop, I’m rambling.

    Reply
  4. Follow-up thought:I have been in business for a long time and your tips are standard business practices-nothing new to me. They work, but if you’re selling something, ie(jewelry, personal training)people don’t need because they’re are overwhelmed with despair,fear and grief and just trying to get through their day because their life has been turned upside down,tips don’t matter, unless your selling toilet paper or food right now.

    Reply
  5. Don’t forget there’s now http://www.byhand.me – an artisan co-op that provides a variety of innovative tools for promoting your shops! And, ByHand places ads targeting buyers!

    Reply
  6. Great tips there indeed, thankyou! And just further on the topic of cheap business cards – zazzle.com print short runs (no minimum!) for really cheap. The option to only order small print runs suits me as an illustrator, as i like to update the work on my cards often to keep things fresh! :)

    Reply
  7. These were awesome tips; I read several of your blogs and all were packed with great ideas. I’m a convert — and new subscriber — thank you again.

    Reply

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