How to Advertise Your Business on a Budget

Three Methods:Making the Most of Free OptionsUsing Online AdvertisingCreating a Low-Cost Offline Ad Campaign

Advertising can be very costly and many small independent business just can’t afford much of it. At the same time, without advertising, no one will know about your business and it will most likely fail. The good news is, especially in this age of blogs and social media, there are many avenues for advertising your business that won't break your budget. Some of these options are even free.

Method 1
Making the Most of Free Options

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    Use social media creatively. If you don't have much in your advertising budget, one of the most important things you can do is make sure you're making the most of free options. Given how many people use it, an obvious place to start is with social media.
    • At a minimum, you should create a Facebook page for your business so people can find you on this popular site. Keep it up to date with a good description, hours of operation, and some eye-catching pictures.[1]
    • The next step up from this bare-bones approach is to start offering interesting, free content on your Facebook page. Create infographics, articles, or videos that reflect your expertise and will be interesting to people. This will keep people coming back to your page.[2]
    • You can also consider starting a Facebook group about a topic related to your business but not about your business. For example, do you sell rare and imported wine? Start a "Wine Fanatics of [your city]" group where you offer free information and tips. This will attract people who would be interested in your business more than a page dedicated to the business itself.
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    Join the blogosphere. Another way to get your business's name out for free (or very inexpensively) is by starting a blog. Again, offer your information and expertise, not just promotional messages, and people will read and return to it.
    • Don't just post on your own blog, though. Subscribe to other blogs related to your business, and post comments on them, too.[3] These comments shouldn't promote your business directly, but if people see "Sarah's Wine Shoppe" commenting regularly on their favorite wine blog, there's a good chance many of them will eventually want to see what your business is all about.
    • You should also research who the prominent bloggers are that write about your type of business. Reach out to them. You may find they are willing to write about your business or review your products.[4]
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    Claim your local listing online. Google, Yahoo, and other search engines typically have listings for local businesses on services like Google Places and Yahoo Local. Your claim the listing for your business, free of charge.[5]
    • Just search for your business using these services. There should be an option to click "I own this business" or something along those lines.
    • Once done, it's easy to customize the listing to make it more appealing.
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    Start an email newsletter. Your business probably has an email address already. Ask customers to sign up for an email newsletter. Collect their addresses and send out a monthly email.[6]
    • Email may seem old-fashioned in the age of social media, but almost everybody has an email address.
    • This is can be a great way to remind people about your business, as well as to alert them to sales or promotions you might be having.
    • Services like Mail Chimp and Constant Contact can help you manage your email lists.
    • Many businesses will offer a one-time discount, giveaway, or other promotion when people sign up for their newsletter.
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    Get published. If you run a business, chances are you have some specialized expertise on some topic. Write articles about it and submit them for publication! People who are interested in this type of business will see you are an expert.
    • You can submit articles to trade publications and niche magazines for no cost. There's no guarantee you'll be published, but if you have decent writing skills, your unique perspective certainly helps your odds.[7]
    • There are also websites such as,, and that will publish high-quality articles online, and will allow you to embed a couple of links to your website in exchange for the content.[8]
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    Submit press releases. Don't forget to make the most of traditional media! You can often get free-of-charge news coverage by submitting press releases about special events or promotions your business is having. Send press releases to your local newspaper, as well as the news departments of local TV and radio stations.[9]
    • Journalists today are often pressed for time and resources, so they are often looking for fast, easy content they can easily plug into the news.
    • A good press release is one that mirrors the style of a news article, and contains concise and compelling quotes that journalists can use. Write a catchy headline and put the most important information first.[10]
    • Pick up a book or do some research online about how to write effective press releases.
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    Offer a free class. Another great way to use your expertise to promote your business is to offer a free class on a topic related to the service you provide. This gets your name out, and establishes you as an authority in your area.[11]
    • If you have a brick-and-mortar store for your business, this can also get people coming in the door. Many will stay and shop.
    • For example, if you run a specialty wine store, you could do an introductory "wines of the world" course in which you teach people about different wine regions and the varieties they produce.
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    Encourage word of mouth. Even in this digital age, it's hard to beat good old word of mouth advertising. Encourage your employees and friends to tell others about your business.[12]
    • People are often more trusting of an endorsement that comes from a friend or family member than from an advertisement or other media sources.[13]

Method 2
Using Online Advertising

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    Consider Google Adwords. In addition to these free options, there are many options for online advertising that works well for those with a small advertising budget. One great option is Google Adwords, or similar search-engine advertising, that presents your ads to people searching for terms related to your business.[14]
    • These services allow for geographical targeting as well. So, if someone in your city searches for "wine bargains" on Google, your wine shop ad could be the first thing they see.
    • Search engine ads are often "pay per click," which means you don't pay anything unless someone clicks on the ad. You can often drive a lot of traffic toward your business's web page for as little as 10 to 20 dollars a day.[15]
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    Try social media advertising. Advertising on Facebook or LinkedIn has similar advantages to search engine advertising in that it is targeted and relatively cheap. A few dollars a day can drive people toward your website or social media profile.[16]
    • Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to target ads based on the interests that people list or the groups they belong to, so you can be fairly certain the people seeing your ad will be interested in the type of service you provide.
    • To make these ads effective, target them carefully, thinking about interests, gender, location, and so on. Give the ads a catchy headline and an interesting image. Monitor the performance of the ads and switch them up often.[17]
    • On Facebook, you can select "Advertising on Facebook" from the dropdown menu near your privacy settings. This will take you to a page to get you started on the details. LinkedIn has a similar advertising information page.[18]
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    Make use of Reddit. Another inexpensive option for online ads is Reddit. This is another popular website for accessing online content that lets you tailor how much you want to invest each day for advertising.[19]
    • With Reddit ads, advertisers "bid" a certain amount each day and their ad is seen by a number Reddit users proportional to the amount each advertiser chipped in. So, if you bid 10 dollars tomorrow, and there are a total of 1000 dollars worth of bids, your ad will be seen by one percent of Reddit users that day.
    • A compelling image can drive traffic to your business's website for as little as three cents a click, in some cases.
    • Reddit's website includes a page on how to get started with creating an ad and participating in bidding.[20]

Method 3
Creating a Low-Cost Offline Ad Campaign

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    Use your business space. If you have physical space for your business, there's a lot you can do with your space to make it a promotional resource. Host events, and go over-the-top with decorating whenever you can.[21]
    • Host classes, parties, contests and product demonstrations to bring people into the store.
    • Put up eye-catching decorations, especially around the holidays, to make sure anyone passing by will notice your business.
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    Volunteer or donate to a cause. Donating to a good cause can be a great way to not only get your business's name out there, but also to show potential customers you care about the same things they do. Pick a charity or charities to get involved with.[22]
    • Donate products, either for a charity's promotional events or their day-to-day operations. Donate a case of wine from your wine shop to the next charity auction, for example.
    • If you don't have a product that works well for this, you can also donate your time. Show up and volunteer with a team of your employees, wearing company t-shirts.[23] This is a great way to get some visibility for your name and logo in a context that many will view positively.
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    Take part in a contest. If you have a product that works well, another good option is to donate to contests, like local radio station giveaways.[24] The fifth caller could receive tickets to see a concert at your club or a free guided wine tasting session.
    • There are also websites, such as that will allow you to host your own sweepstakes contest.[25]
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    Give things away. Another great way to advertise your business, while promoting an image of generosity, is to give away inexpensive items. Here are a few suggestions:[26]
    • Get some balloons printed with your logo and give them away to children at community events.
    • Offer complimentary hot beverages like cider, cocoa, or coffee at your shop during the winter. Offer snacks like popcorn. For extra impact, get some paper cups or snack bags printed with the company logo.
    • Give away inexpensive promotional items like key chains or pens.
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    Print flyers and/or business cards. Don't underestimate the value of of old-fashioned paper promotional materials. For pennies apiece, you can print some slick-looking business cards or flyers to bring your business to the attention of potential customers.
    • Put flyers on people's door knobs or under windshield wipers. In an afternoon, you can reach hundreds of potential customers. Include a coupon or discount code to make your flyer more valuable.[27]
    • Business cards with promotional discount codes can be handed out on the street or at events, and you can track the codes to see where the most effective place to hand them out is.[28]
    • It's true that most of these will be thrown away, but given how inexpensive they are to print, you only need a handful of positive responses to recoup your investment.
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    Turn your car into an advertisement. You can look into getting your car "wrapped" with advertising decals, or for a relatively low cost, get a magnetic sign made that can be attached to any car.[29]
    • With a magnetic sign, any car can become the "company car," advertising your business wherever you go!
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    Do a publicity stunt. Do something unusual to attract the attention of potential customers and the media. Set out to break a record in the Guinness Book of World Records, for example. These kinds of stunts can be inexpensive and result in national media attention.[30]
    • For best effect, do your publicity stunt wearing a company t-shirt, or even in your store if possible.
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    Build relationships with your customers. Do things to generate loyalty among those who choose your business. There are many ways to do this, including:[31]
    • Sending thank you notes to customers.
    • Attaching a coupon or discount code to receipts or invoices.
    • Starting a referral program, in which existing customers get incentives for referring friends.
    • Going where your customers spend time to meet people and develop a personal connection. If you have a wine store, for example, spend time at the local wine bar and introduce yourself to people. Don't try to sell them anything, but do mention your store.


  • The best form of advertising is an honest, reliable, dependable business that makes a customer feel important.
  • To the extent that you are able, try to determine the effectiveness of any advertising you pay for. Track discount codes and coupons, as well as clicks from web ads and any increased in sales that appear once you begin advertising. Ask customers "How did you hear about us?" That way, you know what's working (i.e. where you should continue to invest your energy and budget) and what isn't.


  • Do not make false claims in any of your advertisements. This is against the law.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Marketing