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Marketing With No Money: How to Market Your Business for Free

March 5th, 2024 | 5 min. read

By Kim Kovelle

A woman sitting alone at her laptop is starting to embark on marketing with no money

Does this sound familiar? Your company has asked you to “shop around” for marketing agencies. You’re gathering details, but you’re not the final decision-maker. Or you only have $500 to spend — for the entire year. Quickly, you realize this budget isn’t going to stretch far.

We hear you. Specifically, Dawn Ferencak, a Zoe Marketing & Communications senior marketing strategist, hears you. She talks to dozens of businesses in this situation each month.

“It’s also common that people have no idea what the budget is,” Ferencak says. “Industry trends shift, or it could be a change in staffing. There can be a lot of back and forth. And, in the process, you’re losing valuable time that you could be spending on your marketing.”

It’s a harsh truth that, unfortunately, marketing isn’t truly free. But if you can invest your time, you can make strides in marketing your business with little to no money.

In this blog, we’re tapping into the expertise of Ferencak, who has 19+ years of sales experience, and the Zoe team to share nine ways to start your marketing with limited resources:

  1. Start with your Google Business Profile
  2. Make sure your GA4 is set up properly
  3. Optimize your website for user experience
  4. Engage on social media
  5. Implement basic SEO practices
  6. Leverage email marketing
  7. Network and collaborate locally
  8. Use content marketing
  9. Gradually create a marketing budget

Whether you’re a small, mid-sized or larger company, you’ll discover solid, actionable tips to get your marketing going — all while actively budgeting for your next steps.

1. Start with your Google Business Profile

Set up Google Business ProfileWhen people “Google” your business, they see this profile first. “It’s important to create a good first impression,” Ferencak says. Claiming, updating and optimizing it is a must.

  • Claim your Google Business Profile and ensure all details are accurate and complete. That includes your business hours, address, contact info and services you offer.
  • Regularly update your profile with new photos and posts (blogs, social media, etc.) about your business to keep it engaging and informative.
  • Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews and respond to all reviews — positive or negative — to show you value customer feedback.

2. Make sure your GA4 is set up properly

Set up your GA4 properlyGoogle Analytics, aka GA4, tracks what people do on your website. And it’s critical.

“As you start marketing, you want to measure your efforts in GA4 to see what’s working and where to invest in the future,” Ferencak says. “I work with many small businesses, and often, someone else built their website — and they don’t know how to use GA4.”

Whether you’re brand-new to GA4, rusty or barely touch it, here are some basics:

  • Sign up for an account and follow the prompts to create a new “property” for your website. While using the automatic setup wizard, choose “Web” as your platform.
  • Next, add your unique GA4 tracking code to your website. Your web developer can help you with this. Or you may need to manually insert the code into the header of your website’s theme or use Google Tag Manager for a more streamlined install.
  • GA4 will automatically track “events” like page views, scrolls and downloads. You may need to set up events to track key things like button clicks or form submissions.

3. Optimize your website for user experience

Improve website user experienceNext, make sure your website is user-friendly, fast and mobile-responsive.

“When people visit your site, they expect these basic things. When you pay attention to these details, they’ll find what they need, stick around — and trust you more,” Ferencak says.

  • Use Google PageSpeed Insights (free!) to test your website speed and follow the suggested improvements.
  • Ensure your site is mobile-friendly; test using Google's Mobile-Friendly Test (also free).
  • Stick to a clear, concise menu to make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for. 
  • Include a clear call-to-action (CTA) on landing pages to guide visitors on what to do next, whether it's contacting you, signing up or making a purchase.

4. Engage on social media

Engage with social mediaChoose one or two social media platforms where your target audience is most active. “Focus on creating engaging, valuable content instead of direct selling,” Ferecak says. “This builds trust.”

  • Begin with Facebook and Instagram; these have the largest user bases and are linked through Meta, allowing for easy cross-posting.
  • Share behind-the-scenes glimpses, tips or how-to guides related to your industry.
  • Regularly interact with your followers and respond to them. It helps create community.
  • To ensure variety, track what you’re posting in a simple spreadsheet. Include columns for the date, platform, post type (photo, video, text) and engagement metrics.
  • Initially, aim to post at least once a week and check your accounts at least twice a week to respond to comments or messages promptly.

5. Implement basic SEO practices

Work on SEOSearch engine optimization, or SEO, has many layers, but it’s simple enough to get started. When people search for specific keywords related to your business, you want to show up. 

  • Research relevant keywords for your business using free tools like Google Keyword Planner (free with Google Ads) and incorporate them into your website’s content, including titles and meta descriptions.
  • Create quality content that addresses your target audience's common questions and needs. Blog posts are a great way to start.
  • Structure your content using proper header tags (H1, H2, H3). This helps search engines understand and rank your pages.
  • Ensure your sitemap is set up correctly in Google Search Console (also free). This tells Google which pages are most important and helps deliver those pages to searchers.

6. Leverage email marketing 

Email marketing“If you’re gathering people’s emails, be sure to interact with them in a meaningful way,” Ferencak says. Regular emails — again, focusing on offering value, not just selling something — keep your audience engaged, build loyalty and drive sales cost-effectively.

  • Start building an email list by adding a signup form to your website.
  • Use an email marketing service to manage your list and send campaigns (some are free up to a certain point; Mailchimp, for instance, is free for 500 or fewer contacts.)
  • Send a monthly newsletter with updates, offers or educational content to help people make decisions.
  • Segment your email list as it grows to tailor messages to different audiences.

7. Network and collaborate locally

Network locallyNetworking and collaborating with local businesses and groups can increase your visibility without a direct cost. It can also reach new audiences and boost your reputation as a community-involved business.

  • Join local business groups or chambers of commerce to network with other business owners.
  • Collaborate with complementary businesses on joint promotions or events.
  • Participate in community events or sponsor a local team or cause.

8. Use content marketing

Content marketingBlogs especially help establish you as a trusted source, but it’s important to remember that quality and consistency count. While they’re “free” to create, they will cost time and creativity.

The idea is that offering useful information builds trust with potential customers. “When they’re ready to make a decision,” Ferecak says, “they’re more likely to think of you.”

  • Start a blog related to your niche — one quality article per week or month is a sound place to start. Share your posts on your social media.
  • Create valuable, shareable content that addresses common questions or needs of your target audience.
  • Use tools like Canva (basic access is free) to create visually appealing graphics to go with your content.
  • Encourage readers to share your content by including share buttons and calls to action.

9. Gradually create a marketing budget

Save for a marketing budgetLast but not least, as you grow, work towards setting aside a percentage of your revenue for future marketing. These funds can go towards paid Google ads, professional SEO services, and other efforts that are more complex to manage in-house.

  • Start working towards a goal. Companies average 10% of their revenue for marketing efforts, but even a consistent 2-5% is a sound place to start.
  • Prioritize efforts that have shown the most promise or return on investment.
  • Reevaluate your budget and priorities quarterly based on what’s working and what’s not.

Next steps for creating your marketing strategy on a limited budget

Marketing with no money can be challenging, but as you’ve seen, there are ways to market your business for “free” — or at least without a budget. However, it’s something to work toward.

“I always bring businesses back to the basic questions. What are your goals? And what is your target audience?” Ferencak says. “Knowing what you want is the place to start.”

If you’re planning to create a firm budget, talk to us. Zoe Marketing & Communications can give you a sense of what our marketing costs to meet your goals.

Still a ways off from that sort of investment? If you’re managing your own marketing, discover these essential tools: 

Kim Kovelle

As Zoe Marketing & Communications’ content manager, Kim Kovelle brings nearly 20 years of writing and editing experience in metro Detroit. She has strong roots in community journalism and a knack for making complicated topics make more sense.