Resources  ·  Posted August 31, 2023

How to Promote Your Business (for Free)

In this blog we explore the essentials of marketing that every business – no matter how small – needs to consider in order to attract and retain the right audience for them.

1. Establish your Marketing Mix

First things first, you need to clarify your ‘Marketing Mix’ – otherwise known as the ‘7Ps of Marketing’. These are 7 fundamental things you need to consider in order to understand what
you’re selling, for how much, via which sales channels, with what resource and how you’ll tell customers about it. When I write marketing strategies for clients, I tend to map the 7Ps out in a table so that everything can be viewed clearly on one page.

The 7Ps of marketing are:

  • Product – What are you selling? Whether it’s a physical product, an online tool or an in-person consultancy service, define what your offering is. Be succinct and clear in your explanation so that no customer can be in any doubt about what they’re paying for.
  • Price – How much does it cost to the customer? It might be a unit price, a subscription, or a daily rate. If you have more than one product or service, list and price each one. If you need help thinking about how to price your products, take a look at this guide.
  • Place – Where will you sell your product or service? This may be a physical space like an office, market stall, your own shop, or a supermarket – or it could be online (or a mix of both). If it’s online, is it via your own website or via a third-party platform (e.g., Etsy)? If, like me, you are a consultant who works from home and meets clients at their office or at another location, ‘Place’ can be tricky to define. Your website will be one Place to list here, but it’s also worth considering your criteria for an ideal ‘first client meeting location’. Where you choose to meet a client says plenty about your business. Would it be a swanky bar to convey luxury, a lush green park to promote wellbeing, an ethical coffee shop to demonstrate your values, or the John Lewis café for its anonymity and great views?
  • Promotion – Which marketing tools and techniques will you use to raise awareness of your product amongst your key target audience(s)? More on this later…
  • People – Who will be responsible for sales and marketing? As a freelancer, this is likely to all fall to you. But maybe you have a friend who can help with your website, or you’re willing to exchange skills with a social media freelancer so that you both benefit. You never know who you might be sitting next to at the next TMP Members’ Lunch and how you can help each other out!
  • Process – What steps do you and the customer have to take for them to receive your product or service? This may be as simple as: customer searches for product on your website, customer pays via PayPal, customer receives automatic email confirming purchase, you receive order, you select and gift wrap product, you take package to post office. Or perhaps: client emails you for a quote, you call them for more information, you send a quote, client accepts, you write a contract, both sign contract, work begins. Understanding the process allows you to manage customer expectations, simplify or rectify any issues in the chain of events, and identify any opportunities for conveying your brand and adding value. An example of the latter would be to gift wrap a package in tissue paper the same colour as your logo, and pop in a little chocolate as a ‘thank you’ gesture.
  • Physical Evidence – How will customers physically experience your brand? This may be through the product itself, but it also includes printed marketing materials (e.g., business cards, flyers, events banners), packaging, signage, shop floor layout, merchandise, etc. etc. As an example of Physical Evidence, think about how the Brand Directors of Primark versus Chanel arrange and exhibit their stock. If your business is online, Physical Evidence will be more about the ‘user experience’ (UX) of your website – how easy is it for customers to find what they need, is there simple, clear navigation, how are products photographed…?

Establishing your Marketing Mix focuses your mind (and your business), enables you to think through and optimise all your ‘brand touchpoints’ to build loyalty, and lays the foundations for clear, compelling communications with your target audience.

2. Understand your audience.

This point should arguably go before you establish your Marketing Mix – in fact, it should be factored into your initial business set-up or product development. Even if you think you have the best
business idea in the world, it won’t succeed if a specific group of people (an audience) isn’t willing to pay for it.

But for the purposes of this blog post, I’ve put this second because it’s good to do another deep dive into your target audience before any promotional activity occurs. Understanding your audience
enables you to craft the right messages, appeal to specific needs or desires, design attractive marketing materials and advertise in relevant spaces.

To begin, list all the potential customer groups your business might attract. Try to make these distinct, with little to no overlap. Prioritise these groups in terms of importance, profitability and/or influence. Focus on the top three or four (unless your business is particularly niche, and you only have one or two).

Focus on one audience at a time. Give each a label and define their characteristics to build a unique profile for them. HubSpot has some really helpful advice and templates about how to do this well (10 Easy Steps to Creating a Customer Profile) and has even built a cool (free!) digital tool to create your own customer ‘avatars’ (Make My Persona – Template).

What’s also important to think about here is what search terms your target audiences are likely to use to find your business online. For instance, one of The Melting Pot’s key audiences (freelancers like you) may search for “coworking hub Edinburgh”, “hot desks Edinburgh”, “shared office space Edinburgh”, “meeting room hire Edinburgh” or “freelance community Edinburgh”. Knowing these ‘keywords’ means that you can write relevant, search-friendly content and attract your target audiences to your website. You can find lots of free keyword generators online to help you build this list. Use the keywords in headings and paragraphs to help online search engines find your pages – but don’t overdo this as algorithms identify and ignore sites, they feel are exploiting this technique to the detriment of the content’s flow and relevance.

3. Get your branding sorted.

Creating an attractive, engaging, targeted brand for your business or product is key to marketing success. I’ve written a post all about branding – find it here.

4. Promotion

Now that you’ve got your marketing basics nailed, you understand the audiences you want to connect with, and you’ve got a beautiful brand to show off – it’s time for promotion.

You’ll know from the customer profiling exercise where your audiences ‘hang out’ (physically or virtually), what media they are likely to consume and which keywords they’ll use to find you online.
So now use that insight to ensure your business is seen by the right people. And remember, different audiences will favour different methods of communication – and these could be tangible, digital, or experiential. Some promotion will be in your control (e.g., your website), others will not (e.g. independent review sites).

It’s also helpful to think about what promotional materials or tools are relevant at each stage of the ‘customer journey’. There are a few variations of customer journey, or ‘sales funnel’, terminology, but I like to use the following: awareness, research, consideration, purchase, and advocacy.

In general, the awareness stage can be the most expensive. That’s why big-budget companies spend millions on advertising to reach the widest market possible. As a freelancer on a tight budget, you may need to invest some cash in getting some flyers printed or running an ad on Instagram – just to make people aware that your business exists. There are loads of great templates on the free design tool, Canva, to help you create these. Additionally, great copywriting on your website will do wonders for your searchability online, and if you’re a registered non-profit, you can take advantage of Google Ad Grants. Being active on social media, writing quality blog posts and attending (or speaking at) selected events are also free or low-cost ways of raising awareness and building your profile.

The research and consideration stages of the customer journey are closely linked. During research, the customer is gathering data; during consideration, the customer is comparing different brands’ data to make a purchase decision. I would address customers’ research needs by providing them with helpful information, aesthetically pleasing imagery and demonstrating your expertise. This might be through a brochure, social media posts, blog articles or an in-person tour, for example. Meanwhile, the consideration stage is more about standing out from the competition – perhaps through incentives, amazing customer service, glowing testimonials, or free trials.

At the purchase stage, you want to give customers a smooth, easy, and positive experience. The only promotion you might have to think about here is a friendly ‘thank you’ or ‘welcome’ email. It will depend on the nature of your business. However, after a purchase, customers change status and become potential advocates of your brand. They deserve attention from your marketing just as much as those you are attracting for the first time. A repeat purchase is gold, and good word of mouth is platinum. You can build your brand loyalty through interesting emails, encouraging dialogue on social media, responding to feedback, and providing added value (e.g., through exclusive deals or events).

To conclude…

There’s so much more to marketing than I could ever possibly cover in a blog post (it is a whole career after all!). However, I hope this has given you a basic understanding of the theories underpinning promotional activities and you feel a little more informed and confident about creating a marketing strategy for your freelance business.

The last piece of advice I’ll leave you with is… No matter which promotional techniques you choose to employ, try to gauge their success for your business. If you can’t monitor the success digitally (via social media or website analytics etc.), an easy thing to do is to ask every customer how they heard about you. You can then evolve your marketing strategy on a 6 or 12 monthly cycle to ensure you only invest your time, money or energy in the methods that are working for you.

Good luck and happy marketing!

Author bio

Lucinda Jeffery is a Marketing Consultant specialising in supporting the third sector. She has worked in marketing for over 15 years and fundraising for over 9 years – for agencies and in-house, across commercial and charity sectors, organisations large and small. Her passions are branding, marketing strategy and training.

Find Lucinda on LinkedIn

Instagram @roseberry_marketing