Marketing your business can be a challenge. Sure, you hear about the most effective strategies, but they all require a financial investment to start. You’re just trying to land clients, not market a 7-figure business.
Luckily, there are a lot of ways you can find leads for your business without spending a dime. You just have to invest your time, and get creative. Here are 50+ ideas you can start with now:
1. Get referrals
Getting recommendations from others is one of the most powerful marketing tools on the internet, and it’s the best way to find high paying clients. There are many ways to set up relationships where you and other businesses recommend each other’s services to your mutual benefit. Harness this strategy to find more free leads that are ready to make a purchase.
2. Use databases
There are plenty of databases available on the web with company names and contact information. You can sift through these to find potential leads for your business. Check out Data.com to start.
You don’t need to spend hundreds or thousands on expensive advertisements to get your business noticed on the web. A much more powerful option is leveraging word-of-mouth. Encourage other people (your friends, family, clients, business associates) to talk about your business online and recommend it to others. News will spread about your services much more effectively.
4. Use Quora
Quora is another great place to find leads for free. People regularly ask questions on the platform that your skills and expertise can help with. Set up a professional profile highlighting your business. Then start answering questions to get in touch with potential customers you can help. Become an authority on the site to get even more reach.
5. Cold calling
Actively search for people and businesses who might benefit from your services. Check out their website, get ahold of their contact information, and start cold calling to generate leads. Many business owners don’t use this direct strategy anymore, and people will be surprised by your professionalism in choosing to cold call. This will help you stand out from the competition.
6. Public relations
Getting you and your business featured in the media is a great way to attract new prospects. All you need to do is a little public relations to make it happen. Keep an eye out for opportunities where your business can be a part of an interesting, informative, or entertaining news piece. Publish press releases and pitch these ideas to local journalists and news organizations to see if they get picked up.
7. Email marketing
Converting leads doesn’t have to be a one-shot deal. With email marketing, you can spend time nurturing relationships and convincing people of the value of your services at the same time. Build an email list and start sending out marketing materials to help them move down the sales funnel.
8. Influencer marketing
You can only get so much reach on social media by sharing interesting posts and following new people. If you want to really get noticed, you’ll need the help of influencers. Influencers are popular profiles on social media who can share your content with their audience. Find powerful ones and encourage them to share your blog posts and other content to get more reach.
9. Special events
Host a special event on social media and around the web to generate buzz and attract new clients. For example, you can do a sweepstakes or photo competition with your current audience. You can also offer special, limited-time discounts for your services.
10. Create a quiz or poll
Host a quiz or poll on your site or on social media. This will help you engage more with your audience and get more buzz for your content. Twitter has the polling feature built in. You can also use free tools like SurveyMonkey to create your own.
No matter if you work online or in the real world, networking can help your business succeed. It might not feel valuable to just keep making new contacts, but you never know how they might help you later down the road. Take the time to meet, greet and get to know people in-person and online. Make sure they understand what your business is all about. They might not become customers, but they can help connect you with free leads later on.
12. Publish news stories
If you’re having trouble getting in the news organically, you might try writing news stories yourself! They don’t have to overtly promote your business, but can help you gain reach as the author. There are plenty of magazines and news sites that allow you to open-pitch news stories.
Newsletters are another great way to market to your current clients and prospects who haven’t become a customer yet. Regularly send out newsletter updates to your list to keep your business in the forefront of people’s minds.
14. Trade shows
Trade shows are a great opportunity to meet people in your industry and generate buzz about your business. Most trade shows have an entrance fee for booths, but you can also show up as a free agent to network and pass out leaflets as well.
Blogging can help you attract more traffic to your website in a lot of different ways. Create content that people actually want to read to make it work. Make sure you cover topics that your target audience is interested in. You can then promote these content pieces on social media and elsewhere. Having a blog will also give you more pages on your site that Google can index.
16. Use a lead capture form
Most business owners put calls-to-action on their sites asking prospects to set up a consultation. This is a great strategy, unless your prospects aren’t quite sure if they want to purchase your services yet. Add a lead capture form on your site where people can sign up to get more information. Then you get their contact information and can continue to market to them.
You can create a lead capture form easily using free plugins for WordPress.
17. Free lead magnets
Email list building can be a drag, unless you use lead magnets. These are free offers of valuable content that you give away in exchange for someone’s contact information. This can be free guide, PDF, template, coupon or free consultation, to name a few examples. Just make sure it’s something your target audience would really value and benefit from.
Instead of just sticking with run-of-the-mill blog posts, write some in-depth articles. Make sure they are the most authoritative pieces on the topic (e.g. ultimate guides, top 100 lists). Promote your articles around the web to start getting links back to your pages. This will boost traffic and improve your SEO.
19. YouTube marketing
People become famous on YouTube all the time and it’s a great place for businesses to get reach as well. You can create and publish informative how-to videos that your target audience would value.
For example, say you’re a social media expert. You could create tutorials showing people how to use different social media tools to grow their lists. Then you can include a call-to-action asking them to hire you if they need help!
20. Leaflets or inserts
It might seem like an old-fashioned marketing strategy, but that’s part of the reason it still works today. Not a lot of business owners bother passing out leaflets or inserts advertising their business in the physical world. Using this strategy will help you stand out from the competition by using a novel marketing medium.
21. Website popups
Website popups help your visitors understand exactly what you want them to do on a given page. Even if you have a call-to-action already, popups can help you drive the action home. Exit popups are also a great way to encourage conversions when people are navigating away. Search WordPress for popup plugins to start.
22. Ad swapping
You might not be in the position to pay for advertising, but that doesn’t mean you can’t advertise! Enter into an agreement with another business to advertise each other’s products or services. Then you both get ad space and expand your audience without spending a dime.
23. Hand out business cards
It sounds old-fashioned, but business cards are still a very valuable marketing tool. Most promotions and advertisements come through on people’s phones, computers and the TV. If you hand someone a business card, that’s a rare item that people see in the physical world around them. It can help your business stand out.
24. Guest blogging
Guest blog on other sites that have a big audience to broaden your brand reach even further. You can usually get a byline and link back to your site. All you have to do is search Google for guest post opportunities. Use “[niche keyword]+ write for us” or “[niche keyword]+ contributor guidelines” for starters. Just make sure the site you pitch to has an audience that will be interested in your business.
25. Use Facebook
Create a business page on Facebook and start attracting likes. Share entertaining, informative posts and link back to your website. You can also encourage people to convert right on Facebook by installing a signup form on your business page.
26. Use Twitter
Twitter is all about marketing. Share content your audience would like and use the right hashtags to do it. Follow people who would make good clients for your business to encourage them to follow back. Link back to your site from your profile and posts.
27. Use Google+
Google+ is a bit quieter than the other major social networks, but it makes it easier to get your voice heard. Join Google+ groups related to your niche and join the conversation. Become an authority on the platform by sharing informative content and insights.
28. Use Pinterest
Pinterest caters to a very specific audience demographic, so make sure you check that out before deciding to market on the platform. If Pinterest works for your audience, then set up a profile and related niche boards. Start pinning, and join relevant group boards as well.
29. Use Instagram
Instagram is a great place for business owners to show off their creative work and attract new clients. Use the platform to document your work process and feature the results. Make your career a prominent part of your profile so people know what you do. This will keep you at the forefront of their minds if they need a service like yours down the road.
30. Use LinkedIn
LinkedIn is all about professional networking. Set up a complete profile that highlights your business and skills. Use a professional photo. Then you can start posting updates and joining LinkedIn groups related to your niche. Join the conversation and offer helpful insights.
31. Use other social platforms
You don’t have to stick with the biggest social networks. Market on niche social platforms to reach your audience more directly. Here is a big list of popular niche social networks.
Monitor hot topics on Google Trends, Twitter, and Facebook Trends. Incorporate them into your blog posts and social content to ride the wave of excitement and get more reach.
33. Publish on LinkedIn or Medium
If you have trouble attracting traffic to your own blog, you might try publishing your content on LinkedIn Pulse or Medium. These are third-party platforms that have their own audience you can reach. Your content also might rank better in search results on these platforms.
34. Card decks
Card decks are books of coupons from a variety of different businesses that people receive in the mail or other ways. Create a promotion for your business and get it featured in one of these card decks to get more free leads.
35. Blog commenting
Find popular blogs related to your business niche and read their content. Offer insightful, valuable comments to join the conversation. Make sure you use a Gravatar or fill out the site’s profile information with your first name, last name and photo. You shouldn’t overtly promote your business with this strategy, but it is a great way to get your name out there and network with other industry players.
36. Optimize your website
Your business website should be more than just a glorified portfolio and contact information. Every page on it should be optimized to help your leads convert. Use your words wisely by highlighting the value of your services on the site. Include prominent calls-to-action encouraging site visitors to join your mailing list, set up a consultation, or make a purchase.
37. Optimize your signup form
Your email sign up form also needs to be optimized to encourage people to convert. Even if you offer a great lead magnet, people might turn away if your signup form has too many questions or is difficult to read. There are plenty of free WordPress plugins out there that can help you A/B test different forms and see which one works best.
38. Use social sharing plugins
You want to make it as easy as possible for people to share your blog posts around the web. This will get you more reach than your regular social media efforts. One way to do this is by using social sharing plugins. Then sharing is only a click away for your site visitors. There are plenty of free ones out there you can install.
39. Social bookmarking
Social bookmarking involves tagging web pages to read later, using tools like Delicious, Evernote or even Pinterest. Market your content on social bookmarking sites to get more reach and attract traffic back to your site. These signals might also help it rank better in search.
40. Host a webinar
Webinars can help you build a personal relationship with your leads and create more buzz about your business. Cover topics that interest your target audience and offer expert advice as part of the show. Promote the webinar around the web to attract people who could benefit from your services.
41. Leverage testimonials
When you talk about how great your business is online, people are going to take it with a grain of salt. They know you’re promoting yourself. But if you leverage testimonials, then you’ll have third-party endorsements that people can believe in. Publish them on your site and share them on social media. Your current clients will probably be more than happy to write one if you ask.
42. Use an email signature
Create a professional email signature including links to your website, social profiles, and more. This looks professional and helps attract more traffic back to your site.
43. Interview influencers
Conduct an interview of big players in your industry and publish it on your site. It could be something as simple as asking them to contribute quotes to a list post. People love seeing content that features them and their expertise, so your influencers will want to share it with their audience. This can help attract more traffic back to your site.
44. Watermark images you share
If you’ve created a cool GIF or own the rights to an image, you should definitely watermark it before sharing! This doesn’t mess with people’s ability to consume the content, but also serves as a sort of signature to spread the word about your business.
45. Engage on forums
Find online niche forums where people discuss problems related to your niche. For example, if you offer site-optimization services, find threads where people ask common questions about this task. Start responding to posts with helpful advice and mention you can help them out with it if they need.
46. Do SEO for your content
If you want your blog content to show up in search results, you’ll need to target specific keywords on-page. This includes body content, post title, image alt tags, meta description and other elements. Optimize all your blog posts for SEO and start ranking better in search.
47. Social listening
Keep track of what others are saying about your business online. You can use Google Alerts to do this for free. Just set up an alert using your business name as the keyword. Look for opportunities to find new clients and brand advocates through social listening.
48. Create a podcast
Create a podcast for your business, and you can start attracting a whole new section of your audience that likes listening to content more than reading it. You can list your podcast on special directories to get more exposure as well.
49. Register on HARO
Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a platform where journalists publish queries for experts related to different topics. Register on the site and you can start responding to these queries (which are sent right to your inbox). If a reporter picks you, then you’ll be quoted in their news piece.
50. Use LinkedIn Advanced Search
Use LinkedIn Advanced Search to find profiles that are your ideal prospects. You have the option to save this search, so LinkedIn will send you periodic email updates when new profiles show up.
51. Create infographics
Infographics are a powerful content type that attract more interest than a simple blog post. They can get shared widely on Pinterest, get indexed in Google Image search and more. All you have to do is gather the data, then use a free tool to create it.
52. Back-end marketing
If earning more profits is your real goal, then sometimes it’s better to target your current customers than finding brand new ones. Make efforts to encourage your clients to become repeat purchasers. You can also offer add-on services that complement your main service to get more money with each project.
53. Online events
Set up an online event, like a Google+ Hangout or Reddit AMA. These will help you build trust by engaging in real-time conversations with your prospects.
54. Become a radio guest
If you work offline in your town, becoming a radio guest is a great way to get your business noticed. Look for opportunities to get on your local station for some free publicity.
55. Help out your current clients
If you work online, most likely your clients are running businesses of their own. You can help them out by promoting their products/services in exchange for the same.