Small business marketing: Is there such a thing as free advertising?

Knowing where and how to spend your precious advertising dollars is a difficult decision for most small business owners. How do you get the best results? How do you know what is working and how important is social media and online advertising? And when it comes to small business marketing, is there such a thing as free advertising?

Jo Macdermott is the founder and senior marketing consultant at Next Marketing Agency. We asked her all these questions, and a few more.

So, is there such a thing as free advertising?

“There probably isn’t such a thing as free advertising,” Macdermott says.

“Perhaps free exposure? I have a philosophy that business owners should only ever spend money on advertising if they can afford to give that money away.”

Macdermott says social media “tends to be seen as free” but it takes a lot of time to build engagement and a following. And as any small business owner knows, time is precious and not free.

“I have a really high Google rank and technically that is free (as opposed to paid Google ads) however it takes quite a bit of content marketing effort to maintain,” she says. And that content marketing costs time and money.

Macdermott urges business owners to switch on all the free google tools such as webmaster, analytics, Google Places and Google+. These help customers find you online and give you insights into what your customers are looking for.

Read more: Taking your website mobile: why it’s critical for small business marketing

Macdermott’s advice is to think locally when it comes to advertising, whether it be online or on the street. Building a local profile that connects to your community is a great way to focus your advertising efforts and to establish a reputation.

To help build the profile of her business and to connect with her local business community, Macdermott started a Facebook group called “I am a Business Owner in Moonee Valley”. The free group had 200 local business people join in the first 7 days and has generated a lot of activity.

Macdermott’s last piece of advice is to remember that signage an important part of your local advertising strategy.

“I have two signs (one on the building and another at ground level) – as we are on a fairly busy road in Moonee Ponds – and we’ve had a number of enquiries just from that over the past 6 months.”

Good signage acts as a signpost to your business. It draws the attention of passersby, even if only at a subconscious level, and helps people looking for your business find it.

So though advertising always costs you in time and money, there are simple, smart ways to make your advertising dollars go further. Think locally first, connect with your community, value your time and don’t forget the obvious – good signs.