As a small-business owner working out of your home, you know (possibly better than most) that every penny matters. Maximizing the return on investment (ROI) for whatever you put your money into is crucial for making sure your company not only survives but thrives. Advertising your company is no exception; you naturally want still to get the top return for your dollar.
Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to advertise your business for free to give you options in growing your home business in a cost-effective way.
1. Create Your Elevator Pitch
You have 8 seconds...GO! That’s roughly the average attention span of an American adult, the time it takes a person to decide if what you’re communicating is worthy of their time. Drafting, reworking, and perfecting your elevator pitch (that brief summary of your business and why it’s better than other businesses) is arguably the most important step in advertising your company. Why? Because a great elevator pitch is the message that grabs the attention of your target audience. Once refined, it then filters into all of your other advertising methods and helps create the cohesive message you project to your customers and prospects, whether it be through face-to-face meetings, online, social posts, or even riding elevators.
2. Build a Website
If you’re working out of your home, chances are you’ve already made a site. But if you haven’t, start today. With DIY tools such as Squarespace, Wix, and Godaddy, making a website is easier than ever and requires absolutely zero knowledge of HTML, CSS, JS, etc. (if you’re thinking WTF, we’re with you). Your website is where you get to house everything you want to convey to your current and potential customers including what you do/sell, why you started your business, and how to contact you. It’s also an increasingly important because customers are increasingly visiting company websites before purchasing. Most of the time that first visit is for other reasons than purchasing, such as researching your company, but it’s becoming a very common step in the buying process.
As a home-based business, you don’t have the pleasure of walk through traffic or being able to display your products in a store front window. Your website is your store front window. Make sure you have a window.
3. Utilize Social Media
Before you even start your business, you have a marketing base: your social network. Your friends and family (and by social connections their friends and family, and so on) is a great jumping point for creating awareness of your business. If you’re new or established, social has become essential for reaching customers, building brand awareness, and increasing your brand authority. Creating a business account on social sites is about as hard as creating your personal account, so again there’s no need for 'techy' programming knowledge. On social sites you can promote your product or service, perform product reviews, advertise positive reviews of your business, and generally increase awareness of what makes your business so awesome.
You don’t have to work every social media platform; just the ones your target audience is using. Facebook is generally good for a diverse audience, but if you’re targeting professionals, you may want to try LinkedIn. If you have lots of visual content, Pinterest, Instagram, or Youtube is probably a good fit. Whichever ones you go with, make sure you’re keeping your pages updated (posting at least once or twice a week) to develop consistency with your followers.
4. Google My Business
Formerly referred to as Google Local, Google My Business (GMB) is what helps ensure your business shows up when people run local searches. Google is by far the most used search engine; you don’t Bing something, you Google something. Creating your business profile with Google helps ensure that people in your town are looking for what you specialize in, your business appears in the search results. Keep your profile and information up-to-date and accurate to ensure people searching for your business are able to find your business. One small caveat: if you are an entirely online home-business, you cannot have a GMB profile. Google requires businesses to have at least some (at minimum the potential for some) face time with their customers and prospects in order to create a profile.
5. Create Content
Creating content works, and works really really well. Small business that engage in content creation generate 126% more leads than those that don’t. From your home business it’s hard to have those face to face customer interactions to explain those intricate details about your profession and why they need to work with you. Do you have specific knowledge that your customers are constantly asking about? Chances are other people are asking those same questions. Write about it! Do you target a very particular customer base for which there isn’t a lot of information available online, or you’re unable to reach through local advertising? Create content to fill those search results!
Some companies create how-to guides in the form of blogs, others publish cheat sheets and whitepapers, and others film explainer videos and upload them to their facebook, instagram and youtube profiles. Creating content not only tells your customers that you're an expert in the industry, it also begins to tell Google you're an expert, which boosts your website in search results.
6. Send Emails
Speaking of mail, electronic mail is free* and easy to send, especially if you’re using a CRM or email marketing automated tools. There’s an asterix because email marketing tools are free until your list grows to a certain size; that certain size is determined by whatever tool your using. After your free is no longer available, email marketing still remains incredibly cheap as an advertising tool. Email is great to notify your subscribers of new products being launched, promotions you're running on products/services, or updates about your business. You can also cross-advertise that new content you just created, ask them to review your Google My Business profile, or like your latest Facebook post.
7. Advertise your Insurance
Operating a business out of your home doesn’t mean it’s any less legitimate than another. You provide a product or service, and you stand behind what you do. Advertising your insurance coverage is a great way to reinforce confidence in your work by showing that even if something goes wrong, you have the protection to make your customer’s loss whole again. If you’re an artisan contractor advertising your small business, your insurance protects not only your business but your customer too, should they get injured because of your work. If you refinish customers furniture in your garage, your insurance gives your customer piece of mind that their things are protected while you have possession of them. While insurance is not the sexiest advertising channel possible, it’s another tool you can use to solidify your business as trustworthy in the eyes of your customers.
Did You Know?: Insurance Protects your Business If You’re Sued Because of Your Advertising
Not only does your General Liability policy cover your company against third party injury and property damage, such as if someone comes into your home office and injures themselves, but there exists an insuring agreement within the policy which covers you and your business against claims resulting from your advertising. Ecclesiastes 1:9 states “there is no new thing under the sun”, meaning, it’s very possible your brilliant advertising idea has been thought of before. If someone thinks the new ad you created is based on their ad they created last year, they can elect to sue you for plagiarism. Regardless of if it is plagiarism or not, you now have to defend your business against this claim. Some other ways your business could be sued based on your advertising efforts:
- Any advertising that violates a person’s right to privacy, including using their likeness for commercial gain without permission (yes, Beyonce may love your product, but get it in writing)
- Any advertising that libels or slanders another person or organization
- Any use of other individual or company’s copyright or slogan. If you build craft custom rugs, you can’t tell customers to “have it your way.”
As you are starting or growing your home based small business, advertising is obviously the way you get your business in front of your target market. How you advertise, free or not, through handshakes or social media, is completely up to you. but working from home means you need to get creative to attract attention, grow your customer base, and thrive. However you decide, make sure your company is protected should anyone decide your advertising is too much like theirs.