It’s not a big secret that you need to market your business in order to get more customers. But it’s also no secret that you don’t want to spend all your hard-earned money on marketing that isn’t going to yield the results you’re hoping for.
That’s where it pays to do two things: excel at the basics and get creative. However, knowing which basics to focus on and coming up with fresh, inexpensive, out-of-the-box ideas to boost brand awareness and positively impact your bottom line can be challenging.
So, we’re taking some of the work out of it for you by providing:
- Basic (but free) digital marketing ideas
- Creative digital marketing ideas
- Tips and resources to help you get started
Use these ideas to boost your business’s ROI while adding value to your customers’ experiences all year long.
Basic (but free!) digital marketing ideas
Whether you’re looking for new digital marketing ideas to test this year or you want to build on a tried-and-true digital marketing strategy, we’ve got free ideas (with examples, tips, and learning resources) in the list below.
Related: Want to see the latest digital marketing trends? We’ve got you covered!
Optimize your website for SEO
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a must for your marketing strategy. SEO is the process of applying the right tactics to help your small business website rank in search engine results pages (SERPs) for searches relevant to your business. SEO is what helps Google and other search engines understand your pages better and make them more visible to people making relevant inquiries.
There are a lot of SEO factors that determine your placement in the SERPs. Top factors include:
- How quickly your page loads
- Website mobile-friendliness
- Relevant keywords within your website content
- Quality of your content
- How your website is structured (which is why web design and SEO go hand-in-hand)
Check out the full list here:
People don’t have the patience to wait for a slow site to load, so make sure your pages load quickly, or you’ll lose their interest. Revamp your website experience so that users find it easy to browse your site.
Make sure your site is mobile-friendly. Otherwise, Google will punish you (sounds scary, I know!) by lowering your rankings and promoting your competitors’ content over yours.
Research and target the right keywords and weave them naturally into your web pages. This will help search engines crawl your site better and present your content as the best search result to people’s queries.
Related: Get tips for better SEO writing.
To get the most out of your online presence and learn how to better position your business to be discovered by your target market, check out this useful SEO guide for beginners.
Note: If you plan to work with an SEO partner, this marketing idea won’t be free, but it might be worth it in the long run!
Grow your email list
Leverage content upgrades, gated content, pop-up forms, landing pages, and more to get people to offer up their email contact information. Ask customers to submit their email addresses at the signup or check-out point. Or manually collect emails when you checkout customers in your location.
But, don’t just collect email addresses and call it a day! Send out interesting and relevant newsletters that recipients will find valuable at different stages of their buyer journey. Inform them of updates to your product or services, promotions, and other news they should be aware of. (And don’t forget post-purchase emails to stay top of mind!)
Related: Launching a new newsletter or have one already and need some inspiration? Check out newsletter ideas you can use all year here.
Monitor your online reputation
What are your customers saying about your business? Are their sentiments mostly positive or negative, or neutral? If you don’t know the answer, you’re missing out on a valuable digital marketing tool that can help you resolve complaints, implement suggestions, and get more customers.
Monitoring and responding to reviews is not only free–it’s a must in today’s world. Remember that word of mouth is one of the most potent marketing mediums, and it can make or break the reputation of your business. That’s why providing excellent customer service and top-notch quality of your products or services is a must. But, it’s also why responding to negative (and positive!) reviews can help you win new business.
You can also use responding to reviews as a way to win back a customer.
You may consider investing in a social monitoring or review management tool so you can easily track and observe any mentions of your company, product, or services. But, if you’re looking for a free route, you can create a Google alert for your company so you receive a notification whenever a review or post mentioning your business is shared. If you claim your Google Business Profile and Yelp Profile, you can also receive email alerts for any new reviews that come in for your business.
Related: Get the best tips for responding to negative reviews here.
Build a stronger social media strategy
These days, having social media accounts for your business is just as important as a website. It’s an avenue to interact with your customers personally, promote your offerings, increase brand reach/awareness/visibility, acquire new leads, and generate conversions. (It’s also free, which is why it’s a favorite digital marketing idea amongst all business types!)
Post relevant and interesting content on your social media pages several times a week. Respond to questions, comments, and messages on time. Ask questions and spark conversations within your network. Post reviews, testimonials, and user-generated content to amplify brand trust.
Don’t just jump on any and every social platform out there. Not all of them will be right for you. Conduct a little research to discover which channels your target audience likes to spend time on. Don’t forget to take the nature of your business and your goals into consideration when developing social media marketing strategies.
Study and borrow strategies from brands like Airbnb, JetBlue, Wendy’s, IKEA, Fenty Beauty, and others killing the social media game.
Want more social media marketing resources? We’ve got you covered:
- Local Social Media Marketing 101
- 80+ Instagram Caption Ideas & Examples for Any Business
- 16 Tips to Create the Best Facebook Marketing Strategy EVER for 2022
- How to Create a Snapchat Business Account (+5 Expert Tips to Get Started)
- How to Increase Social Media Presence Fast: 10 Easy Ideas
Creative digital marketing ideas (that are free or low-cost)
Looking to go beyond the basics with your strategy? Try these creative digital marketing ideas for little-to-no cost.
Leverage link building
According to an Ahrefs study of over 1 billion web pages, 90% of pages get no traffic from Google. Of those pages, 66% had zero backlinks, while 26% had backlinks from three domains or less.
If you want to belong in the 9% that generate traffic from Google, the secret recipe is backlinks.
Backlinks are links from other sites to your site that show Google and other search engines that your site is well-known, liked, trusted, and valuable. This is a digital marketing strategy routinely used by big brands and larger businesses that is often overlooked by small businesses. But, by focusing on acquiring links from quality sources, you can improve your ranking on Google and increase your reach online.
Search for unlinked mentions of your brand, then reach out to the website owners and ask them to turn the mentions into links.
Establish partnerships with bloggers and other business owners where you link to each other’s pages or offer them a service like writing a guest post in exchange for a link.
Glassdoor was able to drive growth, generate 70% organic search from over 2 billion annual visits, and attain an acquisition value of $1.2 billion by building an extensive network of backlinks. Glassdoor’s link-building success is a testament to the power and effectiveness of this digital marketing idea.
For more information about the ins and outside of link building and how to make it work for you, consult this link-building services resource.
Host special live events for your followers online
Hosting live events is a fantastic (and creative) digital marketing idea to connect with an audience of customers online and even attract new leads. Be it for customer-driven engagements, the launch of a new product or service, or even talks hosted by brand ambassadors, live events are great for your brand strategy.
Creating a virtual event allows businesses to expand their reach to a wider audience (not to mention it’s a great way to engage parts of your audience who are still not venturing out much).
There are many benefits to incorporating virtual events into your marketing strategy:
- It can help you build a brand community of people who are interested in your business, your products, your services, or your niche.
- You can share helpful, non-salesy content with your audience in an innovative and engaging way.
- You can gather data on the current trending topics among customers.
- By answering questions and engaging with an audience live, you can establish yourself as an authority in your niche.
If you haven’t already hosted an event, it’s time to get started!
Create personalized and smart content
Great content can take you very far in today’s marketplace. Customers are only interested in your business to the extent that you can help them solve their problems or provide answers to questions they have.
To get them to notice your business, you need to develop valuable content relevant to their interests, personal/professional goals, or the niche they work in.
Ensure the content you’re delivering to them is personalized and available to them at the stage where they need it. You want customers and prospects to feel like you know them and are interested in meeting their needs. Personalized marketing goes beyond just using their names in your app interface or emails; you need to speak to their specific problems.
For example, Mint was able to break into the personal finance niche and stand out by publishing quality content like informative blog posts and viral infographics on topics their target market cared about. The business grew and amassed a loyal online following before getting sold for $170 million to Intuit.
Find out what types of topics your audience is most interested in and test creating blog or social media content that speaks to their unique interests and pain points.
Repurpose your high performing content
Do you have published blog posts, videos, infographics, case studies, or reports that have gotten or are getting a lot of attention? Then we have the perfect creative digital marketing idea for you!
Make them work harder for you by spinning them into a different content format so they can reach even more people through the formats they prefer. For example, you can take an article that got a lot of engagement and repurpose it into a video or vice versa.
You can extract the most important tidbits in a report and turn them into an infographic. Also, you can turn infographics or case studies into social media posts. Really, your imagination is your limit.
Another advantage of repurposing the content you’ve already published is that it saves you the stress and time of having to come up with new ideas and develop fresh content from scratch.
Host contests and giveaways
Everyone loves a free competition. The thrill of possibly winning something you didn’t have to pay for is wonderful and hard to resist.
Giveaways present an opportunity to spread the word about your company, increase your reach, and gather lead information like the participants’ names, locations, and email addresses.
Social media is a great place to implement this tactic. Host an Instagram giveaway and run contests on other platforms to grow your following and drum up engagement for your brand. Set up promotions and sales, offer free memberships and add-ons to entice people to buy your products or use your services.
Ensure that the prize you’re giving out and the efforts or actions required to participate in the giveaway are commensurate. It should also align with the persona of your target market and what they can reasonably do.
Invite guest bloggers to contribute to your blog
By inviting industry experts and other professionals to share their knowledge on your blog, you can build a rich library of content that you don’t have to produce yourself or pay for.
The authors establish themselves as thought leaders and increase their audience, and you get quality content and more traffic in return.
All you have to do is ensure that the content submitted by guest authors is original, helpful, educational, and up to your publication standards.
American Express (AMEX) leveraged this tactic to great success with its Open Forum website. This platform delivers insights and trends from experts from diverse sectors to help people build and manage their businesses.
You can find potential guest bloggers for your site by doing a quick search for content in your niche and reaching out to the author. You can also tap into LinkedIn groups for your industry to see if anyone would be interested in guest posting or a guest post swap.
Participate in podcasts
Podcasts are the radio of this era and an underutilized digital marketing idea for small businesses. There are tons of great podcasts out there looking for people to come on their show and share their wisdom, experiences, and knowledge on various subjects.
Look for podcasts that discuss topics related to your business or your industry and pitch to be interviewed on their podcast as a guest. A simple Google search with the terms “best (name of the industry) podcasts” will return a lot of promising results that you can begin reaching out to.
After identifying suitable podcasts, get the hosts’ email addresses, send them a polite message explaining why you’ll be a great guest on their podcast, and find out if they’ll be interested in inviting you on.
Pro tip: Take things a step further by hosting podcasts. Invite other professionals or your customers to discuss issues and offer actionable advice.
Collaborate with influencers and other brands
Find brands that offer products or services to customers like yours but aren’t direct competitors to your business and strike up a partnership with them.
You can develop co-branded campaigns with them to promote your small businesses to each other’s audience and allow a new network of people to discover and learn more about your brand.
For example, HubSpot teamed up with Chatfuel, the leading provider of AI chatbots, to run promotions by offering an ebook that they could only download after going through an interactive chat experience with a Chatfuel bot.
According to recent reports and predictions of Instagram trends, the influencer marketing industry is expected to be worth $13.8 billion in 2021 and reach $15 billion by 2022. Influencers are here to stay, and your business can benefit from working with the right ones.
Do a little research to discover influencers that your target market likes and follows, then reach out to them with an offer for collaboration.
There’s opportunity everywhere!
As you can see, creative digital marketing ideas don’t need to involve groundbreaking discoveries or inventions. All you have to do is build on tried-and-true strategies by testing and tweaking your marketing plan to what works for your business and resonates with your audience.
The digital marketing ideas in this post don’t require bottomless resources or special skills to pull off. Some digital marketing ideas like link building and SEO optimization will take a while before you start seeing significant results, while others like a social media strategy and hosting giveaways can bring immediate rewards.
As long as you keep investing in your business’s marketing efforts, growth is bound to follow.
Here are the top free and creative digital marketing ideas to try:
- Optimize your website for SEO
- Grow your email list
- Monitor your online reputation
- Build a stronger social media strategy
- Leverage link building
- Host special live events for your followers online
- Create personalized and smart content
- Repurpose your high performing content
- Host contests and giveaways
- Invite guest bloggers to contribute to your blog
- Participate in podcasts
- Collaborate with influencers and other brands
About the author
Mark Quadros is a SaaS content marketer that helps brands create and distribute rad content. On a similar note, Mark loves content and contributes to several authoritative blogs like HubSpot, CoSchedule, Foundr, etc. Connect with him via LinkedIn or Twitter.