100 inspiring ideas to market your business
No matter what your creative field, there are always those days when work is quiet and you really are twiddling your thumbs. But on those slower periods, it's an excellent opportunity to not only catch up on all of your administration work. It's also a perfect chance to get your business out there and plug yourself wherever you can.
Whether you're just starting out as a freelancer or you've been in business for years, marketing is essential as it communicates your company to existing and potential customers. It gets your business out there and helps to attract new customers while winning more work from existing ones. Without it, you could be missing out and will undoubtedly struggle to survive.
Here's a helpful list of 100 inspiring ideas and ways to market yourself - something that I hope will inspire you on those days when you're concentrating on your own marketing.
1. Get into your local newspaper
Write a press release about anything newsworthy going on in your business. Not sure how to write one? Read these PR tips or simply pick up the phone and speak to a journalist to see if they're interested in running something. If they are, they'll probably write the story themselves.
2. Create an e-newsletter
Publish a regular e-newsletter to your existing customer base. Tell people about what you're doing and any new products or services you've launched. It'll keep you on their radars and encourage repeat business.
3. Write a blog
Blogs are great opportunities to not only extend your digital marketing strategy by creating a whole range of long-tail keywords, SEO-wise. They're also a good chance to show off your skills and expertise while building trust. Keep your blog regularly updated with quality content and both Google and web visitors will love you for it.
4. Cold call
Start each day by following up any new leads or making several cold calls. It's always good to keep your marketing on track and investigate any new opportunities that come your way.
5. Carry business cards
Don't ever leave home without your business cards. You never know who you might bump into. Make sure your business cards contain all relevant information, including your website address and any social media accounts you might have.
6. Offer mini versions
Consider creating a 'mini' version of your product or service at a discounted rate. This might entice new or existing customers to part with their cash and might lead to a longer term business relationship.
7. Find a niche
Research and discover a niche in the market that could benefit from your product or service, then subsequently target. Find out what's missing and what people really need. Offer solutions to people's problems.
8. Talk to your customers
Don't be afraid to chat to your existing customers to ask them why they hired you. And take the opportunity to ask them if you could be doing anything more to improve your service to them.
9. Use Twitter
Twitter is often referred to as the business-friendly social media platform because it's a great way to start networking online while giving your brand personality. But there's a right and wrong way to go about tweeting, so don't forget Twitter Etiquette.
10. Get testimonials
Nothing works better for your marketing than having a genuine testimonial from a happy client. If you haven't yet added any testimonials to your website or marketing materials, do it now! Just make sure you ask full permission from your client first.
11. Make friends with influential bloggers
There's a wealth of new media out there, so get researching and find some influential bloggers to make friends with. Get them to write a review about your business, product or service.
12. Advertise on blogs
Investigate online advertising opportunities by researching where your target market likes to go. Are there any blogs that appeal to your customers? Contact the blog owner and sponsor them in exchange for advertising space.
13. Write link-bait blogs
Make the most of your own blog by writing posts that naturally encourage people to link to it. The more people who recommend your blogs, the more web traffic you'll get to your website.
14. Make the most of your email signature
Link everything up by adding social media accounts and website URLs to your own email signature. Even consider adding your main marketing message or company slogan. Remind people why you're so great.
15. Sponsor an awards ceremony
Although often an expensive option, sponsoring awards can really get your business name out there. Remember, not all awards are expensive. There are always niche award ceremonies that better suit your business and budget.
16. Sponsor a competition
There are always competitions at newspapers and radio shows. Consider sponsoring one of them to raise your profile. You'll not only advertise your brand and company name, you'll be putting yourself in front of a much wider market.
17. Give something away
Got something you can offer in a competition? Newspapers and magazines will give you free editorial space in exchange for a prize. Just be aware they'll always want minimum prize values.
18. Offer discounts for limited periods
Discounts at certain times of the year are always popular. Offer your own products and services at a discounted rate, for example - 'Summer Savings' or 'Winter Deal'. People always like a bargain.
19. Create an e-brochure
Hard-copy brochures can be expensive to design and print. Save your money and create a PDF version instead, available to download via your website. Take the opportunity to really sell yourself and explain to potential customers why they should hire you.
20. Traditional mailers
Mail-drop campaigns are simply pushing marketing leaflets through doors or sending out postcards to your existing customer database. They might be old school but they shouldn't be underestimated.
21. Write a column for your local paper
Get in touch with your local rag to see if they'd benefit from a regular 'ask the expert' column, then provide regular expert features for them to publish. Don't ask, don't get - so pick up the phone today.
22. Become an expert spokesperson
Journalists are always after industry experts to add a little something to their news reports. Contact your local TV, radio and newspapers to put yourself forward as a willing spokesperson and expert in your own business field. Be prepared to be available for any interviews that might come up and do some media training so you're ready to go.
23. Create a press kit
Pull together some background information about yourself and your business, ready to send out to any journalists. Have a 'press' section on your website where media can easily find out more about you and contact you.
24. Add interaction to your website
People want to interact with websites these days, so create something that will be really appealing and helpful to your potential customers. For example, a recent website we created for our client Manchester Fertility Services includes a bespoke feature that has proved hugely successful in drawing new enquiries and customers. Called 'Ask the Professor', it allows potential patients to ask sensitive questions anonymously. Do something similar to really add interaction.
25. Mobile advertising
Why not create a friendly sticker for your car and advertise your business whilst on the move? Don't forget to add your website link and telephone number. To make it more fun, add a special discount code - something that people can use when they call up.
26. Charity auctions
Consider donating your product or service to a charity auction. A great way to network, meet potential new customers and raise your profile overall.
27. Teach your expertise
Organise some talks, classes or workshops based on your own expertise. Great with social media? You'd be surprised how many people still can't get their heads around Twitter. Teach others and you could find they turn into customers.
28. Guest blog
Find those influential blogs or high web traffic online communities and offer to contribute and write articles. This will not only tackle SEO. It will help you to reach an even bigger audience while adding personality to your brand.
29. Blog comment
Don't underestimate the power of commenting on blogs. Do it everywhere you can. Just make sure you write something intelligent and worthwhile. Something that will drive people to your own website.
30. Take advantage of forums
No matter what your creative field, there are plenty of forums out there that you could join and start contributing to. Many people use forums to find answers. Be as helpful as possible and you may attract more clients. Just don't forget to make the most of your own forum signature by adding in links to your website and adding in your company's slogan.
31. Don't forget your SEO
Either hire an SEO or digital marketing firm or read up and learn about Search Engine Optimisation yourself. SEO is all about ensuring people find your website if they're searching for your products and services. Don't hesitate to make this a priority.
32. Create a Facebook Page
Facebook is more consumer-focused than Twitter, so only create a Page if you think your business suits the medium. Post interesting updates to keep your fans hooked. Don't spam and don't self-broadcast. Read these Facebook Page tips for extra ideas.
33. Hook up your social media accounts
Don't forget to provide links from your own website to all your social media accounts and vice versa. Make sure everything hooks up and don't forget to include your social media accounts in all your marketing materials/literature.
34. Get your pricing right
Do some research and call around some competitors to see what they're charging for their products and services. Obviously, pretend to be a customer to cover your tracks. Once you've got a good idea of what the market is priced at, get your own pricing right. Still not sure? Read these tips on how much to charge.
35. Send thank you cards
Value your customers and send thank you cards whenever you've completed a job. They'll remember you for it as it adds that extra touch.
36. Throw in some freebies
Whether you've just delivered some printed brochures or sent over a marketing plan, add in a freebie to make your client happy. One local design firm I know sends sweets with all of its deliveries. A small but effective idea.
37. Reward repeat business
Won some more work from an existing client? Reward them through your very own loyalty strategy. How you reward them is up to you. Perhaps you could offer a discount or extra service. Encourage loyalty from your own customers by being loyal to them.
38. Add personality to your social media accounts
People don't want to talk to brands and logos, they want to talk to people. Add a photo of a real person to your social media accounts and don't always shout about your own business. Add personality to your brand and make people warm to you.
39. Add an 'About' page to your website
People want to know who they're dealing with before hiring a new business. So make sure your website has a decent 'About' page, describing everything about who you are, your skills and experience and your business values. Remember, your website should build trust and an About page helps do that.
40. Invest in credibility
Nothing sells a business more than credibility. To get some more for your own company, invest in schemes and accreditations that will demonstrate to potential clients how credible you really are.
41. Offer a guarantee
If you think your products and services are worthy of a 100% guarantee or 'your money back', then guarantee them. Offer to refund people if they're not fully satisfied with you. You certainly run the risk of some people abusing this offer, but this may outweigh the benefits of attracting even more potential customers.
42. Have excellent customer service
Nothing beats referrals and word-of-mouth recommendations, so keep your existing clients extremely happy by offering superb customer service. Work that extra bit harder and you'll reap the rewards long-term.
43. Go to traditional networking events
Not all networking events are stuffy, irrelevant and boring. There are many out there that could really benefit your business. You just need to find the right ones. Go online, ask around and book yourself in to as many networking events as possible. Go armed with business cards, a warm smile and no expectations.
44. Start a campaign to change something
Is something bothering you about your industry? Why not launch a campaign to raise awareness of the issue and fight to change it? You could even offer something from your own business to help resolve it. Create a press release and get local media onboard. Fight for what you believe in and you'll really spark people's interest.
45. Give your expertise away
You've been running your own business for some time now and you'll have learnt a huge amount of things along the way. You might not know it, but your own wisdom and experience is incredibly valuable to other people. Share your trade secrets by writing articles for your own website. Don't be afraid to tell people how you'll help their business. Yes - some might steal your tricks and tips but most won't have the time and would prefer to call in the experts.
46. Enter awards
Put your business forward for awards whenever you can. Winning awards is great free publicity for your business and you can show off your trophies on your own website. It adds further credibility.
47. Set up a referral programme
Got lots of suppliers and associates you regularly work with? Set up a special referral scheme that thanks them for any referrals they send your way. The reward could be anything from a percentage of the work's value to a £50 shopping voucher.
48. Put up your prices
Increasing prices will give a perception that you're a more 'premium' provider. This will help you to win more higher value work while putting off those lower-end clients that always seem to cause the most hassle.
49. Get your answerphone right
Outside office hours, make sure your phone has an answering machine. And, more importantly, make sure your answerphone message really sells yourself. Replace 'we're not here' with something more helpful or interesting, like 'We're not available but please check out our website'. Encourage the caller to contact you via other means.
50. Book a show
Booking stands at relevant shows are an expensive option without doubt. But if you've got something to sell and you really want to get your name out there, shows can often be one of the best marketing opportunities for your business. Make sure your stand is beautifully decorated and appealing and have plenty of marketing materials, business cards and leaflets ready to hand out. Don't do it on your own either - take a colleague or friend and remember to write down the details of everyone you meet - making sure you chase them up after the show.
51. Ignore the competition
Only consider the competition when you're researching for your own marketing strategy. Don't become obsessed by them and always follow what they're doing. Because what they're doing isn't necessarily right. Concentrate on your own business and have confidence in yourself. Work to your own marketing plan, not anyone else's.
52. Use Google Local
People still search for products and service providers via Google Local, so make sure your business is listed. It's free and will certainly help with your search engine marketing.
53. Join forces with other firms
Hook your business up with someone else to attract more customers. What do I mean by this? Well, if you're a copywriter - why not approach web designers who don't have copywriting skills and offer your services at an outsourced, discounted rate? You'd be surprised how much work you can win this way.
54. Get a QR Code
QR codes are the latest marketing gadget that everyone's talking about. QR is short for 'Quick Response' and they are simply bar codes that allow people with smartphones to quickly access a website by scanning them. Get one for your own business and put them on all marketing materials.
55. Give and thou shalt receive
Make friends with the competition and local firms and recommend them to your clients. If you give, you'll quite possibly get something in return. Remember, there's always plenty of work to go around.
56. Use Facebook advertising
Facebook advertising is actually really good, particularly if you're after targeted demographics. You can select the region, gender, age and even relationship status of people you'd like to target and create a bespoke campaign just for them. What's more, you can measure and evaluate your investment, so you know what does and doesn't work for next time.
57. Create videos
Multi-media content is incredibly popular and helps to make your website more engaging. Create 'how to' videos or even show people your team and your workspace. Videos help to build that essential trust. And if people trust you, they'll want to hire you.
58. Go green
We're all obsessed about the environment these days, so it won't do you - or the environment - any harm to go green. Really go to town on your eco credentials and put an ethical policy in place. Show people that you care about the world by ensuring you have corporate social responsibility.
59. Get on Groupon or LivingSocial.com
Deal of the Day websites are becoming increasingly popular. Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial feature discounted gift certificates that are usable at local or national firms. As a registered user, you get sent a whole load of deals relevant to your own local area. From your company's point of view, you can contact these websites to give some of your own products and services away. They're a really cost-effective way of getting your brand name noticed.
60. Create an e-zine
Why not start an online magazine or blog about something you're passionate about? Obviously relating to your own business. Sharing commentary, industry news and things that interest you will act as a great online marketing tool as well as showing a different side to your company's personality.
61. Launch a free e-book
Good digital marketing is all about creating things that naturally go viral. Get others to shout about your business by creating something that's free and helpful. A free e-book, for example, can do just that. Put together a well-written e-book that includes all sorts of tips and tricks. But make sure it's something that's really interesting and shareable.
62. Monitor your online reputation
Public relations is about managing and enhancing your reputation. And part of that lies in effectively monitoring what people are saying about you online. Manage your online reputation by tracking conversation and responding to any negativity accordingly.
63. Get a new website design
If your website just isn't cutting it anymore, consider having a website design overhaul. Although web design isn't the most important aspect of a web build - it does often give that first impression. If people are bouncing straight off your website, it might be that there's something putting them off. Do some research before you take the plunge and create a website that's more appealing to your target audience.
64. Look into conferences
There's always something interesting going on out there - from geeky tech conferences to seminars and talks. Make a point of attending at least one useful event per month and make sure you go armed with plenty of business cards.
65. Nurture your client relationships
Always prioritize and make your existing clients feel special. Make them feel like they're your most important customer and bend over backwards to keep them happy. Keep the communication channels open and never be afraid to pick up the phone or arrange meetings. Nurture your relationships at all times.
66. Get the basics right
When you answer your phone, always say your company name and who's speaking. When you send an email, always make sure your email signature contains your company name and logo. Be polite and friendly at all times because you never know who might be calling. Get these basics right and you'll strengthen your brand and its reputation.
67. Name drop online
When you write a blog or tweet about something, consider dropping a few names to attract their attention. They might return the favour by mentioning you on their own website or Twitter profile. If writing a blog, provide a hyperlink back to a popular article online and you could see traffic come back your way.
68. Create a funny 404 Page
404 Pages are those web pages that tell your web visitors that the 'page they were looking for can not be found'. Make your own 404 Page funny and it could turn viral as people talk about it and share it with their friends.
69. Be controversial
Really want to drive people to your website? Be controversial and write about topics that will generate links, discussions and comments. Pick on well-loved brands and people. Nothing encourages interaction than sparking a reaction.
70. Contact local universities
If you want to build helpful, local relationships why not contact your local university to offer yourself as a speaker. Universities often have strong links with the business community and you never know who you might impress or meet.
71. Run a regular online offering
Put your website to best use by running a regular, weekly theme. For example, 'Creative Boom's Friday News Roundup' would work well on this website. If you're a web design firm, why not create a weekly 'Our top web designs' and list everything you've come across from the past seven days. Regular offerings = regular web visitors.
72. Offer free tools
Is there something you can create and offer for free via your website? For example, are you an SEO firm that can create some free tools for other people to use? Tools are extremely great for viral marketing and will lead to lots of web traffic, if they're good enough.
73. Do something for charity
Get involved with a charity that means something to you and raise money for them. Do something unusual that might attract the attention of the local media. Shout about your achievements via your social media accounts and website. People will not only hear about your fantastic efforts, they'll want to hire you when they see how much you care.
74. Join your local Chamber of Commerce
They might have been around forever but your local Chamber of Commerce can offer some valuable help. Join up so you can network with other local business owners.
75. Create a calendar
Design and print a special calendar with your own business name and website address on it. Send it out to your existing customers and they'll hopefully display them in their shops or businesses, which makes fantastic free advertising for you.
76. Make better use of your business cards
People often overlook business cards and only print their contact details on one side. Make use of any blank space by adding your slogan or more details about your products and services.
77. Host monthly webinars
Web-based seminars - if you can host them - are a great way to interact with new and existing clients. They can really show off your skills and expertise and turn those who watch them into paying customers. There are many online services you can use out there, like for example GoToWebinar.
78. Offer package deals
Why not offer two services within one discounted package? For instance, if you're a web developer - why not offer a website that comes with free copywriting. You can hire outsourced support and ensure the package you offer is priced at such a rate that it covers everyone's costs. Whilst making a profit, of course.
79. Consider Paid Search
Google AdWords are great tool to use if your website is new and your SEO marketing efforts haven't yet paid off. They're also a great way to ensure your SEO campaign is going along the right path as you can track relevant keywords. But beware, Paid Search can often be an expensive marketing route.
80. Use community boards
There are community cork boards anywhere and everywhere, including at your local supermarket and pharmacy... Just about every shop or local business has its own notice board. Put up your own fliers because it's cheap and easy. Just make sure you get permission where applicable.
81. Send exclusive deals to your customers
Make good use of your customer database and send out regular marketing campaigns, offering some sort of exclusive deal. Make your deals timely by tapping into different seasons of the year. This will encourage more business from your existing clients.
82. Use your friends and family
Don't forget to use your own personal contacts to help get your name out there. Give friends and family some of your business cards and ask them to help promote you.
83. Do something different
Research your target market and analyse your competition. Is there anything you could be doing differently? Offer something out of the ordinary to make yourself stand out.
84. Sponsor a local school sports team
A really easy way to raise your profile is to sponsor a local school sports team. You'll find that every season, the players will need a new football or netball kit. You can have your company name printed on their kits in exchange for buying them for the school. Get in touch with the headteacher to see how you can get involved.
85. Give something away
Why not run a unique competition, giving your products and services away to one lucky winner? If you design websites, why not offer a free website? If you create beautiful wedding stationery, offer one lucky couple a free stationery set for their big day. Competitions are viral and always popular. They'll also help to advertise your business and drive traffic to your site.
86. Make your business cards stand out
Don't waste a perfect opportunity to make your business memorable! Get a business card design that makes you stand out and keeps you in people's minds.
87. Become a walking advert
Get some t-shirts printed with your company logo and website address and wear them whenever you're out and about. If you've got staff, get them to wear branded clothing too.
88. Buy marketing lists
There are many services that give you access to lists of potential customers, all ready for you to target with your own marketing campaigns. Although sometimes expensive, these lists can prove invaluable to your business. There's Marketscan as an example but plenty of others are available. Type 'mailing lists' into Google to find something relevant for you.
89. Advertise on other people's e-newsletters
Know of a popular e-zine that sends out regular updates to its subscribers? There'll undoubtedly be advertising opportunities everywhere, so do some investigation and set up a campaign to take advantage of this targeted marketing.
90. Organise your own meet up
If you're struggling to network or meet new people, why not create your own event or meet up? That's what the people at GeekUp did and it worked very well for them.
91. Consider video testimonials or interviews
Create your own testimonial videos to put on your website to show off your happy customers. Nothing markets your business or builds credibility more than a satisfied client.
92. Make best use of online portfolios
A tip for the more visual creatives amongst you... get your work listed on as many online portfolio sites as possible. Behance, Carbonmade and even Creative Boom. The more you put yourself out there, the better.
93. Get yourself published online
There are so many creative blogs and e-zines across the web and many opportunities to get your work published. Send out the best of your work and include lots of information about yourself. From Creative Boom, Pikaland and It's Nice That to Lost at E Minor and The Drum. Get yourself out there and approach as many online publications as possible.
94. Make Twitter lists
Twitter lists are a great easy way of attracting the attention of influential Twitter people who might return the favour and list you. Like with all social media, be generous and build useful relationships on Twitter to help get your name in front of the right people as much as possible.
95. Follow up leads
Never ever forget to follow up any new contacts you meet. Develop relationships and keep your company fresh in their minds. Whether you meet people at an event or get a phone enquiry, always follow up and try to turn that lead into a sale.
96. Pay it forward
The whole 'pay it forward' ethos means you should be willing to giveaway some of your expertise for free as it could lead to paid work in future. For example, if you come across someone who has a problem - resolve it for free. Or when you're at a networking event, introduce people who may be able to do business together. By being selfless and caring, people will be grateful and will remember you for it.
97. Build a strong brand
Consider your own branding and reassess it. Is it strong enough? Does it convey the right marketing messages? If it's not up to scratch, consider refreshing your whole look and feel. Be bold, stand out and ensure your brand stands for your whole company ethos.
98. Sell yourself
No matter where you go or who you speak to, sell yourself! You're the main ambassador of your business, so get out there and sell it! Always keep your company values in mind and repeat them whenever you can.
99. Create a survey
Use something like SurveyMonkey to create a survey for your customers and encourage participation by giving something away. Once you've collected the results, you can turn your research into a newsworthy press release or you can put the data to good old marketing use and improve your business offering overall.
100. Last but not least, listen to your customers
Your customers will give you the most helpful insight into how you can improve your business and win more work. Listen to their feedback and put new systems in place to ensure your company is even bigger and better. Always keep listening and find new ways to keep your existing client base happy while providing just what others need.