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What’s the best thing about the internet when it comes to advertising your business? Anyone can do it. Gone are the days when advertising was solely the domain of articulate madmen-type characters, puffing away on cigarettes and drinking brandy. Now anyone can start their own business and advertise it online.

What’s one of the worst things about the internet when it comes to advertising a business? Anyone can do it.

The simplicity of starting a business and advertising it online, means that more people are doing it than ever before. Most entrepreneurs are familiar with the concept of starting up a Facebook page, an Instagram account, and a Twitter account; it’s easy, it takes 5 minutes. Getting millions of followers? That’s the tricky part. With so many people doing the same thing, how can you stand out? More importantly, how do you stand out whilst staying within a (usually tight budget)?

Here are 5 of the cheapest ways to advertise your business online:

1) Use online review sites

One of the best things about the internet is that we, as consumers, are able to advise each other on whether a product or service is any good. This is a very attractive concept. Look at the success of Treatwell (which used to be known as Wahanda) – previously woman would have to book into their local salon and hope for the best, now woman are able to read reviews from other woman on the exact treatment they are hoping to get. Salons with strong reviews are now seeing their customer base grow far beyond their immediate area.

If you are selling a service/product that you know people would love to recommend, then give them the opportunity to do that.  Get a Google My Business page for free and people will be able to rate your business. Yelp and Yahoo are also free.

 2) Email marketing

A controversial one to put here as many of us have felt the pain of an inbox overfull with regular update/newsletters, however, regular email contact still remains a very valuable and cheap way to keep and build relationships with your customers/clients.

The trick is to ensure that your newsletters/updates aren’t too long and crucially offer your client something. Be creative: make attractive newsletters, offer exclusive deals to those who cash in a code, include interesting facts, just make sure your customers smile rather than sigh when they get an email from you.

3) Sell yourself

No I’m not suggesting that…I’m talking about selling your personality. If you are the entrepreneurial type, my guess is that you are probably a reasonably interesting and dynamic person. Successful entrepreneurs  tend to have a lust for life and the ability to think big. If, alongside your day job and your business, you enjoy skydiving, triathlons, amateur dramatics, ballroom dancing or rock climbing, then share these interests on your website/ Instagram page/ Facebook account.  Start a blog even. The benefits of this, is that you may attract customers who share a common interest with you, you also make yourself seem like a more attractive person to do business with. Youtubers and Instagram celebrities have made whole businesses around their personalities, your personality can be one of your biggest assets in the online world.

4) Use Linkedin

Believe it or not, Linkedin isn’t just for stalking your old school friends, it can be pretty useful for your business too. Odds are high that the business you are starting is probably related to the career you had before you decided to go solo. If you are going freelance, or setting up your own consultancy, then it is extremely important to use Linkedin. Don’t lose the clients that you have already built relationships with, let them know what you are up to.

You can also use Linkedin to join industry-specific discussion groups. Get involved in debating the latest news within your field, if people value your opinion on the industry then they are likely to also value the product/service you are selling. If you do find you ‘click’ with someone online, then don’t be afraid to ask them out for a coffee. Social media can a great tool to securing this valuable face-to-face time.

5) Use e-commerce sites

You would have had to be living under a rock for the last ten years to not have realized than online retail is a pretty big thing. Rather than traipsing around the high street a lot of people would much rather shop from the comfort of their own home.

The only downside here for small business owners, is that whilst big companies can afford to hire hundreds of IT staff to keep an attractive, speedy and secure site up and running, the average entrepreneurs budget may just about stretch to an Ebay account. Online e-commerce sites, like Shopify, aim to change that by selling online platforms to small business owners. This means you can sell your product via a professional, secure platform without the hefty price tag. Shopify also has an app, meaning that you can advertise to the app market without even having to learn a single line of coding. oh, and let’s not forget Etsy!

What other cheap ways do you have to advertise your business online?

Sofia Geraghty

Sofia Geraghty

Sofia is a blogger living in London. She is Head of digital at parliament street ( a political think tank) and is particulalry passionate about social inequality and personal well-being.

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