15 Low-Cost Alternatives to Paid Advertising

Your business needs to promote itself if it wants to attract customers. You may have an amazing product, but that’s only the first step. The next step is getting that product out to your target audience. Luckily, there are loads of effective ways to do this that don’t require big marketing budgets.

You’ve probably been advised to run ads on social media. Sure, this is a good tactic, but not all small businesses have the time and resources to pour all of their marketing budgets into paid ads. Instead, a more diverse approach to small business marketing should be followed.

If you’re looking for advertising solutions beyond paid ads, then you’re in luck. There are loads of effective lead generation and advertising alternatives that offer a low-cost solution to attracting more traffic and customers. Let’s explore some of these marketing alternatives for small businesses

Run Email Marketing Campaigns

email marketing

Any business should be running email marketing campaigns to help move your customers further down your marketing funnel. Email marketing is an effective way of attracting and retaining new customers. And one of the best things about email marketing is that it is seriously cost-effective. The return on investment potential for email marketing is massive.

Email marketing is also incredibly appealing because you can automate it. Marketing automation lets you set it and forget it. Your business can run drip campaigns, send out regular newsletters, promote competitions, sales, new products, or send out anything else your business wants to communicate.

Email marketing as a form of online advertising can help you convert leads, build stronger relationships with customers, and retain customers for a longer period. From sending out welcome emails to interesting blog posts, your email campaigns have loads of advertising potential.

Social Promotions

We often see businesses run social media contests and giveaways. How effective is this really as a marketing strategy? Well, with the right social promotions tools, your business can see amazing results from a simple contest.

Social promotions help to get your brand out to a wider audience without you having to pay for ads. This should result in your business attracting many new customers and generating far more sales than the price of your prize.

With the right tools, social promotions also let you capture the contact details of your entrants. This means lead generation which you can remarket to using your email marketing or other tactics. Social promotions also increase your engagement on social media and help your business gain a larger following.

Guest Blog Posts

If you’ve just started a website, you need to find a way of generating traffic. Preferably free traffic that you dont have to use display ads to attract. Starting a blog is always a helpful way of generating traffic, but for new websites, it can take time for your blog to become popular. Guest posting is a great solution to this, as it takes advantage of another business’s audience.

Find blogs that appeal to the same audience as yours, and propose to write them a post that fits their blog’s style. Of course, the topic you write about also needs to relate to your business and point to your website. The links that your guest posts create pointing towards your website are also a useful tactic for SEO, helping your own site to rise in the rankings. This is a great alternative to sponsored content.

blogging

Referral Campaigns

We’ve already spoken about social promotions, but this can be taken a step further with a referral program. You want to get your active users to share your content in order to grow your audience. An effective way of doing this is running referral campaigns. A referral campaign will incentivize your audience to share your content, which results in gathering more customers.

If you run a social promotion, you can use a referral suite to generate bonus entries for your contestants with every share. The power of sharing can go a long way, exposing your contest and products to your followers’ circles, and their followers’ circles with each share. This takes your contest even further, ensuring your business is made visible to the widest audience possible.

Incentivized sharing means more social engagement, more customers, and ultimately more sales. This is an easy way to increase your target audience without the need for paid ads.

referral campaign

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing takes up a big space in online advertising. Why be the only one promoting your product if you can get other people to promote it too? Affiliate marketing is particularly useful for small businesses starting out because you can utilize other people's audiences as your advertising platform.

If you dont have much of an advertising budget, affiliate marketing is also great because you shouldn’t have to pay anyone upfront. Instead, affiliates will gain a small percentage of each sale that they generate. This means you only have to pay them if you get paid. This can go a long way, and it makes a great alternative to promoting sponsored content.

Optimize Your Website for SEO

SEO

Search engines are where most people will probably end up looking for your business. This is why you need to focus on search engine optimization for long term online success. Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most useful tactics for increasing your traffic and your sales. If your business is at position one for a particular keyword, you will certainly see a rise in revenue.

Sure, SEO takes time and some expertise, so you may want to get this handled by professionals if it’s not your strength. However, with the right knowledge, powerful SEO tactics can cost your business next to nothing, resulting in a major boost for long term success. Instead of creating expensive ad networks, SEO is an incredibly useful way to get more traffic to your site without worrying about sponsored content or native ads.

Put Together a Great Infographic

This one’s actually pretty simple, and it can generate plenty of the right traffic for your business if done properly. A quality infographic on a relevant topic to your business can be an appealing resource for other bloggers to link to, helping your site with SEO. It can also be a useful way to instantly attract more traffic to your site.

If you dont have the design skills, you will need to invest in an infographic., However, with the right content, a quality infographic could generate far more long-term value to your business than display ads. If your infographic is consistently relevant, it could help generate traffic to your site for a long time to come.

Video Marketing

Video is one of the most engaging forms of content on the internet. With the right content, video marketing can be an incredibly powerful way to generate interest and attract more customers to your business. These days, putting together a high-quality video is easier than ever. With just a smartphone and free video editing software, your business can produce a quality video that attracts new customers.

video marketing

You dont have to pay for video ads to attract more active users. Simple create a useful video and display it in your campaigns. You can integrate video marketing with your social media and blog, adding a higher level of quality to your content. Never underestimate the power of a great video - even if it is made on a tiny budget.

Webinars

Webinars are a useful way of creating a high level of value for a customer while being able to still promote your business. By running a webinar, you will be able to attract a very specific audience who are already interested in what your business has to offer. The webinar can be used as a tool to educate and inspire them to choose your product or service.

While paid ads might help you target a wider audience, they dont always offer that much value to the person viewing the ad. Webinars, on the other hand, create significant value to the user. They can be used to explain in detail exactly why your business is important. A good webinar can also gain a lot of traction and attract a lot of viewers without having to go through expensive advertising options.

webinar

Online Forums and Communities

Before you start to pay for an ad campaign in the hopes of attracting a very specific audience, know that there are already places on the internet where this specific audience is gathered. That’s right, online forums and communities are a network of users interested in a specific niche. Find the communities that match your niche, and see if you can promote your business in these communities.

You will be able to target the active users of these networks without having to run any Google and Facebook ads. As long as the forum allows you to promote your business, use it to actually offer a solution to peoples queries or concerns. Spamming users with your product is not necessarily helpful, but using your product to add value to people in the community is helpful. This way, you can target your direct audience without running any ads.

Social Media

Social media is the big one when it comes to online marketing. Every business understands the power of social media as a marketing tool, but not everyone gets it right. Luckily, you dont have to run expensive Facebook ads if you want to do successful promotions. Here are some ways to utilize social media to gain easy traffic to your business.

Go Viral on TikTok

TikTok

TikTok is huge, and all businesses should be using it if they want to reach a younger demographic. With millions of active global users, TikTok offers loads of potential for running powerful campaigns. So, how do you use TikTok for marketing?

Yes, you can run TikTok ads which work just like Facebook ads. However, we’re not interested in that right now. The advantage of TikTok is that its algorithm can help any user go viral, no matter how big their following is. This means fast growth and big results for users with the right content. Follow what’s trending, and create your own TikToks in line with this. It might result in a huge social media boost for your business.

Influencer Marketing

If you can find the right influencers to match your brand, they might be able to create a huge buzz for your business. A mention from the right influencer can do big things for a small business - especially if you are still building up your own following.

Using an influencer will involve a sponsored post, but this could bring more return on your investment than Google and Facebook ads if done correctly. Just make sure you find the right influencer, and that they promote your product in the way you need them to.

Create Micro-Content

People generally dont go onto social media with the intent of engaging in long-form, time-consuming content. Instead, they want fast and easy content in small doses. If you can condense useful content into small chunks, then you can run unique, powerful campaigns that offer loads of value to your audience.

A good way to do this is to repurpose content from existing blog posts of yours. For example, you can condense the main points from a listicle into a short video. Good examples of this type of content are Snapchat videos or Instagram reels.

Get On YouTube

Munchies YouTube

YouTube is massive. In fact, YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world (after Google). Although YouTube is such a major platform, only a minimal amount of businesses are actually using it. Take advantage of YouTube’s growth and potential, and make sure your business is utilizing it to attract more customers.

YouTube offers many advantages to a business. You can attract new customers, build more authority and credibility around your brand, increase your engagement online, and use your videos to drive more traffic to your website.

We already mentioned how easy it is to make engaging videos with nothing more than a smartphone, so get out there and start putting together videos. The results can be massive.

Post Frequent Quality Content

There are loads of social media hacks and tools available, but at the end of the day, it’s just about creating high-quality content. That’s it. Post on a frequent basis, and post the kind of content your audience wants to see.

With various different social media platforms available, you can create a diverse range of content. Find different types that work well for your brand, and focus on creating a consistent content strategy.

Beyond just photos on Instagram and Facebook, there are plenty of other ways to share impactful content on social media. Pinterest for eCommerce can be hugely successful, Twitter is a great way to chat with your audience, and Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram offer engaging video options. Try out different formats to see what works for you.

Also, focus on quality content that adds value to your users. Instead of running pricey Facebook ads, shares are free for you. Try to get your followers to share content and engage with it. This could be even more useful than running paid ads.

Final Thoughts

Beyond Google and Facebook ads, there is a massive world of opportunity to promote your business online. Native ads can be an expensive option for small businesses, and if you don’t do it properly, your ROI may not be that impressive. This is why developing a broader marketing strategy that goes further than just display ads can produce some brilliant results for your business.

Generating leads and driving traffic to your site doesn’t have to involve a big investment. You just need to be smart about your marketing and use the right tools. Try out some of the ideas above, and your business may see a big rise in revenue without relying on a usual advertising platform.

Marketing is often about trial and error, so start experimenting with different platforms and campaigns. This is the only way to find a solution that works for your business.

Written by Tom

Tom is a marketing content writer at Wishpond, focused on the latest marketing and tech trends. Also a keen sourdough baker and dog person.