Business owners generally think of marketing and advertising as expenses. After all, most marketing strategies (TV commercials, radio spots, billboards and direct mail, for instance) involve paid media. But as effective as these mediums often are, they are not the only – or the cheapest – ways to market your business. In fact, if you are willing to be creative and think outside the box, there are numerous effective and free ways to advertise the products or services your business has to offer.

That said, here are eight free places, online and off, that provide a practical but effective platform for marketing your business:

Craigslist

(AlishaV)

Craigslist is far more than just a way for city dwellers to sell off their old lamps and coffee tables. Properly utilized, this popular web community can be transformed into a valuable source of sales or leads for certain types of businesses. The deciding factor is whether your business (or what your business offers) is something people proactively search for with key phrases. If so, there is nothing stopping a clever business owner from posting in Craigslist forums or listings where prospects congregate.

Entrepreneur.com provides a helpful walk-through on Craigslist marketing, noting that “services like tutoring, car repair and real estate to products such as wholesale furniture, consignment goods and retail e-commerce” are effectively sold there. Small Business Essentials offers tips on how to track responses to your listings.

Chatroulette

(renaissancechambara)

We know what you’re thinking – “Chatroulette is just a place where creeps and weirdos hang out” – right? Actually, that is not the case. Despite the admittedly “disturbing” nature of some Chatroulette conversations, the fact remains that many normal people do use this service every single day. Moreover, some of these people can be marketed to depending on what products and services you offer. A recent Flowtown article offers 9 specific strategies for marketing via Chatroulette.

Chatroulette marketing is most effective at promoting companies that can use shock value, or which have wide, mass-market appeal to the general population. If your product is highly specialized (such as hydraulic engine components), Chatroulette is probably an impractical choice.

Search Engines

(Yodel Anecdotal)

Search engine optimization (or SEO) is another, more modern form of free marketing. No – we’re not talking about the paid advertisements on the top and right side of the search results. Rather, SEO involves structuring your website and running it in such a way that it naturally appears at the top of the results page when people look for what your business offers.

SEOBook offers a primer on the basics of SEO strategy, including link building, keyword targeting and more. If you can successfully boost your website to the top of natural search queries, it’s not just free exposure, but free exposure that does not look or feel at all like advertising.

Online Forums

(DeclanTM)

If you are in a pinch and need to reach an extremely targeted audience without spending money, it’s tough to beat online forums. A quick Google search will generally produce dozens upon dozens of forums where people have gathered to discuss virtually any topic imaginable. Best of all, most forums are divided even further into sub-categories, enabling you to deliver a promotional message to the most laser-targeted group on the forum.

Beware of seeming shamelessly self-promotional though, as most forums are not intended for use as billboards. Instead, strive to build up a trusted presence on the forum before mentioning what your company sells.

Community Bulletin Boards

(woodleywonderworks)

Most towns and cities have dozens of community bulletin boards where any local citizen can freely post just about anything. These boards can usually be found at grocery stores, libraries and senior centers. While it may seem “small time” or amateur compared to running a TV commercial, consider that these bulletin boards are routinely used to rent apartment buildings, sell tutoring services and announce tag sales.

That being the case, what stands in the way of a local entrepreneur creatively using this space for more ambitious marketing?

Train Stations

(Diego3336)

Train stations and bus stop terminals are another potentially valuable source of free advertising. Like grocery stores, these places generally have bulletin boards that are free for anyone nearby to use. Furthermore, the fact that these bulletin boards are at train stations or bus stops make them especially attractive certain types of businesses.

Used car dealerships, for instance, would be hard-pressed to find a cheaper or more targeted source of prospects. Frequent train and bus riders are people who (in many cases) dislike relying on public transportation, and some of them would no doubt pay attention to a dealership ad promising a way out.

Telephone Poles

(roland)

There is a reason that families have always posted “Missing Pet” signs on telephone poles around town: it works! Motorist frequently “space out” while making their routine commutes, and a colorful or provocative sign can easily grab their attention. The key here, as with marketing on Chatroulette, is that your product or service must have broad appeal.

Because you cannot control which types of people happen to drive by a telephone pole, any ad you run there must stand a chance of being relevant to just about everyone.

Public Grass Dividers

(Editor B)

The same principle applies to grass dividers on streets and highways. Most of us have seen bold, colorful signs on these dividers advertising work from home opportunities, home foreclosure services or other offerings with wide public appeal. One caveat: be sure to check with your local town hall regarding the legality of placing advertisements on town grass. The fact that this is such a widespread practice, however, suggests that most towns are fine with it.

About the Author: Irina Kabigting is Webs’ Social Media Marketing Manager. Get more from Irina on Webs’ Blog and Google+.

41 Responses

  1. Reply
    Pradip Jani
    May 06, 2011 - 09:32 AM

    Really good…

    this list is a great resource of inspiration,
    very great idea thanks to share ,Very useful.

  2. Reply
    raytion
    May 06, 2011 - 11:11 AM

    thanks for the infomation. some really cool ways to advertise.

  3. Reply
    kat
    May 06, 2011 - 01:15 PM

    Never heard of chatroulette, but twitters is quite a good source of advertising free! and you can ask or answer questions in a jiffy. Local web directories are also quite good and normally free (mine is). Have a fab day!!

  4. Reply
    Michael Rohrer
    May 06, 2011 - 04:25 PM

    Some interesting ideas there. As always, consider your audience. Pissing them off won’t really help you. There are plenty of free or really cheap ways to advertise. For a (not online-only) business, having a sign in front and maybe some nearby signs seems to be the best way to advertise.

    Chatroulette, to me, sounds like a lot of work for very little reward. Needing to be at a computer for several hours to deal with the types on there just doesn’t seem worthwhile for me.

  5. Reply
    Francene
    May 06, 2011 - 06:25 PM

    And for those of us in the UK where sticking out stuff at the train station is a criminal offence and we have no lawns. Here are some directories that you must use:
    Here are a few directories for you to get started on local search engine optimisation.
    1. http://www.freeindex.co.uk
    2. http://www.hotfrog.co.uk
    3. http://www.qype.co.uk
    Lets not forget social media, local shop windows, networking events etc.

    Do check out my marketing blog where small business owners can learn how to market their business. http://www.localmarketingguide.co.uk/

  6. Reply
    fernando
    May 06, 2011 - 08:18 PM

    dont forget yelp.com those guys are awesome for promoting business i have my anime store listed there and it shows up near my location .

  7. Reply
    U WANT
    May 07, 2011 - 05:56 AM

    Nice the Station one is funny but others are really helpful! 🙂

  8. Reply
    Open Source Programmers
    May 07, 2011 - 12:07 PM

    Craig’s list seems to help also as an SEO tool!

    It worked for us! We sell discounted Windows software at:

    http://www.TheComputerStore.webs.com/

    Cut and past the link above. You can read about the great results!

  9. Reply
    Animal Pawprint OFFICIAL!
    May 07, 2011 - 03:05 PM

    Great inspiration! Thanks webs!
    By the way, my website (animalpawprint.webs.com) has more traffic!

  10. Reply
    Sahil
    May 07, 2011 - 07:37 PM

    I was hoping there would be more websites on this list.

  11. Reply
    John Smith
    May 07, 2011 - 11:24 PM

    Hi WEbs ..
    I need Comment box for my members profile …for html support
    My Members Send Comment with Photo ..Tag Photo Gift …
    Like Tagged.com

    Plz Show My Site On WEbs Blog
    My site Name http://www.yoursbooks.webs.com

    Thanks WEbs

  12. Reply
    Aman
    May 08, 2011 - 02:41 AM

    Coooooooooooool!

  13. Reply
    Gillian
    May 08, 2011 - 04:24 PM

    What great ideas! I’ve never heard of Chatroutlette but to be honest it never occurred to me to advertise on Craigslist! Thanks for the inspiration.

  14. Reply
    shamilla chanka
    May 08, 2011 - 08:00 PM

    I think I am finally getting some where with this marketing . I had no Idea this was going to be so difficult. Well i better get cracking . Thanks alot

  15. Reply
    Docucopies
    May 09, 2011 - 02:30 PM

    Interesting you mention online forums, SEO and Craigslist but make no mention of Twitter or Facebook. Both can be extremely useful if used appropriately. Searching Groups on Facebook may lead you to a highly targeted pool of Facebook users. Searching for certain terms or phrases on Twitter will show conversations relating to said terms.

    But be careful about how you approach people in the social media world. Numerous studies have been done that show people do not want to feel like they’re being marketed to in their social networks. (Picture some random door-to-door salesman trying to infiltrate your dinner party on the false premise of being a friend of a friend!)

  16. Reply
    Lauren
    May 09, 2011 - 05:11 PM

    Great advice Webs! 🙂

  17. Reply
    MAKE Waves
    May 10, 2011 - 12:22 AM

    there is another great site for marketing: webs.com! there are a ton of ways to advertise here too! we do it all the time with http://www.computerzombies.webs.com we will definitely try these out!

    -the MAKE Waves team

    • Reply
      the Webs Team
      May 10, 2011 - 02:08 PM

      @ComputerZombies: THANKS!

  18. Reply
    yehyakhan1967
    May 10, 2011 - 01:21 PM

    Thanks / For your helps

  19. Reply
    Trixy Racer
    May 10, 2011 - 02:17 PM

    Another was to increase traffic to your sight is called ‘affiliate marketing’. Google it to find out more about it. There are online magazines that allow you to write articles for them, stuff like “how to” articles. This is how it works. I went to “Ezine.com” and wrote a article about calories and weight loss. then they allowed me to reference my web page in the article. I wrote about weight-loss and then said” if you would like more information go to:” then you list your “web sight”. Everyone that reads the article is already interested in what your talking about and will likely click the link to your web page. I wrote 3 articals, first time in my life, and they published 2 of them. So, you can do it also. Good Luck!

  20. Reply
    Paul Anderson
    May 12, 2011 - 02:12 AM

    Great Article, I have been using Craigslist for about 4 Years as one of my marketing strategies with great success. All the tips are on point!

    Keep up the great posts !

  21. Reply
    ideal
    May 12, 2011 - 07:24 AM

    what can i add to my page , advertisment , google ads, or what ???

    http://www.ideal-cs.info

  22. Reply
    Frank Richardson
    Jun 02, 2011 - 03:01 PM

    Thanks for letting me discover webs.com. I have several sites on webs.com. The site above was domain name I needed. I have had many contacts discovering me and my many sites. I even wanted to help other talented contacts to assist them in building their sites. Some took my help and many didn’t. When I discovered how easy it was to build a website thru webs.com I almost exploded with joy. The fastest I built one site for a friend was less than 2 hours. He was amazed and I was just happy I could share my talent.
    God Bless and many great years ahead.
    Frank & Mary Richardson
    Columbus, Ga

  23. Reply
    Arie
    Jun 02, 2011 - 03:06 PM

    Also very effective is using your name on toilet paper, i know it’s not the first thought of having your neme wiping of … but just think of your name in each public toilet. it’s spreading your name everywhere!

  24. Reply
    Briarwood Julie
    Jun 02, 2011 - 03:35 PM

    Like other people who posted comments, I had not heard of Chatroulette, but will check it out.

    About 25% of my business (I own a B&B) comes from Craigslist and it’s very valuable. I’d recommend trying to post in different markets, especially if you have goods/merchandise/services that appeal to a certain geographic area. I advertise my B&B in other markets when the Steelers/Penguins are in the playoffs and out of towners may be looking for a place to stay.

    If anyone else is in the hospitality/B&B business I would HIGHLY recommend airbnb.com. It is completely free to use and has gotten quite sophisticated in the three or so years it has been online. They will have a professional photographer come in to take pictures of your place, among many other features.

    Keep these good articles coming!

  25. Reply
    Asad Sultan
    Jun 03, 2011 - 06:32 AM

    Totally aw-sum tips!. great work brothers ………..

    can’t we publish advertisements free for our websites?

  26. Reply
    Ralph
    Jun 11, 2011 - 05:01 AM

    i want to give you great thanks for the way you share your ideas with us.it very helpful. Webs.com is just the best
    http//www.goodpricesforyou.webs.com

  27. Reply
    James
    Jun 14, 2011 - 12:58 PM

    Nice tips there! I always like free advertising and their are some useful tools there, especially for beginners starting off too!
    Congrats on your 10th Anniversary Webs!

    Check out my website if you want… http://CyberNetTV.co.nr,
    It’s gradually grown with a few “hiccups” on the way. I wouldn’t say it was big or anything but I’ll try some of the tips on this blog! You can check out my “Exclusive Downloads Center” for the rare oppertunity for free downloads for Adobe Photoshop CS5 & Sony Vegas Pro 10.0! I also create HD videos, varying of genres, for it also!

    I’m always interested in other people’s sites on Webs (I often look at a few on Spotlight) So, if you want me to see your site, just ask! 🙂 Thanks Webs for such an informative Blog, displaying great features for all types of web-developers! 🙂

  28. Reply
    Barb
    Jun 15, 2011 - 03:33 AM

    Thanks for the great tips. Love webs and can’t wait to get my entire site up and running.

  29. Reply
    Nate
    Jun 16, 2011 - 01:29 PM

    I like your ideas! Ihave a few more that might help. I’m an author of Christian books and I even have a publishing company now. If you go to my website, scroll to the bottom to the Easy Book Promotion links. Click on them and learn some more great ways to promote your business!

  30. Reply
    Jacqueline
    Jun 17, 2011 - 04:28 PM

    Thanks for the great tips

  31. Reply
    7thenterprise
    Jun 18, 2011 - 05:12 AM

    I like craiglist!!!!

  32. Reply
    Denise
    Jun 21, 2011 - 09:11 AM

    Thanks for the information. Please visit my website:
    http://www.myventtherapy.com

  33. Reply
    julie
    Jun 21, 2011 - 11:09 AM

    Thanks for the great article. Im going to give chatroulette a try.
    I have had fairly good results by passing out a flyer at arts and craft shows and local festivals.

  34. Reply
    English-Proofreader
    Jun 21, 2011 - 11:32 AM

    Appreciate the tips…hope to give it a go.

  35. Reply
    zeetan
    Jun 26, 2011 - 02:54 AM

    First of all thanks for providing a great platform to showcase our portfolio via this webs.com in cost effective way. Finally m very thankful being updated by recent post. Great future ahead to this team.
    Always Keep it Up…….(-_-)

  36. Reply
    MUHAMMAD NAUMAN ALI KHOKHAR
    Jun 28, 2011 - 08:18 AM

    HAPPY CELEBRATION DAY

  37. Reply
    MUHAMMAD NAUMAN ALI KHOKHAR
    Jun 28, 2011 - 08:19 AM

    First of all thanks for providing a great platform to showcase our portfolio via this webs.com in cost effective way. Finally m very thankful being updated by recent post. Great future ahead to this team.
    Always Keep it Up…….(-_-)

  38. Reply
    chazzkorvex
    Feb 17, 2012 - 09:35 AM

    Awesome Free places to advertise – I will check out Chatroulette now – Thank You 🙂

  39. Reply
    Alex
    Mar 30, 2012 - 10:20 AM

    Awesome ideas folks. Does anyone in this forum pertain to strictly car sales?

  40. Reply
    london tantra
    Jul 22, 2013 - 10:51 AM

    bookmarked!!, I love your blog!

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