Growth Hacking: 8 Free Marketing Tools for Small Business Success

Here are answers to often asked marketing questions which will provide you with some free marketing tools, advice and other resources you can use to help grow your business on that start-up budget.


1. Can I get free publicity?

Yes. You can generate media interest in your business without hiring a full service PR agency right out of the gate.  

Is there a trade magazine or website that you know your customers read regularly and value as their go-to source for informative articles, product reviews and industry news?  Check out their website.  Every publication publishes a media kit which will give you all of the insider info on their media activities.  Among other things, it contains demographic data on their readers and an editorial calendar listing all of the issues that will be published throughout the year, the topics or trends that will be covered and feature articles that will be included.

It may also include the names of the reporters working on specific stories or the topics on which they usually write.  You can reach out to them directly to pitch your company, area of expertise or thoughts on some of the topics they’ve written about in the past. This may result in you being interviewed for an upcoming article or they may invite you to submit an article yourself as a guest author with your name and company in the byline.

With so much content being generated today, the demand for experts, story ideas and resources is greater than ever.  HARO (Help A Reporter Out) publicity alerts bring real-time media opportunities to your email inbox and provide you with opportunities for free PR.  Just sign up and you can respond to reporters’ inquiries and requests for interviews in your area of expertise.  Publications range from small and local to major media outlets including USA Today, The Huffington Post, and The New York Times, just to name a few. You can become their trusted news source.  And, not all inquiries are for printed or online articles.  Some are requests for radio and podcast participation.  

2. Can I build an email marketing strategy on the cheap?

Email marketing is a valuable tool to generate new leads, nurture prospects and upsell existing customers but it’s something that many small businesses often delay in implementing due to the cost.

Try the MailChimp email marketing tool.  MailChimp truly understands the needs of small businesses and offers their service for free to companies who have less than 2,000 subscriber contacts.  You can send 12,000 emails per month to your contacts absolutely free.  Create professional newsletters using pre-built templates, report on customer behavior and nurture your prospects and customers with a clean, professional look.  

There are no contracts to sign and they won’t ask you for your credit card.  It’s really free.

3. How can I participate in trade shows and events on a very limited budget?

Industry trade shows are a good way to develop personal relationships with prospects and customers but it can cost tens of thousands of dollars to exhibit.  As discussed in more detail in our blog post, Tech Industry Trade Shows: From High Cost to No Cost, you can take advantage of free speaking opportunities offered by many industry events and trade shows.

Check the websites of the trade shows that are important to your business to see if they post a “call for papers,” "call for speakers," or announce that they are accepting abstracts.  They will usually publish a list of topics on which they are inviting businesses to speak and request that you submit an overview of your proposed presentation.  Anyone who is expert on a specific topic is able to submit a proposal.  

Speaking at an event frequently offers a significantly greater ROI than just exhibiting with an expensive booth.  Establishing yourself and your business as an expert on a specific topic and a leader in your industry goes a long way to building that authority that potential customers are looking for.  

Except for any travel expenses incurred for an out of town event, many opportunities to speak are absolutely free so put yourself out there.

4. I resell products and services of other companies. Any way I can take advantage of that relationship?

Definitely add their free directory listings to your small business marketing strategy.  We don't mean online directory listings just for the sake of inbound link building to your website. That’s old school and a bad practice.  

If you're reading this post and you’ve checked out our TECHmarc Labs website, you’re most likely in the B2B technology industry and possibly a reseller, VAR, MSP or other provider of products and services from companies like Microsoft, HPE, Citrix, Cisco, IBM, VMware, Oracle or others.  They each make their channel partner contact information available to other business partners and potential customers. 

These are free and important directories for developing new business relationships and bringing on new customers since your inclusion in them lends an immediate level of credibility.  In addition, the keywords and industry terms you include in your description, as well as the links to your website, will all be beneficial in your marketing efforts.  

These often forgotten vendor directories can be some of the most successful marketing channels for tech start-ups, generating higher sales and many more qualified leads.  

Not a tech start-up?  That’s ok.  Most companies that have a partner channel sales model make these directories available to help their resellers increase sales. Look for these directories in your industry.

5. How can I get to know my customers better?

Getting to know who your customers are (also known as a customer persona) is the first step in building any marketing strategy.  But, unless you can call and talk to each of your customers on the phone, how else are you going to do it on a regular basis?  

Surveying prospects and customers is free with SurveyMonkey.  This online survey tool lets you distribute surveys for free with 31 pre-built survey templates.  You can ask 10 different questions and receive up to 100 responses.  Surveys can be sent out by traditional email, through social media, as a website popup and more.  

Ask customers what their go-to websites are for valuable information so you can add them to your marketing plan.  Or, find out what topics are of interest to them and conduct webinars and write blog posts on those subjects.  Using surveys to gain more insight into who your customers are will benefit all aspects of your business.

6. I'd like to create customer videos but aren't they expensive?

Customer testimonial videos are more popular than ever and can augment the traditional written testimonials that you may already have on your site.  They’re considered more “real” because we get to see the customer, hear what they have to say and feel a connection to them. 

Customer testimonial videos don’t have to be flashy and cost thousands of dollars to produce.  Here are two opportunities you have to create free videos that you can put on your site.  

  • Are you going to visit your customer at their office or are they coming to visit you? Ask them ahead of time if they wouldn’t mind recording a short testimonial video. No expensive video equipment required. Use your iPhone or Android to record your customer’s comments on the spot.

  • Are you attending an event or trade show? Have you invited existing customers to stop by your booth or come to hear you speak? This is another great opportunity to catch them for a short video. It doesn’t have to be a high quality production. It just needs to be genuine. Honest and natural comments go a long way in convincing prospects of your value.

Tools You’re Already Using.

Here are a couple of resources that you are already using and can be turned into free marketing tools.

7. Use The Free Space In Your Email Signature.

Everyone has an email signature.  It usually includes your phone number, website, physical address and maybe even a link to your personal LinkedIn profile.  But what about promoting your business?

Think about all the emails that you and the rest of your team send out every day.  In addition to that, how many of those emails get forwarded to other people?  Hundreds and possibly thousands of people see your company’s emails on a daily basis and this is a great opportunity to do some free promotion.

  • Do you have a webinar coming up? Promote it in your signature.

  • Just published a new blog post? Include a link.

  • Exhibiting at a trade show? Include your booth number and invite people to stop by.

Just don’t overdo it.  It’s best to focus on one item per email but it is a great free marketing opportunity to get the word out to people with whom you communicate every day.  

8. Use Your Phone To Promote Your Business For Free.

How often do you call a company and are left on hold for minutes at a time?  What are you listening to while on hold?  Even if callers to your company are only on hold for a few seconds, they should be listening to you telling them what’s new with your business rather than that old elevator music.  

Tell them about your new product or service, a special promotion you’re running or give them a quick tip that will help make their lives easier.  

Customers and prospects will be put on hold, if only to be transferred to the correct department, so take advantage of that time to engage, inform and sell.  

This is by no means a comprehensive list.  Just a few tips to get you started.  Our goal is to take some of the successful marketing strategies, tactics and tools used big companies with large budgets and turn them into tools that small businesses with more limited budgets can also use. 

What are some free marketing tools you’re using to help grow your business?

Additional Resources

  • Lumen5 - A video creation tool which uses artificial intelligence to help anyone without training or experience create engaging videos in minutes from existing blog posts.

  • Canva - Enables you to quickly and easily design beautiful brochures, presentations, social media graphics, logos, business cards, and much more without being a designer.

  • HubSpot - It's so much more than a marketing automation platform. It's your go to online marketing resource to increase site traffic, connect with leads, and manage and close leads.

  • Grammarly - This automated grammar checker lets you write emails, blog posts, and more, error free.

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