Facebook ads. Google ads. Instagram ads. Twitter ads…

You’d be forgiven for thinking that ads on social media are the only, or dare I say it, the best way to market your business these days online.

But there are other effective ways you’re probably overlooking. And you don’t have to spend a dime on marketing your business in any of these five ways:

Use online forums for customer service

Most times people mention online forums, they’re brushed under the umbrella of social media. And they’re right. But I don’t mean Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter here.

I mean sites like Reddit, Quora, software review sites (if you’re a SaaS business), etc.

For example, Reddit drove over 64% of social media sales for Uniqlo, an ecommerce site in 2015. How did they do it?

An ecommerce manager for the company uses her personal account as an official company representative and answers customer service questions on relevant sub-reddits. When they have good deals or are launching new products, they post it on a sub-reddit for helping people find inexpensive clothing. They generally come off as helpful instead of exploitative as that’s a huge turn off for Reddit users.

Provide continuous feedback, deliver value to your existing customers, and practice continuous improvement. These may be principles of agile testing, but they surely help with customer service for customer acquisition too.

Monitor conversations going on about your business on online forums (where customers often go to complain more), and take time to give thoughtful and helpful replies. This can win you more customers.

Write guest posts

Writing for industry blogs and media publications is still a good way to create awareness for your product or service today.

Apart from the increased expert status and added credibility such posts will give you, you can get valuable backlinks to posts on your company blog if you produce great content there too. After optimizing your posts for search engines, you need all the links you can get to rank higher in search engines and get more search traffic.

Leo Wildrich, former COO at Buffer wrote about 150 guest posts in nine months to help Buffer get its first 100,000 customers. During that period, as chief writer of the Buffer blog before content people were hired, he also wrote over 200 posts for Buffer.

You can write the guest posts yourself, have the content guy(s) on your team do it, or hire a ghostwriter.

Get on podcasts

There are 500 million active blogs in the world today, but only 250,000 podcasts. That means for every podcast, there are 2,000 blogs. Just imagine!

Start with pitching smaller, niche shows and working your way up. Because most popular podcasts will not accept your pitch unless you have several guest appearances on other podcasts.

Just like pitching guest posts, spend some time to listen to previous episodes of the show you want to be featured in. It helps you with ideas and topic angles to pitch your podcast host. Then you can send a personalized podcast pitch.

Being a podcast guest isn’t just about raising awareness for who you are or what your business is about.

I tell clients all the time that it’s probably easier to get links to their websites and content through guest podcasting than via guest posting. Podcasts have show notes, and hosts often link to websites, posts, and books of their guests. That’s some white-hat link building there.

Imagine what getting on podcasts would do for your search traffic and revenue like it did for Hal Elrod. In an Art of Charm podcast, he reveals that being on 150 podcasts in the two years since the release of his book is the biggest reason he now sells more books monthly. Think what getting on even 20 to 50 podcasts could do for your business.

Offer referral incentives

A LinkedIn study shows that 84% of B2B decision makers start the process off with a referral. And referred prospects convert 30% better than leads from other marketing channels.

Many companies offer monetary referral incentives. But we’re talking about saving money here, or not directly spending money on marketing activities.

You can launch referral programs that rewards customers with product-based benefits.

  • Dropbox gives an extra 500MB to customers who made a referral and the referred customers.
  • FreeAgent offers a 10% discount to customers who make referrals and the referred customer for as long as they use their service.

Get more customers today

It may take some time to see results with these tips. Patience is key. So keep tweaking to discover what works better for you. Someday, you’ll have more customers than you know what to do with.

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