free_publicity_diagramAs a small business owner (I recently launched my first ecommerce business, Prepster Pineapple, a line of Hawaii-inspired cotton clothing), I know how important it is to get your name out there. I also know what it’s like to have a small marketing budget. However, as someone who has covered small business and ecommerce for years (for a number of publications) AND has worked in marketing and public relations (PR), I am here to tell you, it is possible to market or publicize your small business on a small budget.

Following are six inexpensive ways to publicize your small business.

1. Make sure the major search engines — Google, Bing, Yahoo — know about your website, so you will show up in organic searches. This should happen automatically, after your site has been up and running for a few days (or weeks). But if you want to make sure Google, say, will find you, you can ask Google to crawl your website. For additional information on this topic, check out this great post titled “Getting Listed & Ranked in Google, Yahoo and Bing” from 2 Create a Website.

2. Create a Facebook page for your business — and post on it regularly. A Facebook business page is a great way to publicize your business by directly engaging and interacting with your fans and prospective customers. Setting up a Facebook business page is simple. Just follow the instructions on Facebook’s “How to create a Facebook business page” page. (You can find the Prepster Pineapple Facebook page here.) In addition, many ecommerce platforms, such as the one I use, BigCommerce, make it easy for you to sell your products on your Facebook business page. And Facebook is free! You just need to invest some time adding new posts or photos that you think would be of interest to your Facebook fans and responding to comments.

3. Establish a Twitter handle for your small business. Not every small business needs or will benefit from having a Twitter presence, but it can be a real boon for small retailers who want to let people know about limited-edition items or sales or promotions and for food truck owners, to let customers when they will be in the neighborhood and where. (I have one friend who got a Twitter account just so he could keep track of his favorite food truck. And he is not alone.) Note: For those who already have a personal Twitter account, I highly recommend establishing a separate Twitter account dedicated to your business. Unless you run a bar, do you really want customers to know you went out and got drunk with the girls again last night and are so hungover you can hardly see straight? (While you may say, I would never do that! Trust me, it happens.)

4. Email people. Use email, either your business (or personal) email account or a service like Constant Contact, to tell your friends, relatives, and colleagues about your business, new products, or services. Just be careful to only email people when you actually have something to say — and don’t bombard their in-boxes with daily missives, unless they’ve signed up to receive daily emails on your website. (For tips on how to gain customers via email marketing, check out my recent article on the subject here.)

5. Put out press releases. Contrary to what some of you may think, press releases are still a great way to get the word out about your business. And there are many wire services (services that will host and broadcast your press release) that are targeted at small businesses, such as SBWire. I personally have been using PR Newswire’s Small Business PR service, as PR Newswire is well established and has a good reputation.  They also offered me a great deal: Membership was only $99 for the first year and press releases, distributed through PR Newswire’s WebRelease PLUS service for small businesses, are only $249 for the first 500 words — and they threw in the use one of their supplemental distribution lists, a $625 value, for free for my first press release.

6. Sign up to be a source on Help a Reporter. As a reporter, I use Help a Reporter, known as HARO (for Help a Reporter Out), all the time. And I have encountered dozens of small businesses and small business owners I would have never known about otherwise. (Thank you, Peter Shankman.) Prices range from free, for the basic service, to $19/month for Standard service (which includes a profile, keyword search, and text alerts — and is a lot less expensive than hiring a PR agency), to $149/month for the Premium package.

Have another suggestion regarding how entrepreneurs can inexpensively publicize their small business? Please leave me a comment.

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