10 Free Ways to Grow your Brand (fo' Free) before your First Client

That Small Biz idea of yours has been cooking in your noggin for a while now. You’ve got the name, you’ve bought your Small Biz Start Up Guide, and now you’re wanting to grow. When you’re on a shoestring budget (like most newbie small biz owners are) you need the maximum ROI (return on investment) on your TIME. Here are 10 ways to grow your brand WITHOUT breaking the bank… actually, without spending a penny!

*Note: these are great things to do while you’re working your way through your guide. However, we suggest it might be a good idea to read all the way through Phases 1, 2, and 3 before taking a deep dive into your marketing.


Email Lists

If you’re just starting your business, the best way to start growing (for free) is to start an email list. Why would you want an email list anyway? Email lists are a great way to capture a captive audience. Social media will come and go, and small business accounts have a harder and harder time standing out amongst big brands with big marketing budgets. Not to mention the hated ‘algorithm’ that social media platforms use to prioritize content make it much harder to break through the noise.

Email lists, on the other hand, are a much more direct way to market to your ideal client because that person already said, “yes! Send me what you’re working on, I’m interested.”

GET STARTED - If you don’t have an email list, start one. Today. We suggest using Mailchimp since it is free up to the first 2,000 subscribers. Even if you don’t have a website yet, you can create a “pre-launch” subscribe list with a landing page. Consider using copy like “Coming Soon! Subscibe below to get the latest news and updates from _______.”

LEVEL UP - If you do have an email list, it’s time to get smarter about how it’s organized. Use segments and tags to sort your list by topic or interest. Set up automations like welcome messages, nuture series’, and drip campaigns. Email marketing can be super powerful in keeping your ideal audience engaged, when used correctly. For more resources on Email Lists, read:


2 Pinterest

Pinterest is one of the most underutilized tools for small businesses. Many of us use Pinterest to collect inspiration, save ideas and cruise pretty pictures. But, as a small business owner, there is probably a good chance that your ideal customer also uses Pinterest. All the more reason you should be creating the answers to their search terms.

GET STARTED - Make sure your Pinterest Account is optimized for business. Read: Be Pinterest-ing: Getting Started with Pinterest for Small Business.

LEVEL UP - Create on-brand Pins on a regular basis. Save time by batching all your content at the top of the month, or creating graphics templates for your Pinterst Content. The best pins are vertical (900x1600 pixels is best) and includes a high resolution image, clear title and call to action. Pins should be linked to YOUR WEBSITE (preferrable blog, product or downloadable content). Create boards that will help attract and serve your ideal client.


3 IG Stories

Instagram stories is a great opportunity to engage with your ideal audience on a regular basis. Because they expire in 24 hours, there seems to be a lot less pressure on making your instagram stories picture-perfect. Stories give you the small biz owner a chance to show things as they happen, or behind the scenes, so your audience and ideal customers get a sense for who you are, what you offer, and all of the new and exciting things you have to share.

GET STARTED - Make a plan to show up regularly on your instagram stories, talking face to camera. It may feel silly or ridiculous to be talking into your phone, but the more you do it, the easier it gets! Be sure to utilize the built in features like hashtags and location tags for increased visibility. Adding Gifs gives your stories an extra layer of visual interest and can be a fun way to add emphasis to what you’re saying or showing.

LEVEL UP - Create stories that serve a purpose and add them to your story highlights. For example, if you own a small boutique and get a new shipment in of product for your store, share an unboxing style video at the beginning of every week and share them to a “New in the Shop” Highlight. Another example: if you’re in a service based business like home organization for example, stories would be a great spot to share dramatic “Before & Afters” of how you helped a homeowner clean out their garage or office space. Bonus points if you can get your clients/customers on camera to talk about how much your product or service affected them.


4 fb Groups

Facebook groups are wonderful forums for discussion, discovery and connection. But, proceed with caution and know that some groups are better than others. We suggest joining in on groups with a range of members (some super small, and some super large).

GET STARTED - If you’re not in facebook groups for your small business yet, consider joining groups with others in your industry. For example, if you’re launching a Podcast, think about joining a group like “Help a Podcaster Out” a group dedicated to connecting Podcasters with potential guests, and a spot for Podcasters to ask Qs, get advice, and learn more about the Podcasting industry.

🤫 PSST! Did you know purchasers of the Small Biz Start Up Guide can be added to our secret facebook group? Shop Now >

LEVEL UP - Try joining Facebook Groups/Communities that your ideal client is already in. For example, if you own a vegan bakery, consider joining some local Veganism facebook groups. Pay attention to the discussions taking place, and always make sure you’re providing value to your ideal customer. Try not to spam or overwhelm the group with your links, and instead look for chances to be the answer to someone’s problem. For instance, if someone says they are looking for somewhere to get a vegan birthday cake for a friend, absolutely let them know about your bakery, or better yet, direct them to a blog post you’re written on best vegan birthday cakes in your area.


5 Go Live

Facebook, Instagram and Youtube are all platforms that allow for live broadcasting. Going Live allows you to connect with others in real time, provide incredible content, and keep people coming back for more. Instead of overwhelming yourself with all three, pick a platform that you love to use the most.

GET STARTED - If you’ve never gone live on your social media, do it. Save yourself from awkwardness by writing out an outline of what you’d like to say, do, or show ahead of time. If you’re a product based business, go live to show how your product works. If you’re a service based business, go live to educate your audience in some way. For example, if you’re a nutritionist and health coach, go live to show healthy swaps you can make for better work week lunches, or demonstrate how to effectively read a food label.

LEVEL UP - If you’re a regularly using Live Broadcasting features, level up by setting a consistent content calendar and teasing topics ahead of time. Go Live consistently, whether 1x per day or 1x per week at the same time, so that your viewers can know when to expect content from you. Create user engagement by posing questions or polling your audience during the live to give you real-time feedback.


6 LinkedIn

Often overlooked as a social platform, LinkedIn is a wonderful way to grow your brand before you land your first paying client.

GET STARTED - Make sure your profile is accurate by updating prior employment, your interests, your skillset, and the links to your business’ webiste and social media handles. Your profile image should be crisp, clean, professional and hint at what you do. Connect with people in your industry, or connections of connections to grow your network.

LEVEL UP - Just connecting is not enough. LinkedIn has hundreds of thousands of users, and if you’re not consistently posting content to the platform, you’re potentially missing out on new business. Create content for LinkedIn that is engaging, thought-provoking and that positions yourself as the expert in your small biz. For example, if you own a sports store, post links and articles about new advancements in Sports Technology.

We would love to connect with you on LinkedIn! Connect with Lauren, Braden and Michelle!


7 Freebies

Creating free content for your audience is a wonderful (and effective) way to grow your brand. How can you take what you know about your business and offer it to your audience in a bite-sized chunk? Think about worksheets, checklists, or guides that you use with your clients. If you’re a product based business, think about creating free content that illustrates all the uses of your product for maximum efficiency. *IMPORTANT: Hook these up to an opt-in, meaning the user can only get the content if they give you their email address. This helps grow your email list, and now that person is more likely to open emails from you seeing as you’ve helped them before for free.

GET STARTED - If you’re not already offering free content downloads on your website in exchange for email addresses, start. You don’t even need a fully functional website to do this! Lead pages, or landing pages with mailchimp and other campaign builders can be just what you need to show a preview of what they will get, the title of the opt-in, and an email input box. Read more: Freebies: What, Why and How to Offer Free Content as a Small Business Owner.

LEVEL UP - If you’ve got free offerings on your website, take a peek at your analytics. How many downloads do you have? Which Opt-in is the most popular? How can you create social media content to drive more ideal clients to your great free content?


8 Collaborate

Stop! Collaborate and listen. As the expert in your own small business, how can you share your expertise with others? Consider writing for guest blogs, being a guest on podcasts, making an appearance in a Youtuber’s videos, or doing a social media takeover of another account. The cross-promotion possibilities are endless.

GET STARTED - To make sure a collaboration is the best use of your time, create a very specific ideal client avatar (covered in Phase 1 of the Small Biz Start Up Guide). Getting specific on who it is YOU want to work FOR, will help you decide who you want to work WITH. Make sure that someone you collaborate with also shares your ideal client for good business synergy.

LEVEL UP - Take your collaborations to the next level by going after the thought-leaders in your industry. Who is ‘THE’ person that others in your field look to for inspiration? For example, if you’re an organics makeup artist, how can you connect and collaborate with the best safe and sustainable product lines in the country? How can you attract celebs that care about healthy beauty routines?


9 Grid Plan

In Instagram terms, your ‘grid’ is how all of your images look alongside one another when someone comes to your profile. Creating a visually cohesive and engaging grid can take some practice, but the benefit is that you’ll attract more visitors to your profile if things look perfectly polished and cohesive.

GET STARTED - The first step in creating a cohesive grid is using a consistent color palette. Creating color palettes and moodboards are covered in Phase 3 of the Small Biz Start up Guide. Once you have your colors finalized, you can use a free Grid Planning app like UNUM or Planoly to lay out your images. Lean on the classic art principles like repetition, contrast and symmetry to design a beautiful grid.

LEVEL UP - Although beautiful images are half the battle on a platform like Instagram, you might find that your engagement falls flat without stellar captions. Each caption is an opportunity to draw your ideal client in to your brand, your personality, your story, and ultimately your business. Illustrate (but with words) how your business helped your client/customer by telling their stories.


10 Graphics

Social Media Graphics give you an opportunity to put out on-brand content in a visual style that your audience can connect with. For example, if you’re running a nonprofit that announces a new scholarship recipient at the end of each month, coming up with a graphic style for that post (image + text + logo) will create consistency for your audience, so that they visually know what to look for to get that information.

GET STARTED - Gather inspiration for your graphics by cruising through Pinterest or instagram. Do your competitors make their own social graphics? How can you use your brand colors, fonts, and styles to create original content for your audience? Read more: DIY Social Media Graphics on your Phone.

LEVEL UP - Take your branding and graphics chops to the next level by coming up with a unique icon set. Icon sets can be used on your website, within your blog, on print material like brochures, postcards, tags, etc. I also love to see icon sets used as instagram stories highlights and incorporated into social graphics.


IN CONCLUSION

In all, marketing your small biz idea will have maximum impact when you’ve already tackled the business planning, legal set up, and basic branding portions of your small bis (covered in Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 respectively). Whether you’re just starting out, or looking to up-level your marketing game, this list of tips and upgrades can be used as a check-in on your small biz marketing over time.