It is known that promoting an online store can be a costly process as a lot of money can be spent on ads which may not always see a return on investment. As this is a necessary risk when promoting your store we decided to compile some ways to promote your store for free.
The following methods are not full proof and should not be used in lieu of paid advertising but as an inexpensive way to promote your store alongside your paid efforts.
Tap Into Your Personal Network
Most merchants will admit that the first few sales they receive on their online store come from people they know. Friends and family generally want to see you succeed in any big venture and so they will generally be more than happy to help out.
Add a link to your store in any social media bios of your personal accounts as well as your business accounts. Share your store on your personal Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts to announce it to your entire network.
Purchasing from your store is not the only way that your network can help out. Explicitly ask the closest people in your network to share a link to your store with their social following to show their support.
While this will not guarantee sales, it will get the word out about your store and generate some traffic from the get go.
Join Online Communities
If your store caters to a specific interest or community you should be able to find online communities to sell to.
For example, I am part of the pole fitness community which is very niche in itself. I am a member of forums onRedditandgroups on Facebook.
A lot of the stores I purchase equipment and gear from I have found through these pages and communities. You should join such groups and communities and become a regular contributor.
After you’ve built up a reputation and created authentic connections, you can share a link to your store, perhaps with a discount code.
Build Your Own Online Community
Something that I have noticed with a lot of stores I currently shop with is that they have been great at building online communities. Instead of approaching this as just a business opportunity, consider the community you cultivate to be true to you and to your brand.
It’s key to establish a strong brand identity to guide your company values. From there, you can establish a basis for your community.
In cases that I have observed, brands have adopted a name for the communities they have curated. Giving the community a name can really help establish a sense of belonging within the community which can help transform your customer base to a living, breathing collective of like minded individuals.
Some ways that you can do this is:
Customer Features: featuring your customers with your products on your social media can be a great way to help garner customer trust. Being able to see an actual customer with your product will add a sense of legitimacy to your business. Additionally your customers may really enjoy being featured on your social media! Encourage your customers to tag your brand in any social media posts with your products for an opportunity to be featured on your page.
Create a Newsletter: Create a dedicated newsletter for your new community. Interact with them and avoid trying to sell your products—prioritize the relationships and encourage conversation.
Maintaincommunity managementon your social media channels to show people you’re engaged with your community.
Post pictures of your community in action.
Create a private Facebook group for your community to engage in a safe space.
Publishers are always on the lookout for content to post. With a good pitch you could possibly win a spot in a blog or publication that your customers would read.
You could volunteer to write a guest post in an area that you have expertise in and include a description of your business and a link to your store in your author’s bio.
You could also pitch a news story, be it your store launch or the launch of a new product. Local newspapers, blogs and those who write specifically about your niche often like to feature a story about a business in their locality/field.
You could even ask an established blog to review your product if you are willing to provide that product for free.
Seek Out a Strategic Partnership
A great way to have another business’ customer base see your product is through partnerships. The key to this is finding a non-competitive yet like-minded brand that is catering to the people that you are trying to attract.
It can take some time and luck to find and create these opportunities, but the trade-off is that you can get really creative with the nature of the partnership:
Run a contest with your product as a prize on your partner's store/social media accounts.
Package samples of your product or exclusive discounts with complementary products (e.g. a drink mix sample with every order of your partner's water bottles).
Create a product together.
Offer to feature their product in your store and newsletters in exchange for them doing the same.
How many times a week do you see a post on Facebook or Instagram stating something along the lines of “For your chance to win simply; like our page, tag three friends in the comments section, and like and share this post!”?
I see this at least once a day and will admit that I have partaken in my fair share. What these stores are doing is getting their following base to promote their store for them with the chance of winning a spot prize. It is a win-win. Your store gets free promotion, you get more likes on your social media accounts and your customers have this fun opportunity to win a prize!
Competitions can tie into both building your own community and seeking out a strategic partnership.
You can take a look at our comprehensive guide on creating an engaging online contesthere.
Creating content to tell stories about your brand in blogs, emails, videos, or social media is referred to as content marketing. You can develop meaningful and engaging content for your customers by developing a content strategy.
A content strategy is the part of your marketing plan that defines how you use content to demonstrate your expertise and build a relationship with your audience.
Shopify happens to have an abundance of resources to help you come up with a content strategy that is right for your brand. We havethis help guidethat goes over the basics as well asthis blogwhich is filled with articles on different forms of content marketing.
Content Marketing on your store’s website can massively improve on your store’s SEO which in turn plays a huge part in bringing in sales and potential customers. The key to SEO is understanding what your customers will be looking for and ensuring your site is set up to best manage the products and content they are seeking. GitHub havethis fantastic free courseon content marketing that I would highly recommend checking out.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Most people when searching for an item online will start by Googling it. Google and other search engines will then determine which websites are relevant to the query and present them in order of relevance.
There are many factors that can make your online store appear higher in search results:
The number of natural (not paid or social media) links pointing to your store from other websites
The authority of the website based on engagement and other factors
The age of your domain name
Website structure and content that is optimized for search engines
Now while the first three may be out of your control, you can do everything in your power to make sure that your website structure and content is optimized for search engines. While SEO is far too broad of a topic to get into in any real detail here, Shopify does have a great video series on SEO for beginners which you can findhere.
While SEO may not be actively promoting your store for free, it is definitely doing work in the background making sure that you get preference when it comes to search engines.
Not all store promotions must be done through paid advertising online. While less conventional, there are many ways to promote your store without breaking the bank and cutting further into your marketing budget. While these efforts can be very fruitful I would recommend implementing these practices alongside your paid for marketing to truly get as many sales as possible.