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how to get the only free business advertising that works

free business advertising

Free Business Advertising: The Truth

When you’re a startup a business you need to get the word out that you exist. But most businesses in the UK have less than £2000 in startup funds . So it’s hardly surprising that so many people turn to free business advertising in an effort to try and spread the word about their business or brand.

They say that the best things in life are free. But the best things in business certainly are not. Good advertising costs good money and free advertising gets you nowhere except

a) lost in a sea of other free ads on crappy free ads website


b) on the marketing lists of business to business companies across the country. It’s a good bet that if you put your business on a free advertising site, for every genuine business inquiry you get you’ll get 100 calls or emails trying to sell you SEO optimisation, printer toner, business insurance or phone answering services.


So if you are trying to get free business advertising but can’t afford to take out an advert (see our article on how much it costs to advertise in the media) what do you do? The answer is don’t advertise at all. By getting media attention you get all the benefits of an advert with none of the expense. You get in the same newspapers, shows or blogs as the ads get featured in.

And that’s just the start…

Why free media publicity trumps business advertising everytime

People tend to spend a lot more time reading, listening or watching the content they actively chose to interact with rather than concentrate on the ads that happen to feature within it. Think about it. When was the last time you picked up a newspaper thinking ‘I’m really looking forward to looking at all the advertisements in this newspaper’, or turned on the TV just to watch the ad break. In fact ads are usually an annoyance we try to avoid.

free business advertising

Getting featured in the main content, rather than advertising around the edge is the way to go

Not convinced? Consider this.

Getting a link from a relevant media website is the best SEO (aka free business advertising) you’ll ever get

I’m lucky enough to be getting married soon and I’m treating myself to my first tailor made suit for the occasion. I found a fantastic tailoring label through a recommendation from a friend called Beggar’s Run. They are something of a success story having gone from starting with nothing to the point where they are about to take on a substantial premises in the super-fashionable Shoreditch in East London.

Whilst I was getting measured up I asked Cian, the proprietor how he got most of his business. He told me a lot of it came via word of mouth, as I had done. But a substantial amount of new customers came from a single article in Time Out which happens to rank #1 on google for the search terms ‘london wedding suit’ and ‘wedding suits london’.

That article entitled ‘Wedding Suit Shops in London’ unsurprisingly lists about 10 places where aspiring husbands like me can go and get themselves a fancy suit for their big day, and as you can see from the snapshot of the page below Beggar’s Run are the second business mentioned in Time Out’s list.

free business advertising via SEO

It would take a monumental effort to get a small business like Beggar’s Run to rank even in the top 10 for such a competitive search term as ‘wedding suits london’. But the chances are that most people searching for that term will click on Time Out’s guide and then choose from their curated (and seemingly expertly chosen) list. So in effect by being number 2 on Time Out’s list, Beggar’s Run are number 2 on google as well, without having to spend any money on SEO.

Getting Featured in the Media is a massive ‘trust signal’

trust signal

That leads me to another point, and that is all about trust. Taking the example above of the tailoring company I visited, by getting listed in a recognised media brand like Time Out, they are getting a huge vote of confidence from a source of information that a lot of people trust. Will you get that from free business advertising, or even paid business advertising? Absolutely not!

We trust media brands to sift through all the crap out there and just show us what is very good, very bad, very important or very entertaining. So we are way more likely to click on a link for a company from a respected media source than if we see an advert online, or even a google listing, for that company; especially if it’s a brand we don’t recognise. As media consumers we unconsciously accept that an intelligent journalist would have spent time researching the list so that we don’t have to, so we are likely to follow their recommendations.

A parallel is if some bloke you’ve never met before tells you a film is rubbish and a film critic from your favourite newspaper says the film is brilliant, who are you going to believe?

For more on what a media marketing system can do watch my introduction to it here

So how do you get this ‘better than free business advertising’ advertising?

It’s as easy as 1-2-3!

  1. 1. Get super focused about what media outlets would give you the best possible short-term and long-term exposure…
  2. 2. find out who works for them and…
  3. 3. start building a relationship with the journalists or producers that work for that media outlet

A great place to start is on Twitter. Most journalists are very active on twitter because they find it useful to look for stories and also it helps their credibility and employability if they have a large social media following.

If you can find a twitter list of journalists that covers your niche you’ll have a ready made list of potential media contacts waiting to hear from you. Here’s a video we made to explain this process.

Head to our blog on twitter lists for more information on the subject.

Once you have the list of journalists you need, start reaching out to them. Preferably you should offer them help to begin with rather than pitching them directly. For example the chances are at some point they will ask for assistance with an article they are writing. If you can help with what they need, that will put you in their good books and mean that when you do pitch them, they will at least remember who you are and open your email. But if you haven’t got time to do all that, simply retweeting them once in a while or congratulating them on a well written article will go a long way to helping.

Of course when you do come to pitch a journalist you will still need a good story, or a very good reason for them to feature you in their articles. There’s plenty of advice on how to position yourself elsewhere on the blog.

So free business advertising may not be worth pursuing. But getting free exposure in the media for your business most certainly is.


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