Zero Dollar Advertising for Small Business
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Zero Dollar Advertising for Small Business

Advertising is the lifeblood of a business. A 15 second advert at the American Super Bowl might cost you a million dollars, and even simple advertising like an entry in the telephone directory may cost you thousands of dollars a year. When you are starting a new business, or your existing business desperately needs more clients it can be pretty hard coming up with advertising dollars even if you know you need to.

Now this article has a big bold 'zero dollar' advertising title but the first thing to remember is that no advertising is free. There are actually three basic elements to the cost of advertising. 1) How much does it cost in dollars 2) How much time does it take (what other work is it taking you away from?) and 3) How effective is it?

Free ads aren't free if they take you hours to put in place and achieve a big zip in new client leads.

So the strategy I am going to lay out is one where the expense is in the time you take to set it up and although the results you get may not be jaw dropping, the upfront cost will be zero or close to it. Perfect for the business start up with time to do it and no dollars to do it with.

'A recent ad I ran in a site called Gumtree delivered me 4 new clients in just one week. Over $5000 in new business...'

Classifieds and directory type web sites can have very high volumes of activity and the 'drill down through categories' or 'search / advanced search to find' nature of them means that the browsing client is very targeted to a specific need and more often that not ready to transact right now. In marketing parlance, they are about as HOT a lead as you can find.

So how do you access this marketplace? Well it involves a little bit of 'pull' and a little bit of 'push' advertising.

Firstly - What to Look for in a Free Classified / Directory Site

There are literally thousands of these types of web sites around maybe more. They range from giants like ebay or craigslist to tiny little ones like the directory of Lapland's left-handed Lema herders. (

Basically you want to find a list of active and relevant to you web sites. So look for sites with high volumes of listings and that are relevant to your product or service. You can usually do that by checking the number of listings in each category. Might be worth spending a bit of time to assess the quality of the listings though. Sometimes free classified sites can get bombarded with spam ads and make it look busy when in fact it's not at all.

Free Adverts in Classifieds

Many of these classified sites have 'post a free ad' features that will allow you to advertise your product or service in an appropriate category. Now the free ad will have limitations, it might not stay at the top of the list for very long, or maybe disappears after a certain time. It may also have a financial option to improve its position.

Depending on your specific business you may be able to post a free ad in 1 or more categories. Consider advertising your product or service directly in the corresponding category and in 'work wanted' or in the job seekers section.

Start with list of maybe about 10 classified sites. I have included a list of popular ones relevant to Australia below. btw, did you check out that LLL site?

Now write an advert that describes what you do and how good you are at it, why your product/service is great value, and include an offer that is not too confronting....'Happy to discuss your needs, give me a call on...' you can experiment with this, but I don't like to go too hard with it for an Australian audience.

Include a couple of ways to contact you, phone, email and if you have a web site, or online portfolio of your work then include a link to it. Also because you want to monitor the success of these adverts try to make sure there is a way to identify where each new lead comes from so you can work out which classified sites are working best for you.

Responding to Job /Wanted Ads

Lots of these classified sites have 'Jobs' sections. Have a look through the job category to see if there is one that matches the product or service you provide. If there seems to be a good flow of jobs being placed, then add the site to your spreadsheet as one to monitor for available opportunities.

Prepare a response that covers your experience, knowledge, and a link to an online portfolio of your work if you have one. Keep it simple and let you previous work do the majority of the work for you. Include a nice greeting and polite request to contact. If there is a phone number just ring it and tell your story and what you can help them achieve.

Making this Advertising Process Viable in the Longer Term

In the early stages of business you may have time on your hands to manually work this as a process. In fact, I would strongly recommend trying this yourself first to help iron out the inevitable glitches in the work flow process of getting this done. As your business matures you may end up with higher priority or more profitable activities. So if you can get it to work for you, how can you lock in this strategy?    

My personal preference is to always look for ways to automate or at least reduce my involvement in the process and manage/monitor the outcomes. Reducing the time factor in this advertising strategy can be as simple as hiring a Virtual Assistant to manage your list of ad sites, keep your adverts on each site up to date, and perform the initial response to posted jobs on your behalf.

* Warnings and Red Flags

Before you even give this advertising strategy a whirl, there is one important thing to remember, and it's not bad advice for whenever or wherever you advertise, but particularly because the advertising medium is free.

Scammers, fraudsters, charlatans, time wasters and all manner rogue traders can hang out in free classified sites. Its not just the dodgy looking ads, it can be very sophisticated looking things as well.

I don't believe this is a reason to avoid free classifieds, just an extra reason to do due diligence before you jump in. Google searches can reveal a lot if want to check out someone's bonafides.

A website like will provide you with the highest quality in the industry.

Free Classified Sites

Australia Free Classifieds
No Flies
Australia Exchange
Free Ads Australia
Oz Ads Free Advertising
Oz Free Online Classifieds
Simple Trade

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