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"How to grow your business for free"

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It’s easy to spot a start-up entrepreneur: we’re such skinflints. Shivering in my ice-cold office, the early cash in my business, notonthehighstreet.com, went into investments for the future – like global domain names – rather than heating. For the rest of the business, we became masters of the cheap-or-free workaround, and it’s an approach to business I still advocate. My top six freebies provide answers to...

Marketing

You have two options:

◆ Social media. Build profiles on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter to have a constant conversation with your customers. There are free tracking tools – tweetstats.com and tweeteffect.com – to help you see what works for your competitors, too.

◆ Email marketing: mailchimp.com (free for up to 2,000 subscribers) and campaignmonitor.com (less than a penny per subscriber plus about £4 per campaign) both allow you to design and mail marketing emails then track open rates and clicks to your site, too.

PR

We were shameless in the early days, touting ourselves to win free editorial coverage. Target the right publications; find interesting, relevant stories to share; have good photographs; and be fast and 100% reliable. When it comes to PR, the harder you work, the luckier you get.

Market Research

Knowing your audience is critical. Create multiple choice questions (start with five) to ask the price people are willing to pay for your product or what they’re currently buying/doing instead. Invite people to respond using online software to gather and analyse responses, like surveymonkey.com, zoomerang.com and smart-survey.co.uk – useful, as ideally you should ask at least 100 respondents. Some are free, others start at around £15.

Performance tracking

Google Analytics (google.com/analytics) is completely free, and there’s even a training programme you can follow, to learn all about your website traffic, conversion rate and much more. Many bigger businesses use Google Analytics in preference to expensive software, because it’s so good. And alexa.com – just for fun – will give you a steer on how your site is faring in comparison with your competitors.

Blogging

Wordpress.com and tumblr.com are great blogging systems that need no tech skills and have a strong community around them. Post articles regularly, then send the text and images to other bloggers with permission to use your content as long as they include a link back to your site.

Sophie is MD & co-founder of notonthehighstreet.com. Email sophiecornish@stylist. co.uk or tweet @SophieVCornish

Main picture credit: Rex Features

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