Hotels and Industry Outlook / 27 x Free Marketing Ideas February 2021

From 4 Jan most of the establishments turned into little ghost towns. Demand collapsed and not a peep was heard, not even weekends.

Reports of airlines and countries banning South Africa is an almost daily headline on several publications. The reality have set in that we are not out of it yet.

There have been movement on vaccinations together with sharp declines in infection rates locally and in most of our source markets especially UK and US. Therefor we are on the road to recovery but again: where the end of it is, is unknown. The Lions Tour to SA is hanging in the air with whispers going around it moving to early 2022 and on top of that, Australia offered to host it (reported about 6 hours ago). Up to the time of this report nothing have changed and they are still booked for SA in July 2021.

Other industry players (Tour Operators, DMC’s, etc) is now confidently forecasting a Q3 return but most likely staggered from October 2021 onwards

In light of this we have to continue to try and capture our local market and the below might be handy (adapted from

  1. Create a free Google My Business account

For local businesses especially, a Google Business Profile has become one of the most effective free marketing strategies available. This free listing allows your business to show up on Google Maps, the local section of Google Search, and the right-side Knowledge Panel for branded searches.

  1. Post (and engage) on social media

Increasing social media engagement and building a community online is a free way to grow your small business while expressing your brand’s personality and building trust with your audience. Create business accounts and participate in the big social media sites—Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and more. This is something you can do whenever you have a few minutes to spare

  1. Tag people (and brands) on social media

Tagging your loyal customers, brand evangelists, or even neighboring companies and vendors on social media can broaden the organic reach of your business to a new potential audience, help you grow your following, and potentially even attain more clients. You should also encourage your followers to tag your social media handle or business location in their posts

  1. Use hashtags!

Another free marketing tactic that can broaden your reach is to incorporate hashtags into your social media posts—on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok for sure but also for Facebook and LinkedIn.

Broad or trending hashtags can help you reinforce your brand identity, but they should not be the only hashtags you use. More specific hashtags (sort of like long-tail keywords) are good for when you’re providing resources or advice. Location-based hashtags are a must if you’re a local business. And don’t forget custom hashtags! Apply a mix of hashtag types in your posts so they can reach the people for whom they are meant.

  1. Don’t sleep on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a major social media site that is often under-utilized. Don’t just add network connections and sign out; enter into dialogue with the connections you make, share your blog posts and offers, join and contribute to forums, and share others’ quality content.

By enabling other professionals to grow and educating your potential customers, you can build your brand and earn trust and respect in your industry. Also, encourage all your employees to get active on the platform too!

  1. Do some local SEO

The best part about Google’s algorithm is that it is designed to serve up the most accurate, high-quality, and relevant content for any given search query. It’s not pay to play, so this levels the playing field and enables small businesses to compete with large competitors for page one real estate.

Local SEO is free, but it can take some time, so start now and keep working; the benefits over time can be huge. Here are some local SEO must-dos:

Add location-based keywords (think: “Portland bakery”) to the titles, headings, and body content of your main website pages.

Get listed in online directories, making sure your information is identical across platforms.

Publish pages or blog posts specific to the neighborhoods you serve.

  1. Develop an email marketing plan

Email marketing is a great way to get new visitors engaged with your business, as well as maintain relationships with your existing customers. And though email marketing isn’t new, it’s still one of—if not the—most reliable ways to achieve a strong return on your marketing investment. Here’s how to ensure that:

  • Put thought and creativity into your subject lines.
  • Make sure every email has an offer that encourages your readers to take a next step.
  • Track your performance and run A/B tests to see what copy and offers resonate with your list.
  • free and low budget marketing ideas email marketing
  • Some more easy email marketing ideas:
  • Get new website visitors to sign up for your newsletter by offering a bonus content piece or coupon/discount for subscribing.
  • Slowly nurture your subscribers via email until they are ready to become paying customers.
  • Start your promotional email campaigns with a free email marketing service like MailChimp.
  1. Create data-rich infographics

Infographics are insanely powerful as marketing tools. They’re visual eye candy, easy to digest, and people love to share them, so they’re a great way to drive up referral traffic and links.

Hiring a designer to make you an A+ infographic can hit your wallet hard, but you can make your own on the cheap with free tools like Canva, Adobe’s free vector kits,  or our personal favorite, Visme, that provide all the elements needed to make a clever, sharable infographic. Not sure where to start? Check out for inspiration. They have beginner and advanced examples for you to browse through.

  1. Claim free ad promo credits

While massive ad campaigns may be out of your budget, there are often discounts and coupons floating around for Facebook or Google Ads. Some web hosting services offer advertising discount codes as part of their membership offerings. Check and see if yours does. Of course, receiving the promo is easy, but you’ll still want to brush up on your PPC skills to get the best results and audience insights.

  1. Apply for business awards

Most industries have business awards you can win, providing you with an online badge you can place on your website. Badges like these can boost credibility, and as a result, increase sales. Here are some tips on how to market an award and make the most of it.

  1. Feeling brave? Give guerilla marketing a try

Guerilla marketing emphasizes creativity over budget, and strategies are often cheap and easy to implement, especially when localized. Broadcast your Twitter handle with sidewalk chalk, use an abandoned storefront as a canvas for street art, or plaster custom stickers on urban décor that makes those who stroll by look twice.

  1. Publish great content

Content marketing, if done with care, is a highly effective tactic that doesn’t require a huge budget. Not only does this serve to demonstrate your authority, expertise, and genuine desire to benefit your audience; but also, Google prioritizes high-quality content that best answers the questions its users are asking. So it makes your website more visible on Google and brings in more free traffic.

  1. Start a blog

One great way to make content a regular part of your marketing efforts is to start a blog.

Small businesses use blogging to drive traffic to their website, increase user engagement, improve their online visibility, and strengthen their overall SEO. It’s a completely free way to promote your small business online, through tales about your business and useful information your potential clients are seeking out.

Blog posts don’t have to be long and complex—speak in simple terms, target a different topic with each post, and incorporate the keywords you’re targeting into each post in a natural way.

  1. Form industry partnerships

Team up with a business related to your industry (but not a direct competitor) for a joint project. This can be done locally and offline through some kind of special event, or online (which could still be locally) with a webinar or promotional giveaway.

Partnering with another business means twice as much notice and exposure to a whole new audience related to your niche.

Industry partnerships are a great marketing tactic because they allow small business owners access to marketing know-how, technology, and customer bases that they could not have achieved on their own. You need to put careful thought and effort in if you want to form a profitable partnership. Clarify expectations, engage with and vet different businesses, assess how you can work together, and have several conversations before making things official.

  1. Post helpful videos

Video is a highly popular medium for consumers, and while it can cost you a lot to get a professional video produced and uploaded to YouTube, you don’t have to hire a professional. DIY video marketing is easy with today’s personal devices and social media apps like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.

Add a branding message or personal message, whichever is appropriate. Be transparent. Finish with a strong call to action (e.g. Call us to set up an appointment! or Place your birthday cake order today!), and then distribute the video on your website, YouTube and other video hosting sites, social media channels, and even in emails.

  1. Turn employees into brand ambassadors

For many small businesses, word of mouth is an important marketing strategy to boost sales. Research shows that customers are more likely to buy a product or service if they get to know about it from strangers; so imagine the effect of friend or family referrals.

By treating your employees well and encouraging them to become brand ambassadors, you can tap into the incredible potential of their networks. Your employees have genuine interest in your business, so why not leverage their voices and social networks to reach out to a larger audience?

Think about hosting an exclusive discount sale like a “friends and family” promotion every now and then. Learn how to use Facebook for your business—create an event, invite employees, and ask your employees to share it with their personal and professional contacts. Encourage them to share the status and tag people to increase the reach of your event.

  1. Recycle your old content

Make the most of the work you’ve already done. If you have a content hit, repurpose it for other channels! Turn a successful webinar into a video tutorial. Transform a group of related blog posts or other content from your site into an ebook that you can promote through site popups or your email marketing program.

  1. Host classes and events

Plan an event or class to host, then print out flyers and post them on community bulletin boards (libraries, coffee shops, local colleges and adult ed centers). While most community bulletin boards won’t let you post business advertisements, they’re often more than happy to post a flyer promoting an educational event or class.

  1. Run informative webinars

If reaching a potential audience in person doesn’t sound like your idea of a good marketing idea, you can always host a webinar. Webinars are a free way to promote your business by providing helpful information to potential interested customers.

  1. Attend industry/networking events

Attending trade shows and industry conferences is a smart way to take your small business to the next level. These events bring together business minds from all industries who want to find new marketing strategies to grow their business. It’s also a way to network with like-minded people and develop new B2B contacts. In addition, these events have exclusive seminars designed to sharpen your skills in sales, social media, advertising and other contemporary ways of promoting your small business.

  1. Host a social media contest or giveaway

Running a social media contest or giveaway is a smart and effective marketing strategy requiring minimal resources. You may need to cough up some dough for a prize, or offer a product service at no charge, but the number of participants and new potential leads you get will be well worth the price. Really tight on budget? You don’t technically need a super expensive prize to get participants. Even a couple high-end water bottles or fancy backpacks might be enough of a draw for some users.

  1. Do an in-store business card drawing

Put a fishbowl at your place of business with a sign inviting visitors to drop their business cards in for a chance to win something from you. For example, a restaurant might offer a free (socially distanced, if applicable) lunch for the whole office.

At the end of the month you’ve collected a ton of business cards, and while you can only have one winner, there’s no reason those other business cards have to go to waste. Use the email addresses provided to let users know that while they haven’t won this time, they are more than welcome to join your mailing list, which will notify them of future giveaways and special offers.

  1. Set up a customer referral program

Offer existing customers a free product, free month of service, or some other reward for referring new customers. Remember, word-of-mouth is powerful stuff, and customers referred by other customers are so friends telling friends about your business is incredibly valuable. Here are some ideas for getting more referrals from your existing customers and clients.

Critical Pass referral program offer

Some more referral marketing stats in case you’re not convinced of the value of this low-budget marketing tactic:

  • 74% of consumers consider word of mouth the primary factor behind their purchasing decisions.
  • Customers referred by a friend are four times more likely to buy.
  • 77% of consumers are more likely to buy a new product if their friends or family recommend it.
  • According to referral marketing statistics, referred customers have a 37% higher customer retention rate.
  1. Join in on local events or contests

If the town or city in which you are located hosts annual celebrations, weekly farmers markets, or other contests, make it a point to attend these events to get to know your local audience. This is the best form of market research. If applicable, set up a table or booth at the event, become a sponsor, or donate a product or service of yours as a raffle or contest prize. It’s a low-cost way to raise awareness of your business.

  1. Get some awesome business cards

Get yourself some snazzy business cards, then give them to every person you lay eyes on. Every handshake should come with a business card. The more people who find out about your business, the better – even if it’s just a quick glance at a business card.

  1. Put magnets on the company car

Stick a magnetic sign on your company car and voila, you have a brand awareness campaign on wheels, spreading the world all over town (just be sure to obey traffic laws). Bumper stickers and window decals also work for this method, and they are generally not expensive to get made.

  1. Run a Facebook campaign

If you only have a tiny advertising budget, it might still be enough to run some Facebook ads! The cost per click for Facebook advertising can be very low.

Hope it helps a bit!

All the best, Jaco