Bernard Eaton of Greenwood Retail presents seven ways to market and promote your business at no or very little cost.

Marketing includes any and every way we present our business to the market. Advertising forms an important part of the retailer’s marketing mix that mix also includes your product offer, merchandising and pricing, your logo, shop front, web presence and delivery vehicle livery, and most importantly, the appearance, behaviour, manner and communication skills of your people.

As anyone in business knows, marketing methods, especially advertising, can present a serious financial consideration – especially if they don’t work. There’s no getting away from the fact that a proper, time-limited, direct response sales event, will require substantial investment in advertising, but, thanks to the internet, there are now more ways than ever to attract positive attention, build your brand and raise your profile (and generate more sales) which cost either nothing at all, or at least very little. Here I’ve described some of the low or no cost methods I have used and have seen working for all kinds of retail businesses.

Video marketing is becoming a hugely popular and important way of getting consumer attention.


Look at it as a sort of free electronic postal system – although it is not a like-for-like substitute for physical direct mail – it can be very effective and is one of the best methods of low or no cost marketing. It is free if you do it yourself and relatively cheap if you have it done for you.  Build up a list by collecting the email addresses of your own customers.

Then you can send regular newsletters, details of any sales promotions and new product launches. There are free systems that can help you set up and manage email campaigns such as MailChimp, which can be found online. Don’t forget the special value of your existing customers. Don’t take them for granted. They are already your biggest fans. It costs little or nothing to keep in touch with them by email and doing so will help keep your business in mind, and your business relationship with them both healthy and profitable.

Social Media

While it’s free, easy to start up and theoretically has enormous potential, it can be time consuming. It’s best to start small with one platform, I suggest Facebook. The secret is to provide occasional posts which are interesting and useful - and therefore, more likely to be shared. Once you understand the type of customer who is responding, you can increase and target your activities to build up your following and try other platforms. Facebook advertising can also be cost effective.


Video marketing is becoming a hugely popular and important way of getting consumer attention. Set up a free Youtube channel and use it to communicate your news and promotions – imagine the ‘fear-of-missing-out’ effect you could create from showing your big sales event in full swing. Another great method of boosting your profile and following is to give away your wisdom and experience through simple demonstration or ‘how-to’ videos recorded on a smartphone. There are countless possibilities – DIY subjects such as flooring or decorating; measuring your room for carpet, curtains or upholstery; choosing the correct mattress etc.

Public Relations

Your relationship with your market is very important and having its trust is vital. PR provides endless opportunities to earn that trust by being seen helping or giving something back to your community. Some examples include: donate furniture or raise money for a local charity, home or hospice; give free in-store demonstrations or write articles in your local lifestyle magazine on interior design, sleep improvement or cooking tips.

Submit useful articles to your local newspapers and magazines explaining how your business is helping or impacting the local community. Remember that a customer service issue is also an opportunity to earn trust by doing the right thing.

Free Advertising

Advertise your brand and your promotions using low or no cost signage. Some examples include your delivery vehicle (obviously) and company cars. You could give out free printed balloons at local fairs. Donate quality magazines to local waiting rooms with a printed ‘donated by company details’ sticker on the back. Road side A-boards and verge signs can be very cost effective – if you can get permission for them! Or perhaps employ a student to hold a ‘FURNITURE SALE’ arrow sign on your street during peak traffic times (yes really – why not?) and hand out promotional flyers in town. You could also advertise your events on public notice boards.

Referral Schemes

As we all know, word of mouth is the most powerful form of marketing. While it happens naturally, at no cost, as a result of the good service and value which businesses strive to provide, it can be accelerated at low cost. Offer a ‘thank you’ gift or discount voucher to any current customer who provides the contact details of any new potential customer – although be careful that it doesn’t read like a bribe. Or, strike a strategic deal with a complementary business such as an interior designer if they source goods for their clients from you.

The Team

At the beginning of this article I wrote that your people form the most important part of your marketing mix. The attitude and performance of your people can make or break your business. Invest in them with good management and good training. Their appearance, manner, behaviour and they way they communicate with your customers will form perhaps 80% of what your customers think about your business.