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Operating on a shoestring? Twenty inexpensive ways to market your business

The prospect of marketing your business can be overwhelming, especially when you are a small business with an even smaller budget. The good news is that marketing doesn't have to cost thousands or even hundreds of dollars.

Here are 20 ways you can market your small business on a shoestring budget – or even on no budget at all.

1. Post amazing content on your blog. Your blog will be the foundation of all your other marketing efforts. It is where you direct visitors, nurture relationships and capture leads. Be sure to regularly post content that meets the needs and interests of your audience.

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2. Create a Google My Business account. If you want your business to show up in local search, a Google My Business account is a necessity. This will make sure your business is not only visible on search, but on Google Maps and Google+ as well.

3. Get free PR with HARO. How does free PR in national magazines and websites sound? Create a free account with HARO. (Help a Reporter Out) and respond to relevant media queries.

4. Build a free (or cheap) email list. Every business owner should have an email list! But when you are just starting out, you likely don't want to commit to the monthly fee that many email management services charge. Fortunately, most offer a free option for businesses with smaller lists. For instance, MailChimp offers its service for free for businesses with fewer than 2,000 subscribers. And when you are ready to take things to the next level, aWeber starts at just $19/month.

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5. Contribute an article to an industry magazine. Advertising in trade magazines can run you thousands of dollars. But contributing an article? Absolutely free. Many magazines accept guest contributions, and let you promote your business in your bio.

6. Attend local networking events. Check out local business events on Meetup.com, or see what events your local chamber or small business association is hosting.

7. Co-sponsor a contest. Contact a complementary business in your niche and suggest hosting a contest together. This can be a great way to cross-promote your businesses.

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8. Create an affiliate program.If you offer a digital product (like an ebook), set up an affiliate program with a service like E-junkie. At just five dollars per month, you can't go wrong! 9. Guest post on popular niche sites. Guest posting can be a great way to reach a whole new audience. Don't forget to include a link back to your site in your bio! 10. Comment on blog posts. Leaving thoughtful comments on blogs you follow can be a great way to get noticed by both the blog owners and their visitors.

11. Host webinars on your site. Hosting webinars can be costly; however, there are some companies that offer free or low-cost options for small business owners. Some cheap options are Webinars OnAir (starting at $19.97/month) or MeetCheap (starting at $9.97/month). If you are looking for an even cheaper option, Google Hangouts On Air is 100 per cent free.

12. Become a valued member of other people's communities (OPCs). Join Facebook and LinkedIn groups in your industry and offer valuable advice and information. As members see the value you are providing, they will want to find out more about you and what you offer.

13. Create a free Yelp listing. If you are a local business, consider adding your business to Yelp. It's free, and can be a great way to increase your visibility in the search engines.

14. Create a Facebook group. Create a topical Facebook group that your prospects would be eager to join. Center it around a topic or theme, not around your business. For instance, a marketer could create a group called "Marketing Tips For Small Business Owners."

15. Offer a free info-product on your site. Create an ebook or other digital product to give away on your site. This is a great way to get visitors on to your list and into your funnel! 16. Take advantage of Facebook's and Google's free ad credits. Facebook and Google are always giving away free ad credit vouchers. When you are signing up for services like web hosting or AdWords, take advantage of the free vouchers they offer and take PPC advertising for a test drive.

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17. Create your own infographics. It's easy and relatively cheap when you use a service like infogr.am. Infographics are great for getting back-links to your site! 18. Create eye-catching business cards.Making your business cards stand out from the pack can get you noticed at live business events. MOO offers unique designs. like square and mini cards, starting at just $19.99.

19. Host a local class. Offering a free on-site class can be a great way to attract locals to your place of business.

20. Offer amazing free info on social media. As a social media marketer, I can't leave this one out! Share valuable information with your social media fans and followers, and become a trusted expert in your industry. Wondering what you should share? Here are 50 ideas to help you connect with your social media followers.

Kim Garst is the founder and CEO of Boom! Social, a social media marketing firm for small business owners, entrepreneurs and marketers.

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