As a small business owner, you know that money can be tight, especially when just starting out. You have to prioritize where to spend that precious cash. We’ve all heard the phrase "speculate to accumulate" and in many cases that is true. However, I don’t believe that’s the case with marketing your business.

As a small therapy business owner, I have seen how little return there is on shelling out for print and online advertising. You can spend hundreds, even thousands, on paying for adverts in local publications and online directories and barely get a new customer in return.

These are my top five methods of growing your client base without spending a dime.

1. Writing articles for local magazines

This is a great little tip. Most communities have a local magazine or newsletter. These small publications are often in need of content to include. Offer up your services, free of charge!

Write a short article, on a subject with a wide appeal — back pain or knee pain are good examples. Keep it simple but try to make it interesting. Offer up a handful of facts which aren’t well known and talk about how what you offer can help.

2. Talks for local groups

This runs along a similar vein as the first tip. There are so many groups you could try, for example — local sports teams, activity groups, women’s groups, and local interest groups. Contact the leader or organizer and offer to come and do a talk for the group on a particular subject or ask what they would like to hear about.

Getting out and meeting people is easily one of the best ways of gaining new clients. People like to see a face and find out a little more about you and what you do before committing their hard-earned money on your services.

Giving a talk helps to convince people that a) you know what you are talking about, and b) what a great person you are for offering up your time and making that effort!

3. Social networks

Social networking is definitely one of the top free ways to market your business! If you’re a novice at this kind of thing, invest in the help of a friend or read and watch online tutorials on how to set up accounts and get the most out of them.

Every business should have a Facebook page, as well as Twitter and Instagram accounts. As a professional, get yourself listed on LinkedIn.

The way to get ahead with social media is to connect. Follow people in similar fields, invite them to like your page back. Ask friends and family to follow you and to share your page. Get involved in conversations. Use local business groups to add your business and community groups to advertise.

But the most important factor to creating successful social media pages is to regularly add good quality content! Post interesting facts, infographics, images, short articles. Share other peoples’ posts that you think your followers may find interesting. You can also use the page to add special offers, competitions and update people on appointment availability.

4. Online presence

Make sure you have a good website. To many people this sounds expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There are several platforms out there where even the most computer illiterate could manage to set up a site. Wordpress is a good example. If you’re really not sure, try asking a more computer-savvy friend or relative to help.

When I say a good website, it doesn’t have to be flashy! Sometimes it’s better if it’s not. A simple site that displays all of the necessary information is all that you need. Make sure you have the following information:

  • Your address and contact details (phone, email, social media accounts)
  • A map and directions
  • An "about me" section that tells people who you are, what your qualifications and experience are
  • Photos of yourself (people like to know who they are coming to see)
  • Photos of your clinic, if possible
  • Testimonials so people can read about just how good you are

You also need to make sure that your website can be found. That’s trickier. Make sure it is on all of your social media accounts. Submit the website details to google so that they can index your page to help you appear in search results. Also add your business listing on google so you appear on google maps.

5. Recommend a friend

This is a great scheme to introduce to get your existing clients to encourage their friends and family to visit you!

Give your clients some cards or fliers (these can be home printed, nothing fancy!) that they write their name on. They can then give them to people they know who might be interested in an appointment. If that person then comes to see you, the person that referred them gets a discount on their next treatment. You could also offer a discount to the new client if you wanted.

I’ve found this to be a great little scheme to run. Most people like a personal recommendation when going to see a professional for any sort of treatment.

Otherwise, it’s a bit like picking someone at random. How do you know who they are, what they are like and if they’re good at what they do.

Adding a little bonus for your existing clients helps them to give their friends a little nudge in the right direction!

There are lots of ways of marketing your business in your local area that don’t cost a lot of money. These are just my top suggestions. I’d love to hear any more suggestions you have!