A lot of businesses, particularly smaller online businesses, are hesitant to begin marketing right away. Many hold the belief that marketing is only about selling services and product and that they must be relatively well-established before marketing.

And to those businesses, here’s the hard truth: you are wrong.

Marketing is about connecting with people and creating a loyal following. Businesses that market themselves early on get a head-start on their target audience and success. And who doesn’t want that? As an online business, you should start marketing right now!

Marketing doesn’t have to be an expensive investment. In fact, many free resources make it easy to build your brand identity.

Here are a few ways to market your business without breaking the bank:

  • Start a Twitter account and use it. Retweet, “favorite” and follow people. You can also start your own hashtag and cross your fingers that you’ll “trend”. For example, you could use #supersweetbusiness or #yourgreatbusinessname.
  • Offer an online class on YouTube. Provide educational tips and information each week or on a regular basis. Doing so will give you the opportunity to connect with customers, share your expertise and promote your business all at once.
  • Self-promote shamelessly. It’s not tacky, promise! For example, slap a bumper sticker on your car with your site’s URL, post your site’s link on your Facebook page or hand out business cards at local events. It can be incredibly effective.
  • Master the art of Google+. Google loves Google and so a relevant, updated Google+ profile will help you to get to the top of the search-engine totem pole so you get your company name out there.
  • Pin pictures and how-to articles from your site on Pinterest. Just make sure they are actually worth pinning. Generally, Pinterest users are attracted to content that can help them save time and money. They’re also attracted to beautiful and unique images. Update your site to make sure you have both helpful content and appealing images.
  • Collaborate with other online businesses. Advertise on their sites and vice versa. Ask them to give you referrals, name-drop your company, etc. Perhaps create a badge or button to their business for your site or blog and ask to swap.
  • Encourage Likes of your Facebook page. Keep your company’s Facebook page updated and fresh so that it’s a place where you can push your relevant content (articles, blog posts, YouTube videos, etc.), connect with your customers and show personality to potential customers.
  • Create promotions and deals for referrals. People love free things. Create an incentive for people to use your service, subscribe to your newsletter or write a review. Consider a giveaway or coupon codes.
  • Send a weekly newsletter. Include cutting-edge articles and content. Don’t just chat about the happenings in your business (engagements, promotions, etc.) – talk about trends in your industry and articles that you’ve found interesting.
  • Sponsor a team, charity, event, etc. People love nice people and charitable businesses. Sponsoring a charity or event puts your business in a good light and will most likely give your company some warm fuzzies. A win-win for all!
  • Organically weave your business ventures into conversations. When the opportunity arises, talk about your business, mission statement and goals with friends, family, colleagues and even people you don’t know. Doing so will help you to feel comfortable promoting your business and will also help people to know more about it.
  • Join LinkedIn and connect! Like Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, LinkedIn is only effective if you use it. Use it to connect with like-minded people in your industry and promote your business. You can also ask for tips, create relationships, and track your competition.

Marketing early on and often allows you to assess what your market needs, what you can offer the market and how your product stands out from the others. Your efforts will also help you get to know your target audience so you can better refine future marketing plans.