by Carrie Smith, Careful Cents

When I first started my online business I spent WAY too much money trying to promote my services. Even though I was in the bootstrapping phase, I thought it was worth the investment to splurge on advertising.

Within the past few months I’ve realized that doing proper marketing doesn’t always mean you need to spend a lot of money. In fact, many times it’s the inexpensive marketing ideas that are the most effective. You just need to be a little creative and think outside-the-box!

1. Use custom bumper stickers or decals

Tax deductible Marketing ideasWait, hear me out. I’m not talking about making cheesy looking decals, or creating small stickers that are too small to read. I want you to help your business stand out locally (or online) with some creative messaging.

Take my friend Vicky from SmallBusinessGal.com, who pulled this off perfectly. She’s been able to drum up more participation from her clients by asking them to chime in on which design they loved the best.

What could be a better way to reach out to new clients than the ones behind you?

2. Sponsor a local charity or community event

This is something that’s a pro for both your business and the event you’re sponsoring — especially if it’s related to your local community or charity.

Featuring your business as a sponsor can establish you as a generous company and help the event become more successful. Your contacts and network will have the chance to see your brand in front of quality, community-driven people.

This kind of effort shows your business in a good light, can increase your social activity and prove that you’re invested in the local community.

3. Offer free seminars or how-to classes

There’s no better way to establish your business as an expert in a particular field than to hold free webinars or classes. This is doable for both online or offline companies.

You can host a teleseminar, AKA webinar, or do what my friend Anna from ClassyCareerGirl.com is doing. She’s teaching local students at the University of Phoenix, where she offers career development tips, workforce etiquette, how to network and shares advice to help them land jobs. This has established her as the go-to expert about resumes, job hunting and many more career-focused topics.

4. Attend conferences slightly outside your niche

Learn Marketing Expenses you can Write Off

When you attend conferences within your network or your niche, you become one of many experts in the same field. But if you go, to say, a dentist conference as a social

media expert for professional businesses, you’ll become the only expert for them to reach out to.

This means you’ll come away with multiple contacts and lots of potential leads. This same kind of advice can be applied to online events as well. Virtual conferences are always looking for experts in many different niches, so this an excellent way to set yourself apart within your niche.

5. Partner with other sites or brands to host a giveaway

Instead of looking at your competition as a threat, think of them as vital allies to expanding your business. With all of your collaborative efforts you can reach a bigger audience and more customers, by hosting special giveaway or promotions.

Not only will you have a bigger pool of potential clients, you’ll be able to share the financial burden of hosting the giveaway. Which is good news for your marketing budget!

6. Don’t forget to say thank you

Something as simple as saying “thank you” is a largely forgotten or ignored way to promote your business. Everything from sending an email — with your business info in the signature — to sending a postcard or thank you note, is a perfect opportunity to show your appreciation for your clients.

It’s also an optimal time to market your business website, products or services. And believe me, this simple gesture will make you stand out from ordinary businesses.

7. Yes, you can write-off your expenses

The best thing about using these marketing ideas is that you can write-off these as business or marketing expenses on your taxes. Anything that’s related to advertising, networking, traveling and marketing materials can be deducted from your income at the end of each year.

So don’t be afraid to spend a little money to spread the word about your business. When done effectively you can gain more customers without putting too much strain on your bank account. It’s a win-win!

What’s another out-of-the box way you’ve marketed yourself or your business?

Carrie Smith is a solopreneur on a mission to help freelancers and small business owners design a lifestyle business that earns more money in less time. In May 2013 she quit her small business accounting job of 10 years to pursue full-time entrepreneurship and blogging. You can read more of her writing at CarefulCents.com or connect with her on Twitter @carefulcents.