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18 ways to market your business without social media or in-person events

If you’re sick of marketing yourself on social media & wish you could quit, you’re not alone.

I’ve been hearing grumbling from entrepreneurs for years — “Gosh, I wish I could get off of Facebook and still get clients!” — but the 2020 pandemic made it worse. We all got trapped in our houses and cut off from in-person networking events & referral groups, and felt like we had to rely on social media in order to keep getting clients.

But I’ve got good news:

If you hate social media & don’t have a local community to tap into, you can still be a successful digital marketer.

I’ve compiled 17 ways of marketing your business, without logging into a single social network.

If you hate social media & don't have a local community to tap into, you can still be a successful digital marketer.

Quick caveat: Don’t build your house on borrowed land

Before we begin, let me establish something important: You have to make your OWN internet home, that YOU own.

You own your website, you own your email list. If your hosting provider or email software pisses you off, you can export your whole thing and take it somewhere else. (*unless you’re on Wix)

But if when social media platforms change their algorithms, you’re entirely at their mercy. When Facebook stopped showing pages in favor of groups, businesses who were dependent on organic leads struggle. When Instagram switched from favoring the feed to loving on video, beautiful grids lost their edge.

Or maybe just your account could be targeted — I have friends who have lost thousands of followers when Instagram shut them down without notice, and colleagues whose launches have failed because Facebook thought their chatbots were spammy.

Social media can be great to promote your business … but you should always, always have a website that belongs to you.

Content marketing: the antidote to social media fatigue

It’s been 25 years since BIll Gates infamously said that “content is king,” and not much has changed.

If you’re a recovering social media user, you might only think of it as Tweets and posts, but content marketing can include lots of delivery methods, like:

  • educational blog posts
  • white papers
  • e-books
  • videos
  • podcast episodes
  • webinars
  • email newsletters

The important part of this content marketing strategy, especially if you’re trying to decrease your dependence on social media, is to create evergreen content — nothing time sensitive! Make sure that when your content is found, it can be enjoyed for years to come.

The key is to create something that people can (a) find forever, and (b) consume without a paywall.

9 ways content marketing can grow your audience & drive more sales:

1. Email marketing

I could easily pull my business off social media tomorrow, but you can pry my email list out of my cold, dead hands.

If you have a solid email marketing strategy, you can reach your audience on your terms, when it makes sense for them.

Your email marketing can be as simple or complex as you want.

  • If you want simplicity: Send out monthly broadcasts to share new content.
  • A little fancier: Create a nurture sequence to welcome new subscribers & share your best work.
  • Wanna make money in your sleep: Set up an evergreen email sequence to sell your programs on autopilot

However you’re using email marketing, it can help your subscribers get to know you and prepare them to buy from you.

2. SEO

I bet you thought this would be the first on the list, right? After all, I’m the founder of Love At First Search, where we’re all about getting you traffic from Google!

But I put it after email marketing because for most of us, we want to have a strong plan in place on our websites for what people should do after they find us! So I typically encourage people to either have an option to buy a product or book a consult call AND subscribe to a newsletter before they start creating content for SEO.

And the rest of the Content Marketing options (blogs, videos, podcasts, Pinterest, guesting) can all be enhanced with SEO to help them get found by fresh eyes.

I’m not gonna dive too deep here about the virtues and how-to’s of SEO; if it’s new to you, here’s a good place to start with SEO.

3. Write educational blog posts

How do you get people to trust that you know what you’re doing? Teach them!

The best place to start when it comes to content marketing is to write educational blog posts. By educating your audience, you’re accomplishing three things:

  1. Positioning yourself as the authority
  2. Shortening the sales cycle by answering people’s questions before they get on a call with you or buy your product
  3. Creating something that can be found and shared with a broad audience, forever

When you first start blogging, the important thing isn’t to post daily or even weekly — it’s to make sure that every post provides clear value to your audience.

Then you can include Calls to Action in every post to drive people to buy a product, book a call, or subscribe to your newsletter.

4. YouTube channel

YouTube is a fantastic option for content marketing, for two reasons:

  1. SEO: YouTube is owned by Google and is the second biggest search engine in the world. If you want to get found by a new audience, YouTube is a great place to set up shop.
  2. Building trust: Reading a blog post or email is fine … but it’s easier to create a relationship with somebody when you hear their voice and see their facial expressions. Since i started my YouTube channel, I can’t count the people who have said “I feel like I already know you” when we finally connect. They’ve seen & heard me talk for so long, they already trust me.

YouTube can a bigger commitment than blogging, especially if you choose to edit your videos.

5. Start a podcast

If you want more intimacy than blogging but don’t want to style your hair for video, here’s a great option for you: Start a podcast. Podcasting is incredibly easy to start and doesn’t require tons of fancy equipment — Erin Kelly from MemberVault records on her iPhone in her car!

Podcasting is a great choice because your audience can multi-task while they listen — I turn on podcasts when I’m in the car, walking the dog, loading the dishwasher — so they’re willing to listen longer. I’m happy to turn on an hour-long podcast, but don’t ask me to sit at my computer that long to watch a video!

And yes, SEO works for podcasts too. You can write show notes for each of your podcast episodes and optimize each of those for search.

6. Set up Pinterest auto-publishing

Once you have great content created, load it up into Pinterest.

No, Pinterest isn’t social media — it’s also a search engine. And if you create beautiful graphics that make people want to click, and get it in front of your ideal clients on Pinterest (by joining group boards and communities), they can click through to your website & take action.

I use a tool called Tailwind* to auto-loop my pins — I’m all-in on options to “set it and forget it.” I also tap into their Tailwind Communities feature to get my pins in front of other pinners who reach a similar audience and will fill up their feed with my pins. *Use this Tailwind affiliate link to get a $15 credit.

7. Guest posting

If you want those fancy “as seen on” logos on your website, and want to get some sweet backlinks too, try guest posting. This isn’t just “trade posts with friends” — this is about growing your authority by getting featured on larger publications and media sites.

How to find some good guest posting opportunities? Google something like, “guest post opportunities + (your industry)” or “contributor guidelines + (your industry)” or “write for us + (your industry).”

Here’s one I found by searching “SEO contributor”:

Yes, it’s that simple: Find a media outlet that accepts guest posts and follow their contributor guidelines.

Want a good place to start? Here are 54 sites that accept guest posts.

8. PR/media relations

Want the benefits of guest posting and featured articles, without needing to pitch yourself?

Hire a PR professional and they’ll research great opportunities to get you featured in online publications, TV shows, radio, and even podcasts. Speaking of which …

9. Podcast guesting

My hands-down favorite way to grow my audience is to be a guest on other people’s podcasts. I regularly have people who hear me on podcasts, click through the show notes, visit my website, and buy a training or consulting package.

But podcasting isn’t just for content & audience growth — it’s also a fun way to develop relationships with the podcast hosts. Entrepreneurs are busy, and trying to schedule a “coffee chat” can be a hard sell. But if you can help that host to create valuable content for their audience, to help them “feed the content beast,” then you’re much more likely to get on their schedule.

Once the relationship has been established, that host can often become a referral source for future clients — or even become a client themself!

Which brings me to my next major non-social-media-marketing category: RELATIONSHIP BUILDING.

Relationships: the key to a successful, sustainable business

I can credit the first 5 years of success in my business exclusively to relationships. (I still give about 70% credit to my relationships now, but I have a stronger content marketing machine behind it.)

In fact, I started my business thanks to two childhood friends — one who worked at a law firm , one who ran a website design agency — who sent me enough projects to take the leap out of corporate and into entrepreneurship.

But relationships encompass so much more than just “who can hire me for freelance work?”

9 ways to use relationships to market your business, without social media:

1. Shoulder tapping / direct invitations / personal outreach

If you have a specific product or offer that you’re trying to sell, reach out to people who would be ideal for it. If you have specific people you want to work with, reach out and ask them what they need.

As a consumer, I’ve had this work incredibly well on me! Coaches who reach out with personal messages — sometimes it’s “I have this new group coaching mastermind I think you’d be perfect for,” sometimes it’s “during meditation today you came up in my mind and I realized that I’d love to work with you.” Service providers who hear me complaining about something and reach out: “Hey, I heard you’re offering a new product, let me know if you need help with the design!”

This outreach doesn’t have to sound desperate or feel like a cold call! It can be as simple as: “I had some availability open up and wanted to reach out and see if you need something before I look for someone new.”

The important thing is to develop a relationship with that person BEFORE you ask them to hire you, and to make them feel seen in the outreach email.

2. Word of mouth referrals

Fact: 92% of people trust personal recommendations over advertising. No surprise: our colleagues know our businesses and what our clients need better than an impersonal referral.

What’s the best way to get a word of mouth referral? ASK. I know it’s scary, but it doesn’t have to be vulnerable.

If you run a service business: Send an email (or Slack message or Voxer, whatever) to a colleague and say, “Hey, I’ve got a spot open for next month, do you know anyone I should talk to?” Yes, it can be that simple.

(Note: This often plays out with the recipient saying, “Yes, I know somebody who needs that service: ME!” So this is an alternative to the “direct invitation” outreach that feels a little more open-ended and less likely to get rejected.)

If personal outreach isn’t your favorite and/or you’re ready for a more structured referral system, check out The Referral Engine book (on Bookshop or Amazon).

3. Service partnerships

If you run a service business, partnering up with other complementary service providers is a great way to get more leads and provide a better client experience.

We’ve become the SEO team for over a dozen copywriters and web designers. Typically the agency just rolls our work into their projects and contracts, shares their project briefs, and integrates our SEO research into their strategy.

Sometime we “white label” the services (meaning that the end client doesn’t know who we are) but most of the time the client knows we’re the SEO partner.

We get repeat business from our partners, they get better results from their clients. Win-win!

4. Product bundles

If you run a physical product business, you can still run collaborations! Team up with another e-commerce business to create a bundle you can sell on both of your shops and split the profits, or sell your products wholesale into another business’ offer.

For digital products, this is even easier. Course bundles are a popular way to offer a lower-tier training product to a broad audience at a steep discount; then once those new people have joined your email list, you can nurture them into a non-discounted sale. (Heads up: These can be great for growing your list & brand awareness, but don’t always turn into leads that want to spend a lot of money.)

5. JV webinars

If you want to grow your email list quickly & get in front of tons of pre-qualified ideal clients, JV webinars could be great for you! Especially if you already have a successful webinar for selling your course or product on webinars, you may want to “take your webinar on the road,”

JV stands for “joint venture” — you’re teaming up with another business owner to share each other’s audiences and build each other’s authority.

Here’s how JV webinars usually work: You offer a webinar to your partner’s audience, and they offer one to yours, and you promote them to your respective audiences.

You can either offer a “pitch” webinar (where you sell something live on the webinar, and your partner takes a commission of each sale) or a “no-pitch” webinar (no sales pitch at the end, but your partner also doesn’t get a commission).

6. Virtual Summits

Virtual summits are a great way to share your expertise with a really-target audience and grow your email list. Here’s how speaking at a virtual summit usually work:

  • You create a short (30-45 min) presentation about your selected topic
  • You include a link to a free lead magnet that any watchers can sign up for
  • You also add a low-cost product to a “summit all access pass” — summit participants can pay a one-time fee of something like $97 to get lifetime access to all the videos + bonus products from the speakers
  • You become an affiliate for the summit. You agree to promote the summit to your audience, usually via email & social media. Typically the summit organizer provides sample copy & graphics (this make it’s easier for you and keeps their message/brand consistent)
  • If somebody buys the all-access pass (or any other upsell offer) through your affiliate link, you get a commission (usually 30-40% of their payment)

If you want to be a speaker in someone else’s summit, check out the Virtual Summit Search, where you can find summits looking for speakers or add yourself to their virtual summit speaker directory.

Want to run your own summit? Summit in a Box is the best resource for learning how to run a virtual summit without the headache. Check out Krista’s masterclass Triple Your Monthly Revenue with an Engaging Virtual Summit!*

Note: These Summit in a Box links are affiliate links because I love the product so much!

7. Join niche communities

Maybe you’re still looking for the connections & engagement of social media, but don’t like the performative aspect. (Nobody likes being a dance monkey.)

Find an online community (which does not need to be a Facebook group!) where you can show up, ask questions, connect with others for networking and accountability. There might be one specific to your industry, or one where your ideal clients are hanging out.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • The What Works Network: A couple hundred small business owners, all regularly sharing about what works for us and what we want to achieve next. Plus weekly live support calls, accountability check-ins, quarterly summits and more.
  • Your Life’s Workshop: Honest, bullshit-free conversations between creative entrepreneurs about how to run a business without feeling like you need to take a shower. Monthly coaching calls, monthly guest experts, mini-courses on web design and marketing, and a focus on building something you love (that also pays you well).
  • Work Brighter Clubhouse: This “community for productive unicorns” is as helpful as it is colorful. Working brighter means balancing productivity with “unproductive” things like rest, mental health, self-care, and fun.
  • One Woman Shop: If you’re a service-based solopreneur who wants the resources to run your business more smoothly and a community of fellow plate-spinning women, OWS is your new BFF.

Whichever community you choose, the secret is this: You can’t just join, you have to participate. That means adjusting your routine to log-in to places other than social media, and blocking off time to engage in conversations (not just likes and shares).

8. Masterminds (coach- or peer-led)

This one is a little less public-facing than many of the other options, but it’s the intimacy that makes it powerful. By joining together with a small group of likeminded people in similar stage of business, you’ll get insights into how to market your business and brand new besties who can share leads & opportunities with you.

There are two ways to participate in a mastermind: find a group of peers, or find a coach who runs one. Whether you “pay to play” in a formal group with a coach who facilitates all discussions, or you just meet up monthly with friends for coffee & conversations, masterminds can be essential for growing your relationships that eventually grow your business.

9. Affiliates

Affiliate marketing is when you promote other people’s products (or they promote yours), and you get a cut of every sale made from your unique affiliate link.

Your style of affiliate marketing can personal or passive as you’d like.

If you want to be totally passive, throw some affiliate links in a blog post (like my links above for Tailwind and Summit in a Box), and if somebody buys from there, you make easy money from your post.

If you want to be incredibly active, find a colleague who is running a big launch and offer to be an affiliate for them. They’ll probably provide you with sample copy and graphics,but you can make your own and share the product with your whole audience to make a pretty penny.

You can also sell your OWN offers through affiliates. When I launched SEO Summer Camp, over half my sales come from affiliate promotions. That’s 50 sales I wouldn’t have gotten without tapping into my network! I ended up paying out about 25% of my gross revenue in affiliate fees, which felt awesome to reward and thank my friends for their support.

I run all my affiliate sales through ThriveCart, which not only tracks all the clicks & sales but also auto-pays everyone, so I don’t even have to think about it. (Read my full review of ThriveCart.)

If you want to start affiliate marketing for others, check out Lizzy Goddard’s Lazy Guide to Affiliate Marketing. (Yes, that’s also an affiliate link. #meta)

If you want to build an affiliate program for yourself, Zoe Linda Pollard has built an amazing Affiliate Toolkit that walks you step-by-step how to plan, set-up, and recruit for your affiliate program.

How to quit social media (and not nosedive your traffic and sales)

If you’ve been dependent on social media for a long time, this transition could be pretty difficult … but in general, I recommend that people ease off social media slowly instead of going cold turkey. Here are some suggestions:

  • Fill up an auto-posting social media scheduler with your content (I use CoSchedule because I love its WordPress integration, and have also used & loved SmarterQueue) to take some of the pressure off to post daily.
  • Take off the quieter times in your business. (For me that’s the weekends, but if you’re B2C it might be weekdays.) Turn off phone notifications, delete the apps, remove them from reach of your bored fingers.
  • Re-design your website to put more emphasis on your email lead magnets than your social links. Remember that you own your email list, but not your social followers!
  • Whittle away at the social media channels you don’t love. That’s why I shut down my Facebook group and have let my LinkedIn simmer, where most of my social time is spent on Instagram. (And I don’t really love that as much, now that they’re mostly video …)

Think of your marketing like your investment portfolio: It needs to be diversified. You don’t need ONE marketing channel to rule them all — spread yourself across a few, so that if one of them tanks, the others can hold you steady.

Have some non-social, non-local marketing techniques I didn’t include? Add them in the comments below!

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