If you’ve started your small business on a shoestring budget then chances are your marketing efforts will also be performed on a shoestring budget. Thankfully, even when you only have a finite amount of dollars at your disposal, there are various marketing tactics available out there to get your brand rolling.
Any entrepreneur will tell you that when you’re first starting out and you have a limited amount of funds in your pocket, you are the president, CEO, accountant, legal expert, marketer, data entry clerk and the list of job titles goes on. Labor costs will eventually go up once you start to experience sales growth because you’re likely to begin hiring employees.
When looking at that list of roles, “marketer” may be one of the most important titles. Despite the level of disdain that some people may have for marketers, they are vital to the initial success – and continued success – of a small business. Without marketing, then, your small business won’t get anywhere because not a single person, outside of your mother, will be aware of your brand.
Now, you may not have stellar acumen for marketing. However, there are so many marketing resources on the Internet to help guide us, educate us and influence us; just because you may not be like the cast of “Mad Men,” it doesn’t mean you won’t do very well in this area. It takes a little bit of dedication, hard work, time and plenty of trial and error.
Remember, advertising and marketing is an investment in your business. It isn’t an expense. Depending on your business, marketing costs account for between one and five percent of gross sales. Of course, when you don’t have any sales coming in, one percent of nothing is nothing.
Before we head into the nitty gritty, let’s take a gander at what Tom Egelhoff of Small Town Marketing wrote when discussing the ideas and purposes behind the realm of marketing:
- Your advertising must provide a consumer benefit or solve a problem.
- That benefit or solution must be wanted by the consumer.
- The product or service you are offering must be tied directly to that benefit or solution.
- The solution must be distinctly communicated through medial advertising. Be clear, forget the advertising glitz and make sure the message isn’t lost in the ad.
So, does your small- or medium-sized business want to market but you have a small budget? Here are six ways to market your product or service on a shoestring budget:
- Showcase Your Industry Knowledge
- Be Savvy on Social Media
- What’s Old is New Again: The Plight of Email Marketing
- Participate in the Online World
- The Power of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
- Get Some Buzz
1. Showcase Your Industry Knowledge
Want to create a great first impression with potential customers? Share your knowledge about your respective industry with the world. Whether you’re in personal finance, real estate or law, consumers appreciate when you showcase your astute knowledge with the world.
This can be done through a number of different channels: articles, blog posts, guest blogging, YouTube videos, webinars, white papers and the list goes on. All of these come with minimal costs. Indeed, it will take some time to complete but it’s better than spending a lot of money.
Before you proceed to compose your magnum opus, be sure to follow these tips:
- Create original content; don’t regurgitate.
- Ensure your spelling and grammar are correct.
- Focus on compelling headlines.
- Make sure your content answers common questions.
- Add an image or video to your content.
Content creation can be one of the most effective ways to attract eyeballs to your business.
2. Be Savvy On Social Media
A 2011 study discovered that more than two-thirds (69 percent) of consumers are more likely to frequent a business if it has information on social media. Simply put: your brand should be present and active on social media. You must create, share and engage with your audience.
So, how exactly do you become savvy on social media? It’s simple: just participate. Here are ways to have your brand be social media savvy:
- Brand Alignment: When you’re using multiple social media channels, you have to confirm that your brand is aligned across the social networks. For instance, if your brand’s colour is green then it should be that colour on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
- Authenticity: We don’t like phonies, and today’s generation of consumers are very cynical. They can see a promotional message a mile away. So set aside your promotion or sales gimmick and just be genuine and interact with your users (see below).
- User Engagement: The common mistake that small businesses make is by thinking social media is a broadcasting mechanism. It’s not. It’s a communications tool. Social media allows brands to engage, communicate and interact with their customers like never before. So do it. Thank customers for coming in, thank users for the advice and ask clients if they have any issues.
- Sharing: Social media isn’t there for you to tell the whole world how great you are. Instead, utilise social media to share interesting content with the general public. Moreover, if your competitor has an interesting blog post then share it; consumers will like this very much.
- Incentives: Every now and then, use social media to hand out discounts, special promotions or coupons to your customers. Or, incentivise your customers to get other people to follow you so everyone can get a 10 percent discount on their next purchase.
Social media may seem like a crowded place nowadays. It portrays itself as a place where whenever you make a sound no one can hear you because the ecosystem’s noise is drowning you out. Well, with a few white hat tricks, a bit of paid boosts to your posts and enough dedication, you can get noticed by many, if not all.
3. Old Is New: The Plight Of Email Marketing
Yes, yes, you think email marketing has already met its early demise. When you think of email marketing, you may elicit thoughts of that awful dial-up sound or AOL’s famous “you’ve got mail.” Heck, email marketing was all the rage when “Seinfeld” was still on the air.
But we assure you: email marketing has transformed into something so much better. Small businesses are quickly realising this, too: 41 percent of small businesses started to email market to their customers, a 25 percent increase from 2013.
You may be out of practice, but how can you successful launch an email marketing campaign without spending too much money? Well, here are five quick and easy ways to do it:
- Compare & select the right email marketing software program for you.
- Determine what you want to achieve.
- Start to build an email list.
- Create an email template and compose an email.
- Begin to monitor the campaign’s results.
4. Participate In The Online World
The online world has an array of websites, forums and groups for you to participate in. Let’s say, for instance, you work in the boating industry. Look for a forum or a LinkedIn group about boating and start to answer questions people have or provide some advice. Also, you can share the content you composed (as discussed in the Share Your Industry Knowledge section above). Don’t use a salesy tone. Instead, be relaxed and personable.
5. The Power Of Search Engine Optimisation
Much like email marketing, the rumours of SEO’s death are greatly exaggerated. Sure, bloggers or reporters wish SEO would finally just go away for good, but SEO is likely here to stay forever. (Google has plenty to say about that.)
But when you’re a small business, where do you even begin? It can seem overwhelming and like a futile endeavour considering that much larger companies, such as Argos, Tesco or B&Q, have been around for years, have plenty of inbound links and have a lot of content catalogued on the World Wide Web?
So, how can you as an SMB just starting out, compete? It’s hard, but here you go:
- Niche Specialisation: There are numerous small businesses out there that pretty much offer and do the same thing. This is why it’s crucial to separate yourself from the others by specialising in a particular niche. For instance, are you a lawyer? Then how about being a tax lawyer that works specifically startups or independent contractors?
- Long-Tail Keyword Strategy: Long-tail keywords are extended search queries on Google. For instance, instead of just typing in “Thanksgiving dinner,” someone will type in “tips for Thanksgiving dinner for vegetarians.” Long-tail keyword ranking is easier than competing with shorter keywords.
- Utilise Local Power: The one thing that you’ll have leverage over your much bigger competitors is localization. Local search is becoming a lot more important to small businesses because you could be the best in your town as opposed to being mediocre across the country. Also, it’s important to utilize local reviews from customers.
- Produce Fresh Content: If there’s one thing that web crawlers love is fresh, updated and regular content. Remember the old adage of “content is king”? Well, it’s true. If you’re a brand that churns out compelling, unique and new content (lists or articles) on a regular basis then you’ll have higher rankings in the search engines.
6. Get Some Buzz
If there’s one thing that every brand or website craves, it’s attention from the media. It’s much easier to get in touch with a reporter today than the days prior to the Internet. All you have to do is write press release, have unique news and hope a journalist notices. Of course, there are other ways to achieve buzz:
- Reach out to bloggers in your industry.
- Offer others to guest post on your website.
- Subscribe to Help a Reporter Out (HARO) to answer reporters’ queries.
- Do something creative in the community to get noticed by local newspapers.
Marketing, both online and offline, doesn’t have to be expensive as you think. With a little bit of ingenuity, due diligence and trial and error, you’ll find that your SMB has an incredible marketing strategy in place within just a few short weeks. Whether or not it’s a successful one remains to be seen. A little bit of marketing creativity can go much farther than a sizable marketing budget!