Eight low-cost marketing ideas for small businesses

Published · 3 min read

Some small business owners see it as a Catch-22 situation: it’s hard to allocate a marketing budget until you have good level of sales, but it’s difficult to get those without marketing.

But small businesses don’t have to spend a lot to reach out to prospective buyers. Here are eight ways to market your business without blowing the budget.

  1. Set up a customer referral scheme
    Ask a small business owner where their customers come from and they’re likely to say “word of mouth”. Recommendations are a powerful way to generate new business but you don’t simply have to wait for them to happen.Set up a referral scheme where customers and prospects get a small discount when they’re referred to you. It brings in leads and the cost is minimal, especially when compared to the value of a customer long-term.
  2. Run competitions
    Competitions are a great way to capture people’s details and to get them to engage with your brand. Running competitions through social media can improve their reach even further. Many companies run online competitions which require people to share their favourite products or create some content and post it with a hashtag. This ensures people share your content and it generates a bit of buzz.
  3. Use email marketing
    This is still one of the most effective marketing tools, with 73% of marketers saying it is core to their business. It’s simple to get up and running by using email tools like Mailchimp and Reachmail to manage lists, create HTML and send it out to your subscribers. Add a form to your website to capture people’s details and be sure to collect email addresses from your leads.Finally, make sure the information you share is interesting for your audience – this helps keep open rates high and minimises the number of unsubscribes.
  4. Create content and share it online
    Sharing interesting content is a great way to engage with people, even before they’re ready to buy. Research showed that 78% of consumers think that organisations that provide content are interested in building good relationships and 60% feel more positive about a company after reading custom content on its site.It’s also a cheaper way to get leads – research by Hightable showed that the average cost to generate a lead with content was about half the cost of outbound marketing, like advertising, brochures and cold calling.

    So what type of content works? It’s all a case of thinking like your customers – find out what matters to them and then create pieces that offer advice or help them to solve challenges. Common formats include hints & tips, how to videos, infographics and lists. You can then share these on social media, your blog and your website.

  5. Look for free or low-cost advertising opportunities
    Advertising doesn’t have to be expensive. There are lots of low cost options, from branding your car to taking advantage of Google’s free listings on Google My Business.You can also find options to extend your budget by using coupons to buy advertising. Google offers credit when you open an Adwords account and Facebook also has advertising coupons.
  6. Team up with other businesses
    The first step to doing this is to understand your audience and what they like to do. Then you could look for another business which has the same customers but doesn’t directly compete with you. For example, a juice business could team up with a local gym, a dog walker with a vet surgery, etc.By working together, you can pool resources, help reach out to new people and offer a fuller service to your customers. Just be sure that both businesses will benefit, otherwise you may find the partnership is short-lived.
  7. Start talking
    Whether it’s webinars, workshops or speaking at events, if you have a story to tell and you’re happy with public speaking, then this is a great way to raise your profile.You could host your own workshops or online seminars. Or you could look for suitable events – organisers will often ask for outlines for talks and, if you’re selected, then you may find that they will pay for your attendance too.
  8. Apply for awards
    A great way to get people talking about your business is to apply for awards. Winning or being shortlisted will raise your profile and can bring in a lot of new business. Look for awards for your industry or type of business and go for it. All it costs is a bit of time.

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