Your product or service is by far the best in the business and you know it. The problem? Other people aren’t aware yet. You may ask: well, how do I spread the word about my amazing, life-changing product or service? The answer: marketing.
There are awesome and effective marketing tactics available for every budget and business size. If you’re a startup, an enterprise-level advertising budget isn’t necessary (or in most cases isn’t an option) to get the word out about your company. Start with low-budget marketing strategies, such as putting up flyers at the local grocery store, to engage people with your product/service without going bankrupt.
Market yourself to the top with these 13 cost-effective marketing ideas below. After all, how will people know that your business even exists if you don’t tell them?
13 Affordable Marketing Ideas for Small Business
1. Build a website using a free platform
No matter how many low-budget marketing strategies you come up with, nothing beats the establishment of a digital presence. In this day and age, it’s nearly impossible to run a successful small business without maintaining a website. Unfortunately, not every entrepreneur is a tech genius and not every startup can afford to spend a fortune on a website.
Thankfully, there are many free website builders that provide small business owners all the tools they need to get up-and-running and create the necessary online presence. Before you commit to a website builder, check out these three platforms and discover which best fits your company’s needs.
Weebly has been around for over a decade and is one of the most popular website builders out there. There are no hidden fees to construct a new website, but premium and ecommerce versions are available for a range of prices. A majority of small businesses, however, probably don’t need them.
What makes Wix an extremely popular platform is its large amount of free design templates. No matter the industry, Wix is likely to offer a free template exactly catered to your needs. A free account also includes an unlimited number of pages, a drag and drop editor, 500 MB of storage, secure hosting and a mobile site. Want more features? Similarly to Weebly, Wix also allows the possibility to purchase premium plans.
A third option for creating a website is WordPress. Some famous WordPress users include The New York Times, People Magazine, National Geographic and Forbes. WordPress is thought to be one of the easiest platforms for beginners and offers well-designed free templates. An additional bonus of using WordPress is its wide range of free analytics and SEO tools, so you can easily track the site’s performance. WordPress offers a range of versatile plans ranging from $0 to $25 a month.
2. Place a magnetic sign on the company car
Put a magnetic sign on the company car and your business name will be on display everywhere you go. This one-time investment is among the best marketing ideas for small business. It may seem a little old school, but a car advertisement can generate up to 70,000 impressions a day. In fact, it reaches more people than billboards, radio and direct mail advertising. If you’re not persuaded yet, consider this: most individuals find car advertisements more noticeable and more memorable. If this isn’t a bang for your buck, then we don’t know what is.
Warning: don’t have people associate road rage with your company’s name, and make sure the sign aligns with your brand image.
3. List your business online
It is crucial for small businesses to list themselves on multiple online directories. Not sure why? Consider this, 4 out of 5 consumers use search engines to find local businesses. They search for store addresses, business hours, product availability and directions. Moreover, 50 percent of those conducting a local search by smartphone visit the store within the same day. Besides these amazing conversion rates, the internet is great for marketing on a tight budget, especially because many online directories are completely free of charge, which eliminates the need to break the piggy bank. To help you get started, we identified some of the most popular places to list a business.
- Google My Business
Google is without a doubt the biggest fish in the search pond. In 2016, the company averaged 7.8 billion searches per day, so it’s no surprise that your top priority should be creating a Google My Business account. With this account, your business will not only show up in the local search, but also on Google Maps and Google+. The cost: an exact $0.
- Bing Places for Business
This free Microsoft product is only outpaced by Google in visits. Since Bing is the default search engine for Windows 8 users, some opt for Bing over Google. Bing Places for Business allows you to add multiple business locations, photos, videos, hours of operation and offered services upon registration, which is exactly what you need to reach potential customers.
- Yahoo LocalWorks
Yahoo’s service draws millions of daily searches, making it the third largest search engine after Google and Bing. A basic Yahoo LocalWorks account is free, but $9.95 a month allows you to add photos and a company description, and $29.95 a month grants you listings in more than 40 other online directories.
If you’re looking for candid customer reviews, then Yelp is your best friend. Furthermore, the Yelp reporting tool allows you to send public and private messages (including deals) to customers. The directory is a smart time-investment, as a free Yelp Business Page generates a business an average incremental revenue of $8000 per year.
MerchantCircle focuses on small businesses seeking to connect with local customers and other small businesses. Users can utilize either the free marketing tools to boost listings and post business blogs. Keep in mind that the platform forces its users to be active, since a company gains local exposure based on its activity.
4. Build an email list
Email marketing is the most preferred communication channel for consumers, which is why every business owner should have an email list. Consider adding a lightbox form to your site or offering incentives to your customers, such as a sign-up discount, to get them to sign up for your email list. Are you just starting out and don’t want to commit to the monthly fee many email management services charge? Then you’re in luck! Most offer free services to businesses with smaller email lists. For instance, MailChimp offers free services to businesses with fewer than 2,000 subscribers.
When you’re ready to take your email list to the next level, paying for an email management service is undoubtedly worth the cost. The average return on investment is $44 for every $1 spend on email marketing, making it a great tool for promoting a small business. Make the emails as relevant as possible to subscribers by spreading the word about upcoming events, special offers and on-going promotions that your audience would be interested in; you don’t want to seem like spam to them.
5. Create social media accounts for your business
In the digital age, having a presence on social media is an absolute must. Social media marketing is a form of internet marketing that involves creating and sharing content on social media networks. The word “social media” may intimidate some business owners, but falsely so. It is a great low budget marketing strategy and relatively easy to use. Still intimidated or not sure where to start? Here’s a brief overview of different big name social media platforms and how to use them.
Everyone’s grandmother, colleague, teacher and distant family member is on Facebook. As a matter of fact, Facebook is home to almost 2 billion active monthly users. So there is no better way to start your social media adventure than by creating a Facebook Business Page. Do keep in mind that this social media giant requires an active strategy. Besides creating a visually appealing layout and recognizable profile picture, try shooting for 1 to 2 posts a week to get started. Don’t worry about being glued to your Facebook page; you can set a schedule for weeks in advance.
The organic reach on Facebook can be limited, so you may want to consider implementing Facebook ads, which allows you to select a target audience based on a variety of factors, such as age and zip code. This cheap advertising technique not only allows you to reach a target audience, but also has a big impact on your organic Facebook presence.
Besides providing a platform to target potential customers, Facebook can also be used to join industry groups. These provide a space for members to discuss every little thing related to their working process, approaching client situations and receiving feedback. By participating in the groups’ activities, you build a solid reputation and real relationships, which could turn into sales, referrals and business partnerships.
Twitter houses 328 million active monthly users and the network has recently increased its famous character limit from 140 to 280 characters per tweet. Besides tweeting about specials, discounts and news, try interacting with other industry professionals and customers. Retweet customers who have something nice to say about your business and answer people’s questions whenever possible. Additionally, follow users in your industry or related fields to gain a steady stream of followers in return.
Twitter is all about communication and dialog, so use this low-budget marketing tool to the best of its abilities by interacting as much as possible to nurture and build your following.
With over 380 million registered users, LinkedIn is the professional social media site. The network does not only allow you to connect with potential customers, but also with professionals in your field. Get started by creating a free LinkedIn Company Page. It might sound like a no-brainer, but having a complete profile is a must. By just skimming through the page, potential customers should be able to understand what your company does and the product/service you offer.
Grow your followers by encouraging employees to add the company to their personal LinkedIn profiles. They will automatically become followers who can like, comment and share your page. You can attract more followers by regularly sharing company and industry news.
Moreover, you can find other industry professionals by joining LinkedIn Groups. These provide a place for professionals to share content, find answers and make business contacts.
The platform also offers the unique opportunity of building your employee base and attracting new talent. Enhance your free Company Page with Career Pages. This allows you to showcase your company’s mission, culture and job openings with LinkedIn members.
This platform targets a very niche audience. It doesn’t work for everyone, but some communities are very active on Google+. Moreover, if you’ve created a Google My Business account (see #3), then your company is already on Google+.
An advantage of the platform is its integration with Gmail, which allows you to easily connect with customers on Google+. Besides uploading and sharing photos, videos and links, try to engage your audience by hosting video conferences through Hangouts. Additionally, since Google owns Google+, usage of this platform may even help boost your ratings within their search engine.
6. Join local business organizations and attend their events
There are many cost-effective marketing ideas for small businesses out there, but many tend to ignore the power of local business organizations. Joining various business organizations can be a fantastic way to get your name out there with other local businesses. These contacts have a variety of purposes, such as establishing informal partnerships, sharing business tips and maybe even learning about new low-budget marketing strategies.
Additionally, a good amount of business organizations offer extra benefits to members, such as special promotional opportunities. For instance, many allow members to present their business to the group and will include your company’s website in their online directories for free. Many potential customers view it as a sign that you’re an established business and accepted within the industry, which increases your credibility.
7. Co-sponsor a contest or event
Once you’ve attended a local networking event and established an informal partnership with a complementary business (not a direct competitor) in your niche, it’s time to bundle your powers for the purpose of cross-promoting the companies. Holding a joint event, for example, and working together to promote it is another inexpensive marketing strategy for your small business. You do not only split the costs, but also get the opportunity to share contacts. Moreover, this teamwork helps build brand awareness and grows both of your organizations at a much faster pace than you would be able to on your own, which makes it a win-win!
8. Guest write
Guest writing is a great inexpensive marketing strategy to increase brand awareness. Posting guest blogs on popular niche websites or contributing an article to an industry magazine engages your business with a whole new audience. Advertising on niche websites or trade magazines can cost up to thousands of dollars. But contributing an article? Free of charge.
9. Develop a customer referral program
Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Out of the all the low-budget marketing strategies, word-of-mouth remains the most influential one. As a matter of fact, 92 percent of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of advertising.
This advertising technique is invaluable, so don’t sit back and hope conversations about your company will just happen organically. Although that would be nice, you can offer existing customers an incentive for referring new ones, such as a free sample product, a complimentary service or exclusive discounts.
10. Ask for reviews from current customers
Potential customers like to learn about existing customers’ experiences with a company. Unfortunately, word-of-mouth marketing is limited, since not everyone’s family member or friend has experience with your company. An innovative way to fill this void is through customer reviews and testimonials.
84 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Potential customers who are unfamiliar with your brand are more likely to use customer reviews to make an initial judgement. Try adding a customer reviews page to your website or asking customers to leave reviews on sites like Google My Business and Yelp.
Also include unsolicited testimonials as a part of your low-budget marketing strategy. A disclaimer stating that the testimonials are from actual customers is a cheap advertising technique that makes a substantial impact. Consumers believe the opinions previous and existing customers express, whether it’s face-to-face or written.
11. Post your offers on deal and coupon websites
Discounts and coupons are highly effective sales tools. They are so effective that 71 percent of internet users in the U.S. are influenced by discounts when making purchasing decisions. Take advantage of this demand by not only posting offers on your social media and website, but also partner with a distributor, such as Valpak. These sites deliver your digital coupons to their existing customer base, directly targeting customers who are most likely to use them.
Although this way of promoting small business may result in short-term revenue decrease, coupons can secure customer loyalty and bring in new customers.
12. Create infographics
Who wants to read a lengthy article when an infographic can convey the same message? If done well, infographics appeal to the eye and are easy to understand, which is why people love to share them on social media. Moreover, by embedding your logo you can increase brand awareness. Don’t forget to link the infographic to your website in order to drive traffic as people “share” and “click.”
13. Outsource simple tasks through Fiverr
Do you want to implement the aforementioned creative marketing ideas for a low budget, but are unable due to lack of time or employees? Then Fiverr might be the perfect solution. Fiverr is a freelance service where people will help you develop, market and grow your brand. The basic concept behind the platform is simple: buy individual services from freelancers starting at $5 per gig. Instead of hiring a freelancer, you’re buying their service, such as logo design or social media marketing. Outsource the marketing, so you can focus on growing your business.
Does your company lack money to implement even these low-budget marketing strategies? Then invoice factoring may be the perfect option for your business. This method of alternative financing allows you to keep promoting your small business. A factoring company purchases your outstanding invoices and advances the cash you need to grow and market your company.