It can be challenging for small businesses to attract and retain customers. Especially compared to larger companies with big budgets, large teams and creative agencies on their side. But that just makes it all the more important to be able to market your small business effectively on a budget.
Especially now, after a year of lockdowns and pandemic triggered uncertainty, budgets are tight. It’s crucial to find ways to get your brand out there without breaking the bank. So it’s time to get creative with your marketing and explore new, affordable avenues.
Thankfully, as small business owners, we aren’t afraid of a challenge! And while it can feel overwhelming, there are marketing tactics out there that don’t cost an arm and a leg or require years of experience.
Let’s see how you can find the right tactics to hit your goals and market your small business on a budget!
It starts with a strategy
To choose the right marketing channels for your small business, you need to have done your homework and put together a strategy.
That means defining your target groups and figuring out where to find them. It includes, for example, finding the answers to:
- Where do they hang out?
- What magazines do they read?
- Where do they look for products like yours?
You can advertise your small business on the right channels as much as you like. If your message isn’t right or gets drowned out by the competition, you might as well throw your money out of the window.
Find out more about how to create a marketing strategy for your small business in 5 easy steps.
And it takes time
Finding the right way to market your small business on a budget is all trial and error. And, as frustrating as that can be from time to time, if you don’t try you won’t learn.
Take your time to learn the ropes and gather information to see if your audience responds or, if not, why it’s not working. It’s the only way to identify the most effective way to attract new clients or retain existing ones and will save you both time and money in the end.
But let’s get to the point: See how you can adapt the following marketing channels and ideas so you can market your small business on a budget.
Low-cost marketing tips
1. Affordable advertising
Placing adverts in print magazines or national newspapers can be expensive. But how about local directories and bulletins? Many offer ad space for little money and help you market your products directly in your target area.
Also, check out independent shops and cafés around you (or where your target group lives and works). They often provide noticeboards where you can leave leaflets or business cards (some supermarkets do this, too).
Do you provide a health and wellbeing-related service? Ask your local pharmacy or GP practice if you can put up a poster in their waiting room. Or you can try local gyms and leisure centres.
If you have company vehicles, brand them. Magnetic signs that are removed when not in use are an affordable way of using your own car as advertising space.
Additionally, collaboration is always a good way to save money, too: Connect with a complementary business and advertise in each other’s newsletters.
2. Budget collaterals
When thinking about marketing collaterals or promotional items, we mainly think of things like business cards, letterheads or branded pens.
But there’s a cheaper option that can help you market your small business on a budget: your email signature. I mean, how many emails do you send and read in a day?
Why wouldn’t you take the opportunity to tell everyone where to find you on the internet. Or show them your social media profiles, where to sign up for your newsletter or what your latest offer is?
Design your own, or, if you want something a bit fancier, purchase a template! Designers on sites like Etsy have lots of amazing templates for as little as £5-£10, with built in clickable links to your website and social media profiles.
3. Content & social media marketing
The internet provides endless free marketing opportunities ideal to market your small business on a budget. For example, you could consider providing tips and advice in a blog like this one.
Additionally, you could create a podcast commenting on the latest changes in your industry or start a YouTube channel with videos to wow your customers. It sometimes feels like everybody is doing this, but you have something none of those other people have – your own perspective, view and experience!
Small business owners should utilise social media in particular. Yes, it takes time and yes, it’s not always easy to see the direct benefit for your business. But with the right workflow in place, it will only take a little time out of your week and it is so worth it to engage with your audience!
Raising your brand awareness, giving your small business a voice and a face, being able to directly interact with your (potential) customers is simply priceless. Literally.
Don’t have time for social media or want to spend less time creating and posting content? Here’s how you can create the right workflow and make the best of your time and social media marketing!
4. Direct marketing
Oh, the evil word! When we hear direct marketing we think about the mailshots that clutter our bin or call centre agents that somehow always manage to call at the least convenient moment.
But the cheap and effective alternatives are newsletters and e-mails if you’re looking to market your small business on a budget.
Build up a mailing list through your website, blog and social media profiles. Send out regular emails to inform your customers about offers, news and goings-on in your company.
You can also send out a monthly newsletter with current blog posts or invite top clients to take part in your new referral scheme for free. Check out my alternative guide to small business email marketing for my top tips!
5. Event marketing
Exhibiting at trade shows and conferences can be pricey, but there are ways around the big spend.
For example, you can team up with other businesses and share a stand. Or you can offer your services as a public speaker at the event to get in front of your audience.
Think about donating a few of your products for a raffle or fundraiser or simply use the networking opportunity and go as a visitor.
Either way, don’t forget to contact exhibitors and attendees you’d like to talk to a few weeks before to arrange a meeting during the event.
It’s a word that makes some people cringe, but believe me, it’s worth it. At free local networking events, you can make new contacts and show your face.
All you need is business cards and an elevator pitch to make sure people know what you have to offer.
There are lots of benefits of business networking. As well as meeting new clients and getting referrals, you can form partnerships with other businesses. And you can find a support network and learn from other’s experiences.
These days, virtual events are happening all the time, in place of the pre-pandemic in-person events. A quick zoom networking session can be a great opportunity to market your small business on a budget – you don’t even have to leave the house/office!
Feeling brave? Offer yourself as a speaker at one of these events to show your expertise!
7. Online marketing
Online marketing is a vast field, but being online is a very important way to get noticed for a small business. And it can be done cheaply. These days you can set up simple websites for free or for little money.
Additionally, sign up for Google My Business to get your local business entry for reviews and better search result listings.
And the best of all: All of this is free and makes your small business easy to find and more visible online.
Last but not least, we have public relations. If you have something big planned or a story to tell (e.g. a new product launch or an award win), write up a short press release and send it to relevant publications.
Journalists always need to fill their pages (on- and offline) and find good stories. And all it costs you is the time to write up a pitch to the journalist.
There is, of course, no guarantee it will be published. But over time, you can build really good relationships with journalists in your field, making it more likely for you to get some free exposure.
If you are interested in reading more about this topic, have a look at these:
Meet the Underdogs: 10 Underrated Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses
Your Small Business Marketing Plan: What is it, Why Do You Need it & How Do You Get One?
How to Run Your Business so it Stops Running You
Marketing Strategy for Small Businesses: Why You Need One & How to Define it