Promoting our small businesses is important. But actually finding the cash to do so can often be difficult. So if you’re on a budget and big, expensive marketing campaigns are out of the question, check out these low-cost marketing ideas for small businesses.
Because small budgets don’t mean it’s impossible to market your products and services. If you use your resources wisely, there are plenty of ways to promote your business without spending all your money!
1. Social Media
The internet is a wonderful place for low-cost marketing ideas. For example, using social media is a great way to get your message out there, promote your products or services, and connect with customers – all for free.
You do need to invest quite a lot of time and creativity to get your social media right, but do it well and you’ll soon notice the benefits. The most important thing is to be consistent – don’t spend a week posting regularly and then forget for three weeks! Come up with a realistic posting schedule that works for you, and your audience can come to expect.
You can, down the track, invest in social media paid advertising – it can give things a real boost. But there is so much you can do for free.
Find out more about how to define your ideal client & attract them to your small business.
If you’ve already got a website, why not start a blog too? A blog can be added to your existing website for no additional cost – all you have to pay is the yearly domain name and hosting fee.
Not only is blogging a great way to showcase your expertise. It also helps improve your SEO ranking. This will position you as an expert in your field, at the same time as making it easier for people to find you in search engine results.
The more high-quality content you produce, the higher the number of people who will find your website. And the more likely they’ll be to trust you enough to buy from you.
Also among effective low-cost marketing ideas are email newsletters. Email marketing software, such as MailChimp, is often free to use initially, with an affordable charge if your mailing list exceeds a certain number of subscribers.
Newsletters give you the chance to speak directly to those who are already interested in your business. That includes existing customers, potential clients or contacts you made through networking.
Updating them with news about your products, seasonal offers or special discounts is a fantastic way to keep them engaged and encourage them to purchase from you.
4. Loyalty Schemes
Low-cost marketing ideas that work well for a lot of small businesses are loyalty schemes. This is a great budget option because you can decide exactly what the offer will be. And it will only apply to people who have already purchased from you.
For example, you could offer 10% off purchases for loyalty card holders, or collect a stamp with each purchase to get the 10th purchase free. Or you can offer something for every time they successfully refer a new client to your company.
Loyalty schemes show customers that you care about them. They’re much more likely to purchase from you again and again if you offer them an incentive. If you’ve got a really great loyalty scheme, they might even tell their friends to join up too.
If you want to market your business to a large number of people without spending too much money, an event is a great idea. The type of event you hold will vary depending on what your small business does and what your goal is.
You might want to hold an open day to invite people behind the scenes. Or you could organise a workshop to showcase your expertise to potential customers.
You can also take advantage of external events as a low-cost marketing solution. Are there any industry exhibitions or trade shows you could sign up for? Could you team up with other local businesses to hold a conference or event?
Make sure you do a bit of research to find out what kind of events your ideal customer would be interested in, so you can spend your money in the right places.
Many networking events are free to attend, while others may require a small donation or membership fee. For the price of a couple of cups of coffee, you can meet lots of relevant business people, make connections and market your small business.
If you’re a B2B business, networking events are a vital way to market your business. Even if you’re a B2C business, meeting other business owners can lead to lots of opportunities.
They may recommend you to their customers or want to team up for a joint campaign, offer or event which will market your business to a whole new audience. It’s one of my favourite low-cost marketing ideas for small businesses!
7. Low-Cost Advertising
Traditional advertising, for example on TV or in magazines, is notoriously expensive. But there are some great low-cost advertising opportunities if you look in the right places.
As I mentioned earlier, social media advertising is a fantastic way to reach your audience if you have a small budget. But also look out for local publications, industry blogs or other sources where advertising costs will be lower. As long as their audience is relevant to your business, it’s a good investment.
It’s easy to get super focused on online marketing these days – check out my list of offline marketing ideas for some more traditional inspiration!
Being able to call yourself award-winning isn’t just great for your ego, it’s another one of my low-cost marketing ideas for small businesses. If you win (or are even nominated or shortlisted) an award, you’ll be able to use this in your marketing materials for years to come.
This will make you seem trustworthy, reliable and an expert in your field. Depending on the award, there may be a fee to enter or to attend the awards ceremony.
You’ll also be able to benefit from the marketing and PR surrounding the awards. It’s likely that news of the awards will be featured in the press, helping to raise awareness of your small business.
9. Special Offers
Promoting a special discount, freebie or other offers can help give your marketing a boost for very little cost. Everyone loves a special offer – it’s likely that people who have been thinking about purchasing from you for a while will finally take the leap if there’s 20% off.
A great special offer will get people talking about your small business (as well as buying from it), whether it’s through traditional word-of-mouth or sharing on social media. Just make sure the discount or offer still leaves you enough to cover costs and make a profit, then go for it.
Remember though, this shouldn’t be an everyday event – discounting all the time can give the wrong impression! Keep it to every once in a while to make sure it feels special and is an opportunity they can’t pass up.
10. Referrals & Reviews
Last but not least in this list of low-cost marketing ideas is word-of-mouth. It’s a really powerful tool when it comes to marketing your small business. People are much more likely to buy from a business if they’ve been personally recommended it by someone they trust.
Encourage customers to recommend you to their friends through a referral scheme. Offer a free gift or special discount to anyone who refers a new customer, and this will encourage people to spread the word about how great you are.
Online reviews, on sites like Google, Facebook and TripAdvisor, can also be useful if people are wondering whether or not to make a purchase.
Negative reviews are always a concern. But if you provide genuinely great products or services then there shouldn’t be too much to worry about. Just make sure you respond to any negative reviews in a timely, friendly and professional manner to show that you care.
To read more about this topic, have a look at these:
Small Business Grants and Funding in Scotland
7 Reasons to Get a Blog for Your Small Business Marketing
7 Ways to Turn Your Social Media Followers Into Paying Customers
Why Business is Quiet and How to Turn Things Around