11-20-2013 11-18-29 AM

10 Ways to Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget

Famed author Mark Twain once said, “Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.”

But advertising can be expensive, and in a tight economy, many small businesses cut their marketing budgets first because of cash flow concerns. However, when times are tough, it’s even more important to keep your business brand front and center.

During an economic downturn, clients, customers, and consumers have less money to spend. This means that when they’re ready to buy, you want your brand to be at the top of their list. Social media is undoubtedly one of the most effective and affordable ways to engage your customers and keep your brand top-of-mind, but it’s not the only way. Here are ten tried and true marketing strategies that can help you market your business on a shoestring budget.

1. Craft an elevator pitch

You should be marketing all the time — wherever you are. Therefore, you need a compelling elevator pitch. Research shows the average attention span of an adult is about 6 to 8 seconds. That’s all the time you have to grab someone’s attention. If you successfully engage them, then you only have a little over a minute to really sell them on your product or service. Invest the time to craft a killer elevator pitch. The return on your investment will pay huge dividends in terms of creating business opportunities.

2. Leverage your community

You don’t have to think big when it comes to your marketing efforts. Think locally. What’s going on in your community? Sponsor a Little League team or a 5k charity walk/run. Print bookmarks and leave them at the local library. Get to know your ideal customer and think about how and where they spend their time. Then search for opportunities to get in front of your customer with your marketing message.

3. Collaborate

Put together a group of synergistic, non-competitive businesses in your area and agree to cross-promote. You can use coupons, fliers, reciprocal website links, bundled promotions or social media platforms. (Okay, I had to add a little bit of social media to the mix.) By collaborating with each other, you can expand your customer base because you’ll be reaching new people.

4. Network

I’m a huge fan of networking. I don’t think there is any better way to build a business than to get out there, shake some hands, and get to know people. Networking requires a time commitment and it doesn’t provide instant gratification, but a strong network is one of the greatest assets any business person can have.

5. Give a speech

A lot of people hate public speaking. However, there are many organizations looking for qualified, subject-matter experts who can present to their groups. Take a deep breath and volunteer. You don’t have to be a pro as long as the information you share is helpful to the audience. And the upside — the more you do it the easier it gets. Plus, it positions you as a credible authority in your field.

6. Create buzz

I started my corporate career in the field of public relations and the business has changed significantly because of technology. Today, a small business owner can accomplish a lot without hiring a professional firm. Subscribe to Help a Reporter Out  www.helpareporter.com. You can respond to reporters’ queries that are looking for story ideas and resources. Some are small media opportunities, but others are major media outlets that use this service too.

7. Ask for referrals

Don’t be shy about asking for customer referrals. The majority of people say they are willing to provide a referral if asked, but very few take the initiative to do it on their own. Referrals make it easier to get in the door with new customers. If you aren’t asking for them, you are missing opportunities.

8. Build relationships

It is a lot less expensive to keep a customer than it is to get a new one. That’s why establishing strong relationships with your customer base is crucial. One of the ways you can do that is by launching an email campaign. Make your communications informative and helpful — something your customers will look forward to receiving. Social media campaigns are another way to keep the communication channel open (and there I go again.)

9. Offer coupons

Coupons are a good way for many businesses to attract new customers. Research shows that people will go out of their way to use a coupon, proving that this method is successful in expanding your customer base. Coupons can also generate return visits. For example, if you give a customer a coupon for a discount to use on future business, there’s a high probability they’ll be back.

10. Give it away

If someone has the opportunity to experience your product or service, chances are they will want to purchase more. Don’t be afraid to give someone a free trial or a sample. In today’s economy, people are more comfortable purchasing something they have been able to experience first.

These ten, inexpensive marketing strategies will help you engage customers, build relationships, and ultimately keep your brand top-of-mind. It’s not always about the money you have to spend on marketing, it’s about the time and effort you put into it and above all, the relevance it has for your customers.

Do you have another inexpensive, successful marketing tip that has worked for you? Tell us about it below.

About the Author: Susan Solovic is THE Small Business Expert. Sign up for Susan’s Success Tips Newsletter and get your free copy of “Smart Marketing Strategies for Small Biz” ebook.

Comments:

Leave a comment »
  1. As a ALE one of the things I find small business owners need to learn is it is not up to the prospects to remember them, it is up the small business owner to find creative ways to follow up so that they will be remembered. I send a personal note noting what was said and it has all my places where I can be found on the Internet, web site and two blogs as well as the usual contact information. Also has my purpose statement based on #1 above. I give out scratch pads with a “To Do” list and the first item is “Call Matt about Marketing”.

    Reply
  2. You should craft an elevator speech so that the recipient will have to ask “How do you do that?”. And then, the elevator speech is only the beginning of a sales process. It doesn’t matter how you follow up but without the follow up, your cheating yourself of all the time you put into networking.

    Reply
    • A great elevator speech is a foot in the door, and it’s as essential to networking as a pocketful of business cards. If your elevator speech begins with something intriguing, your listener will want to know more. Then follow up, be consistent in doing what you said you would when you said you would, and people will see you as the kind of person they want to do business with, as well as the kind of person who would never end a sentence with a preposition.

      Reply
    • Great list

      I’m a big fan of email, for being so good at so many things (after sales care, cross selling…). While it is already a cost effective solution, make it more so by selling space to a business that has a complimentary product or service to your core services.

      Reply
  3. Great list you’ve compiled here :) Here are our office, one of the MAJOR ways we gain traction, leverage, and authority is through speaking and teaching. Every week, someone from our office, whether it be the principal attorneys, or one of our staff team members, are engaging in some type of educational event. This allows us to stay top of mind, directly interfacing with potential clients and doing so with a very low expense account.

    I agree with Kim above that an elevator speech is always handy, because when I or others go out to speak/teach, we have the same short message we share because we’re all in sync with what we say when we’re out in the public representing our firm :)

    Reply
  4. Hey Susan, thanks for sharing some solid tips with us! There are a few that I need to work on, which are time consuming, but as we all know the hard work we put in now will yield favorable over the long-term.

    As for social media, don’t be hush, hush about it – shout it from the roof. I have received so many visitors and solid leads through social media, I cannot be hush, hush about it. Think what we may, social media is very effective! Time consuming at times, but very much worth it – even in a little time you can begin seeing results.

    Works for me!

    Reply
  5. Hi Susan,

    Thanks for including us! We appreciate the shout out!

    Best,
    Laura
    HARO’s Social Media Community Manager and Vocus’ PR Manager

    Reply
  6. Hi Susan,

    I have owned several small businesses that have allowed me to be self employed for the last 12 years. I think networking with a business group or club is a great idea. I have launched a few businesses just from those networking groups and minimal advertising. I stopped print advertising several years ago not because of the cost, but because I already had to much business from my other forms of advertising. I have a website for my Remodeling Company that ranks well in Google, Great Reviews on Yelp and Yahoo Local, and word of mouth. It took a few years to build the “buzz”, but once you build it your phone never stops ringing!

    Craig

    P.S. If anyone is interested in getting into the Handyman or Remodeling Business I have a business blueprint available at http://www.handymansuccess.weebly.com.

    Reply
  7. [...] Original article in full appears here: 10 Ways to Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget [...]

    Reply
  8. […] so many ways to promote your business that can be added to the handing out of your promo gifts. On ConstantContact.com, Susan Solovic writes about some “tried and true marketing strategies that can help you market […]

    Reply
  9. […] yesterday’s blog, we began looking at an article from ConstantContact.com written by Susan Solovic. In it, she expressed many of the views shared by our staff, here at […]

    Reply
  10. I have found that signing up for special events gets me in front of people who have never been to my shop. They can see my products and how I display them. I happen to be sell vintage items and concentrate on home decor. I also use ConstantContact because photos say a lot.

    Reply
  11. Like the coupon idea. What is an elevator speech?

    Reply
  12. Network everywhere. At your kids’ sports events, start conversations with the other parents on your team. After a few weeks, when you know them a bit, ask them what they do in real life. You might be very surprised at the connections you make!

    Reply
  13. I think collaboration and cross promotion is an underutilized marketing technique. In fact in the Constant Contact Innovation team we are trying to connect our 500,000 small business customers just for this purpose. Check it out. It’s free.

    https://roundtable.ctctinno.com

    Reply
  14. kayode •

    I am so glad I checked out how to market small business on a budget on goggle ,the outcome is very informative,

    Reply
  15. Hi, thanks for interesting article, but did you try keyword research for your website? You can get free traffic from Google if you find good niche keywords. There are even tools which help you find such “niches”, for example Metrics11

    Reply
  16. […] Traditionalists: The Startup’s (Budget) Guide to Traditional MarketingFor Those on a Budget: How to Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget For Everyone: 15 Ways to Let The World Know About Your Awesome […]

    Reply
  17. Great list

    I’m a big fan of email, for being so good at so many things (after sales care, cross selling…). While it is already a cost effective solution, make it more so by selling space to a business that has a complimentary product or service to your core services.

    Reply
  18. These are great tips. #4 is the best one for small businesses just starting out. Nothing can beat meeting people and having face to face conversations.

    Reply
  19. Starting and growing a business into a success story is a serious challenge. There are a lot of obstacles ahead. Resources, condition, competition, budget and desire to carry on. There are a lot of people who work hard and put together everything they have in the beginning and once they do not see immediate results they give up. The process soaks up not only their energy but at the same time their hope and idea, and as a result business itself fades out. In my opinion, the most important thing is to figure out the right strategy. All the resources being limited, specifically time, it is very important to focus on the things that could drive you forward. Besides, there is no specific formula to promote your business. Strategies that have been successful for other businesses could simply not work out for yours. Whether it is networking by attending events, seminars and giving out business cards, increasing online visibility by spending money and time on SEO, creating a strong social media presence by using social channels such as facebook, twitter, pinterest, spending money on google adwords, sending out tons of flyers or doing all these at the same time, step back and take moment. Find out the right strategy to promote your business first. Whatever that right approach is, keep doing it consistently. There is only one thing for sure. Results happen through consistency. Create a simple marketing checklist with tasks that you would do every day no matter what. There might not be immediate results, but if you keep doing it for a while, it will definitely satisfy your aim.

    Reply
  20. Susan,
    Good list…Ideally if you implement all of them consistently that you begin to see what really works for your business. One thing I’d like to add to the list is to treat your top customers to a special event…be it a pre-sale exclusive or by invitation only to “show our gratitude” gesture.

    Reply
  21. Kieth Boedicker •

    Use a tool like Tackk to create and share. You’ll see explosive growth and it’s free.

    Reply
  22. Very good list. The help a reporter out suggestion is one that I have put into practice. It’s a hit or miss tactic depending on the topic and your expertise but definitely worth doing.

    Reply
  23. Great list, I use all of these techniques and because I’ ma web designer and internet marketer for local businesses getting involved with all these ideas means it is a great way of advertising my services by setting the example. The mailing list is going very well, and I actually visit prospects in their premises, introduce myself, leave a business card and offer to put them on my email marketing list in order to give them free video content to help them out with their own marketing… “don’t sell to the room, sell through the room”

    Reply
  24. Very good advice~

    Reply
  25. Yup, these are all good ideas, and the most important thing to remember is to plan it all out before you spend any money on these ideas. Even though these are all very inexpensive, they can add up if the small business budget is not managed properly.

    Reply
  26. singh •

    nice tip really helpful

    Reply
  27. Lead boxes (or contest entry boxes) are a very inexpensive organic lead generators. Drop them around town especially small biz locations to whom you already give business and those who have lobbies or small waits: car washes, dry cleaners, mnail salons, etc. Those shops who you give regular business too are more likely to allow the boxes and/or provide counter space.. Try a joint giveaway as well to increase acceptance and satisfy the WIFM factor for biz owners.
    Header art should offer a compelling prize, unique discount or special gift for entry, This builds you lead list fast and inexpensively. Enhance the physical box with QRs codes or short code keywords.

    BOX SUPPLIES: http://www.leadbox.com/?AffId=13
    Free QR code generators: http://www.qrstuff.com
    AFFORDABLE SMS MKTG: http://www.winning.uneeqlee.com/l1/

    Good luck!

    Reply
  28. […] or it can be found in a more accessible place with a cheaper price tag, it will be difficult to market your product to […]

    Reply
  29. […] of professional painters don’t ever return to a job site to inspect their work. Why not?! Any additional opportunity to interact with the client should be taken advantage of. Before leaving when the job is finished, make sure to schedule a […]

    Reply
  30. […] that successful marketing will always take time. You have to put the effort in and build everything up slowly. You don’t want to become a […]

    Reply
  31. Email is the perfect venue for small businesses. I have all business to business data, as well as all consumer records and email campaigns to these records start at 150 dollars. Email has also been proven to have the highest ROI of any media. (plenty of testimonials and case studies)

    Reply
  32. […] 10 Ways to Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget http://blogs.constantcontact.com/fresh-insights/market-your-small-business/ Famed author Mark Twain once said, “Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.” But advertising can be expensive, and in a ti. […]

    Reply
  33. […] 10 Ways to Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget http://blogs.constantcontact.com/fresh-insights/market-your-small-business/ But advertising can be expensive, and in a tight economy, many small businesses cut their marketing budgets first because of cash flow concerns. However … […]

    Reply
  34. I love this post and most definitely agree that leveraging social media is one of the least inexpensive ways to reach your target market. I’d like to add that for me personally, I’ve combined SEO & Adwords, along with a nifty tool called Instant IG Posts that allows you to upload pics and schedule them to be posted later. It’s makes social networking SO convenient, & if you get their Pro plan, they’ll even help you with social media marketing & interact for you on instagram. If you guys wanna check it out, here’s a link.

    http://instant-ig-posts.myshopify.com

    Reply
  35. Our company has always attempted the give it away technique. But in my experience, if they aren’t willing to pay for it now, they won’t in the future. We are a service business, so giving our product away is basically a few thousand dollar expense. Maybe if we had a lower cost alternative to give away, it would be worth a try. I love the elevator pitch idea and I often relate to being sold in the first few seconds.

    Reply
  36. […] you can see, how to market a product online with your blog is not that hard. You can blog to build your customer list (contact list) through email. You can […]

    Reply
  37. Michael •

    I read a book that I really recommend to other small business owners (Win Win Marketing by Mrs Foxwell). I found it on Amazon because I had read some articles that the author had written and I was intrigued by the title (and there were good reviews). I liked her approach to not forget traditional marketing and the really clear approach and ideas. It was easy to use and not full of loads of rhetoric. It’s worth a read.

    Reply
  38. Mr. Solovic thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. We like it very much.

    Reply
  39. The best ideas in this post, i really love this post because this post provide me some good idea about to Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget. Thank so much for this article !

    Reply
  40. Very good list of basic marketing. These steps lead to assured success

    Reply
  41. […] Read Susan's full article "10 Ways to Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget" on the Constant Contact blog: http://blogs.constantcontact.com/fres… […]

    Reply
  42. I was wondering, we have recently started a venture in a small town. We are new to the aria, but saw that they were lacking a proper business listing. We created thesunshinecoast.co.za , but now our problem is getting the businesses to invest in us.

    Reply
  43. Thanks Milana for being an example of give, give and receive!! You truly add value to our lives and I am also enjoying the posts. Yes, it can become overwhelming as we embark on the journey of building our Empires. Thankfully we have authentic mentors, coaches and trainers like Milana whom we can glean from and up-level our businesses that in return allows us to invest in their wonderful programs, thereby becoming a link in the circle of give , give and receive! I use your group coaching manager program and have one of your others and I am looking to invest in more.
    catmario online

    Reply
  44. Hi Susan,

    Thank you for the tips.

    The trend seems to be headed towards guest posting and publishing evergreen content on their business sites.

    The benefits to be had on both marketing methods are just too irresistible. Not only are they able to position themselves as an authority in their field by providing quality advice to their readers, but they’re also able to get traffic, direct client referrals and build worth while relationships with other webmasters that can lead to a future lucrative collaboration.

    The saying “content is king” is truer now than ever before.

    I’ve recently published a comprehensive step by step guide to guest posting. If anyone is every interested in learning how to do it, then this guide is a very good start.

    http://guildofbloggers.com/the-a-z-guide-to-guest-posting-that-will-help-you-grow-your-blog/

    I hope it helps.

    Jimmy R.
    Freelance Writer
    http://guildofbloggers.com

    Reply
  45. All very important marketing material but, print is important too. I know most small business are on a budget but this why I have started a website to help with design cost. There is something about a printed marketing piece that customers find important. What are your thoughts, is print dead?

    Reply
  46. thank you , very helpful really

    Reply

Tell us your thoughts