10 Ways to Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget

When budgets are tight, marketing might be the first expense you look to cut.

Let me stop you right there.

While traditional advertising methods are costly and hard to measure, small businesses have never had greater access to cost-effective, trackable marketing tools.

But with so many digital tools available, how do you know where to start?

Email marketing is the tried and true digital marketing channel with an average return of $38 for every $1 spent.

If you’re brand new to email marketing, you can try it out for free! Sign up for your free 60-day trial of Constant Contact here.

Email and social media marketing are just the start. Here are ten marketing strategies that can help you market your small 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 six to eight 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. 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. 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 keeping in touch with people through email marketing.

Ask customers for their email address when they visit your store or website. Then, make your communications informative, helpful and professional — something your customers will look forward to receiving.

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.

Get started today! Sign up for a FREE 60-day trial of Constant Contact to see if email marketing can be a shoestring solution for your business. 

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.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2013 and has been updated for relevancy and accuracy. 

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