Marketing doesn’t have to be a source of overwhelm, and it doesn’t have to be a huge investment either. Investing in a fancy branding strategy or hiring a big-deal marketing firm might work for some bigger corporations, but small businesses can get by with some savvy marketing tactics on the ground.
According to studies, one in 10 small business owners don’t invest in marketing efforts at all. While we don’t recommend that approach, it is possible to implement effective marketing tactics on a budget. If you’re looking for ways to market a small business for under $5,000-$10,000, the list of recommendations here is an excellent place to start.
Create a Website
Yes, a website counts as a marketing initiative for your small business! Marketing is basically how you get the word out about your business. Having a legitimate, up-to-date website that is clear and polished will do wonders to help market your company.
In fact, for most small business owners, a website will be the most important tool, not just for marketing but also for sales. It will house all the information you need to share about your business, products or services. There are many platforms out there that allow not-so-tech-savvy individuals to build a website for a much lower price than it would cost to hire an advertising agency.
Some of the most popular, low-cost options to help you build a top-quality website for your small business include:
Wix is a great website builder and ecommerce option for small businesses at no cost or minimal costs ($20) for a basic subscription.
WordPress is a popular website platform for small businesses, with easy-to-use templates and the option to integrate blogging seamlessly. Prices for small businesses begin at $25.
Squarespace is another easy-to-use website builder with templates that you can use to have a website created in no time. Squarespace has business plans starting at $23.
A bonus of using many of these website builders is that they often come with the ability to integrate other marketing initiatives, including social media marketing, email communication management and blogging, into your platform.
Create a Killer Elevator Pitch
Just like a website, having an elevator pitch may seem like a given to you. However, when it comes to how to market your small business, refining your elevator pitch is a powerful branding exercise that can also provide you and your employees with a strong brand statement that can appeal to customers, investors and audiences alike.
A successful elevator pitch will distill your company’s core offerings in a compelling way and make people want to know even more about your business. The elevator pitch is a cornerstone of any marketing campaign and will be useful to you and your employees as a guidepost for every piece of content you create. It will also help create a stronger brand by keeping your messaging consistent.
The best elevator pitch to help market your small business should include:
Description of your ideal customer
Description of the problem your customer needs to solve
The benefits your business will provide your customers
Language that entices people to want to learn more about your business
Your elevator pitch should also be short enough to be spoken in the amount of time an elevator would need to travel a few floors! This means you’ll have to really focus on your ideal customer, their pain points and the benefits your business provides. It’s an excellent starting place for the rest of your brand messaging, and nobody knows it better than you.
Offer a Deal
It may seem like a no-brainer to you, but many small business owners don’t even realize that when they offer a coupon, deal or giveaway they are creating a highly effective grassroots marketing campaign! After all, 90 percent of consumers use coupons.
There has been much written about the topic of coupon marketing strategy, and statistics can be scoured to come up with the perfect formula that will spread the word and minimize lost profits.
A few important discount marketing statistics of note include:
Customers are 60 percent more likely to repurchase from a company that they have already purchased from.
More than half of people surveyed by Business Wire reported that they would switch to a new brand if it offered them a coupon.
Whenever you are offering a discount as a means of marketing, remember to be thoughtful about the wording of your offer. For example, rather than offering a 50 percent off discount, try a BOGO offer.
Find Brand Ambassadors
You don’t necessarily have to go out and hire the hottest social influencer in your niche to create a genuine buzz that will work marketing magic for your small business. Look to your immediate network, whether it's your employee base, family and friends or local small business owners who have supported your work.
This group of key individuals might just be all the power you need to create a true influencer campaign that reaches multitudes of potential customers.
Here are some simple steps to get you started on an effective brand ambassador campaign:
Make a list of 20 people who have good things to say about your business.
Write a personalized email, text or make a phone call to ask each potential brand ambassador for their support.
Consider offering your brand ambassadors something special for their role, such as a giveaway or discount.
Think about the reciprocal ways you could help your brand ambassadors, too.
Provide your brand ambassadors with ideas for how they can start talking about your business. For example, create template social media posts, share your elevator pitch or give your brand ambassadors something to talk about by creating exclusive content and promotions for them to share.
A blog is a great place to house valuable content on your website. You can develop the content yourself or hire a copywriter to develop blogs for you. Blogging about subjects that your customers are looking to your business for expertise in will help to establish you and your business as trusted experts in the field. This will strengthen your brand and build up trust between your business and your customers.
When you create a blog, you will also begin to see an increase in search engine traffic. That’s because the more content you add to your website, the more pages from your domain become indexed in search engines, thus improving your organic search visibility and pushing your company to the top of the results.
Remember, you are a thought leader in your field.
Many small business owners become overwhelmed by the prospect of writing a blog. Whether you write your blog yourself or hire a copywriter, include all of the expertise and experience you have gained as a small business owner through the years in the content you create. This establishes you as a thought leader in your field. Plus, this is the type of content that can take your blog from just space-filling words to a valuable piece of content that builds relationships with your customers.
Budget Tip: You can do it on your own! It’s a common myth that marketing requires a huge investment or the input of a team of experts. Marketing can be undertaken by anyone on your staff. While it can be very beneficial to hire a consultant with specific expertise in marketing niche, such as content creation or social media, you can also do many of these marketing initiatives on your own.
Implement Content Marketing
Content marketing is a highly valuable marketing strategy that goes beyond blogging. Content marketing helps you build authority and credibility with your current and future customers. It also provides your customers value as they move through the purchase decision.
In order to implement this strategy, you really need to understand your audience, what they are interested in, what their pain points are and how they like to be targeted. The good news is that as a small business owner, you probably know all of this anyway. Why not leverage your knowledge while building a strong bond with your customers in the process? This will help you provide value and become a top option when people search for the products and services you’re offering.
Blogging is a start, but a true content marketing campaign will include many different formats to reach more people. It’s best to offer a host of different types of content, including the following:
Audio content, like podcasts
Video content, like tutorials, speeches
Social media content
Not sure where to start? There are tons of resources available to help entrepreneurs get up to speed on the most effective and topical content marketing initiatives. Try these sources to learn more about content marketing you can do on your own:
HubSpot has a wealth of information, with many blogs that walk you through content marketing basics.
ClickMinded offers multi-course training series in content marketing to make you an expert in no time.
Udemy offers a blogging masterclass to help you build a blog that doubles as a content marketing tool.
Buzzsprout offers a free podcast marketing course through a series of podcasts.
Start with a content calendar to ensure that you have a variety of content released regularly across all different formats and platforms. There are highly skilled content marketing consultants who can be very valuable partners in developing a content marketing strategy plan for your small business that will elevate your brand and reach. Investing in the help of one of these firms upfront will be a wise investment and allow you to start out on a solid foundation.
Send Monthly Emails
Email marketing is a low-cost initiative that targets and informs your customer base. Through emails, your business can build relationships with prospects, leads, current customers and even past customers.
It gives you a chance to speak directly to them, sending valuable information, offers and updates. You can target each of these audiences in different emails, tailoring the messaging. For example, you could offer a 10 percent discount to past customers with a message to “Come try us again soon!”
Investing in a reliable customer relationship management (CRM) system that will help sort your customers and easily send out communications to them via email is a wise marketing investment. Hiring a consultant who has expertise in CRM can be a big investment with a large payoff. If you don’t have the marketing funds to hire a firm to help manage your email lists and send out your emails, consider investing in a DIY system and training one of your employees (or yourself) in how to use it.
Five popular platforms with affordable options to help you start your email marketing campaign include:
Your end goal with a robust email marketing campaign will be to grow your subscriber list. Joining the list can be a call to action that you employ across your social media channels, in your brick-and-mortar locations and in any and all advertising you embark on. A well-managed subscriber list can become the key to many years of growth and success through simple email marketing.
And you don’t have to invest in paid advertising or become an expert on algorithms to get started. Simply having a social media account for your small business will help you get discovered by new customers and give your small business an added level of validity.
Social media becomes more than just a static place for customers to search for you, though. When done right, social media can be a primary form of engagement with your community and customer base and a way to communicate directly with large multitudes of potential customers, for free.
When it comes to hiring outside consultants to help with marketing efforts, social media experts do provide incredible value. Try partnering with a social media expert to develop a plan that optimizes engagement through your social media channels. You don’t want to look out of touch by using the wrong social platforms for the wrong messaging, appearing outdated or irrelevant on social media — especially if you are hoping to attract younger customers.
Top Three Social Media Marketing Tips for Small Businesses:
Keep your content fresh. Social media moves fast. So make sure you have a process for updating your social media frequently to appear fresh and relevant in followers’ feeds.
Use images and video. TikTok is the fastest-growing social media channel. If you can harness the power of this phenomenon, you can reach nearly limitless customers. Even if you’re not ready for TikTok, know that social media is largely visual and make sure you have compelling video and images to share with your posts across all platforms.
Save time by repurposing your content across channels. You can use pieces of your blogs to create compelling Instagram posts. You can create a contest on Facebook and promote it through Twitter — or vice versa. The list of ways that you can tweak your existing content and offerings very slightly to be used across the many social media platforms is long. Use the interchangeability of these platforms to your advantage and make the most of the little time and money you have.
Create a Facebook Contest
A social media contest, much like a traditional giveaway, can generate buzz and attract new customers to your business while establishing strong relationships with your audience in the process. Social media is an excellent platform for running contests that have the potential to reach legions of new customers.
Facebook continues to be an effective platform for contests. In fact, 78.4 percent of contest shares are done on Facebook. Like and share contests are some of the easiest and most straightforward types of contests to run through the social media giant.
Simply create a post that asks your followers to like and share it in order to be entered into a contest that will win them something really exciting. Followers will only need to make two clicks to be entered, and you can easily choose one of these people to win your giveaway!
The potential to reach many brand-new customers is almost limitless, depending on how many followers you have. Even if you don’t gain many new customers with your first like-and-share contest, you will most certainly gain new followers. This will give you new opportunities to engage with a new group of people, tell them about your small business and begin to build a relationship.
Wait! Follow these Facebook Contest Rules
When you are running a contest on Facebook, be sure to comply with the social media platform’s specific rules. Here are some of the things you cannot do with your Facebook contest:
You cannot ask followers to share your contest on their own personal timelines specifically.
You cannot ask followers to post your contest on their friends’ timelines.
You cannot ask followers to tag their friends in your post.
Engage with Your Followers
One of the worst things for marketing that you can do as a small business owner is to ignore your followers and customers online. This goes for not only the customers who contact you privately but also those who engage with you publicly online on social media platforms or review sites. No matter what, you should be replying to all comments from your audience in a timely and positive manner that reflects your brand favorable.
Ideally, you will want to assign one person on your staff to be in charge of responding to all customer comments online within 24 hours. Start with your elevator pitch, and develop some template language that you can tweak easily to ensure that you are reflecting your brand messaging even in these online dialogs.
Customer service is a cornerstone of your marketing initiative. If your audience sees that you provide timely, positive and helpful customer service through public interactions on your social media feed or on review websites, then they are getting the message that you provide reliable, positive and efficient customer service. It is notable that in one recent survey, 30 percent of respondents said that they would reverse negative reviews when a company responds.
Not having a budget shouldn’t scare you away from building a marketing strategy that sets you up for success. These low-cost tactics can help you build recognition for your brand’s products or services — and they won’t require you to break the bank. Looking for additional ways to manage your business finances? Incfile has a host of business resources and tools available to help you achieve success.
Nicole Bowman is a freelance writer who thinks turning research into stories is the best gig ever. She started writing billboards back in 2002, worked in book publishing in New York for many years and now she creates all sorts of engaging content for the web. Nicole lives in Rehoboth Beach, DE, with her husband, two sons and their poodle, Tootsie. She loves the great outdoors, bookstores and tennis.