Running a small business is no easy task.
And the costs. Oh, the costs!
The expenses are seemingly endless for businesses to retain operations.
Common sources of the financial drain for small businesses include real estate and equipment leases, labor, safety compliance, and marketing.
To the dismay of marketing professionals everywhere, when small business owners make budget cuts they seem keen to look at the advertising budget first. Many small business owners wrongly consider marketing a non-essential category when compared to other operational expenses.
The truth is if you’re running on a shoe-string marketing budget, you don’t have to eliminate advertising. Keep reading to learn more.
Here are 15 ways to advertise that won’t burn down your budget:
#1 Build a Website
Every business who’s any business has a website. It’s true that getting a great site can sometimes come along with a hefty price tag.
But if you’re fine with a more simple aesthetic, there are several low-cost ways to advertise your business via a website.
The most popular among these is to use a good, intuitive CMS editor like Wix or WordPress, and do it yourself.
You could hire someone to build a website relatively inexpensively if you look online for freelancers or college students who want to practice their skills.
But remember, the best websites are done by contractors and businesses recognized for their quality and dedication to good work. And those don’t come cheap.
Professionals understand that the best websites are more than just a homepage. Consider adding About Us and Blog pages.
It may sound like a lot, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn a few tricks of the trade and build a simple, clean website yourself.
Networking is a cheap and easy way to start getting the word out about your business.
You can look to local small business organizations for the best events. Or start a local entrepreneur group yourself.
Meetup is a good place online to look for groups that will help you network in no time.
#3 Write Press Releases
If you’re doing something that might be newsworthy like opening a new location or celebrating an important anniversary, tell the media!
It’s free to be your own PR manager.
Just use a press release template to write the release, then email your final copy to the editors of relevant publications. Their email addresses are available online.
For instance, a small, private rehab clinic might write a press release about a groundbreaking study they are conducting with college-age participants.
Then they could submit it to local college publications to get more info about the study to young people who might want to participate.
#4 Encourage Reviews
There are a number of ways to encourage reviews. Some strategies businesses use, include:
- Signage or chalkboard messages
- QR codes
- Customer experience surveys
- Testimonial contests on social
- Email lists; and more
With a number of ways to engage your customers for testimonials, there’s no harm in asking for those who had a great experience to leave a review.
#5 Join the Twitterati
Twitter is a platform that can make your post go viral and fast. With hundreds of millions of users microblogging about what they love and hate, you’d be remiss not to join the conversation.
It’s suggested that businesses should post to Twitter 15 times a day.
It doesn’t have to be deep or take more than a second to do, but having a good idea of what content your customers love and doing some light hashtag research is recommended.
#6 Make the Best Use of Facebook
Facebook is a not-so-hidden gem for bare bones marketers trying to master small business advertising.
Use Facebook in these four ways to kickoff your small business marketing:
- Small group marketing: become active in groups that make sense for your business, and create a special group for your VIP customers, this will keep them engaged
- Social media marketing: Maintain a Facebook business page, promote it and post to it at least a few times a week, if not daily
- Boost posts and advertise: use Facebook’s business tools to do this
- Gain insights: benefit from business analytics websites that allow you to learn more about your audience
Facebook is a valuable, free tool for small businesses, and it’s used widely across all industries and target markets. Don’t forget to include Facebook when planning how to promote your business.
#7 Get Smart with a Smart Phone
Having a smartphone is essential for business owners for a lot of reasons. But did you know it could help you with basic marketing?
With a number of business marketing apps to choose from savvy marketers need to make a small investment in personal technology.
#8 Content Marketing
Thanks to Google and other search engines, businesses can use content marketing tricks to drive organic traffic to their websites.
This includes keyword marketing and writing blogs on a wide range of topics that are interesting to your audience.
Any business owner can up there game with content marketing, it only costs their time and attention.
#9 Get Local
If you’ve got a thriving local business community it’s a shame not to leverage it.
Get local by participating in local events and trade shows, joining professional networking groups, participating and partnerships and cross-marketing with other organizations.
With a good local customer base as a foundation for success, the world is your oyster.
#10 Hire a Freelancer
There are a number of ways to hire a freelancer to do some of these marketing functions for you.
This is particularly a good idea if you aren’t comfortable building your own website, managing social media or writing content for your website and blog.
Hiring a freelancer can be costly. But websites like Upwork help you mitigate that cost by giving you access to freelancers at every price point.
#11 Get Photography Lessons
A picture’s worth a million words. And those words won’t be good ones if your pictures don’t look professional and convey what you want to convey.
There are a number of ways to use photography in your marketing efforts. Photos are great for driving traffic to blogs, creating a good YouTube thumbnail, making traditional display ads, and of course, posting to Instagram and social accounts.
Making a one-time investment in a photography class could save you the trouble of hiring a photographer later on.
#12 Invest in Branded Items
Another good investment that doesn’t have to be too expensive is to spend money on wholesale branding items.
There are several places that will offer you bulk discounts on business cards, shirts, hats, card holders, pens and other branded items.
Giving these out on the regular helps you keep your name out there. There’s obviously a cost associated with keeping branded items around to hand out, but the costs are minimal when compared to other branding efforts, like display advertising.
#13 Reach Out
Something you can do for free is to make a strategy for reaching out.
This could be cold calling potential customers to tell them about your business, or taking a stab at public speaking at events. Even reaching out to non-profit organizations and seeing how you can build a partnership that raises awareness for your brand.
#14 Use Audience Insights
Between Facebook and your website, it’s likely there are at least a few places where you can gain insights into your audience.
It’s important for small business owners to use these insights to understand their target market before launching into the right marketing plan.
It’s unlikely any single business owner will be able to do everything on this list. There’s just not enough time in a day!
But thinking about how to promote your business through the lens of your customer should reveal which avenues are best for you.
#15 Make a Plan
Now that you know what low-cost resources are available for small business advertising and you understand how to use audience insights to pick the right ones, you have to make a marketing plan.
This costs zero dollars but will take up some of your time. So be prepared to dedicate an afternoon to come up with the best strategy.
Coming into your marketing each week with a comprehensive strategy to reach target customers is good business. And it’s the best way to ensure your low-cost marketing efforts are not wasted.
Small Business Advertising: Quality not Costly
You came to this blog because you wanted to learn ways to advertise your small business. Here’s the breakdown:
- Use the tools available to your for free to gain insights into your target market
- Use insights to create an avatar of your ideal customer
- Think about how to market to that customer, choosing from the low-cost methods above
- Write a plan that tells you what you need to do each week to be successful
It’s as easy as 1,2,3… 4 when you follow these steps to low-cost marketing for your small business.
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