Entrepreneurs are always on the go, looking for the next startup challenge, but one of the most common problems with business startups is money flow.
If you have ever started a business, you know all too well that in the beginning, money can be tight. Between payroll, insurance plans, marketing, product development, legal and more…it all adds up extremely quick!
Unfortunately, that creates a conundrum: If money is tight, how can I really make an impact in my industry and secure my spot as a legitimate competitor?
Well, it’s easy to be tempted to make a big splash as you launch your company but it is all about being smart.
If you want to avoid the marketing mistakes that leave many startups being a part of the percentage that close their doors within the first two years, this article is for you!
In this article, we will look at low-budget marketing techniques that will save you time, sanity and money!
Marketing Techniques That Work
Need some baller marketing on a budget? Don’t fret, below are some low-budget marketing techniques you can easily apply to your startups and small businesses!
Do It Yourself
Don’t outsource things you can do or can learn how to do! Simple as that! A lot of the times starting out has a lot of upfront costs but there are so many resources out there for you to utilize, especially when it comes to design and content!
Don’t have money for an editor? That is okay, there is Grammarly!
Don’t have money for a designer? That is okay, there is Easil and Canvas.
Don’t have time for social media posting? That is okay, there is Hootsuite and Buffer!
There are many marketing resources out there that you can use to streamline your business. You probably don’t need to hire specific people yet! Identify time-consuming tasks that won’t affect other important areas of your startup and examine which you can do by yourself during the beginning stages when things are tight!
Have Specific Audience and Content Targeted
The businesses that are the most successful are the ones that have focus on their targeted audience and their needs. Do not spread yourself too thin, set yourself up as a leader in your industry!
Think about specifying your type of business and your specific value proposition. By doing so, you can automatically set yourself apart. Generalizations make small business marketing hard and make you blend with the rest of the marketing pool. If you can tightly message your business and or services to your target audience, you are golden.
A perk to doing this is Google treats SEO the same way! Google rewards websites with higher rankings that are hyper-focused on a topic which can give you a leg up on getting your business name out faster!
So for example, let’s say I am a beauty spa in Arlington, VA and I want to rank well in Google for the keywords related to Arlington beauty spas. A few ways I can accomplish this is:
- Create quality content around the main topics and subtopics that revolve around beauty treatments, specifically the ones my spa offers.
- Earn links by networking in the community with Arlington and Washington DC business organizations and other beauty spa related sites. This can also include local influencers.
- Send content to be featured on blogs, news sites and other local pages that will help with locational and beauty spa-related SEO.
Have a Properly Optimized Website
Your business’s online presence begins with your website. So much of the other components of a marketing plan, like SEO, PPC and social media come back to your website and how effective it is.
To be successful these days, you need a polished, modern website! Basic marketing website tricks to include are:
- An easy-to-navigate website full of meaningful resources and content to help your target audience with their specific pain points.
- A fast website that creates a positive and easy experience for those who visit it. Test your website using Google Page Speed Insights. Make sure it gets a good rating!
- A use of meaningful SEO keywords. If you need help picking out meaningful keywords look to the questions people call in for, google keywords that apply to you and see related search etc…
- An intelligently designed landing page that will lead to more targeted calls or other actions you want potential customers to make.
- A mobile-friendly website and looks great on any device! It’s 2018!
- An easily found contact page so people can schedule services, visit your location or contact you for questions.
- A website that includes testimonials and social proof. People care about reviews and personal touches, that is why Amazon is so successful! People trust people!
- A personable website avoiding generic stock images. Your business should really consider strong branding, images and quality photography of products/services. If you need help with that we have a great article about business photography here.
- A search-engine-optimized website: Getting found starts with a website that is configured to be found by Google!
Sign up for Free Social Profiles
One free way to help build your business on a budget is sharing your business’s information on popular business directories like Yelp, Google Maps, Yext or Facebook. By sharing your information it can be another avenue to bring new potential clients through your doors as well as creating other online traffic—free of charge!
Information that would be important to share are: Business name, address, phone number, business hours, website, but most of all engaging descriptions and visuals. Each of these citations should be consistent in places where people might be looking for your type of business, products or services.
Potential clients deserve and expect consistency with your business’s brand and experience. Make sure your quality is high, engaging and relevant throughout the platforms you choose!
Hustle With Social Networking
There are a lot of businesses out there…actually, let me rephrase that, depending on your industry, there are tons of businesses you are competing with.
Although this seems like a daunting mountain to climb with your small budget, you can stand out with your creative use of social media!
To me, social media is the great equalizer in marketing. You might not have the manpower, establishment, or money to compete with the bigger businesses but you can build a name and relationships fast with social media, something a startup or small business could never do before!
Social media is a game-changer for startups. The power is in your hands to create content that will set you apart as thought leaders in your field. Quality content not only builds you a name and niche, it helps you build relationships with the people who care about your content.
The main points you will use social media for are:
- Cultivating and growing relationships
- Establishing your social platforms valuable resources for customers
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become incredibly popular places for people to connect with businesses. You don’t need to post excessively, just be consistent with quality content that sets your business apart as a resource and meaningful place for people to visit! (quick tip, use apps like Buffer and Hootsuite to create social media posting schedules—it saves time and sanity!)
Know that most social media advertising is cheaper, effective and helps you create a sense of reliability! Utilize social strategies like Google Algorithms for SEO, Paid Social, video usage and hosting live events! All of those actions will help set you apart as a relatable, approachable and engaged business that is wanting to be a resource to potential customers.
Email marketing is when a business will send some type of targeted email to a purchased lead list or a customer list. These emails can be newsletters, promotional emails, appreciations or even content downloads.
Email marketing is the cheapest form of internet advertising as it is essentially free to complement other digital marketing efforts. All you usually have to pay for is some sort of email marketing service like MailChimp, Hubspot or Autopilot. Easy peasy!
Participate in Local Charity
Donate your product or service to a charity auction! Everyone loves an auction, but more importantly, everyone loves businesses that give back. By participating in an event like a charity auction, you get to help others and earn brownie points as a “good-doer”—which helps you build a better local image.
Like any event, this is also an opportunity to meet and network with prospective clients! Everyone in attendance will get to hear about your product or service being offered from the auctioneer and hearing people bidding on your item will make those unfamiliar with your business think you must be pretty great.
Ever browse through a website, click out the tab and later see ads featuring some of the items you were browsing? If so, you have been remarketed to!
Remarketing has become one of the most important tools in a digital marketer’s toolbox as it helps people move towards final purchasing. Many businesses will spend a lot of money on a paid search, but will not compliment it with retargeting or display campaigns and this is such a mistake.
Remarketing allows you to track users who have visited your website—without a purchase or action—and shares your ads on other websites. Think of this as the ultimate digital stalking, products will stay on your mind and follow you!
This remarking strategy increases brand awareness and usually helps with conversion!
Engage Clients with a Blog
If you have a website, you should also have a blog. Add new content weekly, because Google algorithms reward sites that share relevant, consistent and original content.
The content doesn’t have to be equivalent to research papers and eBooks. Blogging can be as simple as writing a paragraph or two sharing information about your business, helpful hints, success stories or opinions on your industry chatter.
Make sure you make the most out of your work by having “share” or “save” buttons at the end of your posts to enable your readers to immediately share on their social media pages. Why not get more exposure if you can?
If you struggle to think about what to write about start to brainstorm topics relating to your business. For example, if I go back to the example above of being a beauty spa in Arlington, VA, I could start brainstorming a list of relevant topics and questions for my blog like:
- Beauty statistics in Washington, DC.
- Feature big names in the NOVA and DC beauty industry
- DIY beauty hacks
- Beauty spas to finish your full look
- Explaining beauty services you offer and their benefits
- FAQ: beauty trends
- Understanding collagen
- What should I do to prepare for a day at the spa
- Fall fashion and beauty trends from the runways and how your services can help get the look
- Before and after photos and stories
- etc, etc, etc…
Offering meaningful resources in your business marketing will bring more people to your website and those people are more likely to need your services at some point since they are already looking for resources on similar topics.
Crowdfund Your Business or Product
Crowdfunding marketing is a strategy to raise funds for a project by asking a large number of people to donate money, usually in small amounts to fulfill the financial goals of the project.
This approach—focused solely on online social media and crowdfunding platforms—will allow you to raise money easily within a short amount of time. This is business financing like never seen before! Crowdfunding marketing allows you to tap into a wider investor pool with ease but there are also other positives to using crowdfunding marketing:
- Investor Audience & Reach – You have access to thousands of “investors” who can easily see and share your fundraising campaign on their social media platforms! The best crowdfunding campaign secret weapon is social media!
- Customer Experience – You can share and promote your campaign easily with others through social media, email newsletters, and other online marketing strategies! As you communicate with people on the progress of your project, you can bring traffic to your website and other resources!
- Build Confidence – Crowdfunding marketing allows you to present your idea to many people that can help you have confidence in your plans and allows you to refine them if there are problems. As potential investors begin to interact with you and ask questions, you’ll quickly see if there’s something you need to fix, clarify or take out!
- Efficiency – One of the best things about online crowdfunding is that you can centralize your fundraising efforts in one place. By building a single profile you can send to all of your prospective investors, you eliminate the need to pursue each of them individually! No more wasting time on creating different letters and emails to specific people! Time is truly money, so being able to streamline all your efforts in one place leaves you with more time to run your business instead of fundraising!
By getting people to financially and socially back your business at the beginning you can get a lot of boost without a lot of effort! Start with your initial social group and inner circles and have them spread the word.
Frequent Podcasts and Articles
Look for top and relevant podcasts in your industry as well as podcasts in related or crossover industries. Contact these hosts and offer yourself as an interview for upcoming podcasts. If you can snag a podcast, mention one link to your website! Each interview will produce a mention and at least one link to your startup’s web page.
Also, reporters in local news are always looking for new content so try to angle your business in a way that can help the community and share some article content you can send you local reporters. Focus especially on new reporters who need content coming in!
Free exposure is great exposure and a lot of the time, podcasts and publications alike are trying to find content weekly so make it easy for them and make it meaningful for you!
Breathe New Life Into Old Studies
Cut corners! If you’re in a dry spell, instead of making something new, breathe fresh air into something that already exists online. There are a ton of data studies on the internet and while some of these studies may get attention, many have been left by the wayside. So, you might find a diamond in the rough!
Find a study that relates to your industry and spice it up. Highlight important parts of the study, add images, and share your own spin on the data!
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel—just be sure to cite your sources!
Collaborate and Cross Promote
We have all heard the phrase “two is better than one”, right? Well, marketing collaboration is just the same, try teaming up with other local businesses! Collaboration between businesses on marketing initiatives can be hugely beneficial. Not only can it can increase exposure for both companies, but it can also result in more leads and greater overall success compared to working on alone.
A strong example of this is cross promotion You can mention each other on social media, give joined discounts, or combine your email subscriber lists to send out a joint promotional mailing.
The best businesses to link up with are ones that will be complementary to your business or services like a business that sells related products. For example, a plastic surgeon might partner with a cosmetic dentists office for cross promotions.
If you run out of ideas on how you can expand your audience, look to make some friends!
Believe it or not, Pinterest is more than just a “girly” website that features mason jars, burlap, or feel good quotes! It is a sophisticated and visually stimulating opportunity for you to marketing directly to active consumers looking for products and services.
While Pinterest isn’t quite as big as other social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, it can be a special place to promote your business. Using Promoted Pins, you can drive a ton of high-quality traffic to your site which can result in big conversions!
Since people love visuals, post your strongest visual content on Pinterest and link them to your web pages for some serious traffic.
Shoppable pins are a relatively new addition to the corkboard inspired platform. Shoppable pins allow teams that have products listed on their website to add them to a Pinterest board. Once there, pinners can see prices and click the pin which will take them directly to the site to buy them.
If you are looking for a visual way to share content more effectively, do not look over Pinterest.
Marketing on a Budget: You Can Do It!
Marketing doesn’t have to break your business budget! Like I mentioned in the beginning of this article, marketing can require nothing more than the investment of time. With these low-budget marketing techniques, you can help increase your marketing presence today! Pick a few and roll with ’em! You might be surprised!
If you need some more help on how to make an effective and yet inexpensive marketing plan, contact me here! I would be happy to help!
What do you think? What is your favorite no-cost marketing technique?
Cydney is a polka dot wearing business owner, photographer, cupcake enthusiast and writer, who through her work, shares her personal passions about visual marketing, branding and business strategy.