The key to any successful business is to make money. You may want to change the world, but if you own a business, you still need to make money while you’re doing it. In order to do that, however, you need customers, and to get your customers, you need to market and promote your business.
While this sounds simple enough, marketing — especially on a low budget — can be challenging. Unfortunately, it’s a necessary component of your business. Luckily, with the Internet, there are a myriad of ways to get the word out about your company. Even better, you’ll find 50 low-budget marketing ideas that anyone get started doing right here!
If you’re ready to drum up some new business, read on…
PLEASE NOTE: You’ll find that many of the tips refer to “customers.” If your business doesn’t have customers per se, just substitute what works for your business — readers, visitors, clients, etc.
Optimizing Your Website
Your website is your storefront online. Whether you’re selling a brand, services or actual products, your website tells your potential customers who and what your company is about. If you want to increase profits, make sure your website best reflects you and your company. The following are a few areas to pay special attention to.
The majority of digital media is now officially consumed via mobile devices. That means the likelihood of your users visiting your website on their mobile device is pretty high. In addition, users are likely to view your website on both their desktop and mobile devices, so having an experience that’s consistent among platforms is key.
Make user experience a top priority
Just having a website presence isn’t enough. When you’re focused on low-budget marketing tactics, you need to make sure that every part of your customer’s experience on your website is top-notch. Frequently use your own website as if you were a website visitor. Ask others to do it as well. Make notes of areas that could be improved and constantly work on optimizing the user experience from top to bottom.
Make sure your website’s speed is up to par
One of the easiest ways to stretch your marketing budget is to rank well in the search engines. There are a significant number of factors that help in this area, but one area that can almost always be improved is your site’s loading speed. The ultimate goal is Google’s recommendation to have a mobile optimized site that renders above-the-fold content in one second or less. You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to find out how your site fares and follow any suggestions for increasing your page speed.
Make sure you understand your site’s analytics
Knowing how to create the biggest return on the customers you already have is one key aspect to low-budget marketing. If you can spend less to get more, it becomes a win-win for everyone. One crucial way to understand where you can improve things is by making sure you really understand your site’s analytics. Setting up and constantly analyzing your Google Analytics statistics can make a big difference in your conversions and marketing efforts. This program does more than just measure how many people come to your site per month. It can also provide you with important metrics like key demographics, click behavior, geography, type of device used, and much more. If you’re not extremely comfortable with this program yet, make the time investment to learn.
Make sure you understand search engine optimization (SEO)
Most everyone understands the basic principle behind search engines. You type a keyword or keyword phrase and a list of the most relevant sites is displayed for you to choose from. It makes sense that a website that is shown in the top of this list is going to get more visitors than one farther down. This makes the time investment of really understanding how to optimize your site for search engines incredibly rewarding. Even the smallest SEO-friendly actions on your website can make a huge difference in your search engine visibility.
Create audience-targeted landing pages
Sometimes you may have different target audiences you need to attract. A cost-effective way to market to these different groups is to set up unique web pages within your site dedicated to your specific target market. For instance, if you were a freelance photographer, you might specialize in wedding, corporate, and family portrait photography. The same marketing messages won’t work for each target audience. This makes having a page (or a mini-website) dedicated to each specific speciality a very cost-effective method of marketing. When promoting to a specific audience, direct them to the page on your site that’s dedicated to that topic to help increase your conversions.
Always be testing
Unlike printed marketing materials, your website can constantly be updated and tested for maximum effectiveness. If you see your numbers are starting to stall, change things up a bit and gauge the results. Be willing to try new things out, since you never know when you’ll stumble upon a truly great idea. Just like a retail storefront, change is good and gives your visitors another reason to check out various sections of your website.
Set up your Google Business Profile
It’s no secret that your site needs to be on Google. Luckily, Google has set up a tool just for business owners to help with this. Google Business Profile is a website that will walk you through setting up your business pages to be visible on their search and maps.
Engaging Your Customers
Once you’ve spent your time and energy on getting customers, you need to make sure you keep them engaged and interested in your business. It’s much easier to market and sell something to someone who already trusts your brand. Here are a few ideas to help you keep your customers engaged.
Customer service is your best marketing tool
You can employ every marketing tactic in the book to get people through the door or interested in your product. However, if you don’t follow through with excellent customer service, you’ll have lost that person for life. Don’t fall short when you’re right at the finish line and make sure everyone on your team understands your products and services fully and is prepared to give 100% in customer service.
Celebrate your customers
Everyone likes to feel special and remembered. Make celebrating your customers an essential part of your marketing campaigns. Do a little something special for birthdays, send out thank you notes, and make an effort to remember the little details when you can.
Upsell to current customers
If someone has already said “yes” to you, chances are they will do it again — especially if it’s the right offer. Go through your products and services and see if there’s anything you can offer to your current customers that will benefit them. Create a new product or service if you need to. Use your new offerings as another reason to reach out and remind your customers you’re still around.
Survey your customers
If you want to know what your customers really want, just ask them. Surveys are one of the most effective ways to figure out what direction you should go in, or if there are some issues you were unaware of. You can use them to help improve your business (with questions about their experience) or for fun (with fun poll questions) as a way to engage with your customers. Either way, you’ll learn a lot more about them and be able to market to them more effectively.
Ask for referrals
One of the easiest ways to get the word out about your business is to ask past customers for referrals. Create an offer that rewards both the past customer and the current and it will be much easier to drum up some new business.
Using Content Marketing
With more and more people becoming self-employed, low-cost marketing techniques are even more critical. One of the best returns on your time investment is engaging in effective content marketing. In fact, if you’re currently doing any marketing online, you’re probably already making use of content marketing. The key to remember here is that content marketing is not just producing content, but producing content that will at some point generate income for your business. To help with some ideas, see the tips below.
Make your content relevant to your audience
You could write tomes about a specific subject matter, but if your target audience isn’t interested in it, what’s the point? The entire concept of content marketing is to use your content as a marketing tool. That means creating content that’s interesting and relevant to your target audience. Make sure you take the time to get to know what inspires, upsets, moves, and engages them. The more often your content is exactly what your audience wants, the more effectively you’ll be able to convert them into actual customers.
If you read any business blogs, you’ve probably run across the headlines similar to this: “Email marketing is dead.” I don’t know about you, but I still get email every single day. Businesses still send me emails, and I still read them and click over to see interesting and relevant offers. In fact, 88% of people prefer email to receive coupons. The real issue is that poorly thought-out and irrelevant email marketing is dead. If you know your customers, you know what excites and interests them. Email is still an incredibly effective way to reach and engage customers. Once you get someone hooked on your mailings, you have an engaged person who actually WANTS to get updates about your business.
Use user-generated content
User-generated content has two purposes. One, to create unique content that you didn’t need to create yourself, and, two, to act as social proof. This type of content can take many forms — everything from actual articles to user videos. Reviews, testimonials, comments, poll questions — all of these are examples of user-generated content. Take a closer look at your business and see if there are any areas where you could employ this strategy.
Publish case studies
Case studies make for great, unique content and are especially effective with service-related businesses. They allow for you to showcase your expertise while also providing something entertaining and valuable for your customers. The next time you’re working on a big or interesting project, take notes along the way and turn it into a case study you can publish. Depending on your customers, you may want to publish the case study as an article, white paper, infographic, or even a video. This type of content can also be used in your public relations and media efforts as well.
Coming up with content can take quite a bit of time and is the main reason why companies don’t opt to try content marketing. However, curating content can be an equally effective time-saving substitute. Find relevant news articles or related stories online, provide your own input on them, or highlight the most relevant facts and post that.
When working on coming up with content, go through all your current marketing materials or older content and see if you can do anything new or unique with it. For instance, magazines often put out special issues on specific topics like holidays or seasons. Just about all of the content in these issues has been previously published in one of their regular issues. If you have a lot of content on a certain subject matter, put it all together and publish it as a white paper or an eBook.
Write for trade publications
Let your content work for you by publishing it in trade magazines or other related websites. This gets your name and your business out in front of new audiences and allows you to bring in new customers.
Write a book or an eBook
It’s easier to engage in marketing tactics when you have something specific to market like a book or an eBook. This gives your potential customers a specific action to take — buy or download your book. Once they read your publication, it’s much easier to market other products or services.
Start an advice column
It’s a simple task to get new customers when you are the go-to expert in your industry. Setting up an advice column is one way to attract people who are likely to be interested in your products or services.
Contests are a great way to get people involved with your brand. When you offer your own products or services as the prize, it can be another way to make your customers aware of what you’re offering. You may also want to branch out and offer your products or services as a prize for other websites.
An infographic is a great, highly-shareable piece of content. There are tons of tutorials and royalty-free resources for creating your own, or you can hire someone else to create one for you. These are especially effective if you have industry stats that others would find interesting.
Host an event/webinar
A great low-cost way to interest new customers is offering a free online class or seminar in your subject matter. This gives you a way to interact directly with your customers and gives you an opportunity to promote related products or services.
Similar to starting an advice column, instructional videos are another way to use content to market your expertise and services. With these types of videos, you can establish your company as a trusted go-to source within your industry.
Create a 101 tips guide
Niche-targeted guides can be really effective as content giveaways. They also work well to promote to targeted audiences. For instance, if you are a wedding planner, offer something like 101 Tips for Creating a Unique Wedding on a Budget.
Use press releases
If you have a great event or some unique content that the media might find interesting, don’t hesitate to use press releases to help get the word out. Some press release services not only send your releases to relevant industry publications, but also to Google News, giving you even more exposure.
Always be getting reviews
Reviews and testimonials about your products make great content AND marketing material. Always be asking for them and make sure to keep these as an essential component of your marketing efforts.
Create a podcast
Podcasting still remains a great way to regularly be a part of your customer’s lives. It provides you an opportunity to talk to your customers on a frequent basis and get feedback from them. If you’re not sure what to talk about, invite industry experts to be guests and host a series of interviews.
Using Social Media
Whether you are active on social media or not, this medium remains a very low-cost and effective way to promote your business. The more active you are, the better the chances of your success using social media as a marketing effort. Below are a few ideas and tips for using social media as a low-budget marketing tactic.
Be a social media user guru
This doesn’t mean you have to be an expert at social media, but rather use social media sites to show off your expertise. Use services like Twitter to search for people asking questions related to your field of expertise and take the time to answer them. This is not the place to sell your product, but rather to become a go-to resource for your subject matter. This creates a scenario where people are seeking you out, instead of you spending money to advertise what can you do.
Use the right social media platform for your customers
Not every social media platform is effective for every industry, and some platforms are much more effective depending on the content being shared. For instance, Pinterest is great for cooking and craft-related businesses. YouTube has more effective conversion rates for digital products. The real key is to know your customers and know where they prefer to be. Once you know that, don’t waste your time being on ALL the networks. Spend your time wisely and only market where it makes the most sense.
Delve deeper into LinkedIn
LinkedIn is probably the most underrated social media site. In the last few years, this site has become much more than just a place to post your resume and make connections with people. The site has very active peer groups in just about every niche that make a great place to network and promote your services. In addition, you can post content for others you’re connected with to view and create company pages that allow everyone in your business to share content and represent your business.
Stay in the minds of and actively engaged with your Twitter followers with frequent giveaways. Either give a service or product of your own, or work with other companies to provide a giveaway your followers would be interested in.
Get engaged with Instagram
Did you know that Instagram gives brands 25% more engagement than any other social media platform? And, according to Shopify, the average order value from Instagram marketing is $65.00 It just might pay to take some time to learn more about this network and find out ways you can get your company more active on it.
Use more images
Every second, thousands of posts are being made across social networks. Using visuals is a great way to stand out in the crowd. All of the main social media platforms allow you to use images, giving you a great opportunity to create some unique and noticeable marketing materials. This is one area where you’ll find a great reward for the time invested.
Who doesn’t like free stuff? Giveaways can be a great way to spread the word, especially if it’s a digital offering or product that’s inexpensive to produce. To help you maximize your giveaway marketing efforts, here are a few ideas.
Donations of time, products, services, or money can not only be a great way to support local organizations, but they can also create some good publicity for yourself. Make sure to choose a charity that not only means something to you, but will also resonate with your customers, as well.
Cross blog contests
Contact relevant blogs that cater to your desired audience and offer them a product or service as a giveaway to their readers. Readers of the site should then be prompted to go to your website to learn more about your product or service and sign up for another free giveaway.
Loyalty or Referral Programs
Build up repeat business with a great loyalty or referral program. For instance, offer discounts after a certain amount is spent or a free product once a certain number of products have been purchased. Talk to your current customers to get an idea of what they’d most be interested in.
You don’t always have to donate to a charity or a good cause. You can also use donated prizes as a way to expand your reach by offering your giveaway to sites that are relevant to your product and have your desired audience.
Try before you buy
Some people may want to purchase what you have to offer but are still on the fence. A try-before-you-buy approach really helps in these situations. If possible, give a session or a brief consultation for free. If you have a membership service or something similar, provide a short free trial period. This allows for the person to get more comfortable with your services and really establish if your company is the right fit for them.
Networking and publicity seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how often these low-budget tactics are overlooked. Establishing an effective network can help you reach a bigger audience, with little to no extra cost, just because you know the right people. Getting the right free publicity allows you to have someone else do all your marketing work for you! Here are a few tips for using networking and publicity effectively.
Always be growing your network
If networking gives you access to mentors, business relationships, and potential new customers, it makes sense that always taking time to grow your network is essential. Always have business cards on you with your website and contact information. Make sure to include that same information at the bottom of your emails, as well. In addition, take time out to talk with people online and reach out to people with whom you feel you can establish a mutually beneficial relationship.
Online Business Awards
And the award goes to… you, for having great marketing skills! Business awards can be an effective way to getting a little traffic boost to your website. Search online for industry-related awards that other businesses might be giving. If you don’t find any, start your own.
Anytime your company is in a news story, you’re getting free publicity. To help with this you can sign up at HelpaReporterOut.com (HARO). You will then receive emails with a list of reporters who have questions. Look out for questions in your related industry for opportunities to get a little free press.
Join an online networking group in your niche
Connecting with people online has never been easier. Sites like LinkedIn and Facebook have great communities on an endless amount of subjects. Join a few that are related to your specific niche and connect with a new audience.
Comment on blogs, forums, and groups
Another way to help boost traffic to your website and gain some extra visibility is to take time to comment on related blogs or forums.
Stay on top of what your customers want
It’s much easier to market to your audience effectively if you know what their chief concerns and desires are. That means staying on top of what’s important to your customers. When you stay current, your customers will find what you’re offering to be more relevant and are more likely to purchase something.
Take advantage of current events
Real-life incidents can be a great a way to turn something topical into marketing genius. A perfect example happened during the 2014 Super Bowl blackout. Oreo immediately tweeted an image with an Oreo on a black background saying, “You can still dunk in the dark.” Within a day, the image received nearly 15,000 retweets. The key to this it to keep your eyes peeled during current events for marketable opportunities.
Employ seasonal marketing
We love to celebrate everything. Use this to your advantage with some seasonal marketing tactics. You can keep it as simple as grouping some related products for the relevant holiday or season, or you can create something unique to capture your customer’s interest.
Text Message Marketing
This marketing technique is especially great if you have a business where customers can physically come to you. Let your customers opt-in to receive text message specials and updates. Two companies using this well are RedBox and Sonic. Both companies send out regular text messages with discount codes for free or special discounted products. This can be great way to connect with people when they’re out and about.