Updated: Dec 21, 2022
A Budget-Friendly Guide to Small Business Marketing
Most new or small businesses struggle to develop a thorough and multi-faceted marketing plan due to being unaware of various marketing modes and perceived limitations caused by their low funding. Here we will take a look at FREE or Low-Cost methods your business can utilize to market your business to new and existing customers. There are many components to be considered in developing a comprehensive marketing plan but in terms of modes for execution, there should be a combination of some or all of the following 10 modes:
Research & Listening
1. Business Cards (Advertising/Personal Selling/Sales Promotion) | Start Here! Business Cards are one of the most important marketing tools regardless of the size of your business. It allows individuals and organizations to market themselves and their brands by providing contact and other basic organizational information to peers and potential clients for later use. Using free templated sites for graphic design like Canva or Crello makes it much easier for contractors, small business owners, and entrepreneurs to create branded polished designs without a high price tag. You can then take your custom designs to print services like VistaPrint, Staples, and Office Depot which often offer 250qty business cards for under $18. My suggestion would be to look for free shipping coupons or use local stores to avoid additional shipping costs. Many businesses will allow you to leave your business card on their bulletin or near the register, free of charge (although some will give you cards and flyers to pass out in exchange).
2. Business Directories (Advertising/Interactive Marketing/Research & Listening) | When searching for products and services, most consumers start with a web search. By setting up profiles on online directories you increase the chances of your business coming up in searches and being available for consumer research. There are many free business directories including Facebook, Google, LinkedIn Company Directory, Yelp, Thumbtack, and SuperPages. While these general directories can be very valuable to your business, it is important not to overlook local resources like Small Business Resource Centers and Chain of Commerce. These business resources often have directories, bulletins, and events that are usually free or very affordable.
3. Customer Follow-Up (Word-of-Mouth) | Existing and previous clients are a gold mine that successful businesses are sure to constantly tap into. Repeat customers are valuable because not only are they already familiar with your brand, but they also are living testimony to your services and products. Make personal phone calls or emails without bringing up business just to keep in contact and keep a good relationship. This will keep you at the top of their mind when they have a need or someone mentions having a need that your business can fill. VIOLA! ::Insert business plug here:: But every contact does not have to be personal. Send coupons, and notifications of upcoming promotions, and offer incentives for referrals.
4. Websites (Advertising/Direct Marketing/Interactive Marketing/Research & Insights/Word-of-Mouth) | I love the Wix website platform. They have great templates, is easy to navigate, and of course, offer FREE website options! One of the best things you can ever do for your business or personal brand is to set up a website to convey your contact information, services/products, samples/images of your work, and answer questions relevant to potential clients during the buyer research process. Websites also provide an avenue for client testimonials and feedback which can be helpful for business research and referral to potential clients that read the reviews. Disclaimer: As a graphic designer, websites and logos are the 2 marketing materials I believe should be professionally designed for maximum effectiveness. HOWEVER, new businesses can use templated platforms to create simple 1 to 2 page websites with information to increase their credibility until you can afford to create a fully designed professional website.
5. Email Marketing Campaigns (Direct Marketing/Advertising/Sales Promotions) | A great way to share information about new products, sales promotions, and other information with existing and new clients are by launching an email marketing campaign. MailChimp and Omnisend are two popular services that offer free design templates and email platforms to send brand newsletters. An effective way to accumulate more email addresses is to offer an incentive to existing clients, friends, and family members for providing emails for or referring 3 contacts to be added to your organization's email list. If you’re a hair stylist, you could offer a free add-on service like a deep conditioning treatment for clients that can provide 3 valid email addresses from contacts they believe would be interested in your services. While providing incentives may at times impact inventory or require more time these in-kind services still offer the ability to avoid immediate out-of-pocket costs to businesses.
Our Blog Post: The Key to Email Marketing - PERSONALIZATION
6. Networking and Volunteer Events (Publicity/Corporate Philanthropy/Events & Experiences) | Attending local networking events can be a free or affordable way to meet others. Don't think of these events simply as an opportunity to find new customers but also to make new connections that can be helpful for business growth. You may meet journalists who want to give you and your mission a written or video feature. Maybe you'll meet investors that love what you're doing and can help take you to the next level. You can even host charitable events like toy drives, which can also serve to raise awareness about your brand and show your business in a positive light. Gaining visibility can be affordable or free and is one of the best ways to market yourself and your business.
7. Start a Blog | The internet is a world of opportunities for entrepreneurs. Everyone is looking for answers or history or entertainment, so if you have information that others consider valuable, you have a means of drawing attention to yourself and your business. Blogs provide the opportunity for subject-level experts to speak on their specialties and build public trust. Many people turn to blogs for a bit of advice, tips, and insights so think of topics and questions people may have and write interesting detailed posts to help them solve their problems.
8. Speaking engagements | You may meet someone who will event you to a speaking engagement which will give you more visibility and access to more potential clients and associates.
Now you'll notice social media isn't listed here. While social media is a pretty obvious free tool. I will be doing a deep dive, DIY Social Media Guide for Small Business with free and paid tips pretty soon. Be sure to subscribe to our blog to stay up to date with new posts.