11 Creative Ideas for Marketing on a Budget
If you have small budget, can you afford marketing? Yes, you can! Every company should invest in marketing, but most small businesses have a limited budget to work with. This just means that the business owner (or the person or department responsible for handling the marketing) needs to find ways to get the most value from their marketing efforts.
You need to make every marketing dollar count when you’re working within a tight budget.
Before I begin to list off my 11 creative ideas for marketing on a budget, you need to take care of one very important thing. You need to do some market research. If you want to speak to your audience, you need to really understand who you’re speaking to. Ask yourself these questions (about your ideal customers):
- What do they want?
- What kinds of questions do they ask?
- What problems do they need solved?
- Are they primarily men, women, or a mixture of both?
- What age range do they fall into?
- Are they in school? Do they work? Do they have a full- or part-time job?
You can usually do some of your own basic research – or just take some time to really think about it – to find the answers. Once you know who you’re targeting, you can begin to develop your marketing plan and evaluate your marketing budget.
So, now we’ll get into the meat of this article. What are my creative ideas for marketing on a budget? I’ll list them off for you, one by one, just because I like you. =)
11 Smart Ways to Market Your Business on a Small Budget
- Make your message clear. Why spend hundreds of dollars on marketing materials if most people don’t “get it” anyway? If people don’t get what you’re trying to say, they won’t buy from you. Ask yourself, “would a 10-year-old understand my message?” The more people that get your message, the more leads you will get, and the more money you will have to prove that your marketing efforts are paying off.
- Engage with the community. I mean this in a few ways. The main point is to become someone worth listening to, to get yourself out there, and to be known as the expert in your field.
- Comment on and share other people’s great content in your field.
- Offer to guest post on another person’s blog in your field.
- Volunteer your products or services as an act of charity to gain exposure while helping another in need.
- Go to local networking events and meetings to talk up your business face-to-face.
- Get free advice from marketing professionals. If you can score a free consultation with a local marketing firm, take advantage of it! You may not always get specifics on what to do, but you can get some invaluable advice and ideas that will point you in the right direction. If you’d like to get the most out of your marketing dollars, feel free to contact us.
- Know your limitations and be up front about your budget. Define the scope of work that you’re expecting now, would like to do in the future, and don’t ever want to do. If you’re working with a local marketing company, explain what you want and what you don’t want. It’s good to get input from a professional marketer, but you don’t always need to spend the amount of money they recommend. Stress the realistic goals you’re trying to achieve, and work with your consultant to figure out cost-saving ways to reach them.
- Hire for programs, not projects. When you have several marketing companies working on various parts of one program, you’re not spending your marketing dollars wisely. If you hire one marketing company to manage all projects within the scope of one program, they become familiar with your company and its products and customers. As a result, you get consistency in brand image and probably some sort of discount for being a loyal client.
- Let your customers do the marketing. Once a start-up has caused a viral customer chain reaction, good things will happen. Nothing can ever replace word of mouth marketing and the powerful effects it has on business. But how can you ignite this initial chain reaction and keep the fire burning? Here are a few ideas:
- Create a customer loyalty program.
- Run contests that encourage (or require) people to tell their friends about it.
- Offer amazing service that keeps the customers coming back.
- Ask them! When you ask for help as a person, people want to help. Be real and just explain what you’re trying to do, as transparently as possible.
- Provide your own collateral. Spend the time to take photos and videos of your business, products, services, employees and customers. Send logos and company designs to your marketing company if you have them, and offer content that’s written in your own words. Even if it’s a little rough, your marketing company can polish it up and optimize it for search engines.
- While I do suggest taking your own photos to start off in order to save money, never forget the importance and value in professional photography. If you want to convey professionalism and solidity, you should ultimately hire a professional photographer when you’re financially able to.
- Forge an alliance. Marketing on a budget is a whole lot easier if you develop a partnership with another company. Joint partnerships are a great way to cut marketing costs by “sharing” marketing opportunities between companies. Think about your goals, products, services and customers – are there any other local businesses that you could join forces with to better serve your target audience?
- Pay your vendors on time. Many times, you can save lots of money on marketing if you pay your fees on or ahead of time. If a marketing company offers a discount to clients who pay for the entire month or year all at once, take advantage of it. You’ll even earn goodwill that might result in better deals later on down the road.
- Measure it to manage it. By tracking conversations and analyzing the performance of your website, you are setting yourself up for continual success. If you don’t measure your efforts, you can’t know what works, what doesn’t, and what to improve on. This can cost you lots of dollars in the long run. As you determine where you stand now, you can adjust or reset goals that better align with your situation.
- Stick with it. Search engine optimization, social media marketing and blogging are all things you should be doing to help strengthen your visibility, customer relationships and brand image. But these things cost time and money – money to hire a professional and time to do it yourself. If you don’t have the money for these marketing programs, be prepared to commit yourself (or someone on your team) to handle it for you. You can’t just set up a Facebook account or write one blog post and expect that to pay off. Nurturing and expanding on your marketing efforts will translate into a future pay off, and well-spent marketing dollars.
Now that you’ve got a general idea on what kinds of things you can be doing to market your business without spending tons of money, it’s time to take some action. While you should be doing all of these budget-friendly marketing activities, sometimes you can’t do them all. Every business is different. Start with putting a few of these marketing ideas into action, and go from there.
So what about you? Are you currently marketing on a budget? Have you had any luck using any of my ideas? Do you have any ideas of your own? Please share your feedback in the comment section!
Read our other blogs for more valuable marketing tips.
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