by Janet Attard
Last Updated: May 19, 2020
What are the best marketing ideas for a small business with a tight budget? These 36 cost-effective marketing methods will help you increase sales without spending a fortune.
Small business owners know that marketing is the key to bringing in business and retaining clients. But how can you reach customers effectively – especially now – when your marketing budget is very small?
Fortunately, there are many low-cost marketing ideas you can use to bring in new business and get existing clients to return. Some methods may be new to you, but the way you’ve always done things in the past may not be the way to do things now. Furthermore, marketing to the customers you’ve always served, may mean you’re ignoring a whole new group of potential customers. So, be open to testing new marketing tactics.
Here are budget-friendly marketing ideas you can use to grow your business today.. We’ve included marketing tips for a wide range of businesses. Pick and choose the ones that are most appropriate for your type of business.
36 Small Business Marketing Ideas
Review your marketing goals and marketing plan. If you don’t have them, create them. Trying to market without specific goals and a plan wastes time and money. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in business for years, you need to understand who you need to market to today and how to reach those people.
Consider your business from a customer’s point of view. What’s good. What isn’t? What, if anything, makes your business a standout? What do they wish you’d change? Where else can they buy what you sell? What do you/can you offer that competitors don’t?
- Be different. Take your cue from big advertisers and brands and find something that distinguishes you from your competitors – then promote the difference. The difference could be your slogan, a key difference in your product, or even a perceived difference. For instance, are the luggage products you sell lighter? Does your environmentally friendly lawn service make lawns greener, “naturally”?
Be an active networker
Join and get actively involved with organizations that your customers might belong to. Depending what you sell, that might be local business associations, sports organizations, consumer or parent groups. Remember, though, that your goal is to build name recognition and trust, not to be constantly promoting what you sell. If you are inexperienced, these networking tips will help you learn the ropes.
- Form strategic alliances with other businesses. Look for businesses that reach your target market and consider ways you can work together. Whether you actively market each other’s services, or team up to jointly work on clients’ jobs, strategic alliances can extend your reach and firm up your bottom line.
- Segment your market and create products or develop specialties that appeal specifically to the needs of each segment.
- Adapt your ads, flyers, and pitches for different market segments. If your marketing includes giving seminars, and you want to attract more women clients, be sure your sales materials include images of women. If you create and print your own fliers on a laser printer have two versions of the flier – one with only photos of women for when you address mostly female audiences, and another with images of men and women.
- Expand into new markets. Sell your bakery products to local restaurants and catering facilities as well as directly to consumers; if you sell office services to small businesses, look into soliciting business from bigger businesses, and federal, state or local government agencies.
- Talk to your customers – ask them for feedback. Ask them what you can do to better serve their needs. If you see a trend in what’s being asked for, act on it.
- Ask your existing customers for referrals. Referrals are one of the best sources of business. A referral imparts a certain level of trust in your business, making it easier to convert the prospect to a customer. Remind your customers that you welcome their referrals. You might also consider rewarding them in some way for referrals.
- Put your business on the web if you haven’t already done so.
Put photos of your establishment, products, and services on your website. Before visiting, prospects may want to know what your establishment looks like and to see images of what you sell, or the results of services you provide. The photos aren’t a substitute for benefits-focused web copy, but they will help provide visual clues about the nature and quality of what you sell.
Get listed in Google My Business and other online directories. If your business is local, join local business groups that maintain member directories and be sure you’re listed in those. The business owner who heard you talk about SEO at the Chamber meeting may remember you as the “SEO gal,” and might remember your name, but not your company or phone number. Being listed in member directories will help that person find you when they need your services.
Get involved in social media. Ask your customers which social networks they participate in, and then spend a few minutes a day participating in the ones most customers use.
- Fill out social media profiles with as much detail as you can, being sure to include website links and products.
- Post photos to social media sites. Promote new product arrivals, before and after photos of client work and anything else that will help customer sit up and take notice.
- Post videos to YouTube and Facebook. Demonstrate your products and services, or create how-to videos to demonstrate your expertise. Be sure your videos and the descriptions you can post give people a way to reach you through your website or by other means.
- Use direct mail to reach your customers. Yes, it’s an old-fashioned technique in an always-on world, but it still works.
Related: Every Door Direct Mailing – An Affordable Option
- Send a card or postcard to customers to remind them when they need to come back for a check-up or to remind them in advance of an appointment scheduled months in advance.
- Put local keywords (the name of your city or county for instance) on your web pages and in title tags to help web searchers find you.
- Add share buttons to your website and encourage visitors to use them.
- Embrace content marketing. Content marketing is a term that simply means publishing information to interest potential customers in your products and service and your company. While the goal of content marketing, like any marketing, is ultimately to make a sale, content marketing isn’t “salesy.” Instead, it focuses on winning customers by providing them helpful or entertaining information to help them decide on purchases and vendors. The content can be blog posts, images, infographics, videos, or even slide presentations, and should be promoted wherever your customers are likely to encounter it.
Related: Small Business Content Marketing Tips
- Send email to your customers. Plan regularly scheduled emails providing your customers with coupons and special offers, product tips, helpful hints for improving their business or their personal lives, or other information that will help them remember you and visit your store or website again. Constant Contact* is one email service that makes it easy to send eye-catching emails to your customer list.
- Let customers schedule appointments online. Marketing today is all about customer convenience. And for today’s customers, convenience is often all about being able to do things – including scheduling appointments – digitally. There are quite a few appointment scheduling apps out there. They are time savers for both your customer and you.
- Develop and promote a content giveaway. Content giveaways are things like instructional booklets, how-to material, tips about using your product, forms and templates and other information your prospects would find valuable. You can create them on your computer and distribute them online, minimizing publishing and distribution costs. Require people who request the giveaway to fill out a form giving you contact information. Once they complete the form, then you email the document they requested. That way you have a way of following up with the prospect after they get your giveaway. For an example of how this works, request the free Business Know-How Guide to Building Your Email List.
- Include your telephone number in your pay-per-click ads to make it easier for customers to call for more information or call to make a purchase.
- Make the telephone number on your website a click-to-call link to make it easy for customers using smartphones to call you.
- Clean up the place. Do your floors look dirty? Are rugs starting to get threadbare? Is your office décor reminiscent of the back room in an old movie? Dirty, shabby, and cluttered environments are off-putting to customers and employees alike.
Redecorate your space. If you rent space, chances are your landlord is responsible for painting and replacing carpeting and major things like that. But there are still other things you can do to redecorate. Updating furnishings you own, putting new photos on the walls, adding a large potted plant or two, hanging seasonal decorations, will make your business look better to customers and prospects and will help boost employee morale.
Display your credentials, awards, and press mentions. If you have clients who come to your place of business, hang certificates, degrees, and other credentials where visitors can see them on your office wall. Do the same with awards and significant press mentions, or photos of results you’ve gotten for clients. The display will serve as confirmation of your expertise.
Upgrade your signage. Are your signs getting a little old and shabby? Is your neon sign flickering? Can people even see the name of your store or what you do from the street? If your signage is old and unimpressive, look into upgrading it. Check first to be sure you comply with local signage laws and with rules established by your landlord.
- Advertise in weekly shoppers and the classified sections of local weekly papers if your business is local. Look for deals for getting your ad in both the print edition and online edition of the publication.
- Advertise on Google and Bing search engines. If your typical customer orders multiple items, or you sell a high-ticket item, you can benefit from advertising in the search engines. But before you start, be sure you know which of your web pages convert best to sales, then point your search engine ads to those pages. If you’ve never advertised on search engines, look for offers that give you a certain amount of advertising for free. (Often $50.)
- Give away something useful with a purchase over a certain dollar amount. You might give an inexpensive lint brush with clothing purchases over $100, say, or a thumb drive to new customers who hire you to make their PowerPoint presentation look good.
- Be proactive and be persistent. You didn’t learn to ride a bicycle when you were a child by thinking about how to ride a bicycle. You went out and tried, and tried again until you learned to balance yourself and then gradually picked up speed. Marketing is no different. You have to keep at it until you find what works for you. Then, if you want to continue your momentum, you have to keep on marketing.
- Start today. Make your own list of marketing ideas. Include some of the ideas on the list above or ideas of your own. Include marketing ideas you’ve used before and those that you haven’t. Include marketing strategies you’ve seen other companies use. Then start putting them into practice one by one. Aim to try one new marketing idea a week. Keep using the ones that work, discard the ones that don’t and watch your business grow.
Need more marketing ideas? Here are 42 more ways to market your business.
*Business Know-How is a Solution Provider for Constant Contact
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