Marketing can be very expensive, especially for small businesses in the early days when you don’t have a lot of budget to work with. I know, I’ve been there too! The consistent message seems to be that the only way to start a business is frugal living. Is it possible to enjoy living frugally? That’s a story for another day.
It can be easy to assume that effective promotional activities need to be expensive, but actually, there are lots of low-budget options that can work just as well to promote your business. Here are some ideas for promoting your small business, with a low budget.
- Publish great content. Content can have an enormous amount of impact. If you can create this content yourself, you can create something impactful for free. If writing isn’t your strong point, you should be able to find someone on your team who can write a few strong articles for your company blog. Try simple content like top ten lists, collections of tips or articles about best practice for your industry. Content marketing can be incredibly effective for small businesses.
- Make instructional videos. Video content is really valuable. It can be expensive to get professional video content produced, but it’s also possible to have a go yourself or to make video by hiring a film student to help you. A how-to video about your best seller shot on a phone can still be as effective as a professionally made video.
- Get ad promo credits. Large ad campaigns might be outside of your budget, but there are often discounts and coupons around for paid Facebook adverts and even Google ads. Sometimes web hosting services offer discount codes as an offer for members. Check to see if yours does this.
- Use Reddit. Reddit is a very popular social network, that calls itself, ‘the front page of the internet’. Used strategically, it can be a very powerful tool. Reddit’s audience is very tech-savvy, and they don’t tend to respond well to obvious marketing tactics. To do well on Reddit, only share the very best of your content, and post only to highly targeted niches. There’s a subreddit for just about every possible interest. Find your niche, and interact. Don’t use post ads for your business. Instead, interact and engage, and offer information that is useful. Only link to your content when it’s relevant to avoid the wrath of Reddit.
- Use great business cards. Order some fantastic business cards and give them to everyone you meet. Every handshake should be accompanied by a business card. The more people who know about your business, the better. To really stand out, give way something other than a business card. Print your details on a bottle opener, printed air fresheners, or on a notebook. Just use something that is relevant to your business.
- Embrace social networking. Create accounts for your business on the big social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, and Pinterest. Instagram can be added if your business is image-led. Learn some tricks for social marketing and take the time to market online.
- Create infographics. Infographics are very powerful tools for promotion. They’re visual, they’re very easy to digest, and people love to share them. This makes them a great way to drive backlinks and referral traffic. You could hire a designer to make you an infographic, but there are dozens of free tools online that you can use to make your own that will still look good. Remember to add your website address on there so people can find their way back to your site, wherever they happen to see the infographic.
- Refresh old data. If your marketing budget is tight, you might not be able to afford to bring in content writers to write content for your blog as often as you’d like. If you’re in a dry period for content, don’t worry about creating something new. Instead, breathe new life into something that already exists on the web. There are lots of data studies and stats that you can find online, and many of these studies go unnoticed. Find a relevant study and pull out the most interesting parts. Add images, make some charts or infographics, and add your own ideas and predictions based on the data. The advantage of this is that data can do the work, so you don’t have to be a great writer. Just remember to cite your data and give credit.
- Get on LinkedIn. LinkedIn a major social media site, but it is often under-used or not used well. Don’t just add some connections and then log out again. Spend some time on the site looking around. Join some groups. Engage with connections by interacting with their posts. Share your content. When used well, LinkedIn is a great place to promote your content, share your ideas, and build your brand.
- Recycle old content. In the same way that you can make use of old data studies, you can also refresh your own old content into something new. Take a webinar that was successful and make into a video tutorial. Turn some old blog posts into an ebook. Refreshing old content is a great trick. There will always be able who didn’t see the original content, so the new piece will feel fresh.
- Develop a program for customer referral. Offer the customers you already know are loyal a free product, a free month of service, or another reward like a discount, every time they refer a new customer. Word-of-mouth is a very powerful promotional tool, and people are likely to trust their friends who recommend your business more than they trust your own advertising.
- Online contests. You will need to invest in some kind of prize (unless you can persuade a supplier to donate something), but the number of participants and potential new leads that it will generate will be well worth the investment. You don’t need to offer anything really expensive either.
- Forge industry partnerships. Team up with another business who is related to your industry, but isn’t a direct competitor for a joint project. You could do this offline, locally, with a special event, or online with a giveaway or a webinar. This means twice as much relevance, and the chance to reach a whole new audience.