When you market your small business, you may not have the six-figure budget of a multinational organisation.
But that shouldn’t stop you getting your message heard by the millions.
When times are tough, it’s often the marketing that’s the first to go as a (sometimes) unquantifiable expense.
This is ironic because, at such times, it’s essential to keep your brand name and product in the public eye.
Below are just a few marketing ideas and tips on how to market your business online – on a budget.
How to Market your Business on Social Media
Social media marketing is a much more cost-effective tool than traditional or press advertising.
But before you jump on Twitter or Facebook to shout about your product, you’re going to have to have a pitch and know a little about your target audience.
If you can’t get your point across in less than ten seconds, it’s likely that the viewer will have got distracted by something else on their timeline.
Once you get their attention, you have to keep it or you will have wasted your chance.
It’s a good idea to create a marketing strategy outline beforehand.
Market your Business locally
Helping the community is a great way you can market your business, whilst of course helping others.
Maybe try sponsoring a local Sunday league football team, for example, by buying their kits or equipment.
In Uni, our football team got sponsorship from a nearby bar, who gave us money to buy a kit and free lunches after games.
Not only did they get their logo design on a (championship winning!) team kit, they got a full squad of twenty or so students to come in and buy drinks at a time when the bar was usually quiet.
This approach may not be just effective for more global marketing, but associating your brand with community events can only be a good thing.
Networking & Social Events
Try to build up relationships with other companies whom you could collaborate with in future.
You could exchange perks, such as discount vouchers or promotional codes. You scratch their back, they scratch yours!
If a customer spends £25 with you, then they get a £5 discount voucher for the other store.
In return, the other store will issue money off vouchers for you, when they make a sale.
Link to them on your website so they can do the same, and then post on each other’s social media sites.
Networking is an effective marketing strategy. It's a great way to meet people and pick up some free marketing tips.
It helps if you treat it as a social occasion and not just a way to market your business, as that may leave people a bit cold.
In other words, be real, be genuine and not just a pushy salesperson.
Keep at it…
Even the best thought-out marketing strategies may not make you money overnight.
But if you are thinking long-term, it’s going to be one of the most effective and cheapest ways to market your business.
If public speaking interests you, there are plenty of opportunities at conferences and meetings.
Some will pay, others will just want a basic speech made to a group of like-minded enthusiasts.
Whichever it is, you will be meeting people and getting your message across.
Who knows, somebody may pop in to see you for a chat later and soon become a regular customer or valued contact.
It’s another area where you wouldn’t push the hard sell, but if you show a genuine interest in people and give good speeches, you can’t go wrong.
People will begin to associate you as an authority figure in the industry, and if the expert is good, then their brand will be trustworthy too.
One thing that is important, is that you need to look for opportunities – not wait for them to come knocking.
What you save in money may be added in time, but if you get it right, it’ll work.
Keep an eye open for opportunities
There’s a tonne of opportunities within social media marketing online and in the ‘real world’ that allow you to get your brand in the public sphere.
It doesn’t even need to be an event or situation related to your industry, if you have an insight, you’ll be a valuable commentator.
Even going back to marketing your business on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, look for people that are asking for your services or product.
Send them a helpful, personable message linking to you and they’ll most likely check it out.
Do the same on sites like Quora, Q&A sites and forums.
These are great, untapped sources of potential customers who may not have heard of you, even though your brand is the perfect fit for their needs.
Let them know and spread the word when marketing a new small business.
Marketing your Business through Customers
There are a variety of ways your existing customers can do the marketing for you, for free (more or less).
I talked about discount codes earlier, and it’s something you can offer customers as a bonus or thank you.
Graze, the healthy snack supplier, include vouchers when you buy, allowing you to get a discount for five friends.
It’s such a small thing, but it works wonders because you feel valued as a customer, making you willing to talk about them positively.
Market your Business online
Ask your customers questions on social media, or in person, on what they like or dislike about your brand – how would they improve it?
Incentives and rewards will get more people talking, and this interaction is the first hurdle of brand marketing.
Maybe try a short quiz on your website, or offer a competition in exchange for their name and email address.
Collating a list of potential and current customers is a great way to stay connected and keep them up-to-date with your company.
When you release a new product or service, this list will be a great marketing opportunity to start people talking.
Getting them involved early in the process will increase the chances they become a customer.
Keeping existing customers is just as important as bringing in new ones, so make sure that your customer service is second to none.
Always, always, always over deliver!
It's something I've always kept in mind when marketing my small business!
Free Marketing and promotional gifts
Put your hands up if you hate free stuff…
Invest a bit of money on some pens with your company logo and website URL, maybe a keychain or some stickers.
Hand them out for free at social events, school fairs or leave them (with permission) in popular public spaces.
Getting your logo design into the subconscious mind of someone that uses that pen afterwards, builds up a brand connection.
This makes them much more likely to favour you in future.
On that note, we do offer promotional design services so be sure to check that out if you’re so inclined.
If your budget won’t stretch that far, and it’s not that much of an investment – start small.
You don’t need a million branded cufflinks with your logo on it; ten or twenty will suffice at first until you can gauge a reaction.
With a bit of elbow grease, creativity and persistence, It is possible to run an effective marketing strategy and not spend a penny.
If you have any advice or ways how to market your business online on a budget, I’d love to hear about it – please feel free to leave a comment below.