If you’re running a small business, or a startup with limited funding, you probably don’t have access to the same multi-million-dollar budgets that large corporations use to raise brand awareness and attract new customers. To some extent, the more money you spend, the wider reach you’ll be able to get—but that doesn’t mean you can’t run a successful marketing and advertising campaign just because you’re relegated to using a small budget.
There are dozens of strategies you can use that don’t cost much money, but have a significant potential return, and they’re perfect for starting out as a small business or startup.
Try using one or more of these low-cost options if you’re trying to stretch your minimal marketing budget:
- Printed materials. Printed advertisements, like pamphlets and brochures, may not be your first thought when you brainstorm low-cost marketing strategies, but if you use the right provider, you can get an exceptional deal. Choosing between options like collated or uncollated pages, different binding types, and whether to print in black and white or color can help you minimize costs while preserving value—ultimately netting you a higher return on investment (ROI).
- Content marketing. The premise behind content marketing is easy to understand; if you create content that people want (like articles, videos, or infographics), they’ll naturally want to seek it out. If they like it, you’ll get a boost for your brand reputation, and possibly, a conversion out of the visit. Producing content is extremely cost-efficient; if you’re a proficient writer, you can complete an article yourself in an hour or less. It also has tremendous potential to scale, since it can improve your search rankings indefinitely, and the popularity of good blogs tends to snowball.
- Social media. Depending on the nature of your audience, you could also capitalize on social media marketing, leveraging platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to extend the reach of your content and advertise new deals. Creating a company account on these platforms is usually free, so the biggest costs are time related. It does take time to research your demographics and write and schedule posts, but it’s usually worth the effort.
- Email marketing. Email marketing is known as one of the highest ROI marketing strategies because of how little money it takes to get a campaign rolling. As long as you have a list of subscribers (which you can build with a strong content marketing campaign), you can put together an email draft in a few minutes. If you email consistently and experiment with different versions, you can quickly learn which features get results and which ones can be abandoned.
- PPC advertising. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is offered by a number of major tech platforms, but the most notable platforms are Google and Facebook. Whichever platform you choose, the concept is the same; you’ll be able to display a custom ad for your target demographics, and you’ll pay a fixed rate for each click those ads get. In other words, you’ll only pay for the real traffic that your ads generate. PPC ads range from cheap to expensive depending on the keywords you’re targeting and how competitive those keywords are, but they’re a great way to generate early traffic for your business.
- Cross-promotions. If you’re a local business owner, or a startup in a thriving entrepreneurial community, you could try running cross-promotions or a referral program with other business owners. For example, you could offer a discount to another business with a purchase from yours, and they could offer a discount for your business with a purchase from theirs. It’s a good way to capitalize on your business community, and an inexpensive way to build word of mouth and interest in your business.
- Loyalty programs. You could also create and nurture a loyalty program, encouraging your existing customers to purchase more with your brand and incentivizing them to spread word of your business to others. For example, consider offering a gift card or free gift for customers who spend a certain amount within a defined period.
Ramping Up the Budget
These low-cost marketing strategies are good ways to build early momentum for a business, but you may not get exceptional results indefinitely. Eventually, you’ll want to scale up your marketing budget, since if you’re getting a positive ROI on your campaigns, more money will result in a higher return of new customers and brand loyalty.
It’s also important that you don’t keep using the same strategies over and over; experiment to discover new tactics that work well for your audience, and diversify your campaigns so you can capitalize on different market segments and angles of approach.