Marketing is tough. Having a small marketing budget makes things feel impossible. So how do you handle this predicament as a small business owner (SBO)? Here are the steps I recommend for starting on a shoestring budget. There’s likely to be a couple of places you can start on your own on this list. At least until you get more ROI to bring in outside parties to help.
If you aren’t comfortable with any of these options, there’s still hope. Working with a 3rd party provider can help you make the best use of your budget. It’s easy to scale up as you increase your revenue. I work with small marketing budgets all the time. It’s simply a matter of determining what will work best for the resources available. Having a plan in place to know where and how to scale up is always best. Remember, “small” is subjective and will be different for each company.
I’ve worked with $300 a month budgets all the way up to $40,000 a year budgets. Some of my partners work with budgets of $100,000+ easily a year so don’t make assumptions on how much is a small marketing budget. Part of my job, any marketers job, is to determine how to use those funds best.
Small Marketing Budget Efforts
Let’s break down and simplify efforts you can perform to give you the most bang for your buck on a limited budget.
Get your message out in as many places as possible on the WWW. Blogging is a great way to do that. You should blog on your site on a regular schedule. This absolutely includes guest blogging on someone else’s site as well. Be sure to leave comments on blogs for others and share them to your social media as well.
Granted to do this best, it does require writing skills and experience with readability structure and SEO. BUT, these things are learnable by some SBO’s. These efforts can be time-consuming as well. A skilled blogger may be able to crank pieces out in a couple of hours that are researched, and SEO optimized. Outsourcing this doesn’t have to cost a lot. I have blogging packages as low as $150 per month as an example. Blogging can certainly be done with quality on a small marketing budget.
Email Campaigns / Newsletters
Although I’m not a big fan of email campaigns, they can be worth the effort. They don’t have to cost a lot if you’re able to write good content and create a compelling call to action. If you are struggling to gain more emails, offer something free. An E-Book, Samples, a Training Video, etc. MailChimp is a popular tool for managing your list and campaigns. Usually email and/or newsletter content starts around $50 for my clients so it’s pretty easy to do with a small marketing budget.
Networking can get expensive. Primarily because it takes a lot of time to be successful and time is money. Groups like BNI can cost a lot more than Chamber events or small local groups. Remember that to be successful at Networking you have to put in the time. If you want to read more on How To Network Successfully then, of course, I have an article on that too.
Networking will take the most of your time of all of these efforts but can be the most rewarding. All you need is a solid 2-4 people in your contact sphere long-term to get a lot of results. You just need the RIGHT people and that’s hard. Networking is something that is usually best to get consulting on and, eventually, have help with. You can at least get your name out and start meeting contacts on a small marketing budget.
Social media is a must-have tool for small business marketing. Google My Business will be huge for you if you have a storefront or physical office. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter can boost your blogging efforts as well. You don’t have to do any ad words or sponsored posts to get results. Joining or starting groups, engaging with others, and sharing content is a great and easy way to get noticed.
Social media can be challenging because creating content isn’t easy. Each platform is a lot different and it can be time-consuming. It’s OK to start on a single platform where you’re most comfortable. You’ll eventually want to hire someone or outsource this as it will grow. Or it’s worth investing in to make it grow. My social media management packages start around $300 a month so it’s not a lot of money you need to get started. If you’re doing it yourself and need help, I have a Free Social Media Guide you can use.
Contests / Events / Promotions
People love contests. Events are fun. Think about ways you can do these that are low-cost. Consider partnering with a local business or referral partner. Like having a PI lawyer, nutritionist, and chiropractor do a health and wellness event. Florist, Hair Dresser, Makeup Artist plan a wedding expo. Do you have items or services you can give away that won’t break the bank? Can you offer this with a contest? If you are a restaurant give away a free meal or appetizer to a random person who leaves a review or checks in. Offer a promotional discount or special offer. Maybe require someone to refer someone, or share content. Maybe they post their product on social media. There’s a TON of ways you can leverage these tactics on a small marketing budget.
Local classes are even better but hey, it’s the digital age. Use a low-cost program like GoToMeeting, JoinMe or Skype to offer live or pre-recorded training, events, series, etc. Remember that giving away value is how you become the subject matter expert. It’s what will keep people coming back to you for education. They’ll develop trust and trust is needed to do business. You can do your own sessions or have a partner do them with you. You can consider having guests. There’s really no limitations here outside of your time and tech. What can you offer that’s educational and doesn’t require you to give too much away?
All SBO should have a print collateral budget already. At the least, we all need business cards. I’m a firm believer in having them custom designed to avoid using generic templates. You want your card to stand out. Mine are flashy with some metallic foil print. You can use cards that are cut to specific shapes. The more unique the card, the better. Always go custom when your budget can afford it. If you use any brochures, flyers, banners, signage, etc. just make sure the branding and design are consistent. Print materials can always be accomplished on a small marketing budget.
Podcast / Guest on Podcast
Podcasts are really popular but you do need equipment and time. Editing isn’t fun, that’s why I don’t podcast myself. BUT, I love being a guest and have done so a few times. So if you aren’t down to start your own, find a podcast you could contribute to. It’s a great way to get noticed and share some of your knowledge with the world. You really can do a podcast on a small marketing budget but being a guest contributor is even more affordable.
If you’re interested, Story Selling Your Way To Clients was my favorite guest podcast. Freeland Transformations is amazing!
Hopefully, this helped you understand what steps you can take to overcome your small marketing budget. Start with where you’re comfortable. You don’t need to do each one. Just find where you can get started and dive in. Start planning who you can bring in or outsource to that can help with the rest, or take over your efforts. Marketing is simple, it just isn’t easy. For more info, let’s connect on Twitter.