5 Tricks for marketing on a shoestring budget

Posted by Beth Kotz on 25 Apr, 2017
View comments Marketing
Small business owners survive - and thrive - by maximizing every dollar of budget, every ounce of effort and every minute of time.

An effective marketing strategy is crucial to efficiently growing revenue and minimizing wasted resources.  If you can maintain focus, understand your customers and your strengths, simplify your approach and maximize efficiency, you can find success with less. 

If funds are tight at the moment, try our 5 tricks for marketing on a shoestring budget for strong results without the massive price tag.

1. Hone in and focus

Larger companies with huge marketing and advertising budgets can afford to cast a wide net. For small business owners, a scattershot approach will deliver a very poor return on investment. Whatever channel you are focusing on, each marketing message must be targeted with laser-like precision.

Well-targeted online advertising is the most cost effective option for most small businesses.  But if you don’t understand your targeting options or if your net is cast too wide, you can blow through your budget without creating value. The biggest value comes when you can find opportunities your competitors are undervaluing, where demand is lower than it should be, and the clicks, or impressions, are relatively cheap.  You don’t want to follow the crowd and subsist on your competitors’ scraps.  Rather than copying the strategy of your larger competitors, find the opportunities that are more precise with smart use of keywords and by targeting less obvious demographics.

Stay on-message, with your best message - make it clear what you are offering that the competition is not. Be results oriented, set your KPIs (key performance indicators) before you spend any money and keep close watch on your results.

Think in terms of high-impact messages that are clear and succinct. Your intent should be apparent and simple to understand. In assessing your target audience it helps to consider demographics. How old is the audience you are trying to reach? Are they male or female? You can also use psychographics and other segmenting tools to drill down and create narrow marketing channels. There is virtually no benefit in marketing to those you are unlikely to reach.

You can use the Wordtracker keyword tool to understand what your target customers are searching for, and then use that information, alongside your audience understanding, to set up a highly targeted PPC campaign to put your offer right in front of them.

Other tools to consider adding to your arsenal include Facebook's Audience Insights and Google's audience insights from within your AdWords account. Both will help you get a better grip on your customers and help you to deliver more meaningful and more focused messages.

2. Keep in touch

Engagement, engagement, engagement. This is crucial to maintaining your customer base. The dollars you spend attempting to gain new customers will far exceed the ones you spend to keep them, so you need to make sure you look after your existing customers. Use e-mail and social media to enable a regular flow of communication and preserve the existing link with your patrons.

What you must remember is that maintaining a relationship with your customers requires finesse. You know the old saying, familiarity breeds contempt. Find that balance between being overwhelming and being effective. Here's a tip. The more helpful, professional and informative your communications are, the better they will be received. Every communication shouldn’t be an outright sales pitch.

3. Publish great content

Content marketing is still one of the most reliable and cost-effective methods of marketing for small businesses, and it’s a solid choice for those who are trying to eke maximum value out of a shoestring budget.

Stand-out content is a surefire route to higher sales conversions - but this requires a solid content strategy, something which can be intimidating at first.

Simply creating content with no real thought or goal behind it is akin to casting too wide a net with your advertising dollars. Again, you need to be focused to get the most out of a smaller marketing pot.

Prior to any content creation efforts, research how to reach your target audience. Don’t assume you’re already aware of exactly who your target demographics are. Consider conducting market research to find what specific keywords they use to describe your product, what they find compelling about your product and what related topics interest them that are adjacent to the product you offer. Are you reaching a local, national, or international audience? This information will help you determine how to best reach customers in your choice of both content topics and mediums.

Creating valuable content that engages readers and provides useful information is one way to get a top spot in the search engine rankings. We've all seen how easily something can go viral. Remember Chewbacca Mom? In the age of social media, content can be viewed literally millions of times in less than 24 hours. The key is to be first in line. Your content will have less value if someone else beats you to the punch.

If you have the ability to create superior content yourself, go for it. And don’t be afraid to outsource for inexpensive help - websites like Upwork offer a pool of talent for less. Making smart use of freelancers once you have a content strategy in place is a cost-effective way to get your content needs covered without having to invest in a long-term hire.  

4. Give away discount coupons and free samples

Coupons leverage the eternal fondness most people have for saving money and getting a deal. As such, offering coupons has been a powerful way for brands to attract new customers for many years. Make this work for you by investigating platforms that can distribute your coupon to a large number of people for a small cost.

Once you’re committed to offering business coupons, you need to have a plan in place to convert those trying your business into long term customers. Talk to your new customers as appropriate, and find out what you can about what they want as a customer. Which aspects of your business do they love? Are there any impediments to them becoming a long term customer?

The free trial is another useful tool in the penny marketer's chest. Some people appreciate the opportunity to try something before they commit. It doesn't even have to be a long period of time. Sometimes seven days of service can do the trick.

5. Grow your community

Your best marketing assets are the satisfied folks you've served before. They will work cheaply on your behalf if you treat them right. Try offering a free month of service or product discounts in exchange for referrals. In many cases, the act of giving the reward itself is more meaningful to your existing customers than its value. In other words, customers value being appreciated.

Networking is one of the most powerful things you can do for your business. It can also be one of the most time consuming. When you can persuade  your existing customers to take up the cause of promoting your business, the growth can be exponential.

Business owners with a strategic marketing plan in place have a far greater chance of succeeding on a shoestring budget. Match your passion, skill and self-awareness to use what you know about your own business and your target audience to deliver bright ideas that will win new customers over and over again.

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