Marketing is essential for a successful business. But, for both new and established businesses, it can be expensive and difficult to determine the proper avenues and strategies that will work best for your business. So, with that in mind, the CarolRoth.com contributor network of business owners, experts, advisors and entrepreneurs have provided their best marketing advice on a budget. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.
You may notice some similar concepts listed, but I kept the ideas separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.
1. Karma Pays
Two words: help people. Be it via written content, through social media, at local networking events - whatever opportunity you have to help your target consumer base, take it - and put your all into it. People want to help good people. You'd be surprised how much "free" word of mouth you can get your business simply by showing you're the kind of person who helps others without any strings attached. It's certainly worked for me. Karma- it pays.
2. The Magic of Meetings
The #1 best marketing strategy for businesses on a budget is networking. It's also known as relationship marketing. That's because people do business with who they know, like and trust.
Like other marketing strategies, consistency matters. Consider attending weekly chamber meetings, leads groups or local events. Then, schedule individual meetings with possible referral partners.
During those meetings, listen for commonalities and how you can help them. That's when the magic happens.
3. Subscribe to HARO Emails!
HARO, short for Help a Reporter Out, puts you in contact with reporters who are looking for sources for their stories (and they'll usually link to your website). This is a very effective way to get your company's name out there - our clients have been featured on outlets like CNN, The Huffington Post, Business Insider and many others via HARO.
Plus, HARO emails are free - it doesn't get much more budget friendly than that!
4. Repeat Their Words
Want your target audience to really listen? Then, listen to them and repeat their words back to them. Do focus groups or phone calls with your best clients. Record their conversations (with permission) or write down the words and phrases they are using. Listen for the emotion. Make those words and phrases your key words, the titles of your blog posts and newsletters, the lead words on your website, your elevator pitch, your social media posts, your PR, and your tagline. Listen all the way to the bank!
5. On a Budget? Be Controversial!
When I say 'controversial' I mean say something unexpected to get people to talk. Take the government shut down. In a sea of "Democrats are wrong!" and "Republicans are wrong!" suddenly your message is, "Here's why the shutdown is great!". It instantly stands out and provokes discussion, passes on links, possible media queries and so on, all for free. Of course, make sure that you can back up your claims and that they match your business model. It's amazing marketing on a budget, and one I always use.
6. Availability Begets Publicity
Meet as many publishers, editors and writers of relevant trade publications as possible. Let them know you are always available to provide information on industry trends, concerns, actions and developments. They need material for their articles – and are always on a tight deadline. They will attribute to you and your company your contributions in the articles. This will position you as an expert in the field and accordingly, add awareness and an impressive and positive patina to your products and services.
7. Know Where Customers Come from
Marketing should be deliberate and planned. We help authors become publishers, so most of my clients are referrals.
#1-Always thank referrers!
#2-Don't react to every sales pitch, especially last minute ones. Ask for proof if someone is spewing numbers. I opened my web metrics WHILE a directory salesman was trying to sell me a bigger ad because "600 people clicked on last year's." I could see that only 14 had come from it.
Plan your strategy, analyze and utilize what works. Don't guess!
8. Collaboration Leads to Profits
The one best piece of advice for marketing on a budget in business is to collaborate with local (could find businesses in other locations) non-competitive businesses and market each other’s businesses. Just make sure that you’re marketing to your target market. You can use fliers, social media, newsletters, coupons, and reciprocal web links, videos, and badges. By working together, you can expand your clientele or customer base online and offline.
9. Choose the Best Free Software
You don't have to spend tons of money on software to get your message out. Audacity is a great free voice recorder and audio editor. It does pay to have a professional mic and this does cost money. For photo editing, you can use Gimp which has most of the same features as Photoshop. For simple image resizing and image resolution changes, Paint.net works for me. Freelancer.com is a great outsourcing site. Fiverr is cheaper in many cases, but it can take some trial and error to find good people.
10. Use a Budget & Stick with It!
Marketing is a vital area to any business. IF you do not get this right, your business will become extinct. Use a budget and stick with it. Knowing how much you can spend on a given marketing option helps to keep your marketing expenses within the limits you've set. Overspending will not necessarily bring in the right client. Have a niche-focused mindset and be patient in the process. Keep a track of your spending and the results you receive in the process.
11. Look from the Other Side
We can create what we like and tell others that they should like it also OR we can find out what they want and come to the place where we want to create it for them. Classic advertising is trying to get you to do something for me. Effective marketing today is me helping you to meet a need, fix a problem or accomplish a goal. Start by viewing the world through the eyes of your potential customer and you will save a lot of money.
12. Create a Brand Universe
The Web is all about communication, but few entrepreneurs understand how various online tactics affect their ability to tell their brand story. To know whether Facebook, Twitter, or Google ads are right for your business, you first have to have a strategy: a Brand Universe, and like all universes, there are rules and laws that govern its existence. A Brand Universe will inform your decision-making process on where and how to spend your limited resources and not waste money on trendy tactics.
13. Tell a Story in Six Seconds
As a bootstrapping startup in the legal field, it has been both challenging and exciting to come up with scrappy marketing techniques. One of the best pieces of advice for marketing on a budget I've seen is using Vine for a Q & A session.
Gary Vaynerchuk said it best, "Time is our biggest asset. What Vine does, is it gives you a promise that this is only six seconds of your time."
Find a creative way to tell a story to your market in six seconds.
14. Click with Your Customer
Know what your customers want. Revlon sold me 1000 lipsticks at a give-a-way price. I advertised, 'Buy a pantyhose and get a Revlon lipstick free of charge.' I sold nil, nothing, zero. I then advertised, 'Buy a Revlon lipstick and get a free pantyhose.' I sold out in three days.
Lesson learned: give away the top seller.
Jacob Singer of Regnis
15. Free Samples
Two words - Free Samples. The best bang for your buck is offering a give-away or sample of your business. This allows prospective clients to learn about you and test run your product or service. These offers could include samples, product trials, taste tests, software, free events, or a sample copy if you're a writer or blogger. Everyone loves to try before they buy. Ensure that you provide good quality offers, not cheap ones. This is your first, and maybe only, chance to impress possible new customers.
Ilana Eberson of NYCBNG
16. Do a One Hour Website Audit
If your print or social media efforts drive people to your website, your website needs to work.
-Check for slow loading pages, as well as broken links and images.
-Is all contact info up to date?
-Is there a call to action on each page?
-Ensure basic on page SEO has been done (Headings, alt tags, etc.).
Use free tools like Hubspot's Marketing Grader and Lipperhey's site evaluation tool (www.lipperhey.com) to help in the analysis. Then, take action. Hire a pro to make any needed changes.
17. FREE Marketing - No Such Thing
The best way to market on a budget is to understand that nothing of value comes for free. It takes time and effort to make your marketing work. Expect there to be some lag as you build your online audience. Expect to put in effort daily. You can lessen some of the workload by planning in advance and using social media automated platforms. BUT - be prepared to add your own "organic" posts along the way. You want your audience to pay attention - so you must show them you care.
18. Nothing Beats a Personal Touch
Nothing beats a personal touch in creating new business or maintaining current clients, and all it costs you is your time. Everyone emails these days.
Far fewer people call, especially when they are NOT selling something, and almost no one sends a card ever. A phone call to a client abroad can be especially impressive and not expensive, using skype or a calling plan. Cards can be beautiful, with a gift-like energy, cheap relatively speaking, and give you a great bang for your buck.
19. Free is Good!
I encourage my clients to use free services for marketing themselves. One I particularly like is www.MySocialMediaToGo.com. They have a 30-day Do-It-Yourself Social Media program that many of my clients have used. It covers a lot of different things that people can do on their own.
20. Learn SEO
Learning how to use keywords and certain phrases that will help your website's google rankings is a low cost or free way to market your product or service on a budget. Today, most people, when they hear about a new business, won't buy until they see the website, so getting them there by appearing at the top of the organic google local searches is your best bet. A strong, clear and concise website that acts as a direct marketing tool, rather than a simple business card is highly recommended.
21. No Eggs in One Basket
All these are free -
1. Don't use FB as your one and only PR opportunity. FB can take you down in the blink of an eye and you're S.O.L.
2. Use FB biz pages to report cool things you're doing, use eye-catching pictures and then, share that post to your timeline; post EVERY DAY.
3. Write in a friendly, casual manner, as if you were writing to a close friend about stuff you really like - don't use 3rd person!
When you can afford it, use paid press release services to get to more people.
22. Got the Guts to Sing?
Karaoke night is the ideal place to flog your wares. Just tinker with the lyrics to a popular song, make sure you do so in a fun, tongue-in-cheek fashion and get up on stage to sing. Be prepared to pass around your business card and maybe even buy everybody a round to go with it.
23. Videos Grab Attention
YouTube is the second most searched site on the internet. Create a promo-video yourself on the cheap by using MS Movie Maker or go to fiverr.com and get a video produced for only $5-$20 depending on length and quality.
The promo video can then be placed on your website. QR codes (done for free) can drive people to your video and you can use the video for social campaigns - then, get it transcribed and pdf'd, cut out the voice/music for a podcast. Leverage one video into multi-usable content.
24. Leave the Office and Volunteer
Get out of your office and volunteer. There are civic organizations such as the Lions, Kiwanis or Soroptimists. There is your local Chamber of Commerce (true, some are better than others). There are any number of Committees and Commissions that are part of your City government that depend on volunteers from the business community. Get known for your contributions, knowledge and caring - the business will follow.
25. Help Those Less Fortunate
When your business has a back-to-school supplies drive or collects nonperishable items, you help your community and your business. Send press releases before and after (with photos.) It's free marketing with the amazing feeling of "doing the right thing."
26. Find Promo Partners
Connect with other entrepreneurs who serve a similar audience but are not direct competitors. Ask them to help promote your services or products in exchange for a referral fee or commission. This is pay for performance and a win-win for both of you. You get your business out in front of a new audience and they earn money on sales.
27. You are Your Best Sales Person
No one tells your story or sells your business like you do. NO ONE! So, how best to get "you" out and about when you can't be everywhere and cloning isn't legal yet... Podcasting! Podcasting isn't hard and doesn't take much equipment. It provides you the opportunity to be heard - on your website and/or internet radio, plus use sound bites for your Facebook page! Affordable, fun and all you! What is better than that!
28. FREE Marketing Tool
Don't overlook social media--it's a FREE tool to market your business! Just pick one or two platforms, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, to focus on as a start. You can leverage social media to help you gain media coverage (such as by following reporters on Twitter) and to blast out your "news"--if you have press releases, blog posts or stories in the media, these are all great content to feed your social media channels. Start out by posting a few times a week and grow/add from there.
29. Set a Time Budget Too
Marketing will always cost more than you think it will. Advertising is always more expensive than you think. And it takes more of your time than you think to do marketing really well. Whenever you implement a "low-cost" marketing strategy, you're really only saving dollars at the expense of time. Guest posting, for example, is a great marketing tool, but it take time to write well. Google ads are faster, but they can cost a lot. So, set a time as well as a dollar budget for your marketing!
30. Marketing on a Budget- Top Tip
Whether or not resources are scarce, the number-one piece of advice I offer for marketing is to have your ideal customer well-defined.
How can you effectively reach and engage with the person/people you most want to sell to unless you know who they are - demographically and psychographically?
Without knowing them inside and out, you're wasting money on marketing (including through social media efforts).
Who are you, what do you offer and who do you want to sell to? Start there!
31. Write Articles to Get Noticed!
Article placement equals free PR & positioning as an expert. Write content-rich articles & submit to publications in your target market. The articles should be full of great tips (bullet points are best), not self promotional. Your bio at the end of the article will have your contact info, so people can get in touch with you. Your article could be forwarded to many others. More good news – the article then becomes part of your press kit telling the world that you are the expert on the subject!
32. Write the Magic Words
Hand write and send thank you notes to your clients, associates and the media. The other note to send is congratulations. This is unusual, personal and thus, memorable.
33. Nothing Beats a Press Release
You should concentrate on submitting press releases. Press releases have great value. You need to learn how to construct an effective press release and submit it to local, national, and web-based newspapers often. You also need to send press releases to trade publication magazines.
Send a release every month.
A list of newspapers and magazines with editor’s names can be found in several directories, such as Bacon’s Newspaper and Magazine Guide.
34. The Long and Short of it
Excellent website SEO is the best long term strategy. Short term, consider an email marketing campaign. Identify your correspondence as an advertisement. Provide a vehicle for opting out of future correspondence from your company. Marketing rules apply. Keep your message short and have a compelling reason for them to either visit your website or contact you. If you have a business development staff, this can go a long way to warm up any subsequent cold calls.
35. Be Precise!
Know EXACTLY the audience you want to reach. Zero in on them.
Then, zero in on the biggest, best marketing bangs for your buck. List them by rating them #1 thru #10.
Then, start a repetitive blitzing until your name is instilled in their heads for the particular product/service you are offering.
36. Broadcast Ad Exchanges
While there is a lot of noise around Big Data and online advertising exchanges, Old School terrestrial radio remains one of the best ways businesses can share their marketing messages with potential customers.
37. Champagne Taste, Gum Budget
Always be creative and resourceful. The best piece of advice is to convert curiosity into consumption. For today's entrepreneur, traditional marketing doesn't exist, but allowing the consumer to develop their own passion for the brand is the key to success. Quickly, they become your greatest brand ambassador. The independent representatives of your brand will provide quality and purpose for the people who surround them. Continue to educate your brand to the right people in the right environment.
38. Get Creative with Content
Share information with the public to get people to know more about your company. Every business has a variety of content sources; they include products and services, staff and employees, customers and their stories, company values, office design and more. Sharing information revolving around your business helps create more awareness and reach of your brand. Staff members should also get involved with spreading word about your business, whether by sharing experiences or relating customer stories.
39. The Very Best Ad Method Ever!
The least expensive and the most effective advertising method which I use all the time is to offer customers a 10% discount on their next order, and also offer a cash reward to anyone they recommend my business to, and which results in an order from that person!
This is like signing up every customer to be one of my advertising partners! They not only get a discount on future orders, they get a cash reward for any of their friends who order as well! Works Great!
Do you have another tip that wasn’t included? If you do, please share it below. And as always, many thanks to everyone that contributed to this article!