9 Low-Cost Marketing Ideas for Small BusinessesWritten by Marya Sutimi on February 20, 2023
Starting a small business has challenges on its own; one of them usually has something to do with the budget for your operational costs in general. Marketing for small businesses is important as it is one way to introduce your services and products to your potential customers. On top of that, it also helps you build brand awareness and communicate the value of your offer to your target audience.
Effective marketing can help your small business to compete in the market. While marketing with a limited budget comes with challenges, there are also some low-cost marketing ideas for small businesses that you can try to get started.
In this post, we’re going to deep dive into some challenges you’re about to face when having a small marketing budget, along with some free and low-cost marketing ideas you can try for your small businesses. So, here are some marketing tactics for small businesses!
Some Challenges of Having a Small Budget for Marketing Your Small Businesses
Having a small budget for marketing your small business can be tough, as you may also have limited options to try out, especially when you have just started.
For a new business trying to enter the market, you sometimes need to implement a few marketing ideas to find out which works best for your audience. With a limited budget for marketing, it can be a pain to decide which one you should prioritize without spending too much money in the process.
So, what are the challenges of having a low-cost budget for small business marketing?
1. Limited reach and targeting options
Small marketing budgets can limit the reach of your marketing campaigns, making it harder to attract new customers and reach new audiences. It may also limit the number of targeting options available, especially if you decide to do this by running online advertising.
For instance, A/B testing in online advertising is advisable for small businesses as it allows you to make data-driven decisions and optimize your marketing campaigns for maximum impact. It is a method businesses use to compare two or more versions of a marketing campaign, product, or service to determine which version performs better to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of your marketing efforts.
With a small marketing budget, you may have limited options to do the testing, resulting in limited reach and options to dig more into the valuable data that can be useful for your business.
2. Lack of professional resources
When you have a small budget for marketing, chances are you can’t afford to hire professional marketers who can help market your small business effectively. If you start a new business without any background in marketing, it can hinder you from executing high-quality marketing initiatives. But this shouldn’t stop you from trying.
The catch is you may need plenty of time to start doing a DIY marketing campaign, which can be difficult, especially if you’re a solopreneur. To get you started, here are some essential steps you can follow if you want to start learning about marketing on your own!
- Defining your target audience is crucial for starting a marketing campaign. You can define your target market based on several categories, including demography, purchasing behavior, or competitor research.
- Choose the right channels you want to use to reach your target audience. It may vary depending on your target audience, from social media, and email marketing, to paid-per-click online advertising.
- Create compelling content to engage and educate your target audience.
- Use analytics tools to measure and track the result of your marketing campaigns.
Alternatively, you can also start by introducing your business to your inner circle, whether it’s your family or friends. After all, word-of-mouth marketing is still one of the most effective ways to boost brand awareness!
3. Difficulty in adapting to changes
Change is inevitable, whether it is related to market trends, technology, or consumer behavior.
With a limited marketing budget, it is hard to adapt to these changes and keep up with all the marketing trends in your industry. Not to mention that even technology evolves so fast that it takes less than a year for any platform to evolve in its algorithms or features. Before 2018, TikTok didn’t even exist, and now the platform has become the fastest-growing social media network, with over 1 billion active users by November 2021.
It felt like yesterday when Instagram focused more on the static posts, and now social media marketers have to keep up with the use of Reels and Stories in the platform to perform through the platform. The change is constant, and sometimes it’s challenging to keep up not only financially but also mentally, as each change may need different skill sets that could hinder the marketing campaign for your small business if you have a low budget.
9 Low-Cost Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses
In this section, we’re going to explore some free and budget-friendly marketing ideas you can implement for small businesses. One thing you need to remember when you have a low budget for marketing is that it requires consistency, as it takes a while until you get the return of investment from your marketing efforts.
From generic networking to content marketing, here are some low-cost marketing ideas that may work for your small businesses!
1. Social Media Marketing
There were around 4.62 billion social media users globally last year, and that number alone is one of the many reasons why social media has become the most effective marketing for businesses.
While there are plenty of social media platforms in the market, it shouldn’t be hard to identify the most suitable social media networks you can use for marketing your business once you know the demography of your target market and audience.
Depending on your ideal customers, here are some of the best social media platforms to market your small business based on their characteristics and demographics!
- LinkedIn is by far the best B2B social media platform in the market, making it suitable for your small businesses, especially if you target businesses as your ideal customer.
- TikTok became the second most popular social media platform by traffic in 2022. While it’s more popular with Gen-Z, it can also be an effective platform to market your products or services if you can master video marketing for your small business.
- Facebook is the largest social media network in the market today, and it’s still relevant to use it to boost your brand awareness generically through your Facebook page or group or even use Facebook advertising for your businesses.
- Instagram is a great place to market your business, especially if you run an e-commerce business. Nowadays, the platform comes with a feature to connect your account to your website so potential customers can view and purchase your products without leaving their accounts. On top of that, your account can also be synchronized with Facebook, enabling you to advertise your business on both platforms simultaneously.
- Pinterest works more like a visual search engine, which can be advantageous if you sell creative products and services. Most popular for DIY projects, interior design, and the travel industry, you can start creating appealing pins on Pinterest to market your small business.
- YouTube for your small businesses is a perfect marketing platform with more than a billion monthly subscribers.
There are many options to start marketing your business through social media; the next question is which platform is the best for your ideal customers and how you can leverage it for your small business.
2. Networking and Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing, as people trust recommendations from people that they know more than traditional advertising. Word-of-mouth marketing is also a great way to build your business credibility, which can significantly impact your customer decision.
Networking and using your existing contacts can be great for starting word-of-mouth marketing for your small business. Whether you want to do it online by joining local business groups on social media or attending local events and connecting with other businesses to establish collaborations and partnerships, it is a good way to reach more audiences to introduce your business.
Getting yourself out there is the best way to market your small business, so what’s the better way than networking and meeting new people to expand your connection?
3. Content Marketing
Content marketing can be affordable with the right strategy. With the emerging popularity of digital marketing, content marketing has become necessary for a low-budget marketing strategy. It’s hard to boost your brand awareness without content on your digital presence through your social media accounts or business website.
So, what are some affordable yet effective ways to master the content marketing strategy for your small businesses?
- Define your content marketing goals. Do you do content marketing as you want to boost traffic to your website? Or do you want to generate leads for your small business? Your content marketing strategy may vary depending on the goals you’re trying to achieve, so understanding your goals can clarify the best strategy for your content creation initiatives.
- Know your audience. Getting to know their pain points and how you can solve their problems through your content are the most effective ways to establish your authority and expertise within your industry. When you can build trust through your content, it can also attract potential clients for your business.
- Check your competitors. Conducting thorough research about your competitor can help you establish a competitive advantage for your business and offer what they don’t provide as your unique selling point.
- Understand SEO. Search engine optimization is often overlooked by small businesses, but it’s an organic way to boost brand awareness and generate leads through digital marketing. According to Ahrefs, SEO leads to 14.6% closing rate for businesses.
- Publish your content regularly. Consistency is the key when it comes to content marketing. Whether you publish a new post on your social media regularly or update your blog posts periodically, it can do wonders to establish your business authority!
4. Email Marketing
The best thing about email marketing is that the people on your mailing list already know you or your business, making it the best way to convert your warm leads and close the deal. Even better, you don’t need a big budget to start an email marketing campaign for your business!
Email marketing platforms like Mailchimp or Mailerlite offer a free plan for a limited number of subscribers, which you can take advantage of when you just start your small business. All you need to do is pay attention to GDPR or some other email laws and regulations that may apply to you and your audience to ensure that you comply with all the policies before sending out emails to your contact list.
Most email marketing platforms also come with drag-and-drop features that are pretty intuitive, even for beginners. On top of that, A/B testing in email marketing won’t require as much money as you need for social media ads like Facebook and Instagram, making it one of the cheapest ways to market your business!
5. Referral Marketing
You’re missing out if you haven’t started a referral program for your business, as it generates up to 5 times higher conversion rates than any other channel. Referral marketing also allows you to provide special treatment for your loyal customers, which is one of the most effective ways to retain them as paying clients.
Encourage your satisfied customers to refer your products or services to their friends and family by offering incentives, whether in the form of discounts or freebies. 84% of people from over 50 countries say that they trust recommendations from their acquaintances, which plays a big role in their purchasing decisions.
6. Create a Google My Business Page
Google My Business listing is especially important if you target local customers, as your business profile will help people find your business when looking for similar products or services in your area.
Having a Google My Business page for your small business will improve your visibility in local search results, making it the best way to market your business with little to no cost.
7. Influencer Marketing
One of the success stories of influencer marketing is from Triangl. This Australian swimwear brand used influencer and referral marketing at the beginning of its business.
Despite the limited marketing budget, they focused on gaining traction on reach through Instagram through their gifting programs. What Triangl did is that they created FOMO (fear of missing out) marketing ideas, and while they didn’t have enough budget to collaborate with Kendall Jenner at the time, they decided to send gifts to her inner circle instead that would later attract Kendall to try out their products through referral.
As a result, they didn’t spend too much on their marketing campaign. But once Kendall Jenner was spotted in a Triangl bikini, it multiplied their sales and the rest is history!
8. Offer promotions and discounts
Offering discounts or running limited-time promotions can be a great way to generate sales and attract new customers for your business. There are several ways to offer promotions and discounts for your small business, which include the following:
- Seasonal sales, which you can offer during specific times of the year such as the holidays, back-to-school, or end-of-season sales.
- Loyalty programs, which you can offer to customers who make frequent purchases of your products and services.
- Bundle deals, which may be valid for customers purchasing multiple products and services together.
- Promotional codes are most suitable for e-commerce, where you can provide a specific code that customers can use during checkout on your website.
- Volume discounts can be applied to customers who purchase your products or services in large quantities.
- Early bird specials, which can be given to customers who purchase your products or services in advance.
- Cross-Selling: Cross-selling is a sales process where you persuade a customer to purchase a complementary or related product to the one that they already bought.
9. Ask for customer reviews
Customer reviews and testimonials are valuable for your business as they provide insights into your customer experiences. They can be useful to improve your products and services and help you build your brand reputation, and increase your customer trust and loyalty.
Based on research, 93% of customers admit that online reviews play a big role in their purchasing decision, which indicates how effective customer reviews are as free marketing for your small business. In that case, asking for reviews from your existing customers can tremendously help your small business.
Encourage your customers to leave reviews on your Google listing, Facebook page, or even testimonials on LinkedIn to share their insights and how you can improve your deliverables moving forward.
Having a limited budget for marketing shouldn’t stop you from trying to expand more target audiences for your business. There are many ways you can reach your target market organically, some of which you can get for free!
You can implement your marketing campaigns from social media to influencer marketing with little to no cost. The most important thing is to remember to focus on the tactics that align with your goals and budget, and track your results to measure your return on investment so you can analyze and evaluate it for your next marketing campaign.
So, those are some low-cost marketing ideas you can implement for small businesses. Which of these marketing efforts works best for your business?