Marketing is essential if you want to attract new clients, make sales, and scale your business. It can also be really, really expensive.
With strategies like expensive Paid Search ads, sponsored campaigns, and costly consultants taking center stage in the marketing world, it’s easy for small businesses to feel intimidated and end up not getting the most results for their budget.
This doesn’t have to be the case. There are so many cost-effective marketing options available to small businesses, and the right strategies will help you cut ad costs and grow your business at the same time.
Looking for a few inexpensive marketing tips for your small business? Let’s take a look at 8 of the most reliable and affordable strategies for a shoestring budget.
1. Create a Great Customer Experience
Though customer experience is a general term, there’s a reason we hear it so often – it’s what makes businesses competitive in a market rife with options, especially in the times we’re living in.
The experience your small business provides comprises of every touchpoint you have with a customer: your website, contact-less delivery options, the payment process, how long it takes for someone to answer the phone, etc. An experience free of frustrations keeps customers coming back.
Plus, delivering excellent customer experiences consistently is a great marketing strategy in and of itself, because people will talk about it and it will establish trust with new leads and help you convert them into customers. Check out our post for tips to create a great customer service experience.
2. Leverage Free PR
When most people think of PR opportunities, they think of expensive press release venues or paying to have sponsored content get extra visibility. There are actually multiple free opportunities to get some free PR for your business. You just need to know where to look.
Start by creating a free account at. HARO, which allows you to sign up to receive requests from journalists looking for sources in your industry. You’ll have to read through newsletters to seek opportunities, but it’s a great way to build credibility and boost the visibility of your business.
You can also use one of several free press release services, which can help you distribute content that you’ve written yourself about new services, promotions, and events your company is hosting. Hype.News and IssueWire are two examples of services that offer this.
3. Create Valuable Content
Offering value to your audience is a great way to attract them to your site and build that trust that can lead to a lasting and profitable relationship. It does take time to create great content, but if you’re doing it yourself, it’s also free.
Offer blog posts on your sites targeting long-tail keywords to attract traffic to your site, and send them to a lead magnet, like a free guide or checklist so that you can build your email list. Submit content to high-authority publications, which will help to increase your domain authority and simultaneously send more traffic your way.
You can also have an FAQ section on your site, which is both optimized for SEO and designed to answer customer questions and overcome potential objections.
4. Identify Potential Partnerships
Mutually beneficial partnerships are a super cost-effective way to acquire new customers that you may not have otherwise.
For example, an HVAC company might benefit from a partnership with a local plumbing company, and they can send traffic and customers back and forth between each other.
Contact potential partners that have the same customer base as you do. Offer an incentive for their referrals to work with you and you can do the same for them. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. You and your partner grow your business, and customers benefit from receiving a trusted referral, saving them time and money.
5. Work to Establish Goodwill
No one wants to feel nickel and dimed, and no one wants to do business with a company they feel doesn’t have their best interest at heart.
Give a little to get a little, and work hard to establish goodwill with potential clients. Offer free consultations, or talk about “no risk” phone calls or “no credit card trials.” Allowing potential clients the opportunity to see why you’re a great fit without charging them upfront can help them feel more comfortable in investing time and money with your business. People who are out to rip them off typically won’t offer the same courtesy.
You can still have boundaries in place to protect yourself, like setting a limit for only a 30-minute consultation where you talk about services offered but not actually doing any work or having a two week limit on a free trial per company. Good clients– the kind you want to work with– will think this is a fair trade.
6. Incentivize Reviews and Referrals
Reviews and referrals make the world go ‘round, at least for businesses. People are 4x more likely to make a purchase if they’ve been referred by a friend, and 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know. Word-of-mouth marketing is powerful, and online reviews can be essential, too; 88% of consumers actually trust online reviews as much as they’ll trust a recommendation from a friend.
Ask happy, loyal customers if they’ll leave a review online, and make sure you include a link to the review platform you want them to use. Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn are all popular choices.
You can also set up a referral program, which offers incentives like cash, discounts, or freebies every time a client’s referral signs up to purchase from you. Since referral marketing generates 3-5x higher conversion rates and yields higher retention rates than most other marketing forms, this is likely a worthwhile cost.
7. Get Social
Social media marketing, if you’re tackling it yourself, is free. If you use social media scheduling software like Agorapulse or contest software like ShortStack, it has a few added costs but is still affordable. Or check out this resource for even more tools to help you boost your presence on social media.
Social media is often one of the first touchpoints for some of your customers, and seeing engaged, thriving Pages and profiles is a great way to capture their interest and establish trust. Make sure you’re posting consistently and sharing a lot of visual content (videos and images) to get your audience’s attention.
If you like the results you’re seeing, you can take it to the next level with ads. Facebook ads, for example, are a great way to create more opportunities for your business.
8. Take Advantage of Free Ad Credits
A lot of advertising platforms will grant new businesses and advertisers free ad credits. LinkedIn typically offers them to new marketers, and you can find promotions online offering you free credits if you take certain actions on platforms like Facebook Ads or Google Ads. You can see a decent breakdown of options here.
Sometimes, you can even find vouchers on sites like Fiverr or eBay for ad credits, sold at a much lower cost than the worth of the credits themselves. You’ll want to check these carefully and make sure they aren’t violating any of the ad platform’s rules.
If Paid Search works well for you but you want to keep your ad spend low, you can always set bid caps to ensure that you’re never spending a penny over the amount of your choice per click or action.
Your business needs marketing to thrive (and really, even just to survive), but that doesn’t mean that you need to break the bank to find new clients. Even if you have a larger budget, you can still use these affordable and free marketing tips to attract more members of your target audience and keep your overall acquisition costs as low as possible.
Growing your business, selling more, and keeping costs down? It’s hard to say no to that.