Marketing is at once crucial to small business growth and a substantial challenge for many small business owners, and that’s mainly due to the costs associated with marketing. Surely, you recognize the importance of putting your company in front of customers, but you might also worry that the cost of marketing could exceed the returns. That’s where the below business marketing ideas with low investment come in. If you need your business name to get in front of potential customers, review these tips to help you market on a budget.
What are considered business marketing ideas with low investment?
According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), small business owners should spend seven to eight percent of their company’s sales revenue on marketing. However, this rule only applies to companies earning less than $5 million in annual revenue. The picture also changes if your margins fall outside the range of 10 to 12 percent after you’ve paid for all your expenses.
From the above numbers, you can extrapolate the dollar range that might qualify marketing ideas for small businesses as low-investment. Any marketing strategies that cost well under seven percent of your sales revenue to execute are low-investment. However, keep in mind that you’re unlikely to need just one marketing approach to reach all your potential customers. One strategy that comes in just under seven percent won’t be effective enough – you want the combined cost of several approaches to fall below this mark.
The benefits of investing in marketing
Even if your marketing budget is on the smaller side, it’s still important to invest in promoting your business for the following reasons:
- Brand awareness . You can’t build knowledge of your company among your target audience if you make no effort to reach it. Marketing bridges this gap, and in doing so, it increases the likelihood of connecting you with a customer who might buy your products or services.
- Better relationships . In the case of B2B marketing, forging meaningful long-term relationships is as important as actually promoting your services. Marketing is often the first step in building these relationships.
- Potentially more funds for other uses . If you see strong enough results from an especially low-investment marketing approach, you can reserve the remaining money from your marketing budget for other needs. Or if your low-budget marketing campaigns yield a substantial increase in sales, you can use the extra revenue to fund other initiatives.
15 business marketing ideas with low investment
Among the most reliable ways to market your business without a huge spend are the following:
1. Keep up the content
It costs little to nothing to produce great content related to your industry. Launching a blog on your website is an easy way to educate readers about your business and establish your expertise in the field. With plenty of free tools out there that can help you design the layout, the opportunities are endless when it comes to building a strong brand voice.
Don’t forget the power of visuals! Use unique images, videos, GIFs, and more to capture readers’ attention. Build industry infographics with your branding that are easy to share – that way, your logo will reach far and wide.
2. Get the referrals going
Build up your network of customers by starting a referral system . Offer customers who refer others a free product, a discount or a free month of your service. A simple gift card can be a great incentive to spark referrals.
Either way, reward your loyal customers and employees for telling their friends about your business.
3. Stay active on social media
With so many social media platforms out there, what’s your strategy for staying visible? It might be worth focusing on just a few that fit your business brand. Here are some popular free options:
Learn more about social media strategy, including how to choose the right platform, on our blog: Social Media Tips for Small Business.
4. Don’t forget about email
There are plenty of free email marketing platforms out there that can help you build and maintain relationships with your customers. With this strategy, you can reach the right inboxes at the right time.
Have potential customers who aren’t quite ready to take the plunge? Drop them a note to encourage them along their journey. Want to keep in touch with leads after they’ve successfully made a purchase? Launch an email campaign to thank them and provide incentives to keep coming back.
5. Make the most of special promotions
With special promotions, sales, and coupon offers, you can hook potential customers’ attention and give them a sneak peek of your product and service before they make a purchase.
Hosting social media contests is another great way to raise awareness about your company and what it has to offer. The investment you make toward the reward, whether that be a sample or a trial or a gift card, can pay off when you consider the number of users who’ll see the post and enter.
Be sure to follow your chosen platform’s guidelines so your contest can take off:
- Create promo items . Promotional products make for great business gifts, in-store giveaways, and contest incentives. You can order swag like pens, stickers, mugs, and tote bags in bulk for a cost-efficient way to stand out from the crowd. Offer them to your customers at your business locations, take them with you to conferences or networking events, and don’t be surprised when you see your branded items across town!
- Get social on online platforms . The number of people around the world using social media keeps growing every year. Play your cards right and your online campaigns can reach incredible heights. With virtual promotions, you can see the effects of word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing. Users hoping to be the grand prize winner share the contest with their networks just by engaging with your posts. And if tagging friends is a part of the qualification process, your followers will spread the word just by entering.
- Keep your email subscribers engaged . Not sure if your newsletter subscribers actually read through to the end of the masterpiece in their inbox? Mention a giveaway with a solid call to action (CTA) and see the results come in right away. Prizes like gift cards, free trials, and branded promotional packages are all solid options.
6. Host and attend business events
Put yourself out there to get your business more recognition! Whether it be a networking mixer, a conference, or even a webinar, participate in events that are relevant to your field to meet potential customers, partners, and employees and to share your industry expertise.
You can also host your own events! The possibilities are endless: some options to consider are a class, a casual gathering, or a business card exchange.
7. Perfect your website
Three in every four consumers form their first impression of a company based on its website. This fact alone speaks to the importance of making your website appear memorable and well-organized while providing all the information customers might need to know. It’s especially important to focus on the mobile version of your website, as more customers than ever are using their smartphones to visit your site.
As you strengthen your website, you should also keep SEO best practices in mind to help increase your company’s ranking in search engine result pages. Think about it like this: When you Google the products you need, you often click on the first link you see. If your company is that first link, your sales could increase substantially and organically – especially from customers in your own backyard.
8. Prioritize local SEO
Most search engines have become intelligent enough to detect when a consumer is searching for local businesses instead of any old e-commerce site. Your company can rank highly in these searches if you prioritize local SEO, and doing so is usually low-cost.
To bolster your local SEO, you should clearly list your physical location’s address and phone number on your website. You should also seek positive customer reviews on Yelp, Google, and other platforms. Perhaps most important of all is to claim and complete your Google My Business profile, as doing so makes your business look more trustworthy. It also tells the Google algorithm to prioritize your company in searches.
9. Arrange business partnerships
Partnering with other companies is a great way to expand the reach of your services without breaking the bank. You should be careful, though, not to conflate partnerships with hiring third-party firms. The latter is quite expensive, whereas the former is often free and highly profitable. Try co-hosting an event or online contest with a local partner to get each of your customer bases engaged with both companies.
10. Promote yourself in local media
It’s easy to overlook the value of your regional newspaper and TV or radio stations since the internet has become so dominant in marketing. Doing so would be a mistake. People who engage with local media are typically located right in your backyard, making them excellent potential customers. If pursuing local media placements proves too expensive, local social media marketing can be a great low-cost alternative.
12. Get yourself a regular radio feature
If you’re an expert on something of interest to your local community, pitch yourself as a guest on a local radio show. Pitching costs no money, nor does actually appearing on the show if you’re approved.
After your appearance, ask the host if the audience responded especially strongly to you. If listeners did indeed find you compelling, ask whether you can return. Then, see if you can spin your second appearance into a recurring segment. In doing so, you establish yourself as a thought leader in your area, making people more likely to buy from you.
13. Target existing customers
Obtaining new customers can be between five and 25 times more expensive than retaining current ones. It follows that targeting your current customers is a low-investment marketing approach. A loyalty program helps on this front: Ask your customers at the point of sale whether they’d like to join for exclusive discounts. Then, get their email addresses, build your email list, and use email marketing to send your loyal customers exclusive membership perks.
14. Seek business awards
Awards rarely cost much, if anything, to apply for, and receiving them can make your business appear more reputable to customers. If the local newspaper names your restaurant the best in its category for the year, you can be sure your sales will explode. If you’re a B2B service whose customer base spans the whole internet, entrepreneurship or small business awards can help you appear superior to your competition.
15. Don’t neglect in-store marketing
It’s easy to think of marketing’s end goal as getting customers to visit your store. In reality, the journey doesn’t end when people walk into your storefront. Given the sheer number of products available in the world, customers may need a little more push when looking at your offerings. In-store marketing initiatives such as free samples and in-store promotions provide that push at little cost to you.
Set your sights on your marketing strategy
Remember that all of these ideas should work together as key elements of your overall marketing strategy. Measure each campaign’s performance based on set goals and test different combinations to see which ones have the strongest impact on your business.
At the end of the day, small business marketing is all about consistent, quality content. Create a realistic plan with room for growth and experimentation so you set yourself up for success.
For more small business marketing advice, head to our Small Business Blog. You’ll find recommendations about branding, social media, networking, trade shows, and everything in between.