How To Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget

budget-02One of the hurdles faced by startups and small businesses is a lack of funds to promote their products and services. Marketing isn’t cheap by any means, and new businesses are often placed at a disadvantage because of their inability to allocate large sums of money for advertising. Thankfully, there are cost-effective forms of marketing available for small businesses.

Email Marketing

Even with all of the new marketing tools and advertising platforms available, email marketing remains one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways to promote a small business. In fact, an article published by the international credit agency Experian suggests email is 20 times cheaper than traditional media marketing.

Why is email such as cost-effective form of marketing? Well, once you’ve acquired a potential customer’s email address, you can market to him or her multiple times – assuming they don’t opt out. This is in stark contrast to pay-per-click (PPC) or media buys in which you only get one shot to make a sale.

Benefits of Email Marketing:

  • Measure key metrics like open rates, click-through rate (CTR), and conversions.
  • Messages are sent instantly, allowing business owners to generate sales/conversions on the fly.
  • Personalize messages to include the recipient’s name.
  • Eco-friendly alternative to traditional “snail mail.”
  • Use Responsive Web Design (RWD) email templates to ensure compatibility on smartphones and mobile devices.

Upload YouTube Videos

With over 1 billion unique visits each month, YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine (only behind Google). Small business owners can use this to their advantage by uploading videos to promote their products and services.

Harvard University published an article about DC Shoes and how it used YouTube marketing to boost sales and create stronger brand recognition for a fraction of the price of traditional marketing. According to the article, the shoe company generated 180 million views in 2011 ($5 million worth of exposure) using “lean advertising.”

Over the past four years they have gotten more than 180 million views—and in 2011 alone, sales jumped 15%. One was YouTube’s most-shared video of 2011; another garnered a million views in its first 24 hours. Paying online media for this type of exposure would cost upward of $5 million. Using ‘lean advertising,’ DC Shoes achieved it for a tiny fraction of that amount,” wrote Harvard University student Thales Teixeira.

Contrary to what some people may believe, you don’t need expensive camcorders and equipment to create YouTube videos. Clicking the record button on your webcam and talking about a subject relevant to your niche is a simple yet effective way to produce videos. Another idea is to use a screen recorder program like CamStudio to capture your mouse movements.

Click here for more video creation tips and tricks.

Give Something Away

The thought of giving something away for free might sound counterproductive. After all, aren’t you trying to market your business using cost-effective methods of promotion? Freebie giveaways such as this are incredibly effective at drawing attention to your business, and it’s actually cheaper than most people realize.

Think about your target audience and what interests them. If you run an online apparel website, perhaps you could give away a free shirt or hat. On the other hand, electronics retailers would likely benefit from giving away free iTunes gift cards, MP3 players, gadgets, etc.

There are several different ways to host a giveaway contest, one of which is through your Facebook business page. It’s important to note, however, that Facebook has certain rules that business owners must follow when hosting contests and sweepstakes. For instance, business owners are prohibited from using the “like” button as a vote entry. Check out Facebook’s complete terms and conditions before hosting a giveaway on your page.

Start a Blog

Another simple way business owners can market their products and services is by blogging. When people begin to read your blog, they’ll bookmark it, share it with their friends, link back to it on their social media accounts, and submit comments – all of which are “signals” search engines use to determine a website’s ranking.

Running a successful blog is something that takes time, dedication and hard work. Visitors aren’t going to immediately flock to your blog the second it’s online. You must constantly publish fresh, quality content to encourage visitors to return. As your blog grows in readership and popularity, the traffic will begin to flow and you’ll likely see it ranked higher in the search engines.

When starting a blog, you have one of two different options: you can host the blog on your own website, or you can use a hosted service like Tumblr or Hosted blog services are generally easier and cheaper, but they often come with restrictions that limit their utility. Opting to host a blog on your own website will give you full freedom and control over every little detail.