Monday, 10 April 2017

Low budget and free marketing ideas for small businesses

You've set up your new business. You're really excited about the future and the potential. But you need to tell EVERYONE about it. And you have no budget to do this. No marketing spend allocated WHATSOEVER. Do you know what I hear most of the time when I meet with clients? How much is this going to cost me? Marketing is expensive and I don't have the budget.

But do you know what? Marketing DOESN'T have to be expensive. A lot of marketing can even be free. 

I was very lucky in my very first marketing role. I didn't have a budget. Na-da. Zip. Nothing. 

I had a supportive boss, a blank sheet of paper and TONS of ideas. My brief was to increase a sports crowd from a small amount of people to begin filling the building weekly. And that's exactly what I did. 

It is really simple to market something with a budget. You can pay for adverts (online and in print) you can pay for radio promotions, newspaper promos, bus advertising, pay per click ads, leaflet drops...even TV ads if your budget will stretch. 

But you know what having a budget can do sometimes? It can make you lazy. It can make marketing a box ticking exercise. You can throw money at it and get as many eyes on your product as possible. But is that the best marketing for your product? Is it the best route? Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting having a marketing budget is bad. I'm just saying NOT having one can be a positive if you let it.

But if I have no money to spend, how do I get the message out there?

Simple - Think outside the box. Ask yourself the right questions. And have a clear strategy. 

Here are just a few low budget and free marketing ideas for you to try.

Build relationships - Starting with this one because it is BY FAR the most important. We all know that people buy from people. Fostering and building relationships is one of THE best forms of marketing around. When you build a relationship with a person you also build trust. When you trust a person you are FAR more likely to work with them than not. You're far more likely to help them out when they need it and you're far more likely to recommend them to a friend or share their products.

Create Great, Evergreen content - Content is king in marketing and it is great for your profile and for having people find you online. Evergreen, essentially, means reusable content. The more content you create to share the more people will find you and the more people will begin to understand your brand and your message. The online world moves so fast though that you do need to create, share and regularly re-share your content.

Get Listed - Another simple (and mainly free) marketing trick is to find all the local online listings relevant to your business and get your information on there. These listings are often found in searches on front pages so ensure your business details are on there AND that they're up to date.

Find your audience - Ask yourself. Who is my audience? Who would buy my product? And then ask yourself How do I get in front of as many of those people as possible? For example; say your audience is families. How do you get your message out to as many people in that group as possible. Where do they hang out online? Who else do they talk to. Then find a way of getting your message in front of them.

Go Live! - Getting your message out there online is so much simpler these days. Online messages are a great way to connect with your audience. I'm not talking about a sales pitch. I'm just talking about telling people what you do but, more importantly, helping people. Creating great, useful content that people need. Giving away tips and ideas. Even just engaging with people. It all goes back to relationships and building your brand and reputation.

Get Linkedup on LinkedIn - Depending on your audience chances are they are on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great tool, especially for B2B, and can be really effective as part of your marketing mix. People don't like being hounded or spammed remember so make sure you connect and make sure you share lots of great content and get involved with conversation. By all means let those people know what you do just don't hassle them and start by building that relationship and offering support and help.

Think about PR - There is a perception that PR can cost lots of money. Whilst this is true in some instances PR doesn't have to cost the earth. Much of it, again, comes down to relationships. Building relationships with PR contacts and becoming their 'Go To' person. All you need are ideas and angles. What story could you talk about that would interest your audience? Could you become an industry expert and be responsible for their FAQ page in your field? Have you any community activities you can get involved with? TOP TIP: If you provide good photos and ready made, pull off the page, content and send regularly people will use it. With the growth of online press and the need for lots of articles and content staff will always welcome good content that they didn't need to spend hours sourcing.

Networking - Networking is one of THE best ways to get your business and your message out to people and it is often free and always relatively inexpensive. A lot of people make the mistake that 'the people there don't need my services' Always remember this is about growth and fostering relationships. It's about gaining trust in you. If people trust you they trust your business and are likely to work with you or recommend you. And NEVER know who they might know.

Cross promotion - Who out there is after the same audience as you? Why not pool budgets and ideas. Share the cost of leafleting. Share each others leaflets with offers to each others audiences. Two heads are always better than one and you and quickly save money and double your potential audience by working with similar businesses in your industry.

Get blogging - Blogging is a free but effective way of getting your message out there. Blogging is great for SEO and for showing that you know your onions. If you can establish yourself as an industry expert in your field then people will start looking to you for the answers. And the answers lie within your business.

Give away things for free - whether you want to build your followers on your online channels or your subscribers  you will need to encourage people to interact with you. Everything is 'opt-in' so make sure your content is great and helpful but dangle a carrot to persuade people to join in. Online competitions work really well for stuff like this. Giving away your advice for free in downloadable documents or white papers. Free e-books. Anything to encourage people to be part of your gang and want to know what you're going to say.

Build your mailing list - There are many free campaign mailing tools out there for small businesses and these should be used. Again nobody is interested in your spam or #BuyMyStuff as many people I know say. They 'might' be interested in your product at some point though and building the relationship and general awareness will help them choose you when that decision arises so make sure your email marketing is interesting and informative and you give information away that will actually help people.

Think about referalls - Do you current customers know anyone else who might want to work with you? In many instances a referalls programme works really well and is quite inexpensive. If a referall results in a contract the referer could benefit from money off. Or a voucher. Or similar.

Facebook Ads - Not FREE but not expensive. Putting FB ads into your budget is a smart thing to do. This is a surefire way to promote yourself but to a targeted audience. It is simple, affordable and can be very effective. It always offers a great ROI

Become Award winning - There is not much that says 'we know what we're doing' than a nice shiny award saying that others agree with you. Find and enter as many relevant awards to your business as you can. It's nice to have and attend, it endorses that you do know what you're doing AND it's great for producing PR.

Ask for reviews and testimonials - 92% of people do research online before making a purchase so they are going to look at what people are saying about you so do encourage people to leave you reviews and testimonials on Facebok, LinkedIn, on your website, google reviews and video testimonials. Again great for SEO and great for content. Plus it validates what you're saying - 'we're good at what we do'

Utilise Facebook check-in - Facebook check-in is a great little tool for awareness. If a person checks in at your business or ticks the 'going' button on the facebook events tool all their friends and followers see it on their feed. This just increases more eyes on what you do and more awareness of your business.

Get involved in your community - Regardless of marketing activity you should get involved in your local community. There will be loads of stuff going on that you can support which will be great for you and your business. Community involvement is great for awareness, for branding, for PR PLUS it makes you feel great as you can actually make a difference to the area in which you live. Win win!

And there are LOADS more! Don't be afraid of a limited budget. Embrace it! I promise it's worth it.

All this said we do support all sizes of business with their marketing efforts so if you do need additional support please give us a call. We promise to ultimately save you money on your marketing budget! ;-)

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