14 Ideas for Small Business Marketing on a Shoestring Budget

Every business owner knows that “You Must Spend Money to Make Money”Plautus (254 BC to 184 BC.)  Marketing is not free; you have to spend money (and time) in order for your business to stand out from the crowd. But the reality for small business owners is that their resources – both in time and money – are limited and must be allocated to have the biggest impact.

14 Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses On A Shoestring


Here are 14 ideas you can use to market your small business on a shoestring budget:


1| Narrow Your Target Audience

Whether you recognize it or not, businesses and/or customers who purchase from you have certain demographic, geographic and psychographic similarities. Targeting people or companies most likely to purchase your products or services is the secret of marketing on a shoestring budget.

Answer those questions in order to understand who your customers are, where and how to get in front of them with your marketing message:

  • Who is my ideal customer?
  • What needs does this customer have?
  • When will that customer likely have this need?
  • Where does the customer expect to find you?
  • Why will the customer choose you?

Related Post: Define Your Target Market


2| Craft Your Elevator Pitch or Conversation Starter

Can you tell your story to a stranger in half a minute? That’s all the time you have to grab someone’s attention. Be prepared to give a 30 second answer to “What do you do?” that outlines who you are, what makes you unique, and the benefits and solutions you provide.


3| Have Your Business Cards Handy

In the age of smartphones and social media, there are discussions on whether or not business cards are necessary. My take on it, a professional business card still has its place in business, it gives you a marketing piece to hand out to your contacts and also provides a visual reminder of your company.


4| Network

Networking is not just about turning up to events. It’s an opportunity for small business owners to connect with people on a personal level, get noticed, and build trust. Be patient, you usually won’t see immediate results. Make sure to follow-up after a meeting via phone, email, mail, and social media.

Related Post: Business Networking


5| Direct Mail

Direct mail is still one of the most powerful tools in the marketing toolbox. The key to a successful direct mail campaign is to identify and understand your target audience.

Related Post: Back to Basics – Direct Mail


6| Give Away

Be a good corporate citizen and donate some of your products or services to a charitable event. It will get your name out in the community and help build your image and reputation – especially if that charity is important to your target audience.

Related Post: Want to Sell More, Give It Away!


7| Establish Your Expertise

  • Host seminars or events
  • Become a public speaker
  • Blog
  • Write a book or an e-book about the biggest issue in your industry
  • Become an expert source for journalists who need quotes and industry insights for their articles.  Sign up for sites like HARO, ProfNet and SourceBottle. It’s free publicity!


8| Print and Distribute Fliers

An old-fashioned marketing tool that is still effective. Design your flier, include a coupon or discount print it on color paper for more impact and hand them out to businesses in your areas. Include your website, let them know that you are active on social media, make it easy for them and add a QR code.


9| Email Marketing

Keep in touch with your customers and prospects with a monthly or quarterly e-newsletter. Email marketing is still a simple and inexpensive way to promote your business.


10| Invest In Google AdWords

Google AdWords can be a powerful way to build PPC (pay-per-click) advertising into your search marketing strategy.

  • Focus on tangible results not branding.
  • Determine your budget
  • Use long-tail keywords that are specific to your industry

Find out how it works here 


11| Use YouTube

 YouTube is a great marketing tool for small businesses looking for engagement. No need to spend a small fortune, the camera built into your smartphone should be able to capture suitable online video.

  • Talk about your products or services.
  • Post how-to videos.
  • Make a slide show of your products or services.
  • Videos that work are under 2mn.
  • Embed your video on your website or blog.
  • Video content is 53X more likely to appear on the first page of a search engine than text pages.


12| Be Active On Social Media

Choose your social media platform(s) – based on your  research – to reach your target audience(s) where they “hang out” online.  The expansion of mobile technology and social networks give small businesses the added benefit of engaging with their customers in real time. Social media is a great tool to use for customer service, build relationships with your followers and turn them into brand advocates.

If you do not have a large enough following on social media, consider advertising. Facebook and Twitter offer cost effective advertising options for businesses as well as sophisticated targeting options using variables such as demographic, location and affinities to name a few, and promoted posts and promoted tweets that look more like regular posts than ads.

Related Post: 10 Steps to a Successful Social Media Strategy


13| List Your Business on Popular Local Directories

Your future customers are looking for you online, make sure that you are listed on the popular local directories. Click here for a list of 50 local business directories.


14| Follow-Up

You made the initial contact with a prospect or customer, now the most important part is to follow-up. Depending on the situation you can follow-up by email, thru LinkedIn, via mail, by telephone. Since most businesses do not follow-up and this is a good way to differentiate yourself from the competition.

You are in the Sales & Marketing business; without sales, you don’t have a business and without marketing, you have no sales. Your ideal customer, your industry and your goals will help you decide which marketing tactics will be best for your business. Whatever tactics you pick, remember that  business will come as the result of a consistent and long-term marketing campaign. This is the marketing age of engagement: build relationships first and then turn them into sales.

If you love those marketing ideas and wish you had time for regular and consistent marketing. Contact us,  we can help you develop a plan that’s right for you.  We can even help you with implementation and staying on track with your plan.

Happy Marketing!