How to Market Your Business On a Serious Budget

Written by Laura Roeder

On June 22, 2017

If only money really did grow on trees.

You’d finally buy that 40-foot yacht you’ve had your eye on. You’d definitely increase your charitable contributions, because you’re such a good person. And, of course, you’d market the heck out of your business.

(Actually, if money grew on trees, would you need a business? Probably best not to think about this too hard.)

Anyway! What if we told you that you didn’t need a money tree to market your biz effectively?

By choosing your priorities carefully, you can put some serious marketing horsepower behind your biz without breaking the bank.

Want a more budget-friendly online marketing strategy?

Here’s where to start!

Start with a game plan

Ditch the marketing plan with a gazillion pages. Instead, draft a simple one with clearly defined goals. Remember, the tactics you employ to reach these objectives may evolve, but you need to know what you are working toward.

Creating a marketing plan without clearly-defined goals is like eating an ice cream cone from the bottom up – while it might satisfy you initially, ultimately, you’ll have a big sticky mess.

(And then you’ll attract ants.)

Whether you’re updating an existing plan or starting from scratch, give these questions a little brainpower before putting pen to paper:

  • What’s the 411 on your market?
  • How do you differ from your competitors?
  • Who is your ideal target audience?
  • What’s most important to your customers?
  • What do you want to accomplish in the next three, six, and 12 months?
  • Which marketing initiatives will get you there?
  • What’s your typical budget?

Remember, your plan isn’t set in stone. Your approach should progress right along with the market, industry innovations, and new opportunities. You just need to know where to direct your energy!

Which brings us to…

Focus, focus, focus 

As marketers, it’s easy to chase every trend that hits the trades, thinking you need to do everything and be on every single social network.

Resist this temptation and instead move through your marketing initiatives quickly, but while protecting yourself – like a turtle on rollerblades.

Focus on prioritizing the initiatives, tasks, and ideas that will help you achieve your goals.

When the time comes to spend money on marketing, think about putting it toward tools, services, or software to help you do more, better, faster, and more strategically.

Also, don’t operate solely on caffeine and gut-checks! Make informed decisions using data. (Google Analytics, for example, can help you identify the most popular posts/pages on your site.)

Now that we’ve gone over some ground rules, let’s dive into some marketing efforts that don’t require you to start lining up angel investors beforehand.

SEO doesn’t stand for super expensive optimization

(But you probably knew that.)

You don’t have to pay to show up on Google. Of course, you can, via a paid ad, but improving your organic search results isn’t an unattainable goal!

All you need are a few SEO best practices, like these, in your back pocket:

  • Create amazing content: Where does your audience turn with questions? Well, they probably Google ‘em. Be there to answer those burning questions, bring loads of value, and do it better than your competitors. (Don’t forget this before-you-publish checklist, either!)
  • Get backlinks: Amazing content will naturally attract backlinks, but a link strategy also doesn’t hurt. Press coverage, influencer marketing, and producing the right kind of content, like proprietary studies or informative graphics, will get you some backlink love.
  • Hug yourself with some internal links: Internal links help users navigate your site, keep them on your site longer, give you ranking power, and naturally establish site hierarchy.
  • Focus on UX: Google gives priority to sites with a solid user experience. Whether it’s your site’s speed, mobile friendliness, or easy-to-navigate design, make sure you’re buttoned up. (Here are some ways to make your site more mobile-friendly.)
  • Tell Google where to focus (and not focus): Make your site hierarchy logical with a simple category and subcategory structure. Incorporate Sitelinks to direct users to your most relevant information, and tell it which pages to ignore so it can focus on the ones that matter.

Ditch the gimmicks

What can we learn from the door-to-door knife salesman?

Well, for starters, that his knives can actually cut through a penny.

(Seriously, it’s impressive.)

But also, we learned there was always a demo involved. There was always proof that the product worked. And all gimmicks aside, this guy knew everything there was to know about knives, competitors, and why you needed his product.

So, the moral of the story…

Show your audience a solution to their problems, back up your statements with proof (like these), and saturate the market with YOUR knowledge. Remember, focus on the stuff that specifically addresses their wants, needs, and pain points.

(And hey, demos never hurt, either. We host a live one every single week!)

Whether it’s a blog that clarifies a confusing topic, a how-to-video, commentary on a timely topic, excellent customer service, or an e-book with loads of useful info, be the go-to resource.

Building trust and making someone’s life easier are the Wow Factors that drive loyalty, word of mouth, and sales, and that move peeps in the direction you need them to go.

Leverage existing communities and eyeballs

If you’re just getting started or you don’t have a huge following of your own yet, tap into existing communities made up of engaged and qualified people.

Heads up, though – that does NOT mean rolling in like you own the place,  posting links to your latest blog posts, and only dishing out info on your upcoming events, promotions, and services.

These one-note tactics will ruin your chances at establishing yourself as a trustworthy, super-genius, evil-combating expert.

Instead, focus on educating your audience, initiating relevant and timely discussions, and providing unique perspectives and resources to members of the community.

Whatever watering hole you hit up, contribute, engage, and most of all, bring it on the value front.

Poke around, but focus your efforts on established networks of the people that make up your target audience.

Is your audience active in any of these communities? They might be just the in you need!

  • Facebook groups: If you sell green cleaning products, search for active groups that are passionate about the environment. Leverage a few thought leaders in your organization to participate and contribute authentically.
  • LinkedIn groups: If you are a B2B business, do a quick search for groups within your niche. Avoid groups that aren’t focused on discussions, but rather serve as a repository of article links, event promotions, and sales pitches.
  • Twitter chats: Seek out reoccurring and popular chats. If people like what you have to say, they will follow you or figure out who you are and what you’re all about.
  • Q&A sites: Quora, Stack Exchange, and other public Q&A forums allow you to directly answer questions, provide value, and educate the individuals that need your help the most.
  • Industry-specific forums: Throw yourself into the belly of an industry forum full of enthusiasts, experts, and thought leaders. Even if you are out of your league, you’ll be shocked at how much you’ll learn and how you apply that newfound knowledge to other areas of your business.
  • Online publications: Step up as a guest contributor. Don’t forget to link to your site in the bio, so people can easily find you after you blow them away with all that knowledge.
  • Influencers: Get your products and services into the hands of enthusiasts in your field with a loyal and engaged following. If you’re a beauty product retailer, provide the products for your favorite Instagrammer’s giveaway.
  • Webinars: Tons of companies host webinars on the regular, so offer your expertise as a webinar guest. When pitching the host on your skillz, make sure to highlight your unique value prop.
  • Podcasts: Wow your host and the loyal listeners by bringing a unique point of view and your shining personality to an established podcast that aligns with your area of expertise. (We actually wrote a whole post about this one, if you want to be a real superstar.)

Use social media as a tool, not a billboard

Focus on the social channels that are important to your audience. Master one and move on to the next. Distribute news, company updates, third party articles, blog posts, and most importantly, conversation-worthy content.

Automating the distribution of your best and brightest content is a cost-effective way of cutting busywork out of your schedule so you can focus on more high-level tasks, like building, nurturing, and engaging with people in real time. (Here’s how an automation tool works.)

After all, it’s called social media. Get out there and get the conversation going, celebrate your community, and be responsive and passionate!

Wrap it up

Whether you spend zero dollars or a whole bunch more, put your budget towards marketing initiatives, tools, and channels that give you the most return on investment for your time and moolah.

Your turn! How do YOU market on a shoestring budget?

How do you decide where to focus?

What free marketing tactics resulted in a wealth of return for your business?

Show off your big wins in the comments below!

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