5 Shoestring Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

Post by
Ernie Luis
5 Shoestring Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

Let’s face it: marketing can be expensive. It’s easy to think of it as just another cost for your small business, but the reality is that marketing is an essential investment. And the key word there is investment; it’s important to remember that marketing is something that you invest resources into (whether it’s time or money) to get a potential return on. 

Bad marketing = high investment, low returns. Good marketing = low investment, high returns. 

Here are five marketing tips that are low on investment but could bring high returns:

1. Business Cards

Who knows your customers better than you? Probably no one. That’s why when you run into a potential customer, it’s important to have some business cards handy. Aside from the benefits of giving you an air of professionalism, it also allows you to give a quicker pitcher. 

Instead of breaking into a long spiel about what makes your small business different, you could simply say, “Check me out,” while handing them your card. Let your website and social medias do the talking. If you’ve been on your content marketing game, the funnel should do the work for you (more on content later). 

2. Referral Program/Incentives 

Word of mouth is the cheapest form of marketing. In an ideal world, all your happy customers would spread the word about your small business and all of its great products. But here’s the truth: people can be lazy and forgetful. So what’s the best way to get them to spread the word? Motivate them. 

Referral programs are one of the most tried-and-true forms of marketing. There are two key benefits: your existing customer becomes even happier and more loyal with the right incentive, and they will bring you more business. Offer in-store credit or a discount for every customer they bring, or come up with a rewards program. With the right motivation, your customers will do your marketing for you. 

3. Content Marketing 

This one is free in the sense that it won’t cost you any money, but it will cost you time. The key here is consistency. As long as you follow a consistent schedule (one post per day, one post per week, etc.) your audience will grow. 

There are hundreds of different content strategies that you can follow, and we’ll have a future blog post detailing some of our favorites. But for now, stick with the basics: post content that’s relevant to your small business, and more importantly, to your customers. You should be posting across all your social media platforms, and remember not to get bogged down by the “production value” of your content. Post what you’re passionate about, and let the passion shine through. A recent article from Google found that passion was much more important than production value in relating to viewers

4. Email Marketing

Just like referrals programs, email marketing is another tried-and-true form of marketing. There’s some obvious synergy that you can get going here with your content strategy; instead of posting content that you hope will turn to leads, think of your content as a way to build up your followers, your subscribers, and your mailing list. 

One thing to keep in mind for email marketing is not to seem too spammy; depending on your product, we only recommend sending an email blast once or twice a month.

Think of your email campaigns as a fun way to keep your existing customers engaged. Make exclusive announcements, do giveaways, and offer discounts. Reward their subscription with goodies they can only find through your mailing list! 

Bonus tip: remember to leave links to your content and encourage your subscribers to share! 

5. Networking

You know who’s going through the same hurdles that you are? Other small business owners! You may be further ahead than some, but others may be further ahead than you. Have a marketing idea? Ask if someone else has done it! You can minimize the risk of your investments in marketing by checking in with the people who have gone before you. 

Another benefit to networking: cross-marketing opportunities. I get 10% off smoothies from the shop next door to my gym, and in exchange, the gym carries some of their merch for sale. Great cross-marketing! Can you see yourself doing something similar with another small business?