Small businesses are usually at a severe disadvantage when it comes to marketing budgets. Larger companies can spend many times over in a single campaign what small companies have to stretch for an entire year.
However, that doesn’t mean that small businesses can’t be competitive. On the contrary, the newest innovations in technology and marketing show that some very effective methods of marketing won’t cost a small business a cent to capitalize on.
Here’s 13 tips to help small businesses get creative with their marketing and successfully compete with larger companies while spending little to no money.
1. Create Content That Adds Value
The most critical and effective way is to create and publish value-added content. Give people a reason to follow your journey that does not include you attempting to sell your products. If you add value consistently over time, you will gain an audience that inherently comes to you when your service is needed. Add value first, and the revenue will follow.
2. Share Your Expertise
Social media is the obvious free marketing solution for many small businesses, but you can up your game by offering more than goodwill or self-promotion. Webinars, how-to videos, infographics and white papers are all great ways to offer value to potential customers and display your knowledge. Focus on educating your customers to deliver a soft sell that positions you as the expert.
3. Leverage Free Social Media Opportunities
Instagram, TikTok and even Facebook is free. Yes, there are paid options to “boost” things, but there is still open space in organic content. If you are too small to swing big on billboards or your medium of choice, start a TikTok or podcast and get people to like you, for you.
4. Work With Influencers With Small Reaches
If you are on a small/nonexistent budget, these best way to generate buzz is to work with influencers with small reaches, who are just starting to get traction and want to be associated with brands. They can help with forming a strong community around your brand and build your brand awareness at the same time.
5. Fill Out Your Google My Business Profile
Who said nothing in life is free? It may take a bit of elbow grease, but correctly and completely filling out your Google My Business profile is one of the first big steps in local marketing. Filling this profile out thoroughly, combined with other major local listings, can definitely get you on the local search radar. Sprinkle in some five-star reviews from clients and you are well on your way!
6. Join Facebook Groups
The easiest and best way to market a small business on a low to no budget is to use Facebook Groups to provide value talk about the amazing things you are doing in your field. Answer questions with value and you’ll be able to see traction from people wanting your help.
7. Use Instagram To Gain Exposure
Having built my entire business, reputation and following by using Instagram creatively — and helping tons of businesses do the same — it’s important to remember that social media is your most powerful weapon when you need to get the word out but don’t have the dollars to do so. Bonus points if you collaborate with other local businesses as a means to gain exposure through Instagram!
8. Get Involved In Your Community
Getting involved in your community, lending branded products for use in local productions and events, and volunteering your time can make a huge impact on your business. Also, make sure to tag people you work with — they’re likely to share your posts and tag you as well.
9. Start Locally And Expand From There
Small business owners should work with local PR firms to begin generating buzz. From there, they can put local coverage on social media to amplify their messages. This doubles as a test run — if an idea is not cool locally, it won’t be cool regionally or nationally. Starting locally establishes credibility, which can be expanded upon. There’s a lot to be said about the power of earned media.
10. Partner With A Nonprofit
Connecting with your ideal client and competing for market share can be expensive. Sometimes the best use of your budget is to partner with a cause that is close to your brand in the form of donating funds as an incentive for organic engagement on your social media profiles. This provides you an opportunity to spend your budget on a tax deductible organization and provide relevant, shareable content.
11. Get Listed In Directories
No matter what industry your small business is in, there are online directories that will let you list your business and a short description of what you do. These directories often do well in search results, and the placement can improve your search traffic, too. Many of these directories have paid options for additional visibility, but the basic listing is often free.
12. Pitch A Story Idea To The Media
Media outlets have reporters who are looking for something newsworthy to do stories about. If you or your company are doing something that could be considered newsworthy, create a pitch and send it. An easy way to identify the right journalist is to find and follow journalists in your space on Twitter, then follow their tweets. When you’re ready to make your pitch, send a direct message.
13. Offer A Sample Or “Test Drive”
Sampling is tried-and-true and incredibly cost-effective. A direct route to discovery is still the best way to win a customer. If you sell a product that can be sampled, offer samples. If your product has a high unit cost (e.g., a car) or you offer a service, then a trial or “test drive” serves the same purpose.