If you don’t have the asset of cash, then the answer is to invest as much time as you’re able to. With a range of online opportunities available at low or no cost, this is actually an easier process than it used to be, when print advertising, postal and other costs would quickly eat into your budget.
It pays to set up accounts on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and to encourage your friends, customers and colleagues to be active in these and then encourage others to join. This allows you to build up a healthy and interested prospect base. Take time to also add detailed profiles with companies such as LinkedIn, and begin to produce an information-friendly blog for your website.
Time is the key because all these need to be tended to regularly, with new information added, or they are simply wasted. If writing material for such areas – plus other web content (such as the occasional branded article for local or industry-related press) – is too time consuming for you, then it can be worth the relatively small amount it costs to have such material created by an online copywriting company.
Offline, the same source could provide some help with press releases, advertisements, marketing and promotional materials. An online printing resource can then produce just enough copies of these without taking too much of your small budget.
It’s important to also take the time to think through your strategy. Know who you’ll be talking to through each of these marketing or promotional options, what precisely you need to say to them, and use language that they are comfortable with. In this way, both your limited funds and precious time is being used to best effect.
How much of my budget should go to marketing?
The best way to decide how much of your budget should go on marketing, is to define it as a percentage of sales which will be set aside for spending on it. This could be anywhere up to 30% of total sales.
One recent figure suggested over half of marketing budgets use less than 4% of their sales revenue, while only 2% allocate more than 20%. It’s true that the higher the volume of sale, the lower the percentage of sales you can expect to spend on marketing. But, as a general rule, you should be thinking of spending up to 10% of your budget on marketing to be effective.
It’s possible to do social media marketing with no budget, but you have be able to dedicate a decent amount of time to it.
The first step is to outline what you hope to achieve from a social media campaign. Once you have determined this, you can then outline a strategy around these goals.
The key to social media is content – sharing information on your feeds that’s relevant and interesting to your audience is most likely to give you the result you want. Bombarding your followers with self-promotion and advertising will likely annoy them and result in you losing potential leads. By creating and sharing engaging content that’s relevant to your industry, you will start to be seen as a credible and reliable source of information that users will return to.
It’s also useful to identify the social network channels that are most aligned to your target audience and concentrate your efforts on these channels. It would be far too time-consuming to use every social platform, as it’s crucial to keep them updated regularly.
Encouraging employees to help extend your social media presence is a free way to begin promoting your company. Customers are another vital resource – encouraging them to post reviews and endorsements will add a very important layer of trust to your business
One of the main advantages of social media is that you can personally reach out to customers and build relationships. Answering queries, responding to complaints or just getting involved in discussions are great ways to turn customers into loyal followers of your brand. Never underestimate the power of good customer service – many people will stick to a preferred brand if they know that they can trust them.
Marketing is the soul of your business. It doesn’t matter how many products you can make, or how good your services are, if you can’t market them effectively you might as well not bother in the first place. Knowing how and where to sell your wares makes the difference between make or break for your company. But if you’ve limited funds or resources, how can you develop an effective marketing plan? A good marketing plan doesn’t require big budgets, just a bit of thought.
A marketing plan should have a number of elements, including SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, pricing information, manufacturing costs, and a branding plan. The brand will be your starting point and should include logos, trademarks, details of fonts used and any colouring that distinguishes your product or service, and you need to ensure that these fundamentals of your business are suitably different from any other company. SWOT analysis can be done cheaply and effectively simply by researching locally and via the internet. Is your product or service bespoke or do you have competition? If the former then the “Threats” part of the swot will have less impact, though should still be considered. Your pricing will also be dictated to some extent by the results of your SWOT, and competition may have an impact on what you charge.
With these four basic elements, you’ll be able to quickly and cheaply produce a marketing plan that will fit your company and give you a good head start into your business. Revisit it often and update it to keep current.
Marketing can be tricky for small businesses that might not be able to afford the help of an expert marketing agency. However, you don’t need to spend big to get the best marketing for your business, and with some creative ideas you can get great exposure and engagement even on a tight budget. Here are our top creative marketing ideas that will give you maximum return for minimal outlay.
Use lesser known social media platforms
You probably already know that you should be making the most of social media marketing, building up a following on sites such as Facebook and Twitter and engaging with your audience on a regular basis. If you’re not already doing this, you should; however, one way to get ahead as a small business is to engage on platforms that aren’t quite as ubiquitous.
For example, Vine is a great app that’s incredibly popular with consumers, but largely under used by big brands. Vines are short, creatively edited videos that are usually fun and sometimes a little bit silly, and are especially popular with younger demographics. If your business is primarily aimed at teenagers and young adults, this would be an excellent platform for you. If you can perfect the art of getting your message across in six seconds and being entertaining while staying true to your brand, you’ll soon build up a large following.
Pinterest is another great platform, which is all about image sharing. You can post your own images, as well as sharing (or ‘pinning’) other images that you feel tie in with your brand, either aesthetically or in their ethos. This is perfect if your business is very visual, but others can also make this work by sharing images of their products in action. Make sure you include a link back to your website on all the images you post.
These are just a couple of the slightly lesser-known social media platforms, but there are lots out there. Find out which would work best with your brand, whether it’s related to video, photographs, or perhaps even geographical area.
Competitions are a great way to engage with your audience and get new leads, and the good news is you don’t necessarily have to give that much away to reap the rewards. For example you can offer a free give-away once you reach x number of likes or follows, and offer the chance to be entered into a prize draw to whoever likes your page. This can get you incredible exposure, as well as plenty of new followers, while you only have to give something free to one person.
Other competition ideas are photo competitions, for example. Here you get customers to share a photo of themselves using your product, with a hashtag to help you find their image. You can then enter everyone into a prize draw, judge the photos yourself, or get other customers to judge the photos. Again, you only need to give away one freebie here. You can also do this with videos – while you will get fewer people entering, you’ll also get better quality entries as people have bothered to take some time to make them. These photos and videos can then be used as user generated content elsewhere in your marketing, so it’s a win win