Startups and new business owners are often eager to get their name out there and start attracting new clients to generate new revenue. Marketing and advertising strategies are the best outlet through which to do this, connecting brands and entrepreneurs with new and existing audiences to facilitate better brand relationships (and ultimately result in more purchases).
However, startups and small businesses are typically working with small budgets. They may not have the established client base or consistent revenue necessary to invest in a large-scale, national ad campaign, and they may shy away from cost-intensive marketing campaigns that might otherwise eat up their entire budget.
Fortunately, there are some budget-friendly alternatives that entrepreneurs can draw upon to improve their business’s reach and reputation.
Inexpensive Marketing Tactics
These are some of the best, low-cost ways to market a business:
- Printed booklets. Online marketing seems to have dominated the marketing conversation for the past several years, but traditional marketing methods like printed ads are getting cheaper—and more accessible. Booklet printing is now convenient and inexpensive for almost any business owner, and if you get creative with the content, it can go a long way in persuading new audiences to favor your brand.
- Press releases. You can also take advantage of press releases to spread word about your business. In a press release, you’ll have several hundred to a few thousand words to talk about some new product your business has developed, or some milestone that your company has reached. When done, you can pay to distribute it across a wide network of news publishers, or you can choose to do the work yourself. If you do it yourself, you can start building relationships with local journalists, so you have an outlet for more press in the future.
- Content marketing. Content marketing has become extraordinarily popular because of its high return on investment (ROI). The basic idea is to write, design, or otherwise create content that your target audience would want to consume. Create enough of this content and people will start seeking you out for this content, getting exposed to your brand and your products and/or services in the process. It doesn’t take much time or money to create these pieces of content and, if developed strategically, they have the power to sharply increase your traffic and conversion rates. Plus, it’s a very scalable strategy that should grow over time.
- Social media marketing. Social media accounts are typically free for both businesses and individuals to create, so you might as well take advantage of them. Through social media, you can attract new people to your brand, communicate directly with your customers, announce sales, and even hold contests; there’s no single direction that works better than the others. Just make sure you’re posting consistently in your brand voice, and support your strategy with other complementary campaigns. If you do have the extra money, you can pay for pay-per-click (PPC) ads on your platform of choice to guarantee some initial traffic.
- Customer referrals. You can also create a customer referral program, incentivizing your current customers to recruit their friends, family members, and colleagues to your brand. For example, in exchange for bringing someone new to your business, you could give them 25 percent off their next order, or a $25 gift card. It’s a hands-off way to increase your brand’s visibility, and it won’t cost you much, either.
- Guerrilla marketing. If you’re trying to stand out from the competition, consider trying a guerrilla marketing campaign. Guerilla marketing is a blanket term for any number of low-cost, unconventional marketing techniques, usually designed to grab people’s attention in a public place. These publicity stunts and creative works of art sometimes have the potential to go viral, and sometimes fall completely flat, so be original, and don’t be surprised if your first attempt has mixed results.
- Search engine optimization (SEO). There’s also search engine optimization, a strategy that’s inexpensive, but comes with one major downside: it takes a long time to develop. With a combination of onsite content, offsite content, major onsite structural changes, and tweaks to improve performance, you’ll eventually be able to increase your visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs), and dramatically increase your organic traffic.
Scaling Up Your Efforts
These marketing strategies are effective and inexpensive, but they may not be the best fit for your business indefinitely. As your brand recognition grows, and as you gain access to new revenue, you’ll want to either scale these strategies up, or find alternative strategies that can better support your long-term growth. Either way, consider working with a marketing agency or hiring someone full-time, so you have access to more expertise.