Without small business advertising and marketing, it would be impossible to grow your business. You have to put your name out there to attract customers and drive revenue, but there may not always be enough room in your budget to execute a large-scale marketing campaign. Thankfully, a little creativity and agility can make a big impact if you don’t have a lot of money to spend in the marketing and advertising department.
Advertising ideas that won’t break the bank
Effective advertising doesn’t have to break the bank, though, and we’ve rounded up a few ideas you can try with any size budget. These include:
- Invest in SEM
- Boost social media ads
- Claim your business profiles
- Find backlink opportunities
- Explore micro-influencer marketing
- Host a social media contest
- Distribute flyers
Invest in SEM
“Google Ads and PPC [pay-per-click] can give you crazy amounts of traffic if you are tight with your campaign and run niche ad groups,” explained Andrew Riker, former SEO Specialist at WordStream. “Focused, long-tail keywords that are specific to your industry will yield the highest possible click-through rate and, in turn, conversions.”
Riker adds that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a lot of traffic. “A small daily budget—$10-20/day—can provide you with a large amount of traffic and qualified leads, as long as the ad is relevant,” he said. If you’re new to Google Ads or just want to keep up with the latest tips and information, be sure to check out Google’s Ads & Commerce blog.
Boost social media ads
Similar to Google Ads, social media ads provide a cost-effective way to reach customers online. “We tried print ads and banner ads, but for our money Facebook Ads provide us with the most focused consumers,” explained Chris Knollmeyer, Ecommerce Manager for Carolina Rustica. “Being able to target specific demographics,” he said, “lets us pinpoint people we have not reached yet and gives us a platform to reach out to them.”
If you own a B2B company, LinkedIn Ads might be the perfect way to reach your target audience. “We are a small business and our target market is small business users,” explained Damian Raffele, former VP of Marketing at AnyMeeting. LinkedIn Ads have worked well for the company, because it allows them to target a specific audience by geography, demographics, job title or LinkedIn Group. They can be tailored to a niche demographic, which ultimately benefits the marketing ROI.
Younger audiences are more active on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, so consider advertising on those platforms if that’s the demographic you want to reach. These channels are focused more on photo and video content, so it’s important to have a strategy in place that will drive the results you want.
Claim your business profiles
If you haven’t already, be sure to claim your business profile on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Add your logo, business hours, contact details, and even photos of your business offerings. Doing so will legitimize your brand in search results, especially if you have a brick-and-mortar location.
Additionally, sites like Yelp, Tripadvisor, Foursquare, and OpenTable are huge resources for potential customers who want to learn more about your business compared to your competitors. “Claim your local listing, fill out the information and take advantage of people searching for businesses in your area,” advises Mandy Boyle, former SEO manager at Web.com. Claiming your business profile on these sites is free and ensures that all customers have the most accurate, up-to-date information.
Find backlink opportunities
Another great way to advertise your business is to find reputable websites that are aligned with your business’s goals. “In exchange for the content, publishers typically allow you to include a couple of backlinks to your website,” said Matthew Kostanecki, a marketing specialist at Archon Systems. “Not only does this generate traffic to your business and potential leads, but it also helps establish your reputation as an expert in your field.”
Can’t come up with a subject to write about? Some sites like Help A Reporter and Help a B2B Writer act as forums for publishers who are actively seeking contributions from experts like you. They give you the prompt, and all you have to do is respond in a timely manner with your insight. Just as we link to the marketing experts who have contributed to this article, publishers who use your quotes in their articles should credit you with a link to your site.
Explore micro-influencer marketing
Micro-influencer marketing can yield a significant return on your marketing investment. It can take some time to find someone who’s a good fit for your brand and then cultivate that relationship, but the impact of a micro-influencer endorsement can be invaluable. Start by looking for people with a large following who could speak naturally to your business’s products or services.
That’s what Juppy, the maker of the Juppy Baby Walker, did. “When we started out, our company didn’t have a lot of cash on hand to spend on advertising,” explained Mayra Sotelo, the COO for Juppy. “So we decided to seek out mom bloggers who would review The Juppy Baby Walker. This worked out great for us… because there is no better [endorsement of] our baby walker that fits in a purse than by a real mom who loves our product.”
Host a social media contest
If increasing social media traffic is one of your top marketing goals, consider hosting a contest or giveaway. Though cash prizes like Venmo’s recent $100,000 giveaway might be cost-prohibitive for your business, there are certainly ways you can motivate your audience to participate. This could be a big-ticket item from your merchandise, exclusive access to something not yet released, or a VIP experience that’s typically reserved for special guests.
To further enhance the appeal of your social media contest, consider partnering with another local business. If they have similar goals and can offer something that complements what you’re giving away, you can double the impact of your contest without spending more money. Just be sure that the call to action to be eligible for the giveaway—clicking a link, following your social media account, or engaging with a social media post—will be measurable against your marketing goals.
“If you have a small business that focuses on a particular area, flyers are a great way to advertise,” said Nathan Letourneau, co-founder of CampusBooks4Less. It may be an old-school approach to marketing, but it can be budget-friendly and effective for elevating your brand.
Chances are you have someone in your company, or a friend or family member, who can help you create a flyer inexpensively (or for free). Just be sure to keep the message short and sweet; people will lose interest if they have to read too much in a short amount of time. Grab their attention and give them the need-to-know details. If you want to provide more information, consider creating a unique landing page and adding the URL or a QR code to the flyer so you can see who follows the link.
More than likely, you can print the flyer in-house or find an inexpensive printer. Even a big-name printing store like Staples can print simple documents for as little as $0.15 per page. As for distribution, get creative about where you can hand out or post your flyers. High school and college students may be willing to distribute them for you around campus. Community centers and local businesses may also be willing to offer you some bulletin board or window real estate.
Marketing is worth the investment
Marketing is the key to growing your business, regardless of how big your budget is. The ideas in this list come with relatively low risk—you can spend as much or as little as you want to see if a particular marketing channel will be effective. In any case, it’s important to know what to look for to make your budget stretch further. Digital marketing tools can shed light on where you should focus your marketing efforts, so take a look at our list of Best Digital Marketing Tools for Small Businesses to find a solution that will support your marketing goals.
This article was originally published in 2015.