13 Ideas for Marketing With a Limited Budget

By: Felicia Jordan, Digital Media Specialist at BlueStar

You could fill your office wall with inspirational quotes about how important marketing is… but no one needs to sell you on the idea that marketing matters. You know it works, you know you need it, and you’d like to have more of it. Too bad your marketing budget isn’t what it should be.

13 is Your Lucky Number

If you’re responsible for bringing new business to your company, you’ve had to make a series of tough decisions about where to spend your money. Fortunately, even small companies with modest budgets can enhance their marketing with proven, low-cost tactics. Today, we’ll talk about a baker’s dozen of things you can do to make your marketing better. None of them are expensive, and some of them are free. Choose the ones that fit your portfolio of goods and services, test them in the field, and refine your approach. Before long, you’ll have built a strategic marketing plan that’s as effective as it is affordable. Here’s our Lucky 13:

  1.  Publicize your successes
  2. Produce content
  3. Re-publicize what others say about you
  4. Offer to speak on panels 
  5. Produce videos
  6. Create a free newsletter 
  7. Give samples 
  8. Offer consultation 
  9. Consider 3rd party Lead Generation
  10. Hold contests
  11. Set up a Customer Loyalty Program
  12. Research
  13. Compete for awards

We Are the Champions, My Friends
Publicize your successes

Maybe you’ve been coached to ‘visualize your future success.’ That works, but why not take a minute to think about your past success? Better still, why not spend some time bragging about it on your website, on social media and blogs, or in magazines devoted to your industry? It’s a busy world, and your potential customers won’t know how good you are until you tell them. They’re looking for winners—doesn’t that mean they’re looking for you? Tell them your success stories so they know where to put their own investment and support. Bragging about what you do well isn’t bad manners, it’s good business.

Content is King
Show your leadership and expertise

Your business has hard-won expertise in a specific field. You don’t want to give away your secrets, but you do want to produce content that others in your market will spread and share. Command mindspace not by buying it with scarce marketing dollars, but by earning it with your insights. When you provide valuable and credible information, you set yourself apart from your competition and you build trust.Your mission is to produce content that demonstrates your company’s leadership.

Show Off Your Achievements
If someone writes about you—re-publicize!

If someone writes about you, don’t let that content stand alone—re-publish and re-publicize it. That’s a priceless indication that others in your space recognize your success and your leadership. When you pass that praise along you’re building your stature and burnishing your image as a valued provider.

Speak Up
Offer to participate on panels

Volunteer to speak on panels and at industry gatherings. When you take your place on a panel, you’re cast in the role of expert. What’s more, you have a chance to capture more people for a longer time than you could online or in a print piece. Live presentations give you the chance to read a crowd and make personal contacts, and there’s no better arena to talk about innovation and establish yourself and your company as oriented toward the future.

Front-Page News
Create a free newsletter or ‘tip sheet’

If you collect information at the point of sale, you can create a database of customer information, including email addresses. When your customers give you their email they’re basically ‘opting-in’ to receive information from you. It’s a mistake to abuse the privilege—but you can make yourself welcome in their inboxes if you create a stylish, informative newsletter or collection of useful tips. Use this channel to dovetail with some of the other tips on this list, like reposts of good things others have said about your company, your products, and your services. You might also sweeten the pot with special offers and discounts. Regular but not invasive communication will keep your brand awareness high among established customers.

Screen Test
Use video, including YouTube

Video is the marketing tool of the 21st century—ignoring it isn’t an option. Roughly 69% of businesses use it now, and another 30% will in the future. That’s because a big majority of decision makers prefer video to text when they’re gathering information. Most marketers agree that video gives better ROI than anything else, but you may be reluctant to engage with the technology. The truth is the entry cost for video keeps dropping, and it’s easier than ever to produce.You can even shoot and edit on your smartphone, and post your videos online.

Video is ideal for ‘how-to’ pieces that prove your expertise and thought leadership. If you have the money for a professional production, that’s great—but in the meantime, find a way to make video a part of your marketing strategy. It’s often the best way to get across a big idea in a short time, and video tends to deliver better impact and message retention.

Sample Arithmetic
Give out samples

This tactic does have a cost, but it can be a powerful tool, especially for winning over new customers. Giving potential customers a free sample of your goods or services can break the ice and start a profitable relationship. It’s a guaranteed attention-getter, and it helps prospective clients to see exactly what you could do for them. They’ll be able to fast-track the integration of your offering into their own business, risk-free. If the opportunity is big enough, you can risk balancing your immediate loss against the possibility of new business.

Strive to Be a Thought Leader
Make yourself a consultant

Everybody has a favorite ‘consultant joke’… but if you create a platform and make yourself available for consultations, you can win serious consideration for your business. This can be a winning tactic for you and your customers if you educate them about goods and services they might not realize you offer. Once again, you’re making yourself a content creator, but this time you have the chance to add a call to action.It’s another instance where you can combine your activities—for example, your newsletter can promote your consultation services.

Taking the (3rd party) Lead
Use a 3rd party lead generator

Here’s another tactic that has a price tag, but which pays off in the right circumstances. A small investment in a 3rd party service to generate new leads could jump-start your marketing efforts. Finding the right partner might help you build a new list of prospects and customers, so you can tell them about your products and services along with any new promotions.

You Can’t Win if You Don’t Play
Hold a contest

Arranging a contest is a great way to share a message, introduce a product offering or publicize a promotion. Once again, there’s a cost to you, but it doesn’t need to be big. Since entrants will provide information, you’re building a contact list that’s convertible into leads, and these are people with a proven interest in what you’re offering.

Taking Care of Your Own
Establish a customer loyalty program

Your existing customers are among your most valuable assets, and regular customers are priceless… so reward them with a loyalty program. It’s one of the best ways to make a regular but casual shopper into a customer for life. You can tailor your program to your particular resources, giving customers free merchandise, discounts, coupons, or first access to new and unreleased items. The key is to measure results: monitoring your program will show you whether it’s a success, and will give you the information you need to adjust offerings and eligibility. When handled thoughtfully, loyalty and reward programs help you build a customer base that can sustain you even in a tough business climate.

Do Your Homework
Research your market and your industry

There’s one tactic that pays off in many ways, and yet costs nothing at all: research. The more you learn about customer dynamics, industry trends, and growth strategies, the better you’ll be able to market to your base. In fact, research reinforces a lot of the other items on our list—speaking on panels, consulting, or creating a newsletter, for example. And since you’re a player in a business that’s constantly changing, there’s always something new to learn. If you take the time and make the effort, you’ll soon be regarded as an expert in your area. That gives everything you say and do more impact.

Eyes on the Prize
Compete for Awards

Every industry has organizations that give out awards for excellence. Whether they’re national, regional, or local, awards can give your business added luster—even if you never get to walk a red carpet. Trade associations, industry publications, and Chambers of Commerce are good places to start researching award possibilities.Learn about criteria and deadlines, and get help from your entire team in crafting the strongest possible application. Winning an award at any level will build your reputation and help you spread your message.

The Last Word

As a marketer in a crowded, competitive space, you’ve got to protect the business you have and win the business you don’t have, even though your marketing budget is squeezed harder every year. That means finding low-cost, high-return ways to attract new potential customers and open new opportunities.

Now, you’ve got 13 ways to continue to grow your business without exhausting your budget. Try them in different combinations; the key is to diversify marketing efforts by attempting different activities. When it comes to marketing, there’s no silver bullet—but there are ways to do more with less.