When you're first starting out as an entrepreneurs there is one trait shared by each and every businessperson on that path – budget. A budget dictates how your business will be run on the beginning, what promotions you will have, where your business will be located and in some cases what kind of products you will have. So without deep pockets, how exactly should you go about trying to create a solid marketing plan? Possibly the most important thing about your business is the image it reflects to the public. Your business marketing strategy brings customers through the doors, online and off, and creates the almighty buzz. To get some ideas for fitting branding methods on a budget we asked some entrepreneurs for their insight.
#1 – Using Linkedin
LinkedIn is an often underused but very effective marketing tool. It's also free, which is great. First, you need to look up groups where your ideal clients are and join them. These groups are great places to participate in discussions and to promote relevant blog posts (if you have a business blog) in front of your target audience. The trick is to be helpful and to share useful stuff, without trying to sell. Alternatively (if you don't have your own blog) it's worth putting in the time to publish a few posts on LinkedIn directly using LinkedIn's publisher function. These same groups are great sources of ideas for articles, because your ideal clients often discuss pain points and issues which you can address in your articles.
Thanks to Andre Spiteri, Maverick Words
#2 – Remarketing
Most businsses both in B2C and B2B don't consider using remarketing as a more integrated part of their marketing efforts. You might find 1 – 2 % of your visitors actually buy your product/services, which might be great, but you have 98 – 99 % who leave your website, and you might never see them again. They already know about your brand and what you are selling, so why not reach out to them again and tell them why they should consider coming back to your website. A good way to do this, is to state the unique selling points you may have, such as: Free shipping, 30 day return policy, great reviews on eBay/Amazon. These unique selling points helps convince the consumer to chose you over your competitor. This can be done by using the Facebook advertising platform. We have seen returns of up to 30x our investment come back in revenue with this simple tip on multiple online websites.
Thanks to Kristian Larsen, PL & Partners
#3 – Value to Online Communities
One of the best budget marketing strategies is providing value to online communities. Not just creating communities, but going to already-established communities and providing value. I do not mean to go and spam them with your product/service offerings, but to actually provide genuine value. This can be done by sharing your knowledge, by answering questions that members of the community ask, or by sharing relevant resources with the community.A lot of people expect quick results, but if you want to make customers for life, you gotta give it time and effort to it. This way you might grow slow, but you will make relationships for life which are built on giving first mantra. A couple of simple rules to follow: one, never promote your product/service (I mean never) until someone asks you specifically. And second, genuinely care; you can't fake it for long. The best way is to be honest and actually give a shi* about your audience. Make no mistake, it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, but it's totally worth it.
Thanks to Natwar Maheshwari, Around.io
#4 – Unique Selling Proposition
By far the most important way to market on a budget is to know your target persona and be very specific about it. Marketing is more expensive and less effective the larger the and more diverse the audience is. The best way to find your target persona is to come up with your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), develop and example persona, then test your hypothesis using Facebook or developing interview questions. I actually have a product market fit checklist on my website. Using Facebook you can really get granular and test how your target persona reacts to your USP and offer. You can drill down to age, sex, interests, hobbies, business, zip codes, countries, cities, etc. I would suggest drilling down to a small group of about 10,000-20,000 give or take and test ads to different segments of this group (age, location, sex, interests). From here you will deduce exactly who is interested in your product or service and build a brand around them as the early adopters. You can create landing pages or simple websites to capture these early adopters even before the product launches creating a pre-launch list which is one of the smartest things you can do for your brand and company. This works really well for many consumer businesses and some BtoB. On the BtoB side you can use interviews to find your target persona by contacting people at companies that are your target and asking them relevant questions that create some pain or reveal a need. You may get very very specific with the persona here and that is ok in the beginning. You will have to be VERY brief and very effective with these interviews as business people are usually busy. The best thing you can do it HELP THEM in anyway that you can. If you make their life easier and bring them more job security they will become a brand evangelist which is the best way to get free referral business. Another way that interviews help BtoB is to find potential partners or channels that you can attach your business too. If you are a BtoB and you are not considering partnership you are missing out on one of your biggest most cost effective opportunities. Think about companies that already service your target persona and think about adding value to their product or service line.
Thanks to Cort Davies, Cort Davies Consulting
#5 – Building Your Movement
In coaching thousands of entrepreneurs, I've found that by far the most cost-effective marketing is focused on building a movement around your company or brand. When you become the reason your customers organize around a product, issue, perspective or way of life, your customers will do your marketing for you – increase your reach, advocate for you, recruit new customers – and they'll do it for free. So find out what your customers care about by listening to their conversations, help them understand they are not alone in their perspectives, and give them a reason to engage and unite around the issues they're passionate about.
Thanks to Alex Charfen, Charfen
#6 – Guest Posting
One of the best ways to market your company for free is through guest posting. This will cost you nothing but time and it is time well spent if you can get your name and your company’s name in front of a new and targeted audience. Another excellent way to get free exposure is by serving as a source for news stories. Contact your local paper or a targeted publication and ask to be added to their source list. A third, extremely effective method to get free marketing is by encouraging your existing customers to share their experiences on social media. This word-of-mouth marketing costs you nothing and is far more convincing than any self-appointed marketing strategy.
Thanks to Simon Slade, SaleHoo
#7 – Optimize Local Listings
Gone are the days of looking at phone books. 90 Percent of consumers looking for local services use search engines to research companies. A great low budget marketing tactic is to get listed in local search directories so you show up in the local listings. Search your company name and claim your business on Google My Business, Bing Local and Yahoo! Local. Fill out all questions. It’s important to complete the business name, address and phone number (NAP) exactly the same, select the right categories, and write and killer company description that includes words people use in search to find your offerings. You can research how do this yourself for free, use an online service like MOZ Local, or work with a Search Engine Optimization consultant.
Thanks to Bill Scully, Digital Marketing Fuel, LLC
#8 – Better ROI
Remarketing is one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies for a small business looking to further their digital marketing efforts, typically only requiring about 10% of the budget of a search/display PPC campaign. For small businesses working with a tight budget, we recommend allotting a larger percent of your ad budget to remarketing to get a better ROI. Remarketing ads are targeted at users who have previously visited your site. They appear when past visitors browse other websites that are part of the Google Display Network, and as they search terms related to your products and services on Google. This is a great way to reinforce your brand message with past website visitors and a second chance to drive conversions and potentially secure a sale or outreach from an interested customer.
Thanks to Brock Murray, seoplus+
#9 – Networking Near and Far
The best marketing tip I can give to those on a strict budget is to take advantage of networking events near and far. When I first began my business I recognized the need to get my name out to the public but I lacked the budget to do so. By attending both local and regional networking events I was able to promote my business as well as grow my personal brand. I made it a point to find the time and energy to attend these events and most importantly it did not hurt my budget at all. Most networking events are free of charge or either had a small entrance fee. Owning a small business or becoming an entrepreneur is challenging and stressful. But, it is also the most rewarding challenge you can ever take on. Remember that the best type of marketing for those on a budget is face-to-face marketing.
Thanks to Adam Binder, Creative Click Media
#10 – Outsourcing
As a small business owner that wears many hats, I understand that it's important to implement tools that are cost effective. The best marketing tip I would say for entrepreneurs on a budget is to consider outsourcing your marketing. Our company recently implemented an external marketing agency and realized that success feels better when it's done together. They really have become an extension of our team, helping us reach our goals. It's great to have an extra set of expert eyes to bring in an another perspective.
Thanks to Jeffrey Yefsky, 5x Technology
#11 – Social Media Engagement
When it comes to having a limited financial budget, the only remedy for that is to replace that with actual time doing the marketing. One thing many business owners can do themselves is social media engagement. Now, my strategists will tell me it's not a good idea to jump into social media without a plan–good advice–but plans can cost money. When that is in short supply, just engage. Find the network where your audience is and build relationships by answering questions, and adding value to whatever conversations are going related to what the business does.
Thanks to Stoney deGeyter, Pole Position Marketing
#12 – Offer Incentive
Offer your customers an incentive other than just taking a certain percentage off the price. For example, in order to boost our ratings over Facebook and the various review sites Poles Direct is featured on, we have run a competition for our customers to enter. It’s no secret that customers are quick to complain if there is a problem with their order, yet they also seldom make the effort to leave positive feedback if they are satisfied with their order. With this in mind, we are offering our customers the chance to win back the full cost of their order,simply by leaving us an honest review, good or bad, on our Facebook page, or on any of our review sites. With this incentive, the positive reviews have poured in and boosted our ratings massively. These positive reviews show on Google’s search results when people search for Poles Direct, and we have seen an increase in sales since our ratings have improved online, meaning we can easily afford to refund the chosen winner of this competition. Sometimes, simple incentives can have big impacts.”
Thanks to Darren Green, Poles Direct
#13 – Know Your Competition
If you're marketing your business online, spend a little money on a competitive analysis tool. Tools like Ahrefs and SEM Rush aren't free, but well worth a small monthly cost. They typically cost less than $100.00 per month and offer the insight needed to outsmart your competitors in organic and paid search results. Knowing what your rivals are doing, as well as what is and isn't working for them, will do wonders for your own strategy.
Thanks to Phil Cohen, Factor Finders, LLC
#14 – Visit Popular Sites
The best way to begin marketing for free is to go where the people are. This includes social media sites. Things like Facebook groups, LinkedIn Groups, answering Quora questions, Slack channles, Meetups, making a ruckus on Twitter, posting on Growth Hackers and Inbound.org and other industry related sites, and even Reddit. It's not hard to drive some traffic when you have $0, it just costs a lot more in terms of your time. Your job is to figure out which of those channels is going to drive the most traffic, and focus all of your effort
Thanks to Derric Haynie, Rebrandly
#15 – Mautic
Just because you’re on a budget (which many entrepreneurs are), doesn’t mean you have to settle for mediocre marketing. While many marketing tools are prohibitively expensive, there are a ton of free alternatives available. One of my personal favorites is a tool called Mautic. It’s a free open-source marketing automation platform that is comparable to tools like Pardot and Marketo. It lacks almost nothing in terms of functionality and is ridiculously easy to use. I’ve quickly become a huge fan. It’s definitely a tool worth checking out.
Thanks to Alan Blashaw, EquityOwl