7 Low-Budget Small Business Marketing Ideas

The very things that are considered drawbacks of owning and running a small business can be easily leveraged to become your company’s greatest strengths. By simply building that close, one-on-one rapport with your contact list, you’ll inevitably be ahead of the multitude of faceless mega-chains. Sure, adding that personal touch takes a bit more time and effort than may sound like fun, but in reality, by building these relationships you are also building and marketing a friendly company brand.

There are a few different ways to market a small business with little or no money. A modest marketing budget doesn’t mean that a smaller company can’t get off the ground. Here are seven free or inexpensive marketing ideas perfect for any small business:

1. Email

These days, it seems more common for people to have an email account than a home phone number. Take the opportunity to gather the email addresses of all of your contacts and compile a few different categories (example: vendor, past client, prospective client, etc.) to blast out a few different marketing pieces on occasion. Creating a consistent marketing plan for each of these categories and sticking to a timeline will ensure that your contacts are keeping your business in mind.

2. Freebies

Sure, this may put a dent into the company bank account, but offering free samples or related freebies is a tactic proven to convert prospects into clients. If you have a business that offers a unique product, consider providing smaller samples of the product to interested but hesitant prospects. Giving a taste of the product demonstrates high confidence in the merchandise and will build consumer trust.

If your small business is a service-based company, offering something as simple as a custom pen with the businesses contact information or slogan may do the trick. Offering these types of freebies isn’t necessarily demonstrating the abilities of your business, but it is offering a token, however small, as a gift. Plus, who doesn’t love free stuff?

3. Business Cards

Having a business card to hand out to customers or new acquaintances with your name, title, and contact information is great. But why not make the most of that business card and add a little something extra? Utilize of the blank back of that card and add a unique web address to access further information about your product or services or even extend a special offer.

4. Thank You Notes

This is a personal touch that every small business can afford. Take 10 to 20 minutes out of a day, once a week, to thank a few special regular clients or individuals who sent a referral your way. Finding a piece of personal mail that isn’t a bill in your mailbox these days is, sadly, quite a unique occurrence. Pleasantly surprise your customers with quick thanks that will undoubtedly build a positive connection to your business.

5. Invoices

This is a piece of regular correspondence between many small businesses and their clients. It costs nothing extra to add a little more to that necessary billing process. It could be as simple as adding a branded signature in those blank spaces in the invoice to thank clients for their business or offer bit of helpful information related to your industry. If you’re feeling really personable, get out the pen while stuffing the envelopes to handwrite a quick personal thank you, complete with their name and your signature.

6. Online Offers

An offer doesn’t necessarily have to cost the business much money – or any. Enticing clients via email, social media or on conventional marketing pieces to visit your website to print out a coupon for 10% off or a special new customer incentive can be just the thing. If you’re feeling adventurous, you may want to check out online discount sites such as Groupon to build your business by extending a special offer to a completely new pool of prospects. Just be aware that these sites are far from inexpensive.

7. Referral Encouragement

For many small businesses, a strong referral base can make or break their bottom line. By providing that extra level of customer service to make your company stand above the norm, you’ll inevitably build a strong customer base, happy to promote your company; sometimes you might just need to ask! This could be as simple as reminding pleased clients that your company is strongly referral-driven.

As you can see, having a big marketing budget is not the only way to keep new and old clients rolling in. By making the most of what makes your small business special, any company is able to promote themselves with little or no money at all.

What other low cost marketing ideas do you have? Share your insights in the comments below and on our Facebook page!

Matthew Toren

Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs.org, BizWarriors.com and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley).

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