I was recently hanging out in one of my favourite groups on Facebook and someone put up a post asking what people would like to know when it comes to running a small business.

The number one answer was “how to market my business on a shoestring budget” or words to those effect.

I love the fact that people understand that they need to be marketing their business and what benefit that has.

The benefits being exposure and sales of course, and there are lots of ways that you can market for little or no money, but, at the end of the day, we DO need to invest back into our businesses and have a marketing budget.

I get it though, when you’re starting out – money is tight.

So today I’m going to give you 7 ways you can market your business on a shoestring.

Before I do though, I want to you to know this.

Some of these 7 costs a little and some will cost nothing.  BUT all will cost your biggest commodity of TIME.

Nothing is for free because you are WORTH something too.  Your time, your expertise, YOU are worth something.  Never forget that.  In small business we tend forget that the resource of time is not free.  We can always make more money – but we can’t make more time.

So when you’re looking at free or low cost marketing options – make sure you make a note or a mental note of how much time it took and times those hours by your hourly rate (or what it should be) and get a clear picture of what “free” or “low cost” actually looks like.

  1. START AN EMAIL LIST

If you listen to some of the best, most successful small business owners in our country and beyond they will say that their biggest regret is that they didn’t start building a list of customers/clients earlier.

So how do you go about it?

Sign up for a free program, such as Mail Chimp – it’s free until you get a list of about 2000.  Their packages have recently changed, so you might need to check the new packages out.

Spend time thinking about how you can solve your clients or customers biggest challenge and design a lead magnet around it.

A lead magnet can take lots of different forms from a checklist to a PDF download guide to a video series to an eBook to a resource guide.

In fact, if you go to www.socialmediaandmarketing.com.au/magnetideas I have 69 of them there.

Once you have your magnet, you promote it everywhere your ideal client or customer hangs out and exchange your awesome piece of content that solves their problem for an email address.

Or offer a prize and promote that online and offline if you have a shop front.  Exchange the chance to win for an email address.

If you’re going to do this though, have a listen to Episode 11 of my podcast which is all about running online competitions – you need to make sure you’re within the rules.

List building is something I am totally passionate about and if you read my blog posts List Building for Small Business, and 14 Tips for Getting your Email Opened and Read, they are all about list building.  I recommend you go check them out.

Of course, once you start building your list, you need a plan to keep in contact with the people on it, but for now simply make a START.  Make list building your priority as free marketing of your business.

There are a number of apps and ways to assist you to do this, and one of the places to find them is as a Chrome extension. Have you ever taken the time to look at all the GOLD in the Chrome extension webstore?  No?  Well I highly highly recommend you do. Just google, “Chrome webstore” and you’ll be amazed.

I’d recommend you tick the “free” box in the right-hand side and see what’s available for free and work from there.

There are some pretty awesome discoveries in there which will definitely make your business simpler.

I recently came across the Hunter’s Chrome extension lets you immediately find the email addresses behind the websites you’re browsing.  Now, when it comes to list building this extension could be business/life changing.  It does have a free version as well as paid, and enables you to reach out and potentially connect with someone you really want to work with or for but don’t know how to get in contact!

Of course, there’s courtesy rules in play here – so remember reach out to new connections the way you’d appreciate (so not salesy!).

  1. GET FREE MEDIA PR

This doesn’t always make more sales, I get that, it can, it certainly can but what it does even better is set you up as the expert in your field.

Getting your business into the media can be HUGE for brand awareness.

For those sceptics out there, I guarantee you that media outlets are just itching to get a hold of new, original content just like you can do.

On Episode 14 of my podcast, I featured my dear friend Jules Brooks. If you haven’t heard of her, it’s her business to help teach people how to keep themselves in the media.  So, go and have a listen to that episode if you haven’t already.

If you have a blog, write articles for LinkedIn or write long captions for Instagram, then you are there – you have content.  The trick is putting it out to the media first – before you publish it as they want original content that hasn’t been published before.

But if you have a fabulous piece you’ve already written, well then re-write it – juice it up a little – make old new again and put it out to the world.

How do you know who to write to or send your articles to?

My simple answer is – google – google is your best friend.  Spend some time researching what your ideal clients or customers read, watch or subscribe too, google who’s in charge of the editorial department and reach out.

If you have a good article, that’s full of value and isn’t promotional and has a fabulous photo with it – then you my friend are gold!

  1. CREATE A GOOGLE MY BUSINESS ACCOUNT.

If you want your business to show up in local search, a Google My Business account is a necessity. This will make sure your business is not only visible on search, but on Google Maps as well.  Having a google business account is becoming more and more important, especially since they shut down Google+.

Your Google Business page can now look more like a mini, lead gathering website.

There’s lots of features people miss or don’t take any notice of.  So, invest time, go through each box, each google suggestion and fill out what you can, upload amazing photos that represents what you do and make your business google page sensational.

  1. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE FREE AD CREDITS.

Facebook and Google are always giving away free ad credit vouchers. When you are signing up for services like web hosting or AdWords, take advantage of the free vouchers they offer and take PPC advertising for a test drive.

Just make sure if you’re checking back on the results.  Yes, it’s free and you are using the offered credits, but you still want maximum traction.

So, and this applies to ANY online paid marketing, when you’re set something up, make sure you ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS check back on the advert after about 48 hours and check out the analytics.

NEVER set and forget.

  1. HAVE AN AMAZING REACH OUT STRATEGY ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Now because I only have 7 tips today – I wasn’t going to waste one of them on saying “have a presence of social media”.  I think or hope in 2020 that that’s a little obvious.  Maybe you need to work out which platform is best for your target client or customer, but at least you’ve got a presence on social media.

Firstly – go and have a look at your Social media profiles.

Have you filled out all the boxes?

Do the links work?

If you’ve got your homepage listed as your website, is that the best place to be sending them?

Are is there any spelling errors?

Do you need to change anything?

If it’s been a while since you created your social platforms, then consider taking my 5 days social media challenge to make sure you’ve got it smicko!  Go to www.socialmediaandmarketing.com.au/challenge and run though it to help get your social media on track.

Now – assuming you’ve got your social platforms all sorted, it’s time for people to find you.  One of the tactics that isn’t implemented enough in most people’s businesses is a reach out strategy.

What is a reach out strategy?  Well, exactly what it says!

Stop waiting for people to find you.  Get out there.  Like pages as your business page.  Comment in groups as your business (or yourself).  Join groups.  Give value, value, value so that people are so curious who this amazing, value giving small business owner is, that they search you up and join your world.

This is how you need to use social media,  I absolutely guarantee it.  You’ve got to give before you can get!

No matter what platform or platforms you are on – start reaching out!

  1. POST AMAZING CONTENT

Whether you have a blog (which you can have for free just putting that out there) or whether you post on social media, POST AMAZING CONTENT.

You want potential customers or clients in your world to say “Oh my lordy, if she/he gives this sort of thing away for FREE, I wonder how brilliant the money costing content is …”  This is the goal.

Be so brilliant, they can’t afford to ignore you.

What is amazing content?  Well it varies from business to business, but it starts with you understanding what your prospects biggest challenges are and end with you solving it!  It can be the written word, or it can be in video form – it just needs to be engaging.

Just a hint though, we are pretty harsh on ourselves when it comes to our content and whether it’s amazeballs or not – so let your audience be the judge of that – put it out there and see if it resonates.  Don’t stew over it – just do it!

  1. ALIGN YOURSELF WITH A CHARITY

This last tip is all about either aligning yourself with a charity, spending time in your community or sponsoring an event – maybe a charity or it could be a sporting event etc.

For brand exposure, for showing people your business values, for keeping top of mind, you cannot go past this one!  People do business with people they like – so you have to put yourself out there and well, get liked!

In my retail days, I started a program or event called “Pay it Forward”.  We aligned ourselves with the local Community Centre and became the drop off point for people who wanted to donate presents and goods to our Christmas appeal.  It’s was like the Wishing Trees of the big retailers, but our gifts came from locals to locals.

I am really proud of what we achieved, and it’s lived on even after we sold our shop – it’s now in the hands of my bestie Michelle at Judd’s – shout out to her!

It bought people into our store who hadn’t been there before, it gave us a talking point to anyone who came in and helped us develop relationships with our customers on a whole new level that lasted way past December.  It will go down in my life’s journey of one of the things I am most proud of.

It didn’t really cost us a cent.  But it firmly concreted, to our community, what our brand values were.

Maybe for you it looks more like sponsoring with products – maybe your local school, your local sports club or even your local charity.

Or giving an in-kind donation of your time.

Either way, you want people to get to know you, your brand, stay top of mind and do business with people who know like and trust you – PLUS market your business for FREE – then this step is one you cannot go past.

One of my businesses core values is be a giver – the more you help others, the more rewards you will enjoy.

Now I guess I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t try to overachieve and give you a bonus tip!  This one very much aligns with the one we’ve just covered but it’s more strategic, more “marketingish” (yes, I’m making a new word!).

It’s NETWORKING.

So, your bonus tip for getting your business marketed on a shoestring budget is, attend local networking events.

And a pro-tip for attending networking events, to get the absolute most out of them and be the person EVERYONE remembers is – be the listener NOT the talker.  Be the question asker rather than the question answerer!

Everyone’s favourite subject is themselves, so if you ask great questions about them, they are like to remember you fondly rather than the person who just wouldn’t shut up about themselves – what was their name?  That tip is how you do networking well.

Check out local business events on Meetup.com or see what events your local chamber or small business association is hosting.  Or google business networking in your area.

If there’s not one – start one.  My friend in Beechworth, Karen, she started organising just a coffee at the local bakery every Wednesday (I think) and invites whoever is free and available and would like to come – so maybe just start there.

I can tell you that surrounding myself with like-minded business owners who would support me, challenge me, cheer me and celebrate with me was THE best thing I’ve done in business.

Just a plug too, if you’re in North East Victoria, where I am, and you’re looking for a networking place – come join me and my group in Yarrawonga – 3rd Wednesday evening of each month.

I have an amazing bunch of people who give so freely to help others as well as learn from our guest speakers or myself.  Get in touch or check out Instagram @yarrawongabizhub

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jenn Donovan is a marketing strategist and social media extraordinaire, coach and mentor to savvy business owners.  Owner and Founder of Social Media & Marketing Australia.

With a passion for making business simple, because it’s isn’t easy but it should be simple or at least simpler, she’s built a reputation for helping other small business owners simplify their marketing and businesses so they can reach their goals, be more profitable and live the dream (finding the freedom they set out to achieve when they started … the illusive small business owner freedom dream …!)

Jenn believes in giving before asking and that’s why she’s the host of the popular Small Business Made Simple Podcast

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