Most small businesses don’t have the biggest marketing budget with which to operate. You need to get the most out of each dollar you spend or you’ll find that your business running into financial issues rather quickly. It is all too easy to overspend on your marketing campaigns, and then see little return on your investment. Luckily, there are many simple and low-cost marketing tactics that any small business can use to generate leads and still stay within the budget.
Rewrite your marketing messaging
The first thing you’ll want to look at is your business’s overall messaging. If you haven’t revisited the copy on your website or other marketing materials in a while, ask yourself if it the following questions: What problem within your industry does your service or product solve? Who do you want to market towards? What sort of brand image do you want to project? Thinking about these sorts of questions will help you fine-tune your company’s message, which will help you out later when using many of the methods mentioned hereafter. Once you have your message defined, you can translate it into writing styles for your newsletters, copy for your advertisements, and a tone for your website.
Perfecting your brand messaging is free, as long as you have the time to do it yourself and are willing to put forth the mental effort. If not, or if you aren’t confident in your writing abilities, consider hiring a professional copywriter to help you craft your message. Here are a few tips for crafting a marketing message to get you started.
Optimize your website to increase visits from search engine traffic
The primary way that people find information today is through Internet search engines. Nearly everyone has a smartphone that makes it easy to find all of the answers they need. So then it makes sense that if someone searches for something related to your business, or a service or product you provide, you want your website to appear higher up in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Studies have shown that sites on the first page of results get significantly more traffic, so anything you can do to make your website one of them is worth the investment.
When determining where your site will rank, search engines look at many factors. By optimizing your website to fit these factors, you have a better chance of increasing your position on the SERP. For instance, websites that load faster are given more weight by search engines, and thus are likely to appear higher in the results. (Achieving faster website load times is more technical in nature, and may require the help of a temporary consultant or agency to ensure it’s done correctly.) Another SEO improvement you can do is what we recommended earlier – revamping your messaging. As long as your website’s copy is relevant, helpful, and optimized for specific keywords in your industry, it’ll be good for your website’s SEO.
A fair chunk of good SEO practices is maintaining a company blog and consistently publishing helpful and informative content. If you do keyword research and analyze what your competitors are doing, you could come up with a content strategy that includes interesting topics for articles. The goal is to get people to see these articles, either by way of a search engine after searching for what your content provides, or through other channels, such as social media. Getting your articles published on other, authoritative websites in your industry is also a great method to boost your own SEO. If one of your articles gets enough backlinks, that article will be given more priority with search engines, which results in more traffic to your website, and thus, prospective customers.
Of course, your website’s SEO has many moving parts, so you’ll have to decide how important search engine optimization will be for improving the ongoing marketing of your business. It could be a one-time site audit, in which you see what’s wrong with your site now and take steps to fix it. Or you could hire a full-time employee, or outside agency, to handle all the SEO duties for you, and have your website continuously checked and updated to ensure it remains optimized. It all depends on how much time you’re willing to devout to learning SEO, or how much you want to spend on the services for someone else to do it.
Automate a newsletter with email marketing
Although less people use email to connect with one another than they used to – social media has largely taken over this role – it is still a common tool used by many, especially in the workplace. People check their email accounts every day, and if your business is appearing in their inbox, you are more likely to get noticed and bring visitors to your website or blog – or even convince some to call you.
To do this, you need email addresses, and you need prospects to willingly give them to you. Why would they do that? Well, hopefully from our previous marketing suggestions, your website is now brimming with content that they find valuable and informational and they want to get updates via email. Setting up an automated newsletter to accomplish this is relatively inexpensive and simple, with most email marketing services offering WYSIWYG drag-and-drop interfaces.
An incentive you can give your website visitors to sign up is discounts off your products or services, or entry into a contest you’re holding. People love to discounts, or to win free things, and many will not mind paying the price of their email address. However you decide to do obtain email addresses, just make sure that your prospects are opting in of their own volition and that they’re not being defrauded in some way with any of the methods you implement.
Once you have collected email addresses, you can begin to send out messages to all of your subscribers. Make sure it is of a high quality, as spammy emails are likely to just get deleted. You should aim for a mix of useful information, incentives, and product promotions. For more on email marketing, try this guide.
Leverage social media to expand your content’s reach
Social media allows you to instantly connect with potential customers, and for the most part, the sites are free to use. With social media accounts on sites like Facebook and Twitter, you can share information regarding your business – such as new products, current sales, or events you’re having – while also interacting with customers by answering their questions or hearing their feedback. Many businesses choose to post ads on these social media sites, but this isn’t required if you’re trying to save money.
Best of all, social media helps out some of the other tactics we mentioned above. Social media accounts provide links back to your website, which gives your website more user traffic, which in turn can increase the number of email addresses you receive, or best of all, those who decide to pick up the phone (or press buy) ultimately become customers.
Send “Shock and awe” packages to new/old customers
If you really want to grab someone’s attention, sometimes you need to blow them away with your efforts. An increasingly popular marketing method that goes above and beyond simple direct mail marketing involves sending “Shock and awe” packages. Essentially, it just consists of sending physical packages of freebies, usually to new customers, or older customers who may not have purchased from you in a while. It’s basically a nice gesture that says, “thanks for your business, please enjoy these items.”
What should you send? One example: promotional items with your company’s branding on them, like pens, cell phone chargers, or some other item that they would be likely to use in the office or at home. Some companies might send reading material that isn’t strictly marketing-focused, with the intention of simply helping or informing the customer without asking for anything in return. Sure, a shock and awe package is going to cost more than an email, but if it ends up landing you a life-long customer, it will likely be worth the small expense. Here is a great example of a shock and awe package at work to give you a better idea.
Finally, sometimes the best salesperson for your business is a previous customer. If customers had a good experience with your product or service, they are more likely to suggest it to a friend or family member. To speed up this process, you can have a customer referral program. For instance, if a customer makes a purchase online, you could then provide them with a unique code. If this code is used by another customer, both customers receive a discount on their purchase. This encourages customers to share their referral code with others, and encourages the second customer to complete a purchase, knowing they’ll be getting a discount. With this process, you’ve now successfully turned one happy customer into two, who both hopefully become repeat customers.
You don’t have to spend a lot to bring in customers
As you can see, there are plenty of simple, low-cost ways to market a small business. The key is creativity, and exploring all possible options. Some strategies will work better than others, depending on the type of business you are running.
By trying out different methods, you can learn which ones are the most effective for you. And since most of these options can be completed either for free or on a low budget, you don’t have much to lose by simply trying them out. As you go along you’ll hopefully find yourself bringing in more customers, without a noticeable dent in your budget.