Chapter 3: Low to No Budget Marketing Ideas for Small Business.Low cost business ideas are valuable in the start up phase of your brand. Often times, I speak with potential clients that have invested a ton of capital in marketing spend before clarifying their message. My experiences have given me valuable insight on company promotion and I'm using it to my advantage now that I'm formulating my own business plan. With a little bit of strategy, there are plenty ways you can learn how to promote your business for free. Since I've spent quite a bit of time planning, I wanted to share more about my story and how I'm using low to no budget marketing ideas to enhance my small business growth.
There are plenty of reasons that small businesses fail. Learning from our mistakes (as well as other’s) can help us reach sustainability, but uncovering potential takes things to a whole new level. My story is not much different than most start up companies as resources and marketing spend can be scarce for us new business pioneers. But, before tackling my budget, I needed to overcome my fear of failure and identify the actual value I provide. From here, I was able to establish a clear message with an identified purpose so my marketing would be effective.
Although it seemed like a never-ending process, I’m glad I invested the time. Once I clarified and memorized my vision, I knew I needed to invest in a marketing approach that maximized my budget. The problem was, I didn’t have much of a budget to invest with. I was faced with two decisions: Dump everything into an advertising reach campaign, or slowly build traction through purposeful content that expanded on my identified value.
Being the sole provider for 6, I’ve been forced to strategically market with patience. In other words, I chose the second option – but refuse to look at it as a negative. Low to no budget marketing may not provide immediate results – but realizing I’m not piling up debt or counting on a specific ROI has allowed me to stay focused on my vision. Proper planning (and a dedication to your plan) will help you perform with low cost business ideas that drive growth. Here are some affordable ideas that I’ve been using throughout my story.
1. Tell your Story & Promote your Brand for Free.
As I’ve mentioned before, far too many start up companies think launching an SEO optimized website is enough to garner a sustainable revenue. Witnessing businesses with this perspective fail has caused me to look at start up marketing from a different angle. Unless you have money to blow, why go “all in” when you’re model hasn’t even been proven yet? As far as I’m concerned, a good business idea is just an idea – and nothing more until it’s put into effect. No matter how passionate you are, you have to realize you’re not the customer. Until the model has been proven capable, don’t throw all of your eggs into one basket. If you’re just starting out, consider promoting your story for free until it’s time to scale.
Practice Your Pitch at Networking Events.
I know, I know.. Networking is overrated, right? Wrong. Although it may seem like you’re not receiving much revenue from these events, you’re garnering something even more valuable – experience and practice. Use networking to loosen the kinks in your sales pitch and eliminate any confusing banter that might hurt your conversion rates in the future. What’s the worst that could happen? You make a mistake in a room full of hungry entrepreneurs that more than likely will provide crucial feedback that sparks personal growth and improved competence? Winning..
Send Introduction Emails Instead of Sales Pitches.
Email marketing can be a drag, am I right? Especially when you’re taking the time to write something personal and purposeful. Consider a few introduction emails in place of some of your salesy ones. Number one, this will more than likely keep you out of spam folders; and number 2, it shows the recipient that their feedback or initiatives are important to you. All you’re doing is simply telling your story and expanding on your vision with a hope for support or even kudos. What’s the worst that could happen? The recipient thanks you for your interest and remembers you when a need comes about down the road? Not too shabby..
Inquire About Partnership, Volunteer, or Guest Speaking Opportunities.
Similar to my second suggestion, inquiries surrounding intrigue show that you’re hungry to provide value. Reaching out to like-minded individuals (or complimentary companies) not only gains you exposure, but relays that you’re living with intention. Aligning with an established brand can eventually provide you with credibility and support that you’re not getting by cold calling. Take the time to research upcoming events and other opportunities that can enhance the way your brand is perceived so that you’re more likely to be accepted. I don’t see any worse-case-scenarios here..
Reach Out to Contacts for Feedback.
One of the best things that I’ve invested time in is critical feedback. Before I designed my business cards and built my website, I sought constructive criticism. The best people to ask tend to be those that already care about you and your success. Once I solidified my business plan, I reached out to old colleagues, partners, and even my church congregation for feedback. Not only was I able to listen to other’s perspectives, but I was able to correct errors and clarification issues that I was blinded to. The best thing that happened? I gained 4 clients ($3900) from referrals – simply by showcasing a dedicated passion towards quality.
Allocate Recommendations from Past Value.
This approach has been huge for me. A few months ago, when I was going through my fear of failure, I found myself sparring with my own confidence. After researching ways to combat this, I was determined to highlight the successes I’ve had. Even though my strategy surrounded overcoming fear, I realized I was paving the way for credibility. I began asking past colleagues (employees, supervisors, etc) to write recommendation letters regarding my competence as a business owner and leader. Not only did this improve my confidence level, but it made me realize the impact I’ve had throughout my journey. It was so rewarding that I began reaching out to past agency clients and even partners for their opinion too. I found that no matter the response, everything was valuable to my personal growth. Even more, I was able to notify a lot of people that I was finally going into business for myself!
Taking the time to tell your story with a specific purpose can gain you a lot more traction than you think. There’s a quote by Vince Lombardi relating to this: “Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” No matter how wasteful you think the above initiatives may be, practicing your pitch with like-minded, or well-known people will enhance the way you market your brand moving forward. If you can’t make sense of your vision, you can’t expect anyone else to. A perfect pitch doesn’t really exist, but passion is a perfect recipe for success. Eliminate expenses and learn how to market your business for free by telling your story.
2. Break Down your Story into Promotional Means.
Promoting your journey can be an exhilarating experience. Not only are you growing and learning, but you’re gaining a better understanding of your market niche and company objectives. My approach is no different with my clients. In order to effectively market their offering, I need to truly understand their purpose – and corresponding values, objectives and customers. Taking a brand’s story and turning it into a purposeful campaign is a great way to maximize a small promotional budget. Here’s how you can start off marketing your business for free!
Make Your Story Eventful.
Once you’ve received some feedback and told some of your contacts about your brand, it’s time to start executing a marketing plan. Now that you’ve introduced yourself, begin to explore opportunities that align with your objectives. Promote some relevant events or speaking engagements that you plan on participating in – or have already attended. Expand on your experience and the value that other’s have provided you with. Once you establish credibility, you can inquire about being featured as a speaker or sponsor. Moving forward, you’ll be able to expect well-known companies, events, people, and even groups to endorse you and the value you’ve provided them with.
Promote the Experience of Your Story.
One of the best ways to garner initial results is to highlight your perspective. This is essentially the bread and butter of what I’ve been discussing throughout this entire blog series. Stick out your chest and tell your audience about your growth, pivots, revelations, or even failures so they’re engaged through transparency. Solidifying your value isn’t considered arrogance – it’s a reassuring tactic that allows them to trust you. In most cases, people want to do business with a no-nonsense-professional that satisfies their immediate needs. Talk about the benefit your journey will have on them as well as what it’s done for your company. Show them you’re human while showcasing the value you’re capable of.
There are plenty of promotional means that enhance this approach. If you’re monetarily strapped, you can develop simple creative graphics, slide shares, and other forms of content to publish in print or online. Find affordable ways to get your message out there instead of a quantitative approach.
If you think you’re lacking content, try utilizing performance reviews, recommendation letters, certifications, partnership testimonials, or anything else that advertises your knowledge and capacity. If you’ve completed step #1, you should have plenty of material to work with. Additionally, don’t be afraid to promote the benefits of doing business with you, especially if you have a unique business model. The same goes for effective work flows or processes that enhance the customer (or partner) experience. Create case studies that touch on successful past projects or achieved objectives. All of these things are readily available to you! If you have a low startup budget, then take the time to maximize the capital you have and promote the quality you provide!
3. Invest in a Low Budget Advertising Strategy.
After you’ve invested your time and effort in discovery and uncovering, you can begin to think about a low costing advertising strategy. There are plenty of ways to execute an ad campaign but the most important factor is your customer’s agenda. For example, the last company I worked for was committed to a $2,000 monthly budget towards social media. Even though our target audience averaged 67 years of age. Be smart with your adspend, especially if you’re budget is limited! Allocate opportunities and do your best to invest your money in a strategy.
Although my belief isn’t always supported, clicks can be deceiving and inevitably very costly. If you’re going to invest in social media ads, take the time to identify which platforms your customers use and analyze their intentions while logged in. It’s better to engage them with relevant material when they’re interested vs ruining a first impression. Once they block you, you’ve lost your chance – I cannot stress this enough.
If I were to invest in low budget advertising, I’m going to spend on manual bidding through a pay-per-click platform. (Keep in mind, I may not possess the same objectives as you). This may not be “low hanging fruit” for everyone, but my experience has proven this to drive the best conversion rates and ROAS (return on ad spend). You can learn more about my PPC Strategy here. In a nutshell, we focus on extensive keyword research that allocates specific long tails that funnel user intent to spend. We don’t overbid for keywords until we’ve returned our client’s investment and taken over opportune niches. If you have a minimal adspend, please use it wisely.
At the end of the day, advertising can break your bank and there’s nothing you can do to reverse this. If you’re going to travel down this road, it’s important to at least consider a consultation before handing your budget over to an affordable PPC manager. Serving ads with a purpose can be a lot more rewarding than cheap business advertising ideas lacking purpose. If you’re unsure of the expected return, then steer clear until you have money to blow. Just my humble opinion..
4. Promote your Hunger for Success.
This is one of the easiest (and sometimes most effective) ways to promote your start up business. “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” You’ve got to be the biggest cheerleader for your brand – you’ve got to.. One of my favorite quotes is, “Wherever you are, there’s opportunity – it’s up to you to harness it.” There’s never an excuse to not have a handy business card for a relevant moment. Whether you’re in line at the grocery store or waiting to board a plane – promote your hunger for success!
Don’t get me wrong I’m not advising you to present a sales pitch on every occasion.. The goal here is to seamlessly position your value into a conversational opportunity. From experience, even mentioning “my business” or “this project my company was working on” can easily transition the conversation into “what is it that you do?” Once someone inquires, it shows that you’ve been accepted. Initiating acceptance leads to earning trust, which paves the way for word of mouth. If there’s one thing we all can agree on, it’s that word of mouth is a strong form of free marketing for your brand. As long as it’s positive – but, that’s on you..
The last thing I want to touch on is your level of hunger. It’s never a good thing to come off as desperate. Even if your company is struggling to stay afloat, keep the conversation positive. Remember, we’re attempting to market your hunger for success, not greed. Try to refrain from boasting and focus on your dedication to client satisfaction. Use my first 3 suggestions (above) as a guide for your talk track. Discuss the quality you long to provide and what you’ve overcome to get where you are. If you want someone to trust your company, they have to believe in your leadership – not your hunger for power and wealth. Show an interest in their initiatives and offer ways you can help them achieve their goals. Once you get the ball rolling it’ll become more casual and routine. The better you become at communicating, the more effective your sales will be. This doesn’t cost anything, guys..
Concluding My Low to No Budget Marketing Ideas.
Wow, that was a lot to take in. Throughout my journey, I’ve spent a lot of time developing my brand as well as my personal capacity. I really hope you’ve appreciated my story thus far. Moreover, I hope you’ve gained an improved understanding of my commitment to excellence through purposeful branding. No matter what I’m faced with, even if it’s a limited marketing budget, there’s always a way to execute a strategy. In order to generate competence and trust, I needed to solidify my experience and expand on my capabilities. Taking advantage of low cost business ideas has tested my patience but enhanced my company, for sure.
Hopefully this installment helps you uncover a number of ways to promote your business for free. Although it may seem time consuming, “sweating it out will eliminate doubt.” Set yourself up for success by investing in a purpose and highlighting your solution. Not only will this process help you improve your personal presentation, but you’ll begin see things from a different perspective. The more you practice, the more effective you’ll become – whether you’re selling, training, or speaking.
A growing confidence is crucial for start ups. Until you believe in your message and value, no one else will. Allow feedback to ground you while support fuels you. Work for it until you’re able to sustain, then you can begin taking chances in the unknown realm of marketing. For now, stick to ideas that work with a minimal marketing budget and control your return. But, hey – it’s your story..