Effectively Marketing on a Shoestring Budget
If you’re like most small businesses, you don’t have the marketing budget to blanket the world with “15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance” commercials, but it’s still essential to find a way to let the world know about your products and brand, even with a shoe-string budget.
Of course, you probably know the basics of setting a traditional marketing strategy which entails focusing on the four “Ps”: product, which entails both the goods and services your business offers; Price, which is the amount of money customers need to spend on a product or service that they not only can afford but will also make you a profit; Placement, which is how and where you deliver your goods and services to clients, and Promotion. You may also already have social media accounts and use Google Analytics or another web monitoring service to analyze your website.
Beyond the basics, however, when you have a limited budget and personal bandwidth, you need to carefully pick and choose which audience you’re targeting and how to reach them most effectively, as well as think outside the box when it comes to how you promote your products and services.
Blanketing social media, radio, and television with posts and ads takes time, money and energy, and may not bring you the results you are looking for if you have not fully determined who your potential buyers are. Carefully analyze your products or services and determine who is likely to want to pay for them. Some of the factors you should be considering are:
- Age – Is your product most likely to be used by a certain age group? For example, if you sell hearing aids, you may want to target the elderly population.
- Income level – Make sure you are targeting the people who can afford your product or services. For example, if you own an expensive, gourmet restaurant, you probably won’t do well in a low-income neighborhood.
- Marital or family status – Who in a family is likely to buy your products or services?
- Occupation – Would your product or service compliment customers in a particular professional field?
- Location – What region will most of your customers be in? For example, if you sell sweatshirts and winter coats, Florida would not be the region in which you would try to target customers.
Go to Where They Are
Once you’ve determined who your customers are, the next step is to find them. Analyze the attitudes, lifestyles and behaviors of your potential customers. You can spend part of your marketing budget on hiring a firm that offers customer analysis, or you can purchase customer database software, as well as third-party data. However, both options are quite expensive.
There are ways you can conduct your own research on customer behavior and trends. You can do this by:
- Analyzing who is purchasing your product and why through online surveys. There are free online survey tools such as Typeform that can provide you with a wealth of information about your customers, including what they liked best about the customer experience and why your product or service is of value to them.
- Monitoring social media groups. If you sell pool supplies, did you know that Facebook has a chat group for pool owners? Did you know that Instagram has an entire group of users dedicated to hair care? Virtually every social media platform has specific, individual chat groups on which you can read what actual customers are saying about your industry. These will give you good insight into the attitudes and behaviors of your customers.
- Watch your competitors. What are your competitors’ marketing strategies? Are they missing a niche market that you may be able to capitalize on?
- Analyze your company’s own data. You should regularly analyze your company’s user statistics such as blog subscription data, social media insights and product usage reports. While this will take time and effort on your part, it won’t cost anything.
- Invest in third party data. While there are ways to launch a marketing campaign on a tight budget, it doesn’t mean that every service is free. You may want to make an investment in an outside firm that can provide you with general consumer statistics and trends in your specific industry.
Where to Spend Your Marketing Dollars and Energy
With a tight marketing budget, your goal as a business owner should be to place your ads and social media posts to the appropriate audience with pinpoint accuracy. Some of the things you can do to make the most of your budget and time:
Find out which social media platform is best for you and post regularly. Creating a social media account for your business and posting regularly could be the best way to reach as many potential customers as possible at once. Post your thoughts, images or videos often. Keep in mind, however, that each social media platform has different demographics and unique styles that appeal to users for different reasons. A user may look to be entertained on TikTok and may seek informative business information on LinkedIn. Some platforms focus only on video content (YouTube and TikTok), so it’s important to get to know each platform. You may even wish to spend part of your marketing budget on social media analytics software to learn more about each platform.
Place ads carefully. If you decide to invest part of your marketing budget on radio, TV or internet ads,
make sure they are being seen by the right people. If your business is local, most communities have a cable TV channel that serves the community that may be right for you. If you are selling nationally and don’t have the budget to run a commercial on primetime network TV, you should consider internet ads which are markedly cheaper. Google Ads, for example, can help place your ads with different keyword searches. You may wish to spend part of your marketing budget on ad agency software to assist you.
Post strong content. If your business website does not yet have a blog page, you should include one. Writing strong blog posts about your industry and your products or services is a cost-effective way to market yourself, and it may cost you nothing if you’re willing to write blog posts regularly and share them on social media platforms. Doing so will make you an authority, strengthen your internal linking and hopefully get you back links on other blog posts or the media. Require that your readers subscribe to your blog by giving you their email address. This way, a blog can increase your sales leads.
Invest in a customer referral program. Did you know that, according to Boston Digital, half of the businesses in the US relied on customer referrals to get new clients? Creating a customer referral program won’t cost you much, if anything, and can be a powerful way to market your brand. Incentivize your customers to refer your business to friends and family with discounts or even cash rewards.
Targeted Marketing is Crucial, but Doesn’t Have to be Expensive
Effectively marketing your products or services doesn’t have to cost you a fortune and, as mentioned above, can be done in a cost-effective way. While traditional marketing gurus recommend that at least 5% of your gross revenue should be spent on marketing, social media and internet advertising are proven, cost-effective tools to reach your potential customers that may not even cost you that much. While staying active on social media will cost you some time, it’s free. But, whichever way you decide to move forward when it comes to advertising, do your research on demographics to pinpoint the audience you want to reach.