By Jennifer Calero, MBA
Today’s small business owner wears many hats and one of those is usually Marketing Director. This can be a tough one for many owners, especially those that have no experience with marketing. I understand not every business has the money to have a huge marketing budget and to hire someone to manage it, so here are my top 5 tips for marketing a small business on a budget that every owner can use.
1. Set a Budget
The amount you choose is up to you and should be based on what you can afford, but just set a marketing budget. You will hear some experts say that you should devote between 8 and 10 percent of your annual revenue to marketing and advertising. While I agree you need a budget, I don’t agree that you have to follow the “percentage of sales” rule. My suggestion is to think about the goals and objectives you hope to achieve through marketing and set your budget accordingly.
2. Have a Plan
So you set a budget, now what? Many owners will spend their budget over the course of the year on things as they come up until their budget runs out. Instead, I would suggest being a bit more strategic by mapping out your year. If January is historically slow, plan to advertise in December to generate business for the upcoming month. Think about holidays. If you are in a business that benefits from the different holidays, devote marketing dollars to advertising your holiday items and start promoting them as early as October. Having a plan should help you to maximize your budget by spending marketing dollars when it will be most beneficial to the company.
3. Take Advantage of Low-Cost Marketing Tactics
Not every company can afford to be on TV or to take out an ad in the newspaper. Advertising is expensive. If your budget is limited, try focusing on low-cost tactics like the use of email. Get your current customers to advertise for you by getting them to sign up for an e-newsletter. Use a free or low-cost program like Sendinblue or Constant Contact, to generate monthly e-newsletters with promotions and other information that can promote your business. In each email, be sure to ask your current clients to share your newsletter with friends. Word of mouth is the best free advertising you can get. Build a referral program that fits into your business and your customers will be working for you without even knowing it.
Another low-cost marketing tactic is using social media. I say low cost because social media can be time-consuming, so it’s not totally free. You have to think of the cost of your time but social media can be a great way to market your business inexpensively. Again, have a plan. Don’t just go on and post random things each day. Make your posts thought-provoking, engage readers and encourage interaction.
4. Invest in a Good Website
You would be surprised at how many small businesses do not have a website. I am embarrassed to admit that my own Father did not have a website up until last year when I made him one for Christmas. He has been in business for over 30 years and his company was built on referrals like many small businesses. He never saw the value in devoting the budget to getting a website or in doing any advertising for that matter.
The fact is though, the world is digital now.
When consumers are looking for a new company to do business with, they turn to the Internet for a referral. You do not have to spend a ton, but devote some resources to getting a professional website. If you have a website, give it a facelift. For someone who finds you online, your website is the first impression they will get of your company so make sure it sends the message you want to deliver.
5. Be Honest With Yourself
Many small business owners try to do things themselves to save money. I completely understand. I’ve worked for small businesses, non-profits and everything in between that have all tried to do tasks in-house as a means of being cost conscious. Sometimes it works out, but sometimes it doesn’t. Most marketing collateral produced by an amateur designer looks like it came from an amateur designer. I suggest you hire a professional to create anything that is going to end up in the hands of your customers. You don’t have to hire an expensive agency if you can’t afford one. Find a freelancer that can do it for you and shop around, there are a lot to choose from. There are also a lot of websites available where you can post freelance jobs, giving you access to freelancers everywhere.
Marketing isn’t easy. People go to school for years to learn about it and even after that it requires continuous education to keep up with an ever-changing industry. Regardless of where the industry ends up, remember my 5 tips to marketing for a small business on a budget and your marketing strategy will be off to a good start.
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Jennifer Calero is the author of Pin or Pass, a blog devoted to exploring Pinterest and a freelance Marketing Professional. With over 10 years of experience in the marketing and communications industry, Jennifer is an experienced marketing manager that knows how to create a strategy and implement it while working within a reasonable budget to reach your target audience. Jennifer lives in Buffalo, New York with her husband and two children. To connect with Jennifer about Pin or Pass, find her on Facebook or Twitter. To connect with her about marketing, find her on LinkedIn or at jcalero.com.
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