Blog Post By: Ian J. Jennings, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Baer Performance Marketing
Most small businesses do not have large marketing budgets. Some don’t have any marketing budget. Either they don’t have the money or see no need to market. Either way, they’re wrong.
If you don’t have the money or see no need to market, you’ve already failed and just don’t know it yet. It doesn’t matter what your business is or how smart you are, somebody else will come along and do what you do better, and for less. Customers will find this person and buy their product or service over yours. Then you’ll be out of business.
So, now that you know you need it, what should you do on a tight budget?
- Fix your website: Most people will research your business, product, or service before they buy it. They’ll usually do this on the internet and especially on your website. To convert these people to paying customers, you must first ensure your website convinces them you’re worth their hard-earned money. Do the research yourself or hire a marketing agency to rework your website’s content, functionality, and mobile responsiveness. If they’re good, they’ll optimize the entire site for search and sales. Design everything with the customer in mind, and the journey they’ll take from the moment they think they need your product or service to well after the buying decision has been made.
- Targeted digital advertising: Most forms of digital advertising are cheap. Pay-per-click (PPC) is exactly what it sounds like. You pay when someone clicks on an ad on the internet they (presumably) find interesting. They’re more likely to find the ad interesting because it’s only shown to them if their browsing history dictates as much. If they don’t find the ad interesting, you get what’s called an impression, meaning they saw your ad but didn’t click. This is good because it’s free. You only pay when they click. If your website is strong, the customers who click will be more likely to buy something or contact you. If it’s bad, they’ll most likely not return and not utilize your product or service. Bad websites imply bad business judgement and inattention to important details. Refer to my first bullet.
- Utilize free publishing resources: Any social media platform worth mentioning allows users to post for free. Most allow businesses to do the same. If any relevant percentage of your target customer segment resides on these channels, you need to be there. It’s free. There is no excuse. Also, blogging. Utilize the blog on your website, and if you don’t have one, put one in during step 1. It’s cheap, easy, and a huge driver of traffic to your site if done correctly. Do it correctly, gain earned attention.
- Network and throw events: The most common refrain I hear from small businesses when I pitch our marketing agency’s services is this, “We are at capacity and can’t handle any more business, so why would we market?” I usually ask the speaker of this statement how they came about having a successful business. They almost always respond with one of two distinct answers. They either say “word of mouth” or “existing business.” By this, they mean they’ve grown from a few loyal customers into many through referrals or have continued to service customers the business had before the current ownership or management took over. Both are bad answers. Network effects and word of mouth ARE marketing, they just aren’t reliable or predictable. And they won’t scale. Use networking events to scare up business in addition to the items listed in the bullets above and below. These events will be industry specific and vary in their makeup. Intend to make two or three new and meaningful connections at these events. Pay attention. Make an impression. Look to serve those you meet, and business referrals will naturally flow. Try to host these events if you have the space and resources. If you can’t or won’t, try to sponsor and/or speak at one. The more people who see your brand and meet your employees the better!
The synergies created by a well-developed networking program, a strong website, free and cheap publishing platforms, and targeted digital advertising can help any small business on a budget grow when money is tight.
Think of these four items as a platform by which all other efforts should derive or complement. Without a good website – networking, free online publishing, and digital advertising will ultimately fail because these efforts will just keep leading the prospective customer to the bad website. Without targeted digital advertising and consistent publishing, your website and business won’t see the traffic and leads it should, and any web design efforts will be wasted. Without personal outreach through networking and events, your small business will seem isolated and abstract.
Build a strong base, and growth will follow. When you’ve narrowed down the specifics of what will work for your business within these channels, hammer away relentlessly, and you’ll grow so much you’ll be begging for it to stop.
For more information on budget-conscious advertising, please contact Baer Performance Marketing today!