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How to market a small business on a budget

The world of marketing poses a challenge to many small and medium-sized business owners. 

  • Some don’t realise which marketing activities they should be doing 
  • Others may be concerned about the cost of implementing a marketing strategy (and the cost of failure)
  • While others may be running marketing activities but are unsure how to evaluate them to improve the winners and drop the losers! 

 

Small business marketing involves several activities, including lead generation, content creation, data capture and more. These all work together to improve conversion rates and meet your marketing goals. 

Just because there are lots of tactics that you can do, and have worked well for others, does not mean they are cost-effective or will return a good enough return on investment for your business versus your available budget. SME business owners do have to make tough decisions about where to invest their marketing budget and not, especially in the early days when they don’t have the profit from previous marketing activity to re-invest. 

In this blog we run through how to make those crucial decisions about investing in your marketing and four tactics or channels you are unlikely to be wanting to miss out on!

Start at the beginning…with a marketing strategy

Before beginning to decide on which tactics might suit your business best, it’s essential to consider the range of digital marketing strategies available to you. Many business owners are unsure about how to develop a marketing strategy for their small or medium-sized business.

However, these strategies will provide you with a ‘sales funnel’ that acts as a guideline so that your marketing efforts are meaningful and impactful, with actual business results. 

By having a business marketing strategy and plan in place, you ensure that you know why you are doing what you are doing, and when

So how do you create a marketing strategy for a small business? 

To create this plan, firstly you need to understand the sales journey for your customer, and also to work out what your short and long term plans are for the business. Once you know these things you can begin to assign marketing tactics to each of the customer stages of the plan. 

As an example: when first searching for prospective customers, you may want to focus your online marketing on lead generation and data capture via email addresses, whereas for previous customers you may decide you need to focus on building brand loyalty and increasing your credibility as a company through ratings and reviews. 

To gain a better understanding of this, why not have a read of our book “Growing by Design”, which we specifically wrote for businesses owners who want better results from the effort and investment they put into marketing. Inside, you’ll find The Common 10, which is the very same marketing strategy that we have developed and refined for our own business.

There is also a short introductory video about the Common 10 you can watch. These would certainly be our recommended first point of call for anyone looking at how to develop a marketing strategy for a small business on a budget.

The benefits of digital marketing for a small business

Once your marketing plan is in place and you understand where you are aiming to go with the business, it’s time to set a marketing budget. 

One of the main benefits of using digital marketing over traditional marketing is the flexibility in budget options provided, the speed with which you can determine whether something is ‘working’ or not, and therefore turn the tap on or off of your spending, as well as the range of digital channels you can market across. 

Most social media platforms are entirely free to access and can reach hundreds of thousands of people purely through organic posts. Of course, paid advertising is available, and this adds to the effectiveness that is already built into the platform. 

Another great example is how Google Ads allows you to set a daily budget for ad spend. This is a very versatile tool for smaller businesses that want to experiment with the use of ads, without breaking the bank. 

Our marketing channel tips

Here are the top four marketing channels we see regularly bringing in the greatest return to SMEs to help get you started.

Please note that every business is different, and this is not a one size fits all model. Still, it should help your thinking as to what you are doing currently and whether you are making the most of the options available to you when you are looking at how to develop a marketing campaign for your small business.

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Organic social media

It’s no secret that paid advertising on social media works. Getting your content in front of attentive audiences across multiple platforms is always a great idea. However, these services can be confusing for first-time users. They also make it very easy to spend lots of money without necessarily providing a great return on investment when not set up or tracked correctly. 

A great alternative is to use ‘organic’ social media posts. This is just another way of saying any social posts that are not paid advertisements, and the best part about them is that they are entirely free – besides the time required to create, of course. 

There are a few key points to consider when using organic social media posts to ensure they are effective:

  • Consistent branding across all of your channels
  • Correctly sized images for each platform
  • Fully completed profiles on all channels 
  • Post regularly (but don’t spam your followers with content)
  • Consider your SEO (search engine optimisation), ensure that you are using relevant hashtags and keywords
  • Engage with your followers regularly
  • Focus on what your followers want to hear, not what you want to say to them! 

 

Finally, the main thing to remember is that your content needs to be creative and original. Whilst using paid social media advertising combined with great organic posts is the most effective way to grow, it’s more than possible for you to develop a large following by creating high-quality, creative content that grabs people’s attention and makes them remember you. 

This then gives you an audience to market to, keeps you front of the mind, and puts you in a prime position for social referrals and recommendations.

Blogs

One of the best ways to connect with your potential customers is content marketing. We already covered this a little in the first point about social media posts, but creating blogs for your website is another excellent way to find your audience.

Blogs are a brilliant way to keep your website ranking higher in search engine results by creating SEO-optimised content with keywords and topics that will attract the target audience you are looking for. 

The great thing about blogs is that, much like social media, they can be created without spending money on marketing platforms. There is an investment associated with planning, developing, uploading and promoting them, of course in terms of human resources, but you have complete and easy control of how much you invest.

A key point to remember with blogs is that they should be created with specific goals in mind. It’s best not to ramble and instead stick to an agreed topic. This makes it much easier to identify keywords and phrases to add to your content, which will enable people to find it that much easier. 

Here are some ideas to get you started with blog writing, even if you don’t consider yourself a particularly creative writer: 

  • Product reviews
  • Top-10 lists
  • Industry interviews
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Client testimonials

 

It’s generally a good idea to try and post a blog each week to ensure that your site remains ‘fresh’.

Furthermore, having a good number of high-quality blogs on your website will show potential clients that you know what you are talking about and present you as an authority on the topic, making them more likely to choose your business.

Website

Leading on from blogs, having a website is vital in today’s business landscape. A website can be thought of as your most important salesperson, working day and night to promote your business to the wider world. 

A website is often the first time a potential customer will see and interact with your business, so it’s crucial to get it right and make a solid first impression. 

Whilst it is possible to spend upwards of a thousand pounds on a website in some scenarios, there are also many cost-effective routes you can take.

Platforms like WordPress provide affordable options for businesses of small sizes, with some platforms even offering free options. 

It’s essential to ensure that your website works on both desktop and mobile devices, as a recent study showed that 53.98% of traffic comes from mobile devices now.

Thankfully, most web design platforms will automatically adjust your site when displayed on mobile, but it’s something to keep in mind and double-check when making any changes.  

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Email marketing

Another powerful marketing tool is the use of mailing lists to keep in touch with your customers. In fact, in 2020, 4 out of 5 marketers said they would rather drop social media than email marketing, which shows how important it can be. 

Use your website and social media to grow an engaged mailing list from the ground up organically. One of the best ways to do this is through a ‘data exchange’. 

How many times have you visited a website for a company you’re somewhat interested in, only to be bombarded by popups asking for you to sign up for their mailing list? Did you input your email and sign up? 

Generally, the answer is no…

However, what if the company offered a free guide for a product or service you were interested in, in exchange for your email? 

In this case, it’s much more likely that you’d be happy to hand over your details, as you are receiving something of value in exchange. This is the basis of data exchange, and it is a very effective way of collecting details of potential customers. 

Once you have begun to collect a list of leads who you know are at least somewhat interested in your services or product, it makes it much easier to start to create e-shots (marketing emails) to promote your business. 

There are various services that you can use, which really comes down to personal preference. Some do provide free trials, so you can see if they are right for you, and others offer a free plan with reduced features. 

But don’t forget, for email campaigns to be at their most effective you need:

  • A strong email headline that will grab the user’s attention and get them to open your email
  • An on-brand design and layout, using the right logo, fonts and branded colours (they need to know it’s from you!)
  • Engaging and creative writing to ensure your email is actually read and any call to action is clicked on.

Growth by design

Marketing a small or medium-sized business on a budget requires informed decisions and multiple skills across multiple marketing channels.

You can see why it’s easy to get your marketing into a mess without some expert guidance!

To help you get started, take a look at the range of marketing tactics and channels available to you via our marketing services page – as a full-service SME marketing agency you can see the breadth of what is involved.

In addition, why not book yourself a complimentary marketing review with one of our experts? 

You will come away from the marketing review with:

  1. More knowledge and confidence in your marketing
  2. A better understanding of what works and doesn’t work for your business
  3. Suggestions for how to change and improve marketing for business growth.

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