Data from HubSpot say the third top marketing challenge execs face is a lack of budgeting resources.
Unless you are a startup with venture or angel capital, you probably have a limited marketing budget. Here some ways you can market your business with a limited budget.
1. Go guerilla.
Guerilla marketing can insert creativity, imagination and originality in place of a big budget. Smart small businesses with a limited budget often use guerilla marketing to compete with huge companies. There is no shortage of creative guerilla marketing ideas. Here are just a few examples:
If you have a brick and mortar location, pay someone to create eye-catching art with chalk.
If you sell a product that can be used on the street, employ undercover agents to promote your product directly to potential customers. For example, Sony hired agents to ask strangers to take photos of them and then raved about their camera.
Organize a flash mob to garner crowd attention and promote awareness of your brand.
2. Socialize on social media.
According to the Pew Research Center Report of Social Media Usage: 2005-2015, nearly two-thirds of American adults use social media—a near tenfold increase within the last decade.
Popular social media channels include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Snapchat. Each of these social media platforms are unique in its own right and require unique ways of engagement. Rather than try to master it all at once, choose a few you like and try to master those first.
3. Create valuable content.
Not only do potential customers love great content, but so does Google. There are many ways to share information — blogging, creating videos, hosting podcasts, designing infographics or submitting articles to online authority sites. Not only do you gain authority as an expert, but you also get free traffic. You can also offer to be a guest blogger for another complementary website or be interviewed on a podcast.
You don’t always have to produce the content yourself. You can hire freelance writers, graphic designers and personal assistants through websites like Upwork. If you run out of ideas, you can repurpose old content and give it a new spin.
4. Contests and giveaways.
Everyone loves free gifts! Give away desirable or fun items to gain goodwill, build brand awareness and connect with potential customers. They don’t need to be expensive. Things such as online ebooks, white papers and checklists don’t cost you anything but your time.
You can also promote your products through Facebook groups where members agree to try your product for free or a discounted price in exchange for an honest review. Physical gifts with your advertising on it such as balloons, smartphone wipes, key chains, fridge magnets, pens and notepads are always popular too.
You can also create a viral marketing effect by making your marketing interesting, attractive and fun. One of the craziest marketing efforts that went viral is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. People dared their friends and family to pour ice cold water on themselves within 24 hours. Those who failed to do so would then have to donate to the ALS charity.
5. Piggyback your partners.
When you are a small business with a limited marketing budget, it makes sense to partner with other complementary businesses. These can include manufacturers, suppliers and vendors. Not only do you both win when your businesses succeed, but there is added credibility when another business recommends you.
As an example, you can exchange customer lists and offer to pay the business a commission for every sale you make. Just make sure that you have requested permission from your customers to share their details!
For direct mail marketing, offer to share postage costs and include your flyer with the other businesses’ mail. If the other business has a physical retail space, ask to put your business cards in their customer waiting area.
You can also seek partners within your existing customer base. Create a referral rewards program where you reward your customers for referring business to you. Word of mouth is extremely effective when it comes to marketing.
6. Leverage scalable advertising channels.
Conventional advertising mediums such as TV, radio and newspaper ads can be extremely costly and hard to measure effectiveness, but online advertising can be cheaper and more targeted. Popular options are Google Pay Per Click ads and Facebook ads. Also, don’t forget to list your business in free online directories like Google Business for Google Maps and Yelp.
You also can promote your latest products and services through these free or cost effective methods:
A telephone message that plays your promotions while customers are on hold.
Window decals advertising your latest offer if you have a retail shop.
Car magnets and bumper stickers displaying your advertising while you drive around town.
Advertising on email signatures or letterheads.
Sending special holiday discounts, birthday coupons and surprise rewards to your mailing list.
7. Milk the reporters and journalists.
Getting your business featured by media professionals is free marketing. To capture their attention, try these approaches:
Create a publicity stunt. Think of some of the crazy ones that Richard Branson has pulled off including dressing as a female flight attendant onboard his airline.
Do something for the community, and send out a press release prior to the event. For example, some innovative hair dressers have offered free haircuts to the homeless.
Sponsor an event by donating your products or services as giveaways or prizes or host a contest.
Nominate yourself for a business contest or award.
You can also seek opportunities to be interviewed for print, radio and TV. To look for opportunities to contribute your expertise, sign up to an email list like Help A Reporter Out.
8. Help yourself by helping others.
All your marketing should be of some use to your audience. There are many ways that you can make your marketing efforts a welcome intrusion rather than an annoyance to your audience. Try these:
Provide useful information. Information marketing has proven to be highly effective in increasing sales. By educating your audience on problems that they care about, you are also not only growing your customer base but also positioning yourself as the solution. To do this, host a Meetup group, an event, a class or even an online webinar. Offer to speak at events.
Provide assistance. Answer questions posted on forums and websites such as Quora and direct your audience to your website for more information. There are online directories that list a whole variety of forums such as Find A Forum.Net.
Entertain your audience. Make them laugh or cry. Think of the funny and touching ads that you see and how quickly they are shared.
Marketing with limited budget is possible. For success, you must think outside of the box.
Christ W. Dunn is the founder and CEO of Skill Incubator. A version of this article first appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Copyright © 2014 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.