12 Thrifty Ways To Advertise A Small Business On A Budget

By November 20, 2017 2 Comments

Know you need to get the word out about your business but on a tight budget? We get it. And you’re not out of luck if advertising money is hard to come by.

While marketing your business will be more difficult with little to no money, it’s 100% doable to attract a new audience that will push your business to the next level.

In fact, this predicament can be used to your company’s advantage if you’re smart and hard working enough.

There’s power in a company having a chip on its shoulder knowing it doesn’t have extra money to throw around for marketing. You’re going into an uphill battle, so it’s put up or shut up time. This often gets the most out of people.

Plus, what’s the alternative? Are you going to not advertise or market your business? Good luck with that strategy. It’ll end in disaster and missed expectations quarter after quarter.

Stop that. Do grow your business with the savvy, inexpensive marketing strategies below.

Ways To Bootstrap Your Marketing On A Budget

1. Email marketing

If you’re a regular reader of the Illumen Insider Blog, this is about the fifth time in a month that we’ve ranted about email marketing. But we do that for a reason.

This is such a simple and effective outlet to bring in new revenue—not to mention it’s free!

This strategy boils down to collecting email addresses, nurturing the leads with weekly emails that provide value, and then selling to them around once a month to grow your business.

How you do it is up to you, whether you add it into your e-commerce checkout process, add email capture pop ups to your website, incentivize customers giving their emails for in-store credit, or other creative ways, it’s a sound business practice to follow up with interested consumers.

If you’re new here and haven’t seen the bush beaten about email marketing, read this, this, and this data article. Then follow through to build and contact your email your list so your business revenue takes off.

2. Publish videos

The blogging tactic is great but—hands down—if executed well, videos are more likely to go viral and cash in for your brand than any other form of content.

Videos break through the “get to know your brand” wall by presenting your company’s personality, voice, and message all in one easy to consume medium.

What could you do a video on? Its focus could be on how to use your product for maximum results, an entertaining video to get people excited about your brand, a founder’s story, a history of your company, thanking your current customers, and a host of other countless ideas.

To get a feel for a business video done well, check this out.

Once the video is produced, publish it on your website, a blog post, social media profiles, and email it to your list. If you can get this video done for free with in-house equipment, it will be an even bigger marketing win.

3. Improve website for SEO

Do you realize that a few tweaks to your website can bring in many more page views (and paying customers)? This is a fact. And your business should get on this.

The simple premise is there are tips and tricks to add to your website that will tip off Google that your company is about this subject, in a certain location, and people searching for what you sell should be sent to your page.

A website optimized for search engines has a full grasp on:

  • Keywords
  • Headings
  • Meta tags
  • Image titles and alt tags
  • Header and footer information
  • External links
  • Being mobile optimized
  • Fast website speed
  • Valuable content

If you don’t understand any of this then first read this Backlinko guide for on site SEO.

And blogging is a complimentary growth hack for optimizing your site for search engines.

4. Blogging

The beauty of blogging is that your company always wins the leverage game. What I mean is when you put out high quality content on the internet, qualified leads are going to search for information and visit your site.

This type of inbound marketing is powerful since the visitor is in need of something—information or looking to buy—and landing on your site they subconsciously recognize you’re offering the exact thing they want. The psychology behind this, and the fact you’re not trying to hunt their business down with an advertisement, significantly improves the odds you get a sale.

For example, consider this data:

  • Content marketing (blogging) costs 62% less than traditional marketing and returns about 3 times as many business leads – Demand Metric
  • 82% of marketers who blog see positive ROI from their inbound marketing – HubSpot
  • Content marketing leaders experience 7.8 times more site traffic than non-leaders – Marketeer

This advice comes from a hardcore blogger, and I’m only hardcore given the incredible results of putting out blog content. Any company looking for more leads, brand awareness, and industry authority must blog.

5. Fresh Facebook content

Facebook isn’t going anywhere. It’s by no means the trendiest social media platform, but its reach is and will always be top notch.

That’s precisely why the more Facebook posts your company publishes means more chances your audience will like, comment, or share your content and introduce your brand to their friends.

You need to be consistently posting at least once a day and probably more now that organic reach is getting destroyed.

To combat the organic reach decline, consider throwing a $100 or more behind an ad to see if it gets any traction. Sometimes that is enough to get more people to see it and then they’ll share it to their friends, which gives you free reach.

Sorry to break it to you, but you have to experiment and put effort into social media to stay relevant in today’s marketplace. The next two thrifty marketing tactics are under the same umbrella.

6. Daily Instagram posts

B2C companies not on Instagram in 2017 have already been and will continue to miss out on growing their brand. Don’t get me started with how foolish it is to not be on this platform if your company’s target audience is millennials.

Publish a picture or video post once a day and then take the following steps below to grow your account: create a content plan for the next 30 days so it’s easy to know what to post daily, comment 30 relevant and local hashtags to every one of your posts, get shoutouts from Instagram influencers, like and comment on other Instagram profiles, and consider running a giveaway to grow your following.

Then link to your business website in your profile and you’ll get people clicking to your website to learn more.

While it may be less beneficial for B2B companies, it certainly can’t hurt.

Fun fact: The best time to post to Instagram is 8 AM to 9 AM.

7. Frequent Twitter activity


JetBlue is all in on Twitter marketing to the point where they respond to every single question tweeted to them.

Twitter is another free option to advertise your business. Post insightful, educational, or inspirational content around your business and people will start to follow and pay attention to your brand.

If you decide to produce content on your website, Twitter might be the best outlet to share it and get others on your website.

Keep in mind that Twitter also rules when it comes to customer service for your business.

Here are convincing stats from a Twitter blog post we published this summer about why Twitter matters:

  • 54% of Twitter users took action after seeing a brand mentioned on Twitter
  • 76% of consumers are likely to refer a company after positive customer service
  • 60% of customers expect brands to get back to them within 1 hour
  • 80% of users mentioned a company in their tweet

Spreading your brand and serving your customers better all in one place? That’s a winner.

8. Call previous customers

What’s the best part about previous customers? They’ve already decided to take their business to you in the past.

This inherently means your company has two very important benefits going for it, assuming the experience went well, with a previous customer: you’ve earned enough of their trust and they’re already aware of you.

Most companies don’t capitalize on their past customers and leave a goldmine of dollars untouched right under their nose. That’s not going to be your business anymore.

You’re going to get someone on your staff to call every single past customer that’s bought the most expensive to the least expensive item. Whether you speak to them directly or leave a message, the key point is to mention an offer they might be interested in and encourage them to come back with their business in the most polite way possible.

Dialing like this is an easy and free option to bring in a rush of new business.

9. Send a letter in the mail to customers

Maybe you don’t have phone numbers of previous customers (that’s not smart but let’s say you don’t collect them) though you do have their address.

Design a creative direct mailer with a special offer for them who bring this mailer at the time of purchase. You can make it postcard size and don’t have to get a special 3-D effect to cut costs.

A restaurant can advertise people who come in with this card get a free appetizer—and then make money when they bring others and buy their main entrees. A nail salon can advertise a special around a certain holiday or season for past customers. You get the point.

Not only will this translate to immediate sales, it will also boost your brand awareness and lead to future sales.

Plus, with everything going digital nowadays, sometimes it’s powerful to switch it up and use an old form of marketing like mail.

(This is probably the most expensive option on this list and it’s far cheaper than any TV, radio, or billboard ad.)

10. Incentivize customers to market your business

How does this sound, you incentivize your customers enough that they go about their day marketing your business for you?

It’s totally possible and your business should start doing it because it works.

For example, for one of our Illumen Media chiropractor clients, we designed a referral card for patients to hand out to other people they know. The way this works is current patients who refer a new patient are gifted with the new patient special price for their next visit.

And the chiropractor loves it because he only needed to spend $20 getting the cards printed but he’s getting loads of new business walking through his door with a salesforce not on his payroll (his patients).

What can you incentivize your current customers with to tell their friends, family, and colleagues? Come up with a good answer and then follow through with this because it can change the entire health of your business.

11. Run a giveaway

If you’re not used to spending money on advertising or marketing, this won’t be your favorite option on the list. But a giveaway could generate the most new leads and sales if you do it the right way.

A giveaway executed correctly will get your brand in front of thousands of new customers, collect their emails, and give the brand an opportunity to reach out to them for future buying asks.

The way you communicate your giveaway (social media post, video, a blog post on your website) and the qualifying rules are up to you (people commenting on a social media post, entering their email, or sharing your video, for example).

But I stand by the fact your business has some extra inventory, software, or gift that you can give away and it won’t cost much at all. Or buy the perfect gift that only people in your target audience will appreciate most.

Giving away money upfront to make more money on the backend works well for all types of businesses. This strategy won’t fail yours.

Related: 10 Creative Facebook Giveaways To Jumpstart New Business

12. Build your Google listing reviews

(If your business doesn’t have a Google listing, you should totally create or claim one here. It’s an easy process.)

Once that’s up and populated with the right information, it’s all about getting positive reviews to fill that listing.

You know why? The more positive reviews you have plays a factor in Google’s algorithm of what companies show up when a local types in “(insert what your company does) (insert your city)”.

That fact along with the data from BrightLocal presents convincing arguments to pursue getting more Google reviews:

  • 84% of people give online reviews the same importance as personal recommendations
  • 58% of customers feel the star rating of a business is the most important
  • 70% of consumers will review a business when asked
  • 9 out of 10 people will read 10 reviews or less before reaching an opinion about a business

The key data point here is if you ask your customers for reviews, they will leave them. Then your business will rank higher in local Google searches. And you’ll have a steady stream of new business coming to you, without having to dip into your marketing budget

This reputation upgrade and marketing opportunity is simply too good to pass up.

Thrifty Advertising Wrap Up

Businesses have single-handedly been built on the back of free or inexpensive marketing. Given that fact, you have to be fired up and think, “Why not us?”

The only thing stopping you from getting your products or services in front of more consumers is good old fashioned hustle.

If you want it badly enough and put in the work required, it’s inevitable you’re going to succeed.

Small businesses who fail either don’t know how to market themselves—that’s not an excuse after reading this—are lazy, or are impatient.

Commit your company and yourself to the thrifty advertising hustle until it produces enough cash flow that you can reinvest into paid marketing.

Your business will boom when get the most out of both free and paid advertising. For now, just focus on gaining momentum as cheaply as possible.

What’s a thrifty way a small business can advertise that’s not mentioned in this article?

Brian Robben

Author Brian Robben

More posts by Brian Robben

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