10 Low-Cost Marketing Techniques For Small Business

by | Mar 5, 2013 | EduSocial Blog | 9 comments

All business owners must balance budget and growth. It is particularly difficult in the beginning when expenses are high and market share and customer loyalty don’t exist yet. When push comes to shove and the dollars diminish, the marketing engine — the lifeblood of sales! — often takes the first spending hit.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 10 low-cost marketing techniques that apply to almost any small business.

1) Business Cards

Business cards are essential, but you’d be surprised how many people do not invest in this primary marketing tool. For example, local farmers regularly approach us to supply meat and produce at our neighborhood grocery. Most do not carry a business card. Those who expect us to write down their contact information wonder why we don’t consider them professional enough to warrant a vendor relationship. This isn’t because farmers are not professional; it’s because some farmers do not treat their business with the respect it deserves. This is true in other professions, too.

At minimum, your business card should include your business telephone number, and website address. (You do have a website, right?)

2) Free Content or Information

Content marketing is hot, hot, hot, and for good reason. With so much information available at our fingertips your prospects will be searching online for solutions to their problems. Make it easy to “pop” in front of prospects by providing content and other free information. Don’t skimp. If you “give away” knowledge generously this can make your expertise be perceived as more valuable.

3) Consumer Guides

One way to start your “free content” marketing plan is to create an informative consumer guide around the need your business serves. Make sure the consumer guide is the highest quality possible and be sure the emphasis is on the reader, not self-promotion. Brand it, and distribute your guide through your social media networks and offer it on your website for free download.

4) Personal Letters

Delivering a personalized letter through the “old-fashioned” post office route can have extremely good return on time and cost investment.

The key is to compile a small but highly targeted list of current and prospective customers or clients. Remember: It is easier to sell to existing customers/clients than find new ones. If your actions and messaging are consistent you’ll earn your customers’ trust and they will recommend you to others.

5) Service/Community Groups

Every one of us has a community, and each of us is capable of serving others. Serving your community also happens to be a great way to generate awareness about your business and its products or services. If you give with a generous and genuine heart you’ll discover your volunteer efforts will be repaid.

6) Word-of-Mouth

No marketing is stronger, cheaper, or more effective than word-of-mouth referral. What’s the problem? Word-of-mouth (“WOM”) is the most difficult thing to earn because for it to work it has to come from the heart of your existing customer. So, don’t focus on artificially generating “WOM” — focus your efforts on “WOW.” Give your absolute best, no matter your circumstances, and give it at every opportunity. Few businesses truly aim to “WOW,” and when you do, “WOM” takes care of itself.

7) Referral Incentives

Multi-level marketing (“MLM”) businesses deserve to get a bad rep if the business veers into the illegal “pyramid scheme” territory. However, MLM businesses do one thing well, and every cash-strapped business owner should take note: they incentivize business referrals. You can do the same with your business by rewarding customers who bring new customers. Rewards should be generous enough to entice, but be sure to check legality. There may be restrictions in your specific industry (like financial planning services) or laws regarding specific kinds of referral incentives (like giving away alcohol), for example.

8) Marketing Partners

Look around you — there are several businesses you know of, use, or interact with on a regular basis that could become formal or informal marketing partners. Cross-promotion benefits both parties. Ask allied businesses to refer you and offer to do the same in return. These arrangements can be online, offline, or both.

9) Empty Storefront Ads

Are there empty storefronts in your neighborhood or along your typical commuting route? Approach the owners about advertising your business in the window until they find a tenant. You may be able to score prime advertising space at a fraction of the cost of billboards.

10) Social Media (with caveats)

Social media — Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus — can be a great way to connect with current and prospective customers/clients. However, social media alone won’t produce sales. Set up a regular time to interact on social media. Use the time to strengthen these relationships. One word of caution: Don’t get hung up on social media and neglect the real work of business-building. For example, Facebook business pages no longer offer their former value. Now considerably fewer fans see your updates unless you pay for a sponsored post ad — which is, of course, not inexpensive.

What are your favorite frugal marketing tips?


  1. Natalie Pantaleo Smoley

    Here’s another one:

    Ask the Expert – An Inexpensive Yet Powerful Marketing Tool

    If you were in the market for a used car, whom would you ask for advice?

    The obvious answer is your auto mechanic. After all he’s a guy you trust, an obvious expert in his field, and his advice is free.

    However, you may not realize your simple question is working a covert marketing mission for your mechanic.

    The very moment he provides advice he is knowingly or unknowingly employing a powerful tool, hence giving birth to or building a relationship.

    Objectively, it looks like this:

    1. Subject A wants something, obligation-free, from Subject B.
    2. Subject B is happy to oblige because Subject A is either one of his current or potential customers.
    3. By answering, Subject B is positioning himself as the expert in his field.
    4. Subject A is happy because he’s the recipient of valuable knowledge that will assist with the objective at hand.

    Being an “expert” carries tremendous value as the go-to for a product or service. Likewise, it carries tremendous responsibility for living up to the promise.

    Sharing your knowledge “free of charge” may be just the creative remedy for building your business on a tight budget.

    Here’s how:

    Step 1
    Set-up live chat on your website. (You may have to utilize a 3rd party vendor.)

    Step 2
    Work out the operational details before launching. Identify the person responsible for coordinating and delivering responses. Establish your on-line chat hours.

    Step 3
    Promote your new “Ask the Expert” live chat.

    Step 4
    DELIVER. Respond in the time frame promised (even if your response is that more time is needed to research the answer).

    Step 5
    Capture email addresses of those who submit questions and maintain a database for future marketing.

    Step 6
    Never get too cocky as “the expert” – it’s a coveted title to defend.

    -Natalie Pantaleo Smoley
    VP Marketing & PR
    DSC Advertising

  2. atiqur rahman

    No doubt your low cost 9 points are excellent, this is the first time I seen a point Word-of-mouth (“WOM”) …I never thought this excellent point …and personally I always prefer “follow-up” and “community” techniques better for small business. Anyway, overall I must say starting a small business owner can be befitted of your low cost 10 points.

  3. creativity

    We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your website provided us with valuable info to work on. You’ve done an impressive job and our entire community will be thankful to you.

  4. Oswaldo Dagnon

    Realized a whole lot. Super easy to fully grasp. Thanks for sharing with us 🙂

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