As a general rule, the U.S. Small Business Administration recommends that businesses bringing in less than $5 million annually allocate between 7 and 8 percent of their revenue to marketing. While that kind of broad-strokes advice can be helpful guidance, many new or small businesses might perceive the recommended percentage to be too small to have any real impact.
That’s simply untrue. A business doesn’t need to craft a Super Bowl-sized advertising campaign just to ensure the effort won’t be wasted. Recall the adage that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Nor, too, can you build an established brand identity in a short amount of time. But you can steadily grow your business, even during lean times, using cost-effective marketing ideas paired with the patience of seeing them through.
There are a host of marketing channels and tactics that can make the splash you want without breaking the bank. Here are five ideas to get you started.
1. Craft an Elevator Pitch
As a business owner or sales person, you are always in a position to reach potential customers–wherever you are. Therefore, it’s imperative to develop an attention-grabbing elevator pitch to use any time someone asks, “So, what do you do?” It’s called an elevator pitch because you should be able to deliver it confidently in the hypothetical amount of time you might share with someone in an elevator.
These unplanned encounters are almost unilaterally brief, but are teeming with untapped potential. Your pitch must be creative, compelling and laser-focused on the value your business brings to customers. Memorize and practice it, so you can speak with casual confidence and not sound robotic. Hand over a business card at your conclusion, so the newly-forged relationship can develop at a later time.
2. Develop a Customer Referral Program
The power of word-of-mouth marketing is potent. Leverage customers, business partners and friends to help tell your story through referrals.
An established referral program builds a network of positive feedback for your business, because when someone passes along their good experience to a friend, that person now has a favorable impression of your business. You just have to reinforce that feeling.
Referral programs are also completely customizable and can easily be tailored to your industry and budget. Many businesses encourage referrals by offering incentives like discounts, free products or gift cards to a local restaurant.
3. Implement a Social Media Strategy
Research indicates 73 percent of marketers believe social media has ranged between being “somewhat” to “very effective” in growing their business. In this day and age, it’s impossible to ignore the benefits afforded by this marketing channel.
Get active on the platforms your customers use, and focus on building a relationship with your followers through meaningful, two-way conversations. Avoid solely using social media to “advertise” your business. While it is very useful for sharing information directly to your customer base, it is just as easy to answer their questions, address feedback, and sometimes have some fun in the comments section.
To boost the relevancy and appeal of your account, consider sharing:
- Tips and educational content
- How-to videos or DIY projects
- Sneak peeks at new inventory
- Coupon codes and exclusive offers
- Surveys and quizzes
Other social media tips:
- Incorporate keywords in your bios so search engines can find you.
- Use hashtags to make your content more discoverable.
- Review analytics to determine which types of posts are the most popular and the best time for your business to publish content.
4. Maintain a Blog
Seventy-seven percent of Internet users read blogs regularly, and businesses that maintain updated blogs produce an average of 67 percent more leads monthly than companies that don’t.
Blogs provide a solution to readers’ needs, rather than simply urge them to buy goods or services. Being informational, rather than promotional, can build awareness among consumers who might not otherwise seek out your business’ offerings.
Regardless of whether you produce your own content—or partner with a marketing agency—blogging is often far more affordable than most outbound advertising tactics. Studies find content marketing, like blogs, generates more than three times as many leads as traditional marketing and costs 62 percent less.
5. Become the Industry Expert
Let the local or national media know you are available to provide quotes for stories related to your line of work. Be proactive by reaching out about trending or controversial topics. You can also increase your visibility by attending networking events, contributing to LinkedIn discussions, and commenting on relevant news stories on social media.
By becoming a “known expert” in your industry, you may even be asked to speak at events or conferences, where you can continue to build your reputation.
You Can Market on A Tight Budget
A limited budget is a common constraint for new and small businesses, but it can be overcome by using the right marketing channels and tactics. By determining what best resonates with your target audience, and delivering that content consistently, you can stretch your marketing dollars and see dividends similar to your “big-budget” competitors.
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