Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the first half of 2022 (highly unlikely if you run a business), you’ll know that tough times are ahead—that’s if the consequences of a lengthy pandemic and the war in Ukraine have not already had a detrimental effect on your profitability.
It’s time for small-business owners to tighten the belt wherever possible—perhaps on every aspect of their budgets, including marketing. Of course, like many small enterprises, you might not have a generous marketing budget anyway, in which case this article is for you too.
In it, we’ll give you some helpful tips to keep your business in the public eye and attract potential customers, without the high cost of paid advertising and other big-business marketing tactics.
Marketing Challenges for Small or New Businesses
Do you run an established business with a tight marketing budget or an enterprise that needs to cut marketing costs? Or are you new to running a business and short on marketing knowledge? In any of these cases, this article should prove helpful.
It’s common enough for small to medium enterprises to be bereft of marketing expertise, and to lack the financial power required to compete with the big brands.
If that sums your commercial operation up to a tee, here are eight ideas to help you achieve stellar marketing results without needing in-house marketing experts—and without sinking endless sums of money into expensive paid ad campaigns.
1) Create a Website for Your Business
The first initiative on our list for an excellent reason, a business website will be the foundation for a large proportion of your low-cost marketing activity. Without a website, your capabilities will be significantly constrained.
Two or three decades ago, paid advertising via print, radio, or television was the only mainstream way to market a business. While mail order businesses did manage to thrive, it paid mightily to have a physical presence in the form of a shop or office somewhere easily accessible to prospective customers.
Why do we mention this? Well, it’s purely to put the importance of a business website into perspective, because today, a website provides your business with a more effective presence than a physical office or outlet can ever do.
A Website is Essential, Not a Nice-to-Have
Once a desirable option, the business website has become essential, and if you don’t have one, your enterprise is at a distinct disadvantage. So what’s holding you back if you don’t yet have a website for your business?
If it’s a financial issue, did you realise that some economical options exist, such as low-cost software to help you construct a website without needing professional designers? Even if you want the professional touch, you don’t have to spend a fortune.
For example, you can hire a virtual assistant in a low-cost country such as the Philippines to develop your website remotely at a very affordable rate.
Rather than concerning yourself with a perceived inability to afford a website for your business, we strongly suggest that you ask yourself seriously if you can afford not to have one. When all the pros and cons are considered, we’d be astonished if you decide that it’s viable to remain bereft of that global online presence from which your competitors are surely benefitting.
2) Establish Your Elevator Pitch
We’ll explore more about marketing via a business website and other online vehicles later. But for now, let’s look at those situations where you have the opportunity to talk your business up in person.
Whether you seize such opportunities at regular social events or by attending business conferences, you need a good elevator pitch ready to reel off whenever somebody asks you about your enterprise.
Don’t have an elevator pitch? Then we’d bet you’ve suffered more than one of those moments when you wish you did. You know, when you stumble over sentences and ramble for far too long in the attempt to explain your business in a way that makes sense to others, rather than to yourself.
What is an Elevator Pitch?
In case you’re wondering, an elevator pitch is a brief verbal explanation of your business or brand, and its benefits, so named because you should be able to reel it all off in the time it takes to move up or down a few floors in an elevator.
It does not mean that you should limit yourself to introducing your business to people only when sharing an elevator. It’s merely emphasising that wherever you are, you should need no more than 90 seconds to deliver your pitch since that is considered the optimal length of time to retain your listener’s interest.
Where to Use Your Elevator Pitch
So if an elevator pitch is not exclusively for use in an elevator, when should you use it? We’d recommend that, rather than keeping your elevator pitch in reserve for those chance meetings with people who might want to hear it, you should actively seek opportunities to use it.
Of course, we’re advocating the expansion of your physical professional network here, and we’re doing so because networking is a proven method of low-cost marketing.
Armed with your elevator pitch, prepared and ready to go, you’d do well to seek out the following networking opportunities:
- Memberships in professional bodies or organisations
- Trade shows
- Industry exhibitions and conventions
- Anywhere else that your prospective customers are likely to gather
3) Start Blogging
One of the reasons we recommend so strongly that you invest in a business website is because of the opportunities it provides to engage in organic marketing. In case you’re wondering what that means, organic marketing comprises the use of digital marketing strategies that don’t involve paying for advertisements.
One such strategy is to host a business blog on your website and generate regular posts, or articles, to provide helpful information for your customers, prospective customers, and site visitors.
If you work hard, or have someone work hard for you, to optimise your blog posts for search engines, it will not take too long before people start arriving on your site, initially with the sole intention of reading your posts.
From there, with high-quality content, the right linking strategy, and appropriate calls to action at the end of your posts, some of those site visitors will start to engage regularly with your blog, and their interest in your products or services will grow.
How to Access Blogging Skills if You Don’t Have Them
Business blogging is an activity that aims to establish you as a trustworthy and knowledgeable authority within your niche and make your website an essential stopping-off point for people who need the things you provide.
That said, properly maintaining a blog is time-consuming and requires a specific skill set that includes writing expertise and a knowledge of search engine optimisation (SEO).
But don’t worry if you lack the skills necessary to write compelling and engaging blog posts, research keywords, and perform other SEO tasks. Help is always at hand these days because there are many virtual assistants specialising in remotely delivered SEO and content creation services.
Often based in countries like the Philippines, these specialists can work for rates much lower than those of Western virtual assistants. They can help you establish a professionally presented blog with high-quality content and good SEO results to get your business ranking high on Google and similar search engines.
4) Request Referrals From Happy Customers
Word of mouth was perhaps the first ever marketing method and remains timeless in its ability to get results. One of its most significant advantages is that it needn’t cost anything, making it perfect for businesses with low marketing budgets.
Better still, you can ask for referrals via online and offline channels, so this is one marketing strategy you can pursue even if you don’t yet have your business website established.
Upon finding themselves satisfied with a product or service, most people are more than willing to recommend the provider to their contacts, colleagues, and friends. Still, they won’t necessarily do so unless asked.
Perhaps you’re concerned that you will feel awkward asking your customers for referrals, but really, you shouldn’t. In any case, there are ways and means to do it with minimal discomfort.
For example, while asking face-to-face is the most effective and morally correct approach, if you prefer to email a referral request to a satisfied customer after the sale, nothing is stopping you.
You can even add a standard text to your invoices or other communication documents reminding the recipients that you are always happy to receive referrals. These aren’t necessarily the best methods of requesting referrals, but they are doable if you can’t bring yourself to make referral requests in person or by telephone.
5) Create Brochures and Flyers
In this digital age, it’s easy to forget the utility of some of the old marketing techniques from pre-Internet times and overlook the fact that you can utilise them today, both online and offline, with a little adaptation.
For instance, creating a brochure or flyer promoting your business, its products, or its services, costs far less than running paid advertising campaigns, and it’s an incredibly versatile form of marketing.
You see, because today’s brochures and flyers are created digitally, you can distribute them electronically, and print hard copies to distribute by mail, hand out, or make available in offline locations such as the premises of friendly businesses.
How to Get Your Brochures and Flyers Designed
If you are good at writing promotional text and visual design, it costs next to nothing to create a brochure, and these days you don’t even have to send your documents to a local printer. Instead, you can print them off yourself.
On the other hand, if you don’t think you have the chops to create an eye-catching and engaging brochure or flyer, you should have no problem finding a virtual assistant with the appropriate skills to develop your promotional documents for you.
Of course, that option will cost you a little money. Nevertheless, compared with the outlay necessary for paid advertising, even long-term retention of a virtual assistant with brochure design skills is far more economical.
6) Join and Create Social Media Groups
Let’s return briefly to a marketing method exclusively available for online use—social media. Of course, everyone knows that Facebook has become a universal household name in social media, and LinkedIn, too, has achieved global renown as a digital meeting place for professional people.
Establishing a presence on these platforms and others like them can boost the options available for your low-cost marketing efforts. While that is a well-known fact, many businesses focus only on creating profiles and business pages on social media sites. Meanwhile, cultivating a following in Facebook and LinkedIn groups is a gambit that often gets overlooked.
On Choosing the Right Social Media User Groups
In reality, Facebook groups, for example, are golden for gaining exposure for your business and establishing you as a trusted source of knowledge in your field.
Naturally, you will need to identify and join groups that are highly relevant to your business activity, with memberships made up of many potential customers. For example, there would be little point in joining a photography group if your business sells musical instruments.
Fortunately, Facebook, in particular, is home to thousands of groups focused on nearly every conceivable topic. If you’re lucky, you might find one with tens of thousands of members relevant to your business niche.
Quick Tips for Success With Social Media Groups
By joining user groups on Facebook or other social media sites and sharing your knowledge—but without creating spammy posts likely to be deleted—you can gain credibility and attract new customers for your products or services at virtually no cost.
Note, though, that marketing through social media groups can be even more effective if you have a website and blog that you can invite group members to visit.
Remember, too, that once your following grows on Facebook (or a similar platform), it will pay to launch a group of your own. A Facebook group, for instance, will be more effective than a brief brand profile, or even a business page on Facebook, for increasing the size and breadth of your potential customer base.
7) Create YouTube Videos
It wasn’t long ago that online marketing content had to be text-based to be effective. Fortunately, though, the emergence of YouTube (and similar sites for video content) and the vast improvement in smartphone and digital video camera quality that’s taken place in recent years has changed all that.
Video creation offers several benefits, both for your business’s marketing efforts, and for those people who consume your content. Here are just a few of them:
- Many people prefer to consume video than text-based content.
- Video marketing adds an element of variety to your digital content.
- You can generate a following on YouTube even if you have no business website.
- You can make video content as plain and straightforward or as complex and artistic as you like.
- The more views your videos get, the more likely they will attract new viewers.
- Video marketing content can be more accessible and convenient for mobile Internet users. For example, it’s easier to view a video than to read an article on a mobile phone screen, especially if the user is on the move while consuming the content.
Also, as with brochures and flyers, it’s easy to find virtual assistants with the right skills for video creation if that kind of thing is not for you, or you don’t have anyone in your business with those skills. As a result, you can create professional-looking videos, or even start a video blog (VLOG) targeting potential customers, without spending a fortune on production.
8) Reach Out to Influencers
Having talked about how blog posts, activity in social media user groups, and YouTube videos can establish credibility and authority, it’s only fair to mention that while they can be highly effective, the impacts are not immediate. Indeed, it can take months, or even longer, to achieve significant positive results from these strategies.
On the other hand, if you can engage the help of people who are already trusted specialists on topics relevant to your business niche, commonly known on social media as influencers, you can raise awareness of your brand much more quickly.
Established influencers will typically review your products and publish their findings, either in video or text content, on Facebook and similar social media platforms. In recompense, you will probably need only to provide your chosen influencer with some free products or services. That’s what makes influencer marketing another practical—and fast—way to gain brand exposure at a much lower cost than through paid advertising.
Low-budget Marketing: Cheap, But Not Always Easy
The eight examples explored in this article represent just a few of the possible marketing methods that a small business can use to avoid the high costs of paid advertising. Inevitably, though, there is a tradeoff.
For example, if there is one common thread connecting all these strategies, it is the effort that you and your team must put in to exploit them effectively.
The good news is that the low cost of executing them is such that you may be able to afford to invest in a little paid help. That doesn’t mean you need to employ a full or part-time marketer, content creator, or graphic designer. Instead, why not talk to Virtual Done Well about hiring a virtual assistant with the necessary skills to help you?
Virtual Marketing Specialists at Virtual Done Well
You’d be surprised at just how versatile many of our VAs are. Indeed, we can even match you with a virtual assistant who can support you with low-budget marketing and assist you with more general business administration tasks.
Of course, he or she will not be riding any elevators to deliver pitches on your behalf, but nothing else is off limits as long as it can be carried out remotely.
We think you’ll also be pleasantly surprised at how affordable it is to work with one, two, or several of our virtual assistants. To find out more, all you need to do is get in touch and chat with a member of our VA management team.
At Virtual Done Well, we have people ready and able to help you market your business without using costly paid advertising, so if you’re ready to get serious about organic marketing, contact us today.