18 effective ways to market your small/medium business on a budget

Running an SME is a challenge, without a doubt. Budgets, time, and resources are often squeezed to the limit. But, no matter how squeezed your marketing budget is, spreading the word about your brand is still critical for success.

Here are 18 free, or low-cost marketing ideas you may want to try:

1. Ask existing clients to recommend you

Word-of-mouth marketing is incredibly powerful. If you’ve done a great job for a client, or a customer is delighted with your product, ask them to recommend you to their friends, family, clients, and business associates. While they probably won’t go out of their way to shout about you at every opportunity, they will likely be happy to throw in a good word about your business when it comes up in conversation.

You could even take this one step further and set up a referral scheme. By offering a gift voucher or other incentive for a referral your customers will be even more inclined to spread the word for you.

2. Start a newsletter

If you don’t already do this, emailing out a regular newsletter to your audience can help keep them engaged with your brand.

You can fill your newsletters with updates about your business, promotions, and valuable content.

3. Create a loyalty scheme

A loyalty scheme is a great way to increase customer retention. Getting customers who are already familiar with your brand and know your product/service to purchase again is made easier with a loyalty scheme.

This could be something as simple as a card that gets stamped with every purchase, offering a free product when the card is full. You could also include a money-off voucher in or on your packaging to encourage a repeat purchase.

4. Collect more reviews

Positive reviews give a huge boost to a company’s credibility and help to attract new customers. Encourage your happy customers to leave a review on your Google Business profile, social media, or your review platform of choice.

5. Start a blog or improve your existing one

Running a blog is hard work. It’s time-consuming and creating quality original content is not easy. However, content marketing is a highly effective way of marketing a business, if done well.

A blog also brings with it some huge SEO advantages. Search engines just love fresh, unique, useful content. By posting quality content regularly you’re likely to see your business start working its way up the search engine results pages.

Your posts could include articles based on your expertise, you could give industry insights, and talk about your latest company news. Posting content that your audience will find useful is the key to creating engaging content.

6. Directly reach out to your ideal customers

OK, so this is really only for B2B / service-based businesses, sorry B2C’s!

Identify your ideal customer and reach out to them. This could be done with an email, a phone call, on social media, or a letter and brochure in the post.

7. Network

Attend business networking events, conferences, and tradeshows to expand your network. Business networking opens many doors and you never know who you will meet.

Fellow business owners are generally very supportive of one another and will happily refer your business if they trust you. It’s important to note that building trust takes time and the goal of business networking is not to try and sell to people but to build relationships. Referrals come with time.

8. Create short-form video content

The beauty of short-form video content for social media is that it doesn’t have to be Oscar-worthy material to be effective.

Get your phone out and start recording things which your audience may find interesting. Get creative with it. A few examples could be; a day in the life of, your production process, a walk around the office, packing up an order, something that’s new, and so on.

Platforms like TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts are the perfect place to share these quick creations. The posts you put out will help in raising brand awareness.

9. Run a competition on social media

Hosting a competition or giveaway on social media can increase your brand visibility and attract new followers. If the competition is successful it can generate excitement around your business.

11. Invest in or improve your physical marketing material

Have something impressive to hand out at events, and when you meet people. Well-designed and produced business cards, flyers, or brochures are highly effective marketing tools.

12. Optimise your Google Business profile

Ensure your business information is accurate and up-to-date on your Google Business profile. You can also add posts, images and other information to it. Consider regularly updating your profile with your latest news and offers. This can improve your local search visibility and attract more customers.

13. Put yourself forward for business awards

There are loads of business awards for every type of industry. Why not nominate your business for a relevant award? Winning an award will enhance your credibility and could attract attention from potential customers.

14. Create an offer with a time limit

Everybody loves a great offer. A limited-time promotion or discount can light a fire under the backside of a potential customer, encouraging them to make a purchase. If the offer is really good people may talk about it or share it with their friends, helping to spread it further organically.

15. Host an event

Organise a workshop, webinar, or networking event. This is a great way to connect with potential customers and showcase your products or expertise.

16. Advertise in local magazines

Advertising in local magazines is not as expensive as you might think. Provided you want to promote yourself to a local and not national/global audience then this could be a good way to go.

It’s worth getting your ad professionally designed so that it effectively portrays your message and makes you look good.

16. Advertise on your vehicles

If you have company vehicles that don’t sport your brand and company’s information then this is a missed opportunity. You can turn your vehicles into driving billboards with some well-designed decals.

If you don’t have company vehicles you could always brand up your personal car/van. You don’t have to go full-wrap if you don’t want to, something subtle can still be effective.

17. Book a stand at a local show

Setting up a stand at a show gets you interacting with potential customers face-to-face and helps you showcase your products or services.

Smaller local shows don’t carry the same price tag as some of the large ones. If you don’t need a lot of space a smaller stall won’t break the bank.

Just remember you’ll need some quality marketing material to give away and some form of backdrop or banners.

18. Create a free ebook/guide

Share your knowledge and expertise by creating a helpful resource, such as an ebook or guide. You could offer this for free on your website in exchange for being added to your newsletter list. This can help attract leads along with establishing you as an expert in your field.

Good Luck

So there we go! Marketing on a budget requires a bit of creativity, persistence, and a willingness to try new things. Hopefully, this list of low-cost marketing ideas has given you some inspiration. Best of luck!

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