8 Ways to Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget

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When I started Shockmouse Media, I was faced with the same daunting task many small businesses face on a daily basis – marketing my business on a shoestring budget. Fortunately, with a background in creative marketing, I was able to come up with several actionable steps to grow my business’ following. 

During that process, speaking with business owners whose abilities lay outside the realm of marketing, I noticed an unfortunate trend – many small business owners neglect marketing their businesses due to a limited budget. 

Diving deeper into my research, I found the major issue to be the enormous price agencies were charging for simple work. $10,000 monthly retainers, even for the simplest of jobs. No wonder people weren’t effectively marketing their businesses – they thought they couldn’t afford it. 

From that point on, Shockmouse Media’s mission pivoted from being a simple media company to a growth agency that works with any business, no matter the size or budget. We believe that strong marketing strategies are essential to growing a business, and shouldn’t be exclusive to those with the deepest pockets. 

With our newfound mission came the understanding that not all businesses need a marketing agency. In fact, most do not. Most are better off learning the tools and implementing them on their own. Afterall, nobody understands a business better than the people that work in it.

As such, I’ve put together a list of tools we’ve used to both grow Shockmouse Media as well as the many clients we’ve served over the years.

First Things First

Google My Business

Google My Business is a necessity for every small business, and particularly those who serve a localized audience. By setting up a Google My Business listing, you’re telling Google what your business does and where it’s located, allowing your site to show in local search results. As an added bonus, creating a Google My Business listing helps your business show up on Google Maps, should you have a physical location for customers to visit.

Getting started with Google My Business is incredibly easy. All you have to do is head over to their website, create your business profile and BOOM, you’re ready to go!

Create/Update Your Marketing Plan

The best marketing strategies in the world aren’t going to do you any good if you don’t have a sense of direction. Before you spend a significant amount of time with any of the following tips, it’s important that you have a clear set of goals and objectives. 

The first of which should be developing your buyer personas. In short, buyer personas are fictitious representations of your ideal customers. I say customers (plural) because it’s very likely your business has many different ideal customers. 

Say you own a clothing store, for example. It’s very likely you sell men’s, women’s and kids clothing, each requiring their own specific marketing messages. Having separate personas for each customer group allows you to cater specific marketing messages to the right people. 

While all of the tools we describe in this article are valuable, some may be more so than others depending on who you are specifically targeting. Having a clear and concrete marketing plan will allow you to focus on what’s important, minimizing wasted time and money. 

Now for the Good Stuff

Create Valuable Content

They say content is king. I’m not sure who said it first, but whoever did, they’re right. Content IS king. The most powerful tool in a successful business is a strong connection with their customers. Content marketing is a straightforward and inexpensive way to build and connect with an audience in a non-salesy way.

Most people these days think of writing blog posts when they hear the phrase ‘content marketing’. While a company blog is always a good idea, if writing isn’t your thing you can always:

  • Start a podcast
  • Host Webinars
  • Create How-to Youtube Videos
  • Build and Curate “Best Of” Lists

The potential is truly endless. 

To put it simply, building an archive of content will help your customers build relationships with your business, and as an added bonus, boost your website’s SEO rankings.

Email List

Now that you’re creating content and generating traffic on your site, it’s time to build out an email list. With ROI’s far higher than most other forms of direct marketing, email is a great way to nurture and grow your audience. 

There are several incredibly inexpensive options for operating your list, including Mailchimp, ConvertKit, and Constant Contact. By joining one of these services, you’re able to build and embed signup forms, offering custom incentives to your customers for supplying their email addresses. From there, you can easily create email templates and populate them with relevant information that benefits your subscribers.

If you’re not yet convinced about starting an email newsletter, here are a few numbers for you:

  • 72% of U.S. adults say they prefer companies communicate with them via email
  • 91% say they’d like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with.
  • 25% of companies (and growing) rate email as their top channel in terms of ROI.

Not too shabby, huh?

Social Media

It’s 2020 guys, it’s time to up your social media game! Seriously though, with the amount of time consumers spend on social media these days, it’s crucial you create a digital presence for your business. 

There are a variety of platforms to choose from, and while we won’t go into the specifics of each, it’s important to consider which ones are best for your business. Remember buyer personas? Yeah, they will help you determine which social platforms best allow you to reach and connect with your target audience. 

Much like creating content, we recommend updating your social media accounts on a regular and consistent basis. That way, your current followers will have a constant stream of content to look at, while giving potential followers a reason to follow.

Get posting!

Customer Referral Program

Referrals have long been a source of business growth, and yet, many business owners neglect asking for them. Take this as a sign to break out of your comfort zone and ask your customers/clients for referrals. If you have a great product/service, chances are your customers will jump at the opportunity to share your work with their network.

If you’re unsure about how to ask for referrals, check this out.

Guerrilla Marketing

If you’ve never heard the term ‘guerrilla marketing’ before, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Chances are, however, you’ve seen a guerrilla marketing campaign in action. 

In many ways, guerrilla marketing is similar to guerrilla warfare (where it got its name). 

It’s just a little less intense. Guerrilla marketing uses surprise and unconventional interactions to promote products or services. Confused? No worries, here’s an example.

ad-mall-frontline.jpg

This campaign by Frontline is a perfect example of guerrilla marketing in action. Knowing that the ground floor of this building gets significant foot traffic, as well as many of the upper levels, Frontline created this simple display replicating the effect fleas have on our pets.

What makes this a guerrilla marketing campaign is that it doesn’t explicitly try and sell something the way traditional ads do. Instead, it creates accidental human interaction which displays what the product does. Genius!

The great thing about guerilla marketing campaigns is they’re cheap. Like really cheap. In fact, the only thing you really need for a successful guerrilla campaign is a bit of creativity.

Leverage Your Community

You don’t always have to think big when marketing your business. Sometimes the answers are right there in front of you – or just around the corner. Sponsoring local events, joining business groups and attending workshops are great ways to get the word out about your business at a very low cost. When you sponsor local events, not only will you have the ability to network with others in your community, but your logo and website link will likely be advertised on their website. 

As an added bonus, it’s a good excuse to get out of the office!


That’s it from me, folks! Give these tools a try and let us know in the comments how they worked for your business!

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