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You’ve poured your heart and soul into building your business. And, when time permitted, you’ve done your best to create a coherent marketing plan for your business. But unless you’re a modern Don Draper in addition to being a busy entrepreneur, you likely aren’t totally satisfied with what you’ve come up with. Or, even worse, you have no idea where to begin, and don’t have the money to make mistakes.
Growing your business through compelling marketing doesn’t have to break your budget. It doesn’t even mean you need to break a $100 bill. There are a ton of inexpensive ways to improve your company’s marketing program with as little as $50. This is true no matter where you are in the process of promoting and advertising your business, too.
It’s 2018. If your company doesn’t already have a website, you need to drop everything you’re doing and fix that. But since advice is a given (and a good website costs more than $50), the next fundamental marketing exercise you need to consider is a search engine optimization (SEO) audit.
SEO is, in short, a set of best practices that websites should follow in order to make them appear in relevant search results. This means creating good copy, which includes often-used words within your industry (and by your target customers), as well as useful articles and blog posts that provide a value to people who might visit your website. The more organized and well-written your site is, the better your odds are of getting search traffic.
More than a handful of SEO specialists will happily audit at least a few key pages your site for $50 and point out the main strengths and weaknesses of its current iteration. If their fee is higher, negotiate with them to set certain targets, or focus on a certain page like your homepage or marquee product page.
From there, you can either make changes on your own, have your staff create new content along the guidelines your SEO consultant provides. Or, if you feel good about the investment, build a deeper relationship with your consultant to push work forward. Knowing what works and what doesn’t is the best first step toward making your site earn you business.
If you’ve already taken a look at your company’s SEO standing, the next best move you can make is to purchase Google search results advertising (otherwise known as Search Engine Marketing—SEM, for short). You might show up prominently in search results for some terms, but odds are that you’re not ranking highly in every commonly used search term for your company’s industry or services.
That’s where Google Ads come in. If you can’t beat ‘em, advertise against ‘em. Google Ads allows companies to push paid search results against specific keywords—usually for cheap, too, sometimes cents on the dollar. You can even bid on specific keyword results, which gives you more control over how much money you spend on advertising every day, week, or month.
Good SEO and SEM practices are like peanut butter and jelly: great on their own, but better together. So, if you’ve already got your website’s SEO in order, consider an SEM strategy to be your next move.
Social media is almost as important as making sure your SEO is up to snuff. Even throwing a few bucks at promoting your products and your social media profiles can make a significant impact on your following. And a strong social presence typically means that you’ve primed your company to show up ahead of your competitors.
Advertising on social media makes sense for you whether your business is already on social media, or you’ve been hesitating to take the plunge and make an account. There are advertising options for businesses at any stage in their development of a social media presence. If you’re just starting out, consider running advertisements that encourage social media users to follow your account. If you’re a bit more established and have a decent following, opt for sponsored social posts that targets followers of your competitors or peers.
Social media advertising provides entrepreneurs with pricing flexibility that can’t be beat. Most companies can create modest advertising campaigns with roughly $10 per effort. Or, if you’re feeling scientific, you can look into A/B testing your social media ads with $25 going toward both parts of your experiment.
Few things get as much attention on social media than the prospect of winning something awesome in exchange for a post with a photo and a hashtag. Giveaways also help companies drum up interest, gain exposure, and can even provide a pool of future promotional images and content for use down the line. And if running a social media giveaway isn’t your style, there are other options out there to drum up interest in your company by offering up a great prize on the cheap.
Social media sweepstakes are a great option if you want to have tons of control over your contest. Most ask contestants to snap a photo of themselves using the product, or of the product out in the wild. Next, they ask the poster to use a specific, unique hashtag that’s just for the contest (in order to make it easy for the company to see each post). Lastly, most will require contestants to tag friends in their post, thus spreading the brand’s reach to non-followers on social media.
If you don’t have a big social following, or would just rather do less of the legwork of running a social media contest, there are other options out there that offer great opportunities to put the word out about your business. DojoMojo is a great sweepstakes tool that allows you to partner with other companies to expand the awareness of your campaign. You’ll reach far more potential new customers than if the sweepstakes was only promoted on your own website. They also offer powerful analytics tools so you can see how well your investment is performing and make changes as needed.
The advent of internet marketing made snail-mail marketing seem all but dead. Fast forward to now, and the death announcement of direct mail appears all but accurate. Mail marketing can be an excellent tool to attract new customers, so long as it’s executed well.
Now, the most successful direct mail marketing campaigns use well designed postcards to push discount codes for free trials and discounts directly into would-be customers’ mailboxes. These tactics allow companies to track how well their campaigns are working by seeing who is actually using the flyers on their website. By creating unique codes on each mailer, companies can bridge the gap between physical advertising and digital analytics—something that has helped resurrect this tried-and-true marketing model.
Conducting a direct mail campaign can typically be done on the cheap. Of course, you’ll need to design a flyer, write copy, print the materials, buy a mailing list, and pay for postage. But if you’re able to work with a reasonably priced marketing studio, or can DIY most of these initial steps, you can create a small test campaign and determine if bigger efforts are worth your while.
We’ve talked about the importance of communicating with customers over email. It’s an easy and effective way to share news about your business and offer discounts and rewards. Plus, it keeps your company on the minds of your customers, which promotes growth.
But before you start drafting a mass email on your Gmail account, consider using a professional email marketing platform instead. There are great free and low-cost tools available that will allow you to create professional-looking emails and track deliveries, open rate, clicks on your links, and people who choose to unsubscribe. Upgrades to Pro-level packages are often inexpensive and offer perks that take some of the manual work out of creating and sending great newsletters.
MailChimp is the granddaddy of free email marketing tools. It’s easy to use and lets you track all the most important metrics you’ll need to track in a newsletter campaign. For $10/month, you can send more emails to more contacts, have access to their support team, and can customize your emails with your company’s branding. ConstantContact is another great option for small business owners as it’s intuitive and easy to use, making it perfect for newsletter newbies. Plans start at $20/month.
Marketing your small business effectively doesn’t have to cost a ton of money. Most of the meaningful changes you should consider don’t cost more than $50, in fact. So, long as you start small and cover the basics, you can make the most of your money without throwing your dollars down the drain.