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Marketing on a shoestring – Promoting a small business on a budget

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Often, when finances are tight, marketing budgets can be the first thing to get stripped back. In reality this is counter-productive for companies wanting to expand and become more profitable (just about every company in existence).

There are a number of cost efficient ways to amplify awareness of your brand and ultimately sales. We've created a quick-fire list of some of our top tips for marketing on a shoestring.

1. Get social

Social media is a powerful leveller, allowing even the most cash-strapped small business to compete with the so called ‘big boys’. It is free to use as an effective tool to get your message out to your target audience, so if you’re not already using social media to promote your company, its time to join the revolution.

If you’re unsure which platform is right for you, then it’s time to do some digging. Take time to explore some of the main platforms for business and see where your competitors have a presence. For B2B organisations, LinkedIn and Google+ are a great place to start, with LinkedIn trumping Google+ at the moment for a more engaged social population. However, Google+ does add some useful tools and potential SEO benefits into the mix. Twitter is great for both B2B and B2C conversations, while Facebook is probably more tailored to B2C companies wanting to engage with prospective and current customers.

Use your social media platforms as a way to position your brand as a trusted source of information, sharing knowledge that will keep people coming back for more. Of course it’s important to intersperse the odd sales message in with your content, but treat social as more of a cocktail party than a sales pitch and you won’t go far wrong.

Essentially, never oversell. Be useful, relevant and engaging and if you want to generate leads, the next point tells you how to go about it.

2. Use social media to generate leads

Spreading brand awareness and positioning your company as a trusted source of information – a thought leader even – in your industry is a fantastic way to start generating leads via social media. Eventually you will build an audience of fans and followers who regularly make the link in their collective minds that you are the go-to guys to meet their requirements, but there’s no harm in giving your lead generation efforts a little boost.

We've written a whole article on social media lead generation, allowing you to target your audience and maximise your spend on social, both in terms of time and money.

3. Ask existing customers for referral business

Done a good job for an existing customer? We’re sure you have, so it’s time to use that to your advantage.

Pick up the phone and speak to your existing customers, asking them if they know of any other businesses that could benefit from using your service or product. If you feel uncomfortable doing so, then why not throw a little reward into the mix for every potential lead your clients pass onto you. Your customer will feel happy to be rewarded, building loyalty, while you’ll have achieved your goal of adding one or two more leads into the sales funnel.

4. Speak at an event

Business event organisers are always looking for fresh speakers and industry experts who they can use to attract the attention of potential event delegates, via a free talk or workshop.

Research some local events coming up in your area and make contact with the event organisers to see if you can have a speaking slot. You’re likely to get a free place at the event – allowing you to network for free – while positioning your brand as a trusted source of information during your speaker slot or workshop (where you can throw in a little self-promotion and “Let me tell you about our brand” for good measure).

5. Use email marketing

An effectively run email marketing campaign can be one of the most cost efficient and productive methods of keeping your brand at the forefront of your target audience’s minds.

The important thing with email marketing is to think of a long-term campaign and not just send emails in a random order with no real strategy. Your email marketing campaign should be one seamless stream of content, each email leading onto the next and each linked to a specific product or service offering that you want to push – even if that is more subtly through a though provoking piece of content.

Create a campaign for a one month marketing trial to get started – testing the water to see which content sparks a response, or how different headlines affect open rates and then analyse the data. This will give you a better picture of your audience’s preferences, allowing you to tailor longer-term campaigns to each specific persona in your audience. Click rates go up, brand interest increases and ultimately sales start to roll in. Email marketing utopia!

6. Run drop in days at your offices

Got a product or service that’s new on the market? Perhaps you can offer training for a specific skill? Running small drop in groups or half-days at your own offices is a great way to attract potential new customers and build your presence in the business community. You could even contact your local Chamber of Commerce to offer free training or event days to their members, giving you an opportunity to network with a whole new audience.

Each of the above tips are both cost efficient and, if done well, can generate great interest in your business – allowing you to push out a tailored brand message to a new audience and ultimately generate leads, building trust in your brand in the process.

What other tips would you add for businesses looking to market themselves on a shoestring? We’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to tweet @Flexioffices on Twitter and we will re-tweet our favourites.

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