What does it take to reach optimal marketing on a budget?

You don’t need a million-dollar budget to create a powerful marketing campaign. Entrepreneurs of all stripes can afford to market themselves effectively and inexpensively. All it takes is some hard work, ingenuity, and a little bit of money. Every business, large and small, needs a comprehensive marketing strategy.

Here are some tricks to mastering cheap marketing.

Plan ahead.

How do you see your marketing strategy unfolding over the next year? Planning ahead sets clear parameters for which marketing opportunities are worth your time and money. Careful forethought about your goals, resources, and budget ensures that you stay on target as your business grows.

A special note about budgeting: Determining the right budget merits special consideration, especially when trying to keep costs down.

While there’s no “right” way to determine this, a few guidelines should get you on the right track:

  • Scope out the competition. Find out what has worked for rival companies.
  • Learn from non-competing businesses. Fellow entrepreneurs are sometimes happy to offer advice–especially if they aren’t competing for the same business!
  • Spend more on startups. It takes more time and energy to build a reputation from scratch.

Stay oriented towards long-term goals.

Once you have a plan, stick to it–use it as a guide for all marketing business decisions. New ideas or opportunities may seem exciting at the moment, but if they don’t support your long-term goals, let them fall by the wayside.

Synergize marketing opportunities.

Cheap marketing can inspire creativity. Where large corporations might simply cut a check for a charity, a small business owner might host a fundraising event. The charity spreads the word about your business, news outlets advertise the fundraiser, and the event brings in potential customers. Both the charity and the business benefit from the same event.

Collaborate with other companies.

Teaming up with complementary businesses can help you build brand awareness and save you money. Bridal shops and florists share a common target demographic–brides. By referring customers to each other and sharing promotional materials, these companies can help each other boost business more effectively than working independently.

Capitalize on your own successes.

Your current vehicles might become the basis of a new marketing opportunity. Got a positive write-up in the local newspaper? Use it as part of an ad campaign. Already have a loyal customer base? Recommend new products to them based on past purchases. Your own success can sometimes be your best cheap marketing vehicle.

Reassess regularly and adjust accordingly.

Keep track of how your plan is paying off. Which vehicles are most successful at bringing in new business? Where is the majority of your customer base located? Routinely evaluating your marketing efforts shows you what works and what doesn’t, and it informs you how you should allocate your time and energy as your business grows.

Avoid cheap marketing pitfalls: Stay ahead of the game–watch out for these common marketing mistakes.

  • Overloading your marketing messages. Don’t overwhelm your audience with too many messages. Identify one or two key messages and stick with them.
  • Creating an incoherent branding campaign. Keep materials uniform in appearance. Customers identify with all aspects of your brand.
  • Preemptively slashing your marketing budget. Cheap marketing shouldn’t mean underfunded marketing. Periods of low revenue are exactly when you should maintain a strong public presence.
  • Contracting with agencies outside of your budget. Be realistic about your budget. When it comes to cheap marketing strategies, it’s important to strike a balance between quality and affordability.

Free online marketing ideas you should try

Marketing is a topic that makes a lot of business owners cringe. Do you feel this way about marketing? Do you feel like you have to do “hard selling” just to successfully sell your products and services? Well, believe it or not, a lot of businesses feel exactly the same way you do.

You should know that marketing isn’t at all bad. In fact, it can even be fun. You see, once you find a marketing formula that is proven to work for you, all you have to do is roll out with this formula day after day to see the results that you desire. Does this seem tough to you? Well, it may – especially if you’re not good with marketing your business.

So today, I want to share with you some of the things you can do to market your business successfully and earn a nice living doing it. Here’s the first thing that you need to do to start making more money in your business.

Start an “email” newsletter

Starting an internet newsletter is a great way to bring current customers back into your store. With an internet newsletter, you can offer discounts, free offers, or even coupons to entice customers to come back into your store. If you don’t know how to implement this strategy in your business, let me give you a few ways.

For one, you could advertise your online newsletter on the back of sales receipts. For example, I can remember at my local grocery store, the back of their receipts contained a “buy 1 get 1 half off” deal at the local Subway.

I took advantage of this option every week because I love Subway, and I felt I was getting a good deal on subs. I personally like the ham and cheese sub, and a foot-long would cost me $8 to get one. So this was a deal that I could refuse.

Here’s another thing that you can do to boost your sales and profits.

Have an exceptional website

I guess this seems obvious if you would have an email newsletter, but I figured I’d list this option here. Starting a website isn’t hard at all. There are web designers who can design an outstanding website for your business. I think this is a good deal because the people who create these websites know a bit about internet marketing.

Make sure that you stress that your online newsletter is present and in clear sight. Your website should be designed to get new prospective customers and clients, but your online newsletter can still work to turn lookers into buyers. If you want to go about creating your website yourself, then you have a few options.

You could use GoDaddy.com, Yahoo Sitebuilder, or any kind of HTML editor. Making a site isn’t hard to do, so you shouldn’t be intimidated by the task.

These two tips are great ways to drive customers back into your business. 80% of your total profits will come from repeat customers, and you can earn a lot more money than what you’re currently doing right now.

How to find the best leads for your business, even if you are on a budget?

If you’re like more business owners, you’re constantly on the prowl for new prospects and customers. This is totally understandable because you need a fresh stream of prospects and customers to succeed in your business. But you should know that not everyone who comes into your place of business will respond to you.

Because of this, you will want to capitalize and focus on the people who won’t waste your time and who are the most qualified to buy from you. There are all kinds of ways to find prospects like this, and we will go over some of those ways today. Here’s my list of finding hot prospects who will more than likely make a purchasing decision with you:

Online lead gen

There are a lot of lucrative leads on the internet. The beauty of this is that it won’t cost you a lot to find these leads, and you can market your business at such a low price. To find prospects who are interested in your services, you will want to do a few things. The first thing to start with is pay-per-click advertising.

If you don’t know what pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is, then you’re missing out on a huge amount of prospective customers. Pay per click works like this:

You sign up, put up a small ad, and pay for each time someone clicks on your ad. The last time I checked with the major PPC companies, the minimum bid that you could make was under a dollar. The beginning cost of PPC can be fairly inexpensive. All this means is that you can gain more new customers even on a tight budget.

All of the clicks that you get from PPC advertising should be focused on leading your prospects to a lead capture page so that you can follow up on them with your marketing message. You may be thinking that you can’t get a lot of leads and sales with internet marketing, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Let’s take a look at another way to find the best leads for your business.

Your own customer list

Your own customer list is the most profitable list that you can ever find. Your own list is better than a joint venture mailing list, a mailing list from the SRDS, a mailing list from a broker, and a mailing list that was built from advertising Your own customer list will account for 80% of your entire business profits – so if you’re not marketing to them, you’re missing out on a ton of repeat business.

You see, the thing about your customer list is that they already know you and like you. They’ve been on the other side of testing your customer service out, so they don’t mind doing business with you again. So target your own customer list now, and you’ll see all your work paid off in terms of additional revenue for free.

Even if you are on a budget, avoid the following ineffective marketing tactics

What’s your strategy for getting more new customers and clients in the door? Are you doing face-to-face selling? Are you going door to door? Do you just wait for people to arrive at your place of business? What is it that you are doing to attract more new customers and clients to your business?

There are many techniques out there, but there are few that I absolutely feel are ineffective for marketing your products and services. Today we will look at some of those techniques and why you should stay away from them. Here’s the first offline method that I think is an extreme waste of time:

Don’t waste time with cold calling

You only have so much time in a day to call up a list of people daily. On top of that, you need a script; you need a technique for getting past the gatekeeper (secretary), and you need a method of closing your intended recipient on the sale. Cold calling is ineffective, but more and more business owners insist on running their business this way.

I know you may have heard that cold calling can work for your business, but this just isn’t true. In the amount of time that it would take you to cold call a customer, you could have sent out 1,000 letters to your customers and prospects, all at once.

You see, when mailing your letters to your prospects and customers, you have the opportunity to sound more professional, and customers can take their time when deciding to make a purchasing decision. This is very different than “pushing” your product onto the marketplace.

Believe it or not, I’ve actually tried cold calling, and it didn’t work for me at all. Either they were busy, at lunch, were in a meeting, or they just flat out didn’t want my services. Cold calling is something that I don’t recommend to anybody on the face of this earth. Here’s another method that I don’t like:

Don’t buy marketing lists from list brokers

List brokers get paid a commission each time they sell someone a list. These people could care less about the success of your marketing campaign – they’re just in it for the money. The advice is simple: stay away from list brokers because they will sell you the shoddiest list without a care in the world.

Instead, focus on renting mailing lists from the SRDS. The SRDS is something that list brokers know about but would never tell you about it. The SRDS stands for the standard rate and data service, and it contains a variety of direct response mailing lists that you can purchase.

This is much better than using a list broker, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. If you want to stop spending money on bad lists, simply give the SRDS a try. Also, consider going “niche specific” with your list so that you can further pinpoint your targeted customer.

photo credit: Downtown