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.



photo credit: Downtown

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George Meszaros is the editor and co-founder of Success Harbor where entrepreneurs learn about building successful companies. Success Harbor is dedicated to document the entrepreneurial journey through interviews, original research, and unique content. George Meszaros is also co-founder of Webene, a web design and digital marketing agency.