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  • Writer's pictureMichael Campagna

9 Cost-Effective Marketing Tactics for the Small Business on a Budget

For small businesses, digital marketing is often a factor that falls by the wayside. In the day-to-day rush of business, it's so easy to prioritize one of the many other, seemingly more important, tasks vying for your valuable time as a business leader. Oftentimes, marketing doesn't show immediate results and that discourages small businesses from making it a priority.

But digital marketing isn't just a box to check off, it's a valuable investment into the long-term success and growth of your company.

If you ease up on the momentum of your marketing campaigns, you'll look back in a year wishing your company had accomplished more and in ten years realizing your ship is totally off course.

a marketing strategy meeting

The importance of a cost-effective marketing plan

The main reason many business leaders (especially those who work in a small business environment) allow their marketing efforts to slip is because of a variety of excuses that all tend to fall under one main category: money. In this article, we'll show you that marketing is often much more simple and affordable than you might expect.

Starting small is always a good idea when marketing a small business as the learning curve can be steep. By investing small amounts of money in the beginning, you can determine the areas that offer a return on your investment and those that might not be worth it in the long run.

The rest of this article will focus on listing out some of the main categories that marketing tasks often fall into as well as some cost-effective marketing options for each. Along with these strategies, we've included some free or low cost website options that will make the execution process even easier and hopefully begin to lay the groundwork for a highly effective marketing campaign.

Create a recognizable brand

Just a few years ago, a lack of graphic design experience would have undoubtedly precluded you from creating any sort of eye-catching graphic for your brand. Luckily, that is no longer the case, as there are plenty of free software options that allow for "plug-and-play" template customization. Canva is one of the best options in this area, providing templates for everything from social media posts to logos. This is a great way to establish the look and feel of your brand without your customers ever discovering you aren't a professional designer.

Marketable Tip: Graphics for a business should always reflect some sort of "brand standard" (i.e. similar colors, font, feel) that remains consistent across your website, social media platforms, and wherever else you might be online.

Capture your products and services with quality photos and videos

Visuals are a necessary component of the branding process and probably one of the easier ones to implement. For established brands, you probably have images on your phone that could be great to use on a website or social media platform. However, if you're just getting started, stock images are also an option, and sites like Pixabay and Unsplash offer great, royalty-free images that will give a professional look to your content.

Marketable Tip: Another great way to generate images for your brand is to offer an incentive to your customer base for sharing pictures of them using your product or service. Not only will this add to your credibility, it will give you a database of unique images to choose from as well.

Build an audience through social media

Odds are, you've spent time on some form of social media in your life. And if you have, you probably also have some brands that you follow or at least keep up with from time to time. Social media has become a resource many customers turn to for researching and even purchasing products online.

For this reason alone, it's important to maintain some sort of consistent presence online. Again, websites like Canva are a great place to start for inspiration in generating posts. And customers always love to see photos and videos of your company (products, services, customer highlights, etc.) too.

Many business leaders get overwhelmed thinking about keeping up with every platform. From Instagram to Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn to Pinterest to NextDoor... it is admittedly a lot to tackle, especially with a small team.

That's why it's important to focus on one platform in the beginning and scale from there. Where are your ideal clients located? Answering that question will give you valuable insight on where your time will be most well spent.

Marketable Tip: It can be overwhelming when you start diving into algorithms and analytics, but the most important part of social media (especially in the beginning) is simply consistency. The more you nurture your relationship with clients online, the more they're going to think about you when it comes time to make a purchase.

Design a stunning website

Over the past decade, web hosting and development have become significantly easier for the average individual to learn. You don't need coding experience or even a design background to use websites like Wordpress, Wix, or Squarespace. All of these options provide eye-catching templates and allow for customization of a website on a budget.

While more complex features will definitely require a web developer, much of the preliminary work can be accomplished with a little bit of time (and maybe the occasional Google search).

Marketable Tip: Instead of using your website as a highlight reel for your business, be sure to show the ways it can help your customer. If they believe their life will be improved by purchasing your product or service, you've done your job correctly. The best way to do this is by sharing stories, statistics, or even images displaying the impact your business is making in the lives of customers.

Optimize your brand for search engines

Undoubtedly one of the more complex marketing tactics in the list, Search Engine Optimization, simply put, is the way that customers find your business when searching for it online.

Luckily, similar to web development, SEO has evolved in the last few years to allow anyone to create a basic, yet effective SEO strategy for their business.

Many of the web development platforms mentioned before include some form of built-in SEO functionality or allow for downloading a plugin to boost SEO. For Wordpress sites, Yoast SEO offers a free version that is quite comprehensive in its capabilities, especially for businesses looking to get their feet wet in the world of SEO.

Marketable Tip: No matter how great of a website you've created, if your SEO is lacking, customers will have trouble finding it. The most convenient company to find is often the one that customers choose to work with, so SEO is definitely worth your time (and perhaps even a financial investment) to optimize your web presence online.

Create compelling copy for your website

Content is an extremely important part of the marketing process that allows customers to see you as not only the source of a product or service but the expert in it as well.

Even if your writing skills are lacking, creating content is an important part of promoting any brand. If this is overwhelming to you, start by writing a checklist for your customer or even a short article showcasing some of the work you've done in the past. Many customers love to do their research before making a purchase, and copywriting allows them to get to know your brand on a more personal level.

Marketable Tip: Copywriting is a great way to organically improve your website's SEO. Investing some time in writing a weekly blog or creating a few detailed web pages with product descriptions will undoubtedly pay off in the long run, when more customers find your business online.

Prioritize email marketing to stay relevant to your customer base

Perhaps the most effective of the budget-friendly marketing tactics, email marketing allows you to stay in touch with your customer like they were a family member or friend.

A weekly email to your clients might seem like a big task to consistently manage, but keep in mind that you can always repurpose your content - social media posts, blog posts, even images. The important thing is keeping your brand fresh on a customer's mind.

Mailchimp is a great resource for scheduling email campaigns, allowing you to customize email templates quickly and easily.

Businesses who are not investing time into email marketing are missing out on a significant amount of revenue that could be generated, simply from the customers who already follow your brand. And if you're just starting out, don't neglect the importance of getting customer emails when they sign up or visit your site.

Marketable Tip: No matter how big a company gets, capturing leads (email addresses in particular) should always be prioritized in day to day business operations. This can be as simple as posting a lead generating form on your website in which customers enter their email address for a free resource or a free estimate. It isn't difficult to add and will work wonders in getting your brand in front of potential customers.

Test out and invest in digital advertising

Digital advertising is a great way to present your brand to more customers online by showing ads for your business on search engines, social media platforms, and websites. While digital advertising is an expansive industry, it's important to be strategic in where you place your ads, especially if you want to keep costs as low as possible. The easiest way to test the waters of digital advertising is to simply boost a post that has already performed well on your social media platforms. This will get more eyes on your brand and maybe even result in a few new customers.

Unlike television or radio ads, online advertising is much cheaper and easy to change should you be unsatisfied with the results of a campaign. They also allow you to target specific groups of people online, from individuals in a specific region to customers interested in your industry.

Marketable Tip: A tried and true ad that usually attracts new customers is any sort of promotional deal or discount your company might be running online.

Optimize your online store experience

For businesses that sell products and services online, optimizing your e-commerce functionality ensures that customers have a straightforward process for making a purchase.

Many of the previously mentioned web design platforms have an e-commerce capability (like WooCommerce for Wordpress). And there are a few websites specifically built for e-commerce stores: Shopify, Etsy, or Magento. All of these are cost-effective and have built-in marketing capabilities to make the scaling process that much easier.

Marketable Tip: E-commerce stores allow businesses to automate their processes in a way a physical store or even a regular website cannot. Many e-commerce sites don't handle their own shipping, orders, or inventory, outsourcing all of the work and freeing up time to scale the business faster.


When it comes to digital marketing, the most important thing is simply taking the first step. Pick one or two of the categories mentioned above and invest a little bit of time into creating a strategy that works for your team. Oftentimes the marketing process is built around trial and error, so be willing to refine, adapt, and pivot as needed. And once you've established a foundation, it's even easier for you to scale up and hire a team to handle the marketing process for you.

Marketable Connections offers expert help in each of the above categories. Post a job and receive a free 30 minute consultation to help you create a personalized marketing strategy for your brand.


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