10 low-cost marketing tips for small businesses

low cost marketing

Really effective marketing doesn’t have to break the bank. If you’re a small business looking for ideas to make your marketing budget stretch further, here are your 10 starters for 10:

1. Get networking. Whichever city or town you’re in, the chances are there’ll be a whole world of business networking events you never knew existed that could prove excellent opportunities to make connections, meet people who are in similar situations as you, collect leads, learn about your industry, recruit talent etc.

Whatever your agenda might be for attending these networking events, try not to go in all guns blazing. Instead, be approachable, friendly, genuine and open, making it your mission to connect people who can help each other and you. Being generous with your time and attention is a valued and, more importantly, memorable quality.

Sites like findnetworkingevents.com can help you figure out what’s going on in your area. If you want to attend something more specific to your business, research what industry trade shows or sector specific networking events are being held in your region. Either get down to some old fashioned googling or why not take a peek at what events your competitors are attending? LinkedIn, websites of industry governing bodies as well as industry digital and print media are all great sources to help you uncover events specific to your business.

2. Create your own event. You might think creating your own event will blow the budget, but with some clever planning, it doesn’t have to. Why not ride on the back of an existing industry trade show or expo and capitalise on the fact that the people you need to speak to will, for a few precious days, all be in the same place, at the same time. Research which companies are attending by taking a look at the event website, hire a room in the exhibition hall and start organising meetings during those days to speak to your top priority prospects.

If you really want to save the pennies, plan an online event or webinar. This has the advantage of being hugely convenient for those in attendance as it means there’s no tiresome, lengthy travel involved. Holding an engaging, fun, attention grabbing webinar that’s generous with information and isn’t a complete sales plug, will afford you a reputation as leader in your specialism and lets you build relationships with potential customers using a softer sales approach.

Techsoup and Hubspot provide great guides for holding successful webinars and they’re both well worth a read before wading into the webinar waters.

3. Publish great content. Yes, I know I bang on about publishing great content a lot but you really can’t underestimate it and, if you write it yourself, it’s free! Comment-worthy and useful content published on your website, blog, social media channels etc drastically improves SEO, drives traffic, builds your reputation and generates good quality leads. Try writing top tips (like this!), interviewing a leader in the industry or a professor who is an expert in your field. Sensible Marketing posted a blog of 44 B2B Content Marketing Ideas that’s guaranteed to get your content idea juices flowing.

4. Get LinkedIn. There’s a joke in our office about a particular Director ‘spreading it about a bit’ on LinkedIn. But as cringe-worthy as you might feel requesting to connect with someone, it’s worth doing for the potential business and for the connections further down the line you could make.

If you find business networking awkward and staged then try going about it in a more sincere manner. Find groups talking about things you’re genuinely interested in and start sharing ideas and joining in discussions. Share your company’s great content and start building your brand. Don’t just login to LinkedIn, request to connect with your top 10 prospects and logout. Make this social channel more valuable by really investing some effort in it. You’ll certainly get more out of it and, again, it’s free!

If you want to learn more, here’s a great post from 8waysin8days about Effective LinkedIn Strategies for B2B marketing.

5. And the award goes to…Do some digging into what industry or business awards you can put yourself up for. Even better, why not enter with an existing customer co-promoting an implementation or project you’ve worked on together? If you win you can capitalise on a load of publicity and promote your now award winning products via your website and social channels. If you place high enough but don’t actually win, you can still publicise your participation.

6. Get social. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – they’re all free social media platforms that, if used well, can get you a ton of leads, help build your profile and improve communications with customers and industry peers. If you’re a small outfit and don’t have the time to dedicate to all three channels then just choose one but do it really well.

If you want to hone your social media skills, I’d recommend The B2B Social Media Book by Bodnar and Cohen. It’s chock full of practical tips and offers good advice on analysing solid, quantitative metrics.

7. Warm up the PR machine. Advertising is costly and ROI is difficult to gauge when done through print media. So keep things cost effective by releasing something newsworthy. It’s free for journalists to write about you and you can feature in the same publications as you were going to pay to advertise in. The key word in this paragraph is newsworthy. No one wants to hear about small technology releases and updates or a new client deals unless you’re very big/they’re very big/the deal is worth a lot/it’s related to something very topical.

If you have no newsworthy company or customer announcements why not conduct some good research and write an eBook packaging the results – results that provide valuable insights for your customers. This eBook on 31 PR Tactics That Make for Memorable Campaigns might spark some good ideas for newsworthy content.

8. Work your website. Successfulwebsites have evolved in recent years from essentially an online brochure shouting about your company, your products and your people to a hub of useful information and resources (as well as also promoting products and services). Hubspot founders Halligan and Shah realised that people want to be helped not sold to and sparked the inbound marketing movement whereby businesses can attract, engage and delight customers by providing relevant, helpful and personalised content.

So if you really want your website to work for you and attract high volumes of good quality leads, you need to put content on your website that helps your customers. Take a look at Hubspot’s website, straight off the bat they’re offering a free report. Further down the page they promote their inbound community and a free tool to see how effective your website it. These assets get almost the same billing as the software platform Hubspot is selling.

Take a leaf out of Hubspot’s book and transform your website from a bland, passive company brochure into a community hub, an industry resource, a bustling, thriving breeding ground for new ideas and a customer watering hole!

9. Ad promo credits. From time to time Facebook. LinkedIn, Google, Bing/Yahoo offer coupons so you can get a discount when buying advertising from them. Facebook has recently clamped down on these coupons in response to companies selling them on so they may be a little harder to find but coupons for Bing and Google are readily available and worth taking advantage of.

10. Free infographic templates. Did you know that 90% of information is transmitted to the brain visually and half of the brain is dedicated to visual function? This means that information presented graphically or visually is more likely to capture your target audience. This means that infographics can be one of your most powerful marketing assets.

If the thought of getting creative with Photoshop or Illustrator is sending you into cold sweats, don’t worry! There are loads of free infographics templates online that’ll make your information, insights and research really shine. Here are a few to start you off: Venngage, Free Infographic Templates, Freepik.

This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, there are lots of low-cost or even free marketing resources that, thanks to the web, are easy to access and use. So go ahead and get marketing, just because you don’t have the budget doesn’t mean you can’t be hugely effective at cramming that pipeline full of leads!

Trade shows gone wrong: are you getting the most out off your most costly marketing activity?

It’s well accepted that trade shows are eye-wateringly expensive and highly stressful but also an important way to drive business and increase brand exposure.  When done wrong, you haemorrhage money, waste time and potentially damage your company’s image in the process. When you’ve cracked it, you stand to win orders, gather a ton of good leads and give your company’s profile a boost with the people in the industry that matter.

So when stakes are this high make sure you’re well prepared with these 10 tips for trade show success:

  1. Pre-prepared order sheets and pricing strategy.  Before you even get to the event make sure you and your team (especially the sales guys) know what your pricing and discount structure is per order quantity.  There’s nothing worse than haggling with a determined customer only to find yourself back peddling or that you’ve made a loss at the end of the negotiation because you’re unfamiliar with the margins.  Also, make things easy on yourself and bring pre-prepared order sheets either in hard copy or electronic form.  That way orders won’t be scribbled down on an illegible piece of paper only to be dubiously translated post-event when memory of the details are fuzzy.
  2. Marketing materials that matter.  Most delegates will walk away from an event with a sponsored bag filled with about 20 different companies’ brochures, data sheets, white papers, giveaway tat, snack wrappers and goodness knows what else.  If you want people to read and remember your business, you need marketing materials that grab attention and stick out from the rest of the recycling! Keep your messaging short, sharp and take some inspiration from these unique and striking examples.
  3. Leads, leads, leads.  One of, if not the main reason why businesses attend events is to capture leads in the hope that they might turn into an actual paying customer.  Lead capture is a hugely important and, yes, slightly onerous task and can be done effectively a number of ways: stick them in a spreadsheet, use the scanners provided by the event organiser to scan people’s name badges, ask delegates to drop their business cards into a bowl in order to win a prize.  Sometimes the organisers actually distribute attendee contact details but you may need to sponsor something at the event to enjoy this benefit.
  4. Sponsor something.  If you have a little extra budget and the event has exactly the right calibre of people in attendance, get efficient and sponsor, say, a drinks reception for example.  This way you can get your brand up front and centre and get some valuable networking done at the same time.
  5. Get cosy.  Events are often held in very large, very impersonal conference centres with very little privacy to speak of.  Unless you have a sizeable stand with its own meeting space, it might be worth hiring private meeting rooms within the conference centre to have somewhere less exposed to talk to bigger clients.
  6. Free tat.  Instead of your giveaway being a throwaway, why not make it something delegates will keep, use and enjoy?  There are a number of companies out there that do some interesting, original products, it may just involve a little extra research and thought.  Here’s a good place to start though!
  7. Tell a story.  If your products or solutions aren’t the most engaging or are quite dry, try and create a more relatable story around what you’re selling.  How does it help the buyer?  What problems does it solve for them?  Sometimes it’s not what you buy but who you buy it from so if you have an interesting back story, use it!  Provide some company background and inject some personality into what you do and why you’re doing it.
  8. Ooh pretty!  Again, in a conference centre of sometimes hundreds of exhibitors, you need to stand out.  People are like magpies, they tend to gravitate towards aesthetically pleasing, eye catching things regardless of whether they’re interested in what your selling or not.  But once you’ve drawn them into your stand, that’s half the battle won! Make your exhibition space look as attractive as possible.  Move away from a sparse pull-up banner or three – there are plenty of cheap and easy ways to dress a booth, you just need a bit of creative thinking.  Here’s some food for thought.
  9. Be Social.  Thanks to smartphones, tablets and free wifi, delegates are taking more photos at trade shows and posting more tweets and Facebook and LinkedIn updates than ever.  Capitalise on this social behaviour and make sure you and your space look spectacular showing the passing traffic that your company has something to get social about.
  10. Get punchy with the PR.  When media focus is already on an industry event, it’s a good time to release a story because the press are already primed.  Industry press will always be in attendance so make sure you have a good press pack ready and you’ve put time aside to speak to journalists to either sell in your story or keep your company on their radar for the future if you have nothing newsworthy to sell at the time.  There’s nothing wrong with building those relationships now for use later down the line.

And that sums up my 10 tips for trade show success.  As with most of these ‘tips & tricks’ blogs, it’s not an exhaustive list but gives you a little direction and somewhere to start when it comes to planning your attendance at an industry event.  There’s a raft of things you can do as a small company to make your trade show budget stretch as far as it can (speaking opportunities etc) just make sure you’ve researched and planned far in advance and trade events may well turn out to be the secret to your company’s success.