How to market your business on a shoestring budget

Running a business yourself, funds can be in limited supply and every dollar has to stretch as far as possible. While using your hard-earned funds for marketing might not be top of your priority list, in order to help your business get off the ground, gain traction, and grow, you do need to get your name out there. The good news is, there are a number of ways you can market your business with little or no money. Here are four ways to build awareness for your business on a dime.

1. Where’s Waldo?

Making it easy for prospects and customers to find your business — both online and as a physical location — is critical to a successful start as well as ongoing recognition. And even in this digital age, location, location, location is a mantra worth repeating to yourself as it still does matter. So how do you gain visibility online and generate traffic? A few easy — and inexpensive — tips:

  • Get a Google MyBusiness account. With Google MyBusiness, you get a free Google listing so that potential customers can find your business when they’re searching for products or services like the ones you offer. And when you keep your listing fresh with new posts, photos, hours, maps, and customer reviews, it stays current and relevant for your prospects. It also makes your business easy to find for those ready to make their way to your bricks and mortar location, if you’ve got one.
  • Find and claim your Yelp page. Yelp is a great local tool for customers in your area to find you. With built-in reviews and ratings, it helps people understand what your business is all about, and how others feel about it. Yelp also facilitates two-way conversations with your customers, making it easy to engage your audience and reach prospects in an authentic way.

2. Social Butterfly

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest… (and the list goes on!) can all be fantastic marketing tools. When used effectively, these tools can help you build awareness, promote events, showcase products, and create relationships with your customers and prospects.

  • Facebook. Create a Facebook page for your business, and keep it updated it with news, events, photos, and reviews. It’s a great way to connect with your audience, encourage people to visit your website or store, download your app, or purchase products. Plus, if you do want to spend a buck or two, Facebook ads help potential customers discover your business while they’re sharing and posting, and the service lets you have a say in where your ad is posted (and where it is not).

Hubspot has put together a great 12-step infographic for businesses starting out on Facebook, outlining the do’s and don’ts of using the tool to engage customers and build your brand.

  • Instagram. As a visual platform, Instagram gives your customers an inside look at your business, and all that you have to offer. Tap into people’s passions, let your brand personality shine, inspire prospects to action, and promote products and services through engaging photos and videos.

Hootsuite offers a comprehensive guide for using Instagram in business, covering everything from signing up for the tool, to developing a content strategy and boosting revenue.

  • Twitter. Twitter can bring attention to your business, your marketing campaign, your event, or your new product. Because it’s where people go to find out what’s happening in the world right now, Twitter is an invaluable tool to promote what’s new in your business. And if you can come up with an inventive hashtag, you can build an interesting conversation with your followers (and their followers, and their followers, and so on). The Twitter basics page provides some great tips for new businesses starting out on social. Also, Sprout Social offers up the Ultimate Guide to Twitter for Small Business, which provides a comprehensive list of strategies that can expand your audience and connect with them on an ongoing basis.
  • LinkedIn. LinkedIn can help you build your business through networks, referrals, and mentorship, especially if you’re selling B2B. Just by having a LinkedIn profile page, you gain exposure to other businesses who may be searching for companies like yours, and facilitate introductions to others who may be interested. Like most things, however, the more you put in the more you get out, and if you actively use LinkedIn by posting regular updates, participating in groups and writing posts, your visibility in the business world grows exponentially.
  • LinkedIn’s Company Page provides tips for both passively and proactively engaging on LinkedIn, with insights on how to create compelling content and analyze your results.
  • Pinterest. Create Pins to highlight products, showcase new features, build awareness or boost sales. Check out the Business Pinterest page for tips on how to leverage this rapidly growing social media tool for your business. This tool is especially relevant for a visually appealing company!

If you’re considering leveraging a number of these social tools for your business, take a look at how Hootsuite can help you manage it all in one place. It can be a great way to keep on top of your social tools from one dashboard.

3. Show off

People want to buy from the best and know that your business isn’t just a flash in the pan. When you showcase your knowledge and leadership in your field, you can engage those who research, seek expert commentary, and want to do business with someone who truly knows what they’re doing.

  • Start a blog. Blogging can help create exposure for your business regardless of the type of business you have. If you’re a consultant, interior designer, accountant, or other service provider, you can write about your approach to business and provide thought leadership on topics that could interest your prospects. If you sell products, you can write about what’s happening in your industry or showcase particular features or services that set your company apart.
  • With tools such as wordpress.com it’s easy to start and maintain a blog. But if you don’t have the time to manage a blog of your own, you can also guest blog for another site relevant to your business, which can help extend your audience.
  • Network via LinkedIn. Not only can LinkedIn be a great business networking tool, you can write posts using LinkedIn Pulse and view and follow businesses you want to be associated with. By staying active on LinkedIn, you can help highlight your expertise and highlight your business’s strengths.
  • Hone your public speaking skills. Speaking at events is a great way to increase the profile of your business. This type of publicity offers you the chance to demonstrate knowledge of your subject matter and reach an audience that’s interested in your industry.

4. Get out there

It’s still important to shake hands and meet people the old fashioned way. Remember, marketing your business isn’t just about reaching your customers — it’s also about reaching individuals and other businesses who may market your business on your behalf. Being present and prepared at events and shining during pitches and interviews will go a long way to build recognition, awareness, and respect.

  • Attend conferences, industry events, and trade shows. These are great opportunities to meet reporters, potential investors, customers and other amplifiers of your business. Go with business cards in hand (yes, they’re still relevant), lock in your smile and get ready to talk, mingle, and promote your business. Eventbrite.ca and Meetup.com are great sites to see what’s going on in your area that might be relevant to your business and industry.
  • Nail your elevator pitch. You never know when someone will ask you about your business — whether it’s at a social event or business conference. Know how to deliver a concise, powerful message about your business anytime you’re asked. Your pitch should be 20-30 seconds long and give a brief but complete summary of your business. It’s a great idea to practice your pitch in order to get comfortable with it and until the pace and tone come naturally, without sounding like you’re reciting from a cue card. Here are a few tips for writing a killer pitch!

When you’re a small business or a startup with a limited budget, building awareness for your business doesn’t have to cost a lot. With inexpensive online and offline tools at your disposal, getting the word out about who you are and what you do can be efficient and effective. When done right, marketing your business for little or no money can capture immediate leads and foster long-term relationships with customers.