You’ve worked hard to develop your business plan and refine your products or services. Now it’s time to connect with the people your business was designed to help.
But marketing your company can quickly become expensive. If you’re operating on a shoestring budget, you may feel discouraged that you can’t do enough to promote your hard work.
Even if money is tight, you can still make marketing work for your new business. Here are a few reminders to keep in mind when you’re marketing on a tight budget.
Stick to your budget
Have you established a marketing budget for your business? There are several ways to determine how much money to spend on marketing and advertising efforts, including a percentage of sales, a fixed annual amount, or a fixed amount needed to achieve specific marketing goals.
Once you choose the right budgeting method for your business, remember to stick to the plan. Walk-in sales pitches or cold calls might seem slick and worry-free, but can often turn into ongoing expenses that don’t yield results.
Before signing up for any offer of a service or special to help market your business, consult your marketing budget. If the dollars aren’t in the plan you already set, don’t get carried away by promises — make notes for next year’s budget instead.
If you can’t spend money, spend time
So many online marketing tools are free, or offer tiered costs depending on your needs. Use free tools like social media platforms to your advantage. Not only do they help build brand awareness; they’re also a way to interact with customers rather than just “shouting” at them like you might with a flyer or newspaper ad.
Small business owners typically spend 20 percent of their time on marketing efforts. If you build this time into your schedule — think of it as two hours each day or one day each week, SCORE blogger Jeanne Rossomme says — you’ll have time to focus on putting your best foot forward while using free tools like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or a free email newsletter platform.
Don’t try to do everything
Just because a free tool is available doesn’t mean you need to use it to promote your business.
Use your time wisely by focusing on free tools that make sense for your business, both because they reach your target demographic and because you enjoy them. For instance, if you commit to using Twitter but hate scrolling through your feed and creating catchy tweets, it’s a poor use of your time. Instead, reduce the number of social media platforms you use to those that excite and inspire you.
If there’s a platform you still feel like you need to use (but still hate using), assign that task to another member of your team who enjoys it. A staffer whose typical tasks don’t include marketing might enjoy adding a little variety into their day. If you delegate social media marketing tasks, be sure to communicate with your staff regularly to ensure best practices are being followed.
Step away from the computer
Don’t forget the power of word-of-mouth and in-person marketing opportunities. You might think about opening your workshop to tours or school trips. You may be able to snag a low-cost booth at a community fair where you can offer samples of your dishes or answer questions about your product line. If you’re great with a crowd, speaking on education or networking panels can help dozens of people get acquainted with your business.
By staying aware of ways to get involved in your community, and spending time interacting with potential customers one-on-one, you’ll build relationships that bolster your online marketing efforts.