Low-Cost Creative Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses
Creative marketing options come in all shapes, sizes, and budgets. We spoke directly with the marketing experts themselves about their go-to tips for implementing budget-friendly creative marketing strategies in 2022.
Multimillion-dollar ad budgets, television buys during the big game, and gigantic digital brand awareness campaigns with endless spend are often out of reach for many small businesses. But there’s good news—they are also not the only way to operate or enhance your marketing campaign.
We consulted with a number of our expert partners to get their advice on low-cost marketing ideas that actually pack a punch, and they came back with an impressive list of everything from word-of-mouth marketing tips to best practices for digital marketing, Facebook ads, networking events, and much more.
Small business marketing can (and should) have a big impact on your organization’s success, so let’s jump in and take a look at some of the ideas and marketing tactics they recommend.
Six Recommendations for Low-Cost Digital Marketing Options
When it comes to small business marketing efforts, the less expensive they are, the more likely they are to get approved by business owners and become a part of your marketing plan. Several of the folks on our panel came to the same conclusion, offering their advice on low-cost or no-cost methods that can help small businesses and entrepreneurs develop a robust online presence without needing a massive budget.
“Don’t miss out on local directories to list your business online. Not only are they free, they’re very effective at helping small businesses build authority and a basic link profile that will help kick-start online ranking.” —Nick Leffler, Owner of Loclweb
“Take full advantage of your profiles on Google, Bing, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other relevant social media platforms, and understand where your audience goes to find information. For example, LinkedIn and Facebook are good for B2B, while B2C businesses should consider additional platforms based on their audience personas.” —Yvonne Levine, Strategic Marketing Consultant at YGL Enterprises, Inc.
While nothing is completely free, several marketing consultants we spoke to did point out online profiles and directories as very useful, and the only expense involved is generally the time needed to build and flesh out the available information for those sites.
“Create a profile on Google My Business. It will help your business be displayed on the first page of Google, at least locally.” —Anastasiia Gudkov, CEO, BereshkaWeb
“Leverage local and national listing websites; this is a quick and easy way to start building traffic for your website and gain recognition in your marketplace. Websites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor work great, as do services like Google My Business. And most of the listing websites you’ll find are either free or offer low-cost marketing on their sites.” —Ben Precious, CEO at Pace Social Media
As for additional outlets and potentially free options, there are a number of great ways to generate content that will help your brand, whether you’re getting the word out about a new business, new products, or anything else.
“Consider the top questions your current customers, clients, or patients have asked you, make a list of them, and blog about them. In addition, join Facebook groups that cater to your target market. Answer questions they have, be helpful, and make offers that lead directly to sales or that will help you build your email marketing list. And you can share all of this content on social media, on your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business), and in other outlets.” —Trevor Tynes, President at Trevor Tynes, SEO Consultant
Speaking of launching a new product or a new business, one unique recommendation that came through to us was specifically focused on generating media buzz and industry contacts through reporters.
“If you’re looking for a low-cost marketing strategy, one of the best things to do is sign up for HARO, which stands for Help a Reporter Out. It lets you keep track of reporters and journalists who are looking for interviews or quotes about specific topics. Those interviews can be published on some very authoritative websites, which provides you and your company with exposure through media coverage and quality backlinks.” —Brandon Schroth, Founder of Reporter Outreach
Hear From Industry Experts
Read the latest tips, research, best practices, and insights from our community of expert B2B service providers.
Getting to Know (and Getting in Front of) Your Audience
Social media platforms are great, but they’re also huge. And just like in other digital or offline and print platforms, effective social media marketing requires knowing your potential customers—who they are, where they are, and where they look for things they need. Many of the experts we spoke with made a point of talking about how important knowing and reaching your target audience is, both on social networks and anywhere else you advertise online.
“Don’t target everyone —target YOUR audience and speak to them! Start off small with your budget, run a few types of ads or promoted posts, learn what gets the best engagement, and do more of that!” —Donna Galassi, Brand Strategist at Blue Zenith Design + Strategy
Reaching the right audience is not only important for bringing in new customers or potential customers to your business, but impacts your content marketing development, search engine, and other online marketing efforts, and how you use your social media channels. The list of critical areas for “knowing your audience” is a long one.
“One of the worst things you can do is not know your consumer. Find what they love, what they don’t love, what makes them tick, where they go, who they go with, their path to purchase, and a million other things that will help you bond with them.” —Michael Campbell, Chief Creative Officer/Founder at DocuFilms
As you may have heard many times before, the best effort starts at “home.” And in this case, “home” is your business’ website. Every business needs a place to send potential customers for contact information and more, and that content is already a part of your overall marketing strategy.
“Wait to get your website to a great place with content and user experience, and do your research/know your audience. If you do those things, you can be successful with options like Google Display Advertising and Bing Ads, but at a lower cost.” —Ray Cheselka, CMO at webFEAT Complete
Other Budget-Conscious Marketing Ideas to Consider
Beyond the big names and outlets of the world of advertising, our panel of marketing experts offered numerous low-budget options for marketing tactics that small businesses can benefit from.
“If you’re strapped for budget, the worst thing you can do is try to run Facebook ads, or Google ads, or any digital ads for that matter. You’ll very likely be burning cash and seeing nothing in return.” —Trevor Anderson, Founder & CEO of Anderson Collaborative
Local events, with face-to-face interaction, are another great form of marketing and reaching new or potential customers. They offer you an opportunity to go with some traditional marketing options, such as business cards, as well as other marketing materials and even some guerilla marketing tactics.
“Networking events and local business mixers are great options, as is volunteering your time to a cause. In all these cases, you can build relationships with people in your community and focus on developing that relationship. Just don’t forget to follow up with the people you meet!” —Brandon Fuller, Owner/Designer at Tripass Design
There are, of course, a number of terrific options that can be cost-effective, but many of them take a good deal of time to develop and implement. Referral programs, building a database of customer referrals, developing an email list, sourcing testimonials, and collaborating with influencers are all great, but can’t be launched immediately. In the short term, though, there are some interesting options that can help your business sooner.
“Look for high-impact, low-cost ways to drive traffic to your website. For example, consider answering questions about related topics to your website on Quora, Reddit, and others. You can not only build up a small following, but by linking your website and related content to the Quora and Reddit posts, you’ll get referral traffic.” —William Chin, Digital Consultant at YourDigitalAid.com
Being a guest on a podcast, or even launching one of your own for your company, can be a great option in terms of reaching a target audience as well. And while it may cost you some free product or partner referrals, the impact is certainly worth the small investment.
Small Business Success at a Small Price
This list of expert tips for low-cost marketing of your small business is by no means exhaustive but offers a great deal of current, relevant insights that every business can benefit from. Whether you’re an entrepreneur just getting a business off the ground, or you have an established company that is launching a new product or service, starting out strong requires making the most of what you have available. And just because your company doesn’t have a gigantic marketing budget yet, that doesn’t mean you can’t have an immediate and significant impact on your business through creative marketing options and outlets. For more terrific information about maximizing the results of your marketing, consider partnering with some of our creative agency experts.
About the author
Jason is focused on the voice and strategy of UpCity’s written messaging. A former newspaper reporter and editor—and winner of an Illinois Press Association award for sports column writing—Jason has extensive communications experience in a wide variety of interests and industries. He has spearheaded content initiatives in the agency world as well as at major companies such as State Farm and DocuSign. Jason believes in the 3 Cs of written messaging: Be clear. Be concise. Be consistent.