When a business is pinching pennies, the marketing budget is often the first thing to go. For many business owners, it’s more important to continue paying employees and to pay utilities than it is to try to attract new customers.

However, eliminating your marketing altogether is a mistake that can cost you in the long run – and there’s no need to do it. Here are 7 ways that you can continue to market even if your budget is tiny.

#1: Make Cold Calls

There’s no way to attract new customers or clients without having a “first touch” that introduces them to your brand and lets them know what you can do for them. That’s where cold calling comes in.

Some companies pay for cold calling services but it’s something you can do in house if you’re willing. For the best results, do as much preliminary screening as you can and prepare a cold calling script for callers to use. It’s also a good idea to think about what time of day people will be most receptive to hearing from you.

 

#2: Start (or Optimize) Your Referral Program 

Referral marketing is one of the least expensive and most effective ways to get new clients for your business. A referral can come from an existing customer or from another referral source such as a professional colleague or local business owner.

You’ll have the best luck with referrals if you incentivize people to refer their friends, family, or customers to you. One idea might be to offer rewards where people get a free product or service if they refer a specified number of people. Alternatively, you could offer a points system that allows customers to “level up” to unlock special rewards and perks.

Keep in mind that, with any referral program, you’ll need to make the rules clear ahead of time. Will you offer rewards for a lead or only for a paying customer? If you provide a service, does a new client need to stay with you for a specified time before the rewards kick in? Make sure that all participants understand the rules.

 

#3: Get Involved Locally 

One thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has done is to remind people of the importance of supporting local businesses in their communities. You can gain some good will and increase brand awareness by participating in community events.

In-person events might still be rare, but you can get involved in local charities and other events that are being held virtually. If events are being planned, you can step in at the planning stage and offer advice and support. Either way, you’ll get the benefit of having your business in front of the local people who are most likely to be your customers.

 

#4: Create Useful Content

One of the best things about content marketing is that it doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. You can write blog posts, create graphics, and even film videos without going over your budget.

The key to not spending a lot is to focus first on how your content will serve your target audience. A video that demonstrates various ways to use your product will be immediately useful and people who view it won’t need to connect any dots to understand how it has helped them.

Keep in mind that the content you create can be shared on your website, with your email list, and on social media. Cross-posting is free and it’s always useful because the people who follow you on Twitter may not follow you on Facebook – or vice versa.

 

#5: Take Advantage of Free Social Media Features  

While you can certainly spend a lot of money on social media marketing, you don’t need to do so to get results. Let’s start with the obvious. Any content you create can be shared with your followers at no cost to you. You can also choose to promote your most important pieces of content.

Other free options include creating a poll for your followers and running a social media contest. People love to get something free, and a contest is an effective way to get your content in front of new people without paying for it.

If you decide to go the contest route, make sure to incorporate Likes and shares into your contest rules. One common tactic is to give your followers one entry for Liking your post, one for commenting, and a third for sharing. You could even give additional entries for people who share your contest on multiple platforms. Track everything meticulously and articulate the rules to eliminate misunderstandings.

 

#6: Partner with Other Businesses 

With a lot of small businesses struggling, it is essential for business owners to help each other out whenever possible. One way to do that is by joining forces with a complementary business and creating a cross-marketing campaign that benefits both of you.

For example, if you own an insurance agency, you could do a cross promotion with a local real estate agent or car dealership. If you own a furniture store, you could partner up with a store that sells gardening supplies and market your products to new homeowners.

The most important thing if you choose this option is to choose a marketing partner whose products or services will appeal to your customers. There might be a remote chance that the same person who bought a motorcycle helmet from you will want to plan a wedding, but the crossover is likely to be minimal – so stay focused.

 

#7: Look for Ways to Highlight Your Business 

Trust badges, certificates, and awards are everywhere online. If an award committee accepts nominations for awards, you may want to ask someone to nominate your business for the award.

The benefit of winning an award is that it’s offers you the opportunity to promote and raise the visibility of your business without dipping into your marketing budget. You may get a nice badge or trophy symbol to display on your site and you may even get some free promotion from the organization providing the award.

As you can see, it’s not difficult to market your business with a tiny budget. All you need is some creativity and time.