Marketing is one of those necessary evils for small business. Even those who love the actual activity of marketing (which admittedly is not everyone) sometimes despair at the percentage of the total business budget that is devoted to it. But don’t fear – there are plenty of ways for small businesses to stretch the value of their marketing dollar, increase their marketing ROI and reach their desired audience without compromising on quality.
Without further ado, here are 8 ideas to get you started.
1. Produce Plenty of Evergreen Content
There are essentially two types of content: evergreen and time-sensitive (also referred to variously as topical or seasonal content).
Evergreen content refers to content that remains relevant despite the passing of time (within reason).
News is an example of content that is not evergreen, as it has a very definite expiry date. In contrast, most content you produce that is designed to educate, inspire or engage your audience can be made to be evergreen with relatively little effort.
If content marketing is part of your marketing strategy (and there is a strong argument for why it should be), make sure that a goodly portion of it is evergreen. This sets up possibilities for recycling it at a later date (refer #2 for more details).
Even content that is potentially dated (such as a section that refers to the latest technologies) can be made evergreen by being on a schedule for regular update so that you make sure it is always fresh.
We all know that as good citizens of the modern world we’re meant to recycle. But did you know that applies to your content, too?
In a similar vein to creating evergreen content, recycling your existing content into new formats and for new purposes extends its life and reduces the amount of work (and thus resources) you need to put into it.
These are just some of the ways that content can be repurposed:
- As the basis for social media posts across platforms
- Reused in podcasts
- Repurposed as content for email newsletters to customers
- As the raw material for a free e-book or a longer, paid white paper or report
- Recombined into new longer blog posts (‘best of’, ‘ultimate guide to’ etc.).
… and the list goes on!
3. Build Strategic Partnerships
They say two heads are better than one … and this may hold some truth in the business world as well.
There are many advantages in collaborating with other businesses on marketing so that you can extend your reach, increase your impact and access new audiences… all without breaking the bank.
Regardless of your industry, there should be plenty of potential partners out there who serve a similar target audience but with a different product or service … for example, financial planners and lawyers, doctors and physiotherapists, personal trainers and nutritionists and pet groomers and dog walkers.
Cross-promoting your products to each other’s audiences can be just the beginning of a beautiful marketing friendship … all the more reason to make sure you include networking as part of your marketing strategy.
Which brings us to #4.
Many of us shy away from networking but done right it can bring a whole host of benefits to your business.
In terms of budgeting, however, you need to make sure you go about networking the right way. There are plenty of ways to obliterate your marketing budget quickly– on attendance at expensive conferences for example – that don’t necessarily return the best marketing ROI.
If there is a clear connection for you between attendance at such events and an influx of new clients, then, by all means, go right ahead (and here’s a link to a list of the best-recommended marketing conferences of 2016).
But if it can be shown that there are other, smarter ways you can network without such a heavy investment– such as attendance at a breakfast for your local small business chapter, starting a LinkedIn group for your industry or organizing a workshop (virtual or physical) on key trends – you likely should prioritize them first.
5. Grow Your List
There’s a reason why it’s recommended every business should build a strong email list.
Apart from the fact that you own the list – unlike the social media platforms, where your followers can disappear overnight due to a technical glitch or a change in policy – email marketing consistently returns the best ROI.
Campaign Monitor, citing data from a McKinsey study, note that email is some 40 times more effective in terms of new customer acquisition than social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter – reason enough to get typing.
Don’t know where to start? Try this beginner’s guide from Kissmetrics.
6. Increase Your Marketing Efficiency
Need to do more with less? You might be surprised what you come up with when you put your mind to it.
Making time to review your marketing processes and increase efficiency is not always easy. But in the long run, you will be glad that you devoted the headspace to it.
And the effort doesn’t always need to be mammoth. For some ‘quick wins’, consider improving internal communication or identifying one small process that you could automate.
Sometimes, all it takes is one small step to get the ball rolling, and you can build up from there.
7. Have Your Customers Market For You
From providing great testimonials to generating referrals, your customers can be one of your most effective marketing channels.
And the best part? Most of this word of mouth marketing comes free.
But there is some hard work on your part … the hard work of ensuring that you are constantly providing exceptional value to your customers … and then providing them the means and motivation to get the word out whenever possible.
Spokal have some great suggestions for how to go about this, including our favorite: to ask for referrals in your correspondence.
See? Not so hard.
8. Target Your Marketing Efforts
When you’re on a limited budget, you just can’t afford a scattergun approach to marketing. You need to know you are spending your hard-earned marketing dollars where they will be most effective.
Not targeting your efforts is a bit like flying around in a helicopter dropping advertising brochures from the sky (and they might as well be dollar bills for all the lost opportunity).
Sure, some of them might land in the right hands.
But what if you could ensure every single one of those leaflets made it into the hands of a prospective ideal customer – the ones most likely to buy from you? Wouldn’t that be a better investment?
Zeroing in on your target audience with laser precision is one of the best ways to wring more value out of your marketing budget, and social media is an obvious place to start.
There’s no doubt that small business marketing can be tough. Some years, it can seem like there is just not enough money to go around, let alone to invest in marketing efforts. We’ve presented a series of ideas to get you started, but when it comes to which of these will be best for your business, there is no one right answer. As most of these suggestions are both low cost and low risk, you will need to try them on for size and see what makes the most sense for your small business.