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Small business marketing tips for a shoestring budget

Running a small company on a shoestring budget and regularly struggling to get working capital doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice key elements of a successful business plan, such as marketing. Some small business owners avoid this crucial element of growing the company because of a lack of money. Many owners don’t have the money to hire a dedicated marketing staff and, because they’re too busy with other aspects of daily operations, these entrepreneurs are forced to wear a variety of hats to keep the doors open.

However, even if you’re bogged down in bookkeeping duties and supervising employees, there are a few simple and inexpensive ways to really boost your marketing efforts. After all, without a strong marketing strategy in place, it can be difficult or even impossible to increase sales and grow the business. There are many ways small business owners can take advantage of low-cost and creative marketing techniques to gain market share and spread brand awareness

Engage your customers
Even though you might be the owner of the small business, it’s still the customers who are the boss. That means you must engage with them frequently to really ascertain the state of their collective satisfaction. This eliminates the marketing middle man and gives you a chance to pitch your products directly to the target audience.

In addition, as noted by Quickbooks Intuit, regularly speaking and listening to customers lets you hear precisely what they like, dislike or are unsure about. This gives you a chance to analyze these issues and address the head on, either by tweaking your products and services or altering your sales approach. If one or two people are saying something, this surely isn’t necessarily, but you may be surprised to learn of some previously unknown trend among your customer base that you’d overlooked before.

Cross-promote
Working collaboratively with other businesses can greatly improve your customer base and not hurt your budget. The more collaborators you can get for a promotion, whether it be an ad buy, an event or something else, the less each business has to chip. Sharing the costs greatly reduces the individual contribution, effectively creating more bang for your buck.

Further, by creating close partnerships with fellow businesses, you gain a solid network of people willing to refer you. Referrals are a crucial component of success for any small business, and it’s always a sound decision to ensure you’re building and sustaining these professional relationships. Keep in touch with this group by writing a monthly or a quarterly newsletter with the latest updates about your company and the industry, or even just general business news stories.

Give stuff away
This might seem like an expensive option, but compared to some other marketing strategies, it’s pretty simple and won’t involve a lot of excessive costs. Plus it’s easy: You simply give away your products or services. As Forbes contributor Neil Patel noted, companies give away free stuff to customers all the time. Ben & Jerry’s made an entire day out of it to celebrate their ice cream. Chick-Fil-A, Costco and a host of other companies also provide free stuff to customers.

This creates buzz and customer appreciation. It it provides a chance for potential customers to try your offerings. Further, since you’re giving away things the company is already making during the normal course of business, you’re not likely to create a significant amount of extra work. Plus, this doesn’t involve the help of any fancy marketing techniques or expertise. You can have an employee stand in front of the shop handing out goods, or include a special offering at the checkout of your ecommerce site.

Obtain alternative financing
Sometimes, though, there’s only so much marketing a small business can do without allocating a bigger portion of the operating budget. Once you’ve depleted all of your low-cost options, it might be time to consider obtaining a working capital loan to inject your marketing campaign with the extra cash it needs. You can fill out the application online and often get the funding you need within 24 hours.

That additional capital lets you be more creative and increase your efforts. You can use the money for anything marketing related, such as buying a radio commercial, or even hiring a consultant to advise you on your strategies. Just be sure that you establish a set of metrics so you can track how much the marketing investment is paying off.

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