How to Market Your Small Business on a Budget

This article is written by our friends at Vistaprint.

As a small business owner, you want your budget to stretch as far as possible. Some good news is that effective marketing doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. You just need a simple — yet smart — strategy, plus some tactics to keep business bubbling and new prospects brewing.

Big brands might spend billions on advertising in just one year, but as a small or locally run business, you don’t need a TV spot during the big game to reach your target audience. In fact, being able to get more up close and personal with your prospective customers puts you at a great advantage.

Follow these simple steps to help you market your business successfully and without breaking the bank.

1. Get an umbrella.

OK, not literally, but before you get started with your marketing efforts, it pays to be clear on the overarching “umbrella” message you want to convey about your business. Your umbrella message is the idea you want people to take away about you. For example, if you run a café, your umbrella message might be “We provide simple, delicious food and drinks for local people to share in an environment that feels like home.”

Having a well-defined umbrella message goes a long way in ensuring that all your marketing tells a consistent story, communicates your key strengths, and gets your business recognized in the right way — whether you’re introducing yourself or promoting a special offer. You can use it to shape the content you include in all your materials, from printed products such as flyers and brochures to the homepage of your website.

2. Create a “brand-out.”

A great starting point to get your message out — and a cost-effective way to promote yourself through the seasons — is to create an item you might call your “brand-out.” That is, a handout that helps your brand stand out.

How? By telling people who you are, what you offer, and the unique values that define your business — and ideally, separate you from the competition. To ensure your brand-out has a long shelf life, you won’t want to include any time-sensitive invitations, but you could offer a free consultation or gift to entice people into that first inquiry.

A postcard is ideal for making a brand statement, but a well-designed flyer can also be an effective and affordable alternative.

3. Sweeten the deal.

While your brand piece can raise awareness of your business at any time, running special deals, seasonal offers, and incentives can help you bring more people through your door during quieter periods, or maximize on the busier shopping seasons. There are many different offer types, from “buy one get one free”(BOGO) to “% off” discounts.

You could also run a competition for customers to win a more valuable prize — while collecting customer contact details in the process so you can email them later. Here are some ideas on how to use flyers or postcards to promote time-bound offers.

4. Take to the streets.

If you want to get the word out about your business, why not get out there and do it in person? Sure, you might not have time to do this every day, but if you can carve out an hour or two, it can really be time well spent.

There’s nothing more personal than chatting with prospective customers face to face, and then handing them a flyer or postcard to carry your message away in a tangible and memorable way. Street marketing is a highly effective way to promote your business, especially if you focus mainly on your local area.

5. Turn customers into promoters.

There’s no more credible way to market your business than to let customers do it for you. Research shows that 85 percent of small businesses get new customers through word-of-mouth marketing, so don’t feel shy about asking happy customers to spread the word to friends and family.

A great way to do this is to offer customers an incentive, such as a discount for both them and the person they refer. A few simple flyers can do the trick, or you could even include it on the back of your business cards for customers to remember.

Google reviews are also a great way to attract people in your area, whether you have a website or not. Once again, why not ask customers to write one for you? Alternatively, you could also keep a physical book for people to leave comments, which you can then use on your website or in future marketing materials.

You might feel a little awkward asking at first, but just politely ask if they wouldn’t mind taking a couple of minutes to write a few words and let them know how much you’d appreciate it. Most people love to support their local businesses so chances are they’d be delighted to help you.

Great marketing doesn’t have to come at a great cost. As long as you have a clear message, some key materials, and a resourceful approach, you have everything you need to market yourself successfully.

About Vistaprint

Vistaprint creates fully customizable and affordable products and services, from business cards, flyers, and brochures to websites and logo designs. Passionate about empowering small businesses and entrepreneurs, Vistaprint also provides marketing advice and support to small business owners, as well as sponsoring events and initiatives to help them grow, succeed, and achieve their dreams.