7 Easy Marketing Hacks to Build Your Business on a Budget


The writer Milan Kundera wrote: “Business has only two functions — marketing and innovation.”

As an entrepreneur and business owner, I know firsthand that the innovation part to Kundera’s business equation is typically the most exciting part. It’s what drives us to think creatively, experiment with different ideas, and never stop pursuing our dreams. Marketing, on the other hand, is a lot less exciting. In fact, many creative entrepreneurs and business owners find marketing to be downright intimidating. Translating your enthusiasm for your business ideas into “marketing speak” is neither fun nor easy. And hiring an outside marketing agency to do the job for you can be downright expensive for small businesses on a tight budget.

Marketing departments worldwide expect to spend $540 billion in 2015 for advertising. While your business may not be positioned to make a major cash outlay like Fortune 500 companies, you also can’t ignore the need to invest resources in a strategic marketing program. The good news is that you don’t need to have the marketing budget of a Fortune 500 company to get your business’s name out there. These seven marketing hacks don’t require a major investment of time or resources but still deliver big results. Even if you're doing some of these already, adding a few others to your marketing mix can help push you ahead of the competition.

1. Promotional Business Cards

Use a local discount printer or go the DIY route with an affordable online vendor, like MOO,to create professional-looking business cards without breaking the bank. Your cards should offer a specific, non-expiring, discount or coupon code. Don’t be shy; hand your cards out like candy. Doing so can’t hurt your business and it just might sweeten it a bit.

2. Guerilla Marketing

Don’t be confused by the name: guerrilla marketing has nothing to do with military tactics. This non-traditional approach to marketing is as simple as paying for a stranger’s dinner (or coffee), handing them a business card, and walking away. There may not be a sales pitch involved, but you can bet you’ve just made a tremendous impression on that person. Even better, they’ve got your card if they want to follow up on their curiosity or gratitude.

3. Email Newsletters

The cost is in time, not money. So gather up the email addresses of all your former and current customers and get busy. Your newsletter should strike a mix of 90 percent educational content and 10 percent promotional content. What insights can you share about your industry? Are there seasonally appropriate tips or other valuable information you can pass along to your readers? Focus on providing genuinely interesting and useful information that brings value to your reader’s day. The promotional part could be as simple as a special discount that’s only available for e-newsletter readers. Striking the right mix of educational and promotional content will keep readers coming back for more, strengthening your engagement with potential clients and customers.

4. Use Inexpensive Brains

With the costs of an MBA skyrocketing, many ambitious young people are smartly choosing to get their online MBA at a reputable university in order to minimize loan debt. Hire one of them as an intern or on a part-time basis to do your marketing. Your MBA interns will appreciate the opportunity to apply what they’re learning in a real world setting, and you’ll get free access to some of the best marketing minds at their university. Your interns will also bring you access to an even wider body of knowledge, including fellow students and professors, that they can tap for innovative and effective ideas that they’ll use to market your business.

5. Charity Begins at the Office

You can donate your used office supplies and furniture at many locations. Not only can you usually get a tax receipt for your donation, but some good PR as well. If you’re making a really big contribution, work with the charity prior to the donation to see what they can do to alert the local media about the donation. The bigger the donation, the harder they’ll work to get you some free publicity. And don’t neglect to send out your own press releases as well.

6. Magnetic Signs

Put magnetic signs on your company cars and trucks and even your own personal vehicle (if your significant other doesn’t object!) This can be a quick DIY project that costs very little for a professional look. Magnetic signage is free promotion wherever you go.

7. Electronic Signage

Banks and other businesses often have digital billboards prominently displayed street side. Ask if you can rent space on their billboard for a message about your business. As long as it’s non-competitive, and especially if it has something to do with local events, they will probably let you have it for next to nothing. Or hire a teenager this summer for a few hours a day to stand out on the street waving your business sign. Don’t underestimate the value of a little extra visibility!

Bottom line:

Smart marketing doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It can be as simple as buying a stranger a cup of coffee and handing out your business card or adding a magnetic sign with your logo and website to your car. By increasing your business’s visibility in the community, you’ll increase brand recognition, build stronger relationships with existing customers, and grow your pool of potential customers. That’s a win-win-win!

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About the Author

Brian Hughes

Brian is a seasoned digital marketing expert who loves to write about subjects that help small businesses grow their brands and increase their rankings online.

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