How to make a big splash with next to no marketing budget

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You know your customers are online and you want to reach out and bring them to you. But let’s be honest, in the early days of your business your marketing budget is tight – ‘whatever’s left’ – because everything else has a higher priority when it comes to your available cash.

So how do you get new customers on a small or tiny (or non-existent) budget?

Get your house in order

There’s a lot to do before you switch on the budget for paid marketing. Nothing beats a happy customer with a delightful experience.

No matter what service or product you offer, you want to make sure it delivers as much “customer value” as you can pack into it before you start selling it.

But before you start serving ads…

Iron out your customer journey, also known as the path-to-purchase/sign-up.

Test & gather feedback to make sure your user experience, once they’ve already purchased, is smooth and enjoyable.

Be clear as to who you are targeting – the more finite and targeted you are,  the greater your success and best return from a limited marketing budget.

  1. Who is the audience is for your service/product?
  2. Where do they spend time online & what they do there?
  3. Who are your competitors? (And where, when and how do they market themselves?)
  4. What is your value proposition? Why would your customers buy from you? How does your service/product help them, solve a problem, make their life easier, brighter?

Read more: How to build a successful digital sales funnel & customer journey

Take advantage of the freebies

You know you’re doing your owned and earned marketing right when it makes your paid marketing cheaper.  Consider how much you can leverage from your owned and earned marketing (before you switch on paid)

1. “Owned” marketing strategies

The first thing to invest your time in is keyword & search engine optimisation. Talk about your services/products in ways that customers will understand, and are likely to be searching and looking for. Do this before you spend any time writing original content – on blogs, in emails, on any form of social media, and especially before you write ads.

Retargeting pixels are vital for digital marketing. Embedding a pixel on your website to track visitors means that once you’ve got budget, you can show ads to people who have seen your content before. If you have a website, turn on retargeting long before you’re ready to spend money. That way you’ve already built up a database of visitors when you’re ready to spend.

Another free subset of retargeting: once you’ve got enough of an audience of web traffic and people who have made a transaction on your product/service, you can use your own data to start building Lookalike Audiences (people who are similar to those who already enjoy your offering). Having your own data source is critical.

Content marketing is king. If you’ve got a website, blog or a social media channel, you’ve got a place where you can be providing value to your customers – even before they’re ready to buy. Once they’re on your website, your retargeting pixel will also pick them up and add them to your database, so you might be able to bring them back to your website later to purchase. What kind of content can you produce?

  • Blogs
  • Research & downloadable papers
  • Video tutorials or livestreams on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Twitch
  • Original content on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat or Pinterest
  • Email newsletter (also called an eDM – electronic direct mail)budget
Remember: content is about storytelling.

You as a business owner can tell many great stories about your customers, about your philosophy and values, about the ingredients and materials that make what you are selling special. In particular social media should be seen as a conversation and it may take a number of pieces of content to take someone from they don’t know you, to they are considering you, and now want to buy from you.  

Read more: 6 tips for creating B2B content marketing

2. “Earned” marketing strategies

Word of mouth is growing more powerful all the time. People tend to trust each others’ recommendations more than they trust a business’ professional branding. That’s earned media.

Invest in your free earned media first: those people who are already using your product or service.

  • If they’re happy, find out why they’re happy – ask for a testimonial to put on your website, or ask them to leave reviews in public places – Facebook, Google, and review sites relevant to your industry (such as TripAdvisor or Yelp).
  • If they’re unhappy, find out what their problem is – get feedback, learn from it, and show your customers you’re listening and improving.
  • Run a competition where they can win something if they share or engage with you.

Then there’s influencer, advocacy and partner marketing. Longer-term partnerships are better than one-off “paid for comment”or “gifted for comment” promotions. Ensure that if you’re talking with an influencer that their audience is both genuine and that they’ll care about your product or service. Don’t ask a food blogger to try out a face mask. Their audience follows them to see food-based content, not beauty-based content.

Owned and earned media strategies are the best ways to get bang for your buck in marketing when you don’t have much of a buck to give. Only once you’re sure you’ve done everything you can on this end of the business – and you’re actually seeing results – should you start thinking about using paid advertising strategies to supercharge your growth.

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