12 inexpensive marketing ideas for small businesses

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Small businesses rely heavily on marketing to raise brand awareness, reach their target audience and generate sales. Since most of these businesses work with a tight marketing budget, effective promotion and advertising can be challenging. Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable marketing ideas for small businesses. In this article, we take a closer look at marketing strategies for small businesses while also providing you with inexpensive marketing tips and ideas that work properly on a small scale.

What's the best way to get started with marketing ideas for a small business?

With numerous marketing ideas for small businesses available today, knowing where to start can be difficult. For small businesses, a lack of resources and less visibility can make the entire process more stressful. One easy way to overcome these challenges is by developing a unique marketing strategy. A marketing strategy clearly outlines how you can reach your target audience and turn them into paying customers. It's a form of strategic planning that involves a lot of analysis, preparation and research. This way, you can place the business name directly in front of the right customers.

Related: What is 7P marketing? (Including benefits and example)

How to develop a marketing strategy for a small business

Whether you're struggling with time restraints, a limited budget or a smaller team, a marketing strategy can guide you as you scale a business. Here's how to develop a functional small business marketing strategy:

1. Start with a goal

Clearly define what you plan to achieve with your marketing campaign. Is it to increase website visitors and conversions by a certain amount or reach more consumers on social media? Whatever your marketing goal is, ensure it aligns with the overall small business goals.

2. Refine your target audience and niche

Many small businesses assume anyone can be a paying customer, but this isn't the case. Advertising to everyone only stretches your marketing efforts too thin, significantly affecting your bottom line. It's wise to know who your audience is, including their pains, problems, interests and triggers, so that you can effectively meet and address them through marketing. Similarly, develop a niche and identify how you can appeal to buyers within this niche.

3. Develop a value proposition

When a small business offers something unique, it gains a competitive advantage over other companies in the same field. It's important to develop a value proposition that differentiates you from competitors. Whatever it is, ensure it's compelling enough to convince clients to work with you instead of other brands. You can start by writing unique selling propositions (USPs) such as free shipping or additional support services.

4. Know your product/services

It's vital to define the features and specifications of your products/services to know the business's position in the industry. One way to do this is through the 4Ps marketing technique, which includes:

  • Product: Examine what you provide, what makes it unique, how it meets the needs of your prospects and whether there are any features you can add.

  • Price: How much do you plan to charge for your product/service, and how does the price compare to competitors? Think about how you can increase your market share.

  • Promotion: Determine how and where you can promote your product/service and what appeals most to your audience.

  • Place: Consider where to sell your product/service, for example, online or physical stores.

5. Set a budget

Lastly, set a budget for your marketing campaign. As a small business, ensure your marketing activities are worthwhile and you're getting a sufficient return on your investment without spending too much. Think carefully about what free tools you can use when it comes to marketing to save money.

12 inexpensive small business marketing ideas

Here are 12 marketing tips and ideas for small businesses that won't impact your finances:

1. Word of mouth

Offering exceptional services significantly impacts small businesses, primarily in repeat purchases and word of mouth. This makes it vital to provide a great experience and meet buyer expectations. Customers are more likely to recommend you to friends and family and leave positive reviews, ensuring you reach more customers.

Related: Marketing Strategies To Grow Your Business

2. Promote yourself on social media

For the most part, social media is a free and affordable tool for marketing small businesses. You can start by creating a Facebook page or a Twitter account for the small business, depending on what platform your target audience spends the most time on. For example, if your customers comprise Millennials and Gen Z, consider making videos on TikTok. Ensure you're actively commenting, posting and responding to questions, tweets and posts to engage with your followers and build long-lasting relationships.

Related: Digital marketing skills: definition and examples

3. Create a website

Small businesses require a professional-looking website to establish their online presence. This makes it easier for customers to find the business, who you are, what you offer and your location. There are plenty of free and inexpensive website templates online like Wix, WordPress and HubSpot CMS that you can use to create your website.

Related: 11 direct marketing examples (with benefits)

4. Blog

Blogging generates organic traffic to your site while establishing business credibility and reliability. To start a blog, use free tools like WordPress to create an inexpensive website. Then, write engaging, informative and unique content at least once a week to improve your site's online visibility. Ensure all your posts have a clear CTA (call to action) to prompt buyers to take action.

5. Use free promotional tools

It's normal to assume that paid promotional tools are more effective than free ones, but this isn't always the case. Where possible, use free promotional tools to minimise your marketing budget. Some great free promotional tools for small businesses include HubSpot, Canva and Mailchimp.

6. Invest in email marketing

A website only converts traffic into leads, and through email marketing, you can use these leads to create buying customers. By frequently sending emails, you become memorable to your audience. This can prompt or convince them to take action, such as purchasing your product or service. Just ask clients to sign up for newsletters to get first-hand information on new launches and up-to-date news concerning your brand. You can then use this database to identify their buying behaviours and interests and how you can meet them.

Related: What is email marketing? (Tips on how to launch a campaign)

7. Set up contests, coupons and incentives

People love discounts and freebies, so if you can, provide free samples or start a contest where the winner walks away with a prize. Alternatively, create a frequent buyer rewards program or start a client appreciation program. All these improve customer loyalty, increasing repeat business.

8. Attend fairs, special events and shows

Big companies with a lot of cash aren't the only brands that can attend trade events. Smaller businesses can also benefit from local fairs and events. Closely monitor what's happening in your area and look for special events where you can book an exhibition table to showcase your small business. It can cost significantly less than national exhibitions.

9. Network

Networking is an essential aspect of small business marketing as it establishes business reputation and credibility and builds long-lasting relationships. Try to network with other industry leaders on social media to develop new contacts and identify new business opportunities. But, don't forget about traditional 'face-to-face' networking. Attend industry conferences and networking events in person to meet with like-minded people. They can teach you a lot about small business marketing and give you unique insights into your niche.

Related: 14 of the best networking strategies and where to use them

10. Encourage customers to leave reviews

Online reviews are one of the first things customers look at before making a purchasing decision. If the reviews are positive, they're more likely to buy from you and recommend the product to others. Encourage your existing customers to share their experience working with you on social media or review sites. If they post a picture of your product on social media, politely ask them to tag your account handles.

11. Run informative webinars

If you can't reach your potential audience in person, host a webinar. Webinars are a free promotional tool that allows you to provide your customers with helpful business information. You can use webinar platforms like GoToMeeting and WebEx to broadcast your webinar in just a few clicks. Promote your webinar event two weeks in advance to gain traction and inform prospects. Send reminders throughout the two weeks so that people don't miss it.

12. Post videos

Many consumers prefer video content because it's an interesting, engaging and easier way to consume information. If you can, create how-to and instructional videos for your products and services and post them on YouTube. You could also shoot behind-the-scenes videos about what it's like to work at a small business. This personifies you, allowing your consumers to relate to you emotionally.

Related: A quick guide to the pros and cons of mass marketing

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles