Marketing

No Money? No Problem. 30 Low Budget Marketing Ideas for Your Business

Effective marketing begins with a good elevator pitch delivered to anybody interested in listening.
No Money? No Problem. 30 Low Budget Marketing Ideas for Your Business
Image credit: bernardbodo | Getty Images
VIP Contributor
Entrepreneur and Connector
14 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you want your business to grow, then you’re going to have to set aside both time and money to marketing. That’s not an issue when you’re an enterprise level business that has the resources to spend on marketing.

These types of businesses may even have an entire marketing department or spend millions on a third party to launch a campaign, but what if you have a tight budget and limited time to devote to marketing your startup? Does that mean you just need to wait until you have more money flowing into your business? Of course not!

Instead, market your business without breaking the bank by these 30 low budget marketing ideas.

1. Perfect your pitch.

Whether you’re at a family BBQ, a friend’s wedding, traveling or watching you kid’s soccer game, you need to always be marketing your business. The most effective way to do this is by having a compelling elevator pitch.

That’s no easy considering that most people have a short attention span.

“You have 90 seconds, if you’re lucky,” says Robert Herjavec, serial entrepreneur and Shark Tank investor. “If you can’t make your point persuasively in that time, you’ve lost the chance for impact. Facts and figures are important, but it’s not the only criteria -- you must present in a manner that generates expertise and confidence.”

So, how can you perfect your elevator pitch? Start by:

  • Knowing what motivates your audience.
  • Incorporating social proof.
  • Telling a story that shows your expertise and how you’re qualified to solve your audience’s problem.
  • Anticipating key questions from your audience, such as “What’s your competitive advantage?”

Related: What You Can Learn from 'Shark Tank' Contestants' Successes (and Failures)

2. Get involved with your community.

Often times when you think of marketing you think of a large scale national campaign. But sometimes you should think smaller and see what’s going on your community.

Can you sponsor a 5K charity walk or little league league? Is there a charity or non-profit where you could volunteer? Could you organize a block party with other local businesses? Can you print out bookmarks and leave them at your local library?

3. Ask for referrals.

As I wrote in an earlier Entrepreneur article, referrals are the most effective, and cost-effective, way to generate new business.” The problem is that we often feel awkward when asking for referrals. Even worse, you don't want your request to come off as a bit desperate.

Thankfully, there plenty of ways to ask for a referral without having to feel awkward or desperate. Here’s just a couple of ideas to get you started:

  • Just be direct and just ask for referrals through an email, online, in-person or at the bottom of your invoices.
  • Focus on asking your best client or customers, instead of all of them.
  • Offer incentives “like a gift card, percentage off of future work, a small gift or charitable donation in their name. ”
  • Make it easy for them to refer others, like an email script or recommend function on your site.
  • Give referrals.
  • Ask your customers to like your Facebook page.
  • Join a referral or professional networking group.

Referrals: 4 Mindsets That Earn You More Customer Referrals

4. Join face-to-face networking groups.

Networking is key. After all, it’s one of the fastest, easiest and most effective ways to build meaningful relationships that can help grow your business. If you haven’t already, then you need to join face-to-face networking groups in your community like your local Chamber of Commerce.

You can also use apps like Meetup to find upcoming networking events in your area.

You should also become a member of business organizations like Business Networking International, the Young Entrepreneur's Council, the Entrepreneur’s Organization, or SCORE. Also search for industry specific organizations that you can join.There are hundreds but the ones above are the best I've personally been apart of.

5. Participate in local business mixers/trade fairs.

Local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce frequently hold local business mixers, as do most coworking spaces. Now that you’ve perfected your pitch, go ahead and add these events to your calendar.

Also don’t rule out attending any industry trade shows. The Balance put together some helpful tips for creating an effective trade show display.

6. Apply for business awards.

It’s common for industries and organizations to have business awards, such as “Best Restaurant of 2018” or “Best Customer Service.” This not only generates some free buzz for your business, if you win, you can place a badge on your site or storefront to boost your credibility.

7. Target influencers.

“People buy what they know and from people they trust. This is why influencer marketing is becoming one of the most popular marketing strategies in the modern world,” writes entrepreneur Renzo Costarella. “With so many digital channels at our disposal influencers can easily promote products and services to millions of followers with the click of a button.”

Renzo suggests that when looking for influencers “you need to focus on quality over quantity. Look for high engagement over a large following. In addition you should make sure you pick an influencer specific to your industry.”

When you’ve identified “your influencer you should offer them free products or services in exchange for a product review. This is a very popular strategy used with YouTube influencers.”

8. Collaborate with other businesses.

Teaming up with a business related to your industry is a great way for you to introduce your business to a whole new audience. You can do this by collaborating online with a webinar or offline through a exclusive event.

If partnering with a local business, you could simply place business cards, flyers or brochures at their physical location.

9. Go cold calling/emailing.

Believe it or not, cold calling or emailing are still effective ways to obtain new business -- it also doesn’t cost you anything but time. After all, if you want someone’s business, then you’re going to have to go after it.

Of course, there’s more to it than just picking up the phone and calling someone or sending them an email. There’s an art to cold calling. Here’s some pointers on how to make your experience more successful.

  • Don’t focus on the sale. The idea is to create an opportunity for you to make your pitch.
  • Before contacting anyone, conduct some market research so that you’re only reaching out to your target audience.
  • Prepare an effective opening statement that includes greeting, introduction, reference point (this is something about your prospect), the benefits of your product/service, and a transition to a question or conversation.
  • Prepare a script so that you can answer any questions or concerns regarding your product or service.
  • Set up an appointment -- you can share your calendar with them so that they can see your availability and then select a time that works for them.
  • Always be pleasant to whoever picks up the phone or responds to your email.
  • Send them a small, unique promotional item.
  • It’s suggested that you contact them on Thursdays either early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
  • Be persistent. It may take three or four contacts to set up an appointment.

Related: 7 Tips for Cold-Calling Success

10. Work with affiliates and resellers.

Instead of marketing your business yourself, work with affiliates and resellers. They’ll generate leads for you in return for a commission on sales. If you do go this route, make sure that your pricing structure takes into account theses fees and commissions.

11. Offer to speak.

There are plenty of opportunities for you to speak in front of an audience. In fact, industry conferences, volunteer organizations, local business group, community colleges and libraries are usually in need of speakers. As a result, you’ll get some name recognition, contacts, and publicity.

12. Host an event or class.

If there aren’t any upcoming speaking opportunities, create your own.

Just plan an event or host a class at your local library, college or coworking space. Then, print out flyers and place them on community bulletin boards, like the library or coffee shop.

13. Publish top-notch content.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but if you don’t have a blog then stop what you’re doing right now and snag a domain name. This is by far the easiest and best way to market your business -- it also doesn’t cost an arm and leg.

What if you’re not a skilled writer? It doesn’t matter. People turn to you because they’re looking for advice on how to make their lives betters. Besides, there’s apps like Grammarly that can help you out with improving your writing skills.

If you need some ideas to get your blog rolling, try composing top 10 lists, best practices or instructional guides. For more on this topic, check out “8 Steps to Planning Digital Content in Less Time.”

14. Write for industry publications.

Speaking of writing, reach out to industry blog and publications that accept guest writers. Just like you blog, you’re demonstrating your expertise. More importantly, it gets you noticed by a larger audience.

15. Look for ad promo credits.

Ad campaigns can get pricey. But, if you do a little digging, you may be able to score coupons or discounts for Google or Facebook ads. Some web hosting services offer advertising discount codes to their members as well.

16. Re-purpose your content.

Do you have some old content out there? If so, you can breathe new life into it by recycling it. For example, you could take a study you conducted and make it into an infographic. That collection of blog posts on a specific topic could be used for an eBook. The podcast you just taped could become a YouTube video.

17. Offer coupons.

Coupons are great at attracting new customers, while also driving loyalty among your existing customers. I mean how many times have you tried a product or a restaurant because you had a coupon?

18. Run an online contest.

Promotional giveaways and contests are a tried and true way of building awareness and introducing your business to potential customers.

Ideally, your contest or giveaway should contain your products or services, such as the chance to win a one free membership to your service or recently released product.

Promote the contest on social media and don’t forget to announce the winner.

19. Give it away.

This may sound counterproductive, but don’t hesitate to offer people a free trial of your service or a free sample of your product. If they like what you’re offering, they won’t have any problems purchasing more of your products or services since they had a chance to “try before you buy .“

20. Check your online listings.

Hopefully, you’ve already listed your business on search engine local directories, as well as created pages on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

If so, make sure that your information, such as your website, business owners, and contact information are correct and up-to-date by using a tool like Yext.

21. Collect email addresses and send out a newsletter.

Email is far from far dead. In fact, it’s the preferred communication method among customers. As such, make sure that you’re growing and nurturing your email lists. You can encourage new sign-ups with incentives like eBooks. I suggest using a service like MailChimp or Constant Contact.

As for your newsletter, if you have a blog then you can send out an accompanying newsletter. Consider creating an exclusive newsletter that has different content than your blog to make your subscribers feel special.

22. Brand your vehicle.

All you have to do here is place a magnetic sign on your vehicle -- make sure it has your business name and contact info on it. The next time you’re driving around you’re also spreading brand awareness. If you don’t want to be too obvious, try out bumper stickers and window decals.You can also give them out to friends, family, and existing customers to spread even more brand awareness.

23. Create awesome business cards.

Thanks to companies like Vistaprint you can create your own unique business cards that stand out at a decent price. This way whenever you meet someone, you can hand them out. You can also leave them at other businesses.

24. Live stream workplace activities.

Between Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Periscope, and YouKnow. There are plenty of ways to live stream events like a behind-the-scenes sneak peek of a new product, instructional videos, “how it’s made” videos, or covering a local event live

25. Start a podcast.

Starting a podcast isn’t expensive -- you really just need to purchase a microphone and hosting. However, that initial investment is a great way to build awareness, showcase your knowledge and humanize your brand. Invite other business owners and experts to join your podcast so that they can promote to their audience.

26. Make it personal.

If you have existing customers, then take the time to show them how much you appreciate their support. You could do to this by writing them a handwritten “thank you” note or giving them a shoutout in a video or podcast. This goodwill will be reciprocated at they tell others how you went above and behind in making them feel like a VIP.

27. Make the most of employee's email signatures.

This is a simple and cost-effective way to market your business. Just have your team add a short sentence with a call-to-action in their email signatures. Now whenever they send out an email there’s a non-obtrusive marketing message being seen by potential customers. I like to even have my personal calendar link in there to book meetings.

28. Respond to queries.

Take the time to answer questions on platforms like Quora, joining HARO or being active on online forums that are relevant to your industry. Not only is this is simple and cheap way to prove that you’re an authority figure, it can get you noticed by an entirely new audience you has may have never heard of you or your business. .

29. Take advantage of Instagram and Pinterest.

Instagram and Pinterest are both great platforms to visually tell your brand’s story. Best of all, it costs nothing since you can just use the camera on your phone -- and maybe some time edit and upload.

What kinds of photos should you publish? Here’s some suggestions:

  • Behind the scenes look at your business.
  • Images that show your products in a flattering.
  • Memes.
  • Hashtags and geo-targeting.
  • Short videos sharing advice.
  • Image testimonials from existing customers.
  • Asking your customers to share images of how they use your products or service.

30. Guerrilla marketing.

Here’s what I love about guerrilla marketing; it focuses more on creativity then money.

For example, you could get permission to graffiti a piece of property, use stencils to create repeated works of street art, place stickers around town or plan a flash mob. Again, the idea is think out of the box, be authentic, and don’t do anything illegal.

If you need some inspiration, WordStream has a list of over 20 jaw-dropping examples of guerilla marketing.

More from Entrepreneur

Kim's expertise can help you become a strong leader, pitch VCs for capital, and develop a growth strategy.
Jumpstart Your Business. Entrepreneur Insider is your all-access pass to the skills, experts, and network you need to get your business off the ground—or take it to the next level.
Create your business plan in half the time with twice the impact using Entrepreneur's BIZ PLANNING PLUS powered by LivePlan. Try risk free for 60 days.

Latest on Entrepreneur