Marketing your business on a tight budget

Looking ahead to the Autumn and need to market your business?

Not sure what you can do that won’t break the bank?

Here are some simple ideas to give your business greater visibility. Feel free to choose from this affordable pick and mix.

You don’t have to break the bank to market your business but you do need to make sure you are visible to your customers in order to keep it afloat.

Before you begin

It pays (and prevents a lot of wasted marketing pounds) if you are clear about the type of customers you want to attract. Look at your current customers and consider what similarities and differences the target group has to them.

If you just want more of the same then think back to how your great customers came to you in the first place. What marketing activities were they switched on by? Can you do more of the same and cut back on other areas that aren’t working to finance this.

If your target customers are very different to your existing ones then think about how they choose suppliers like you. Talk to some non-competitive suppliers serving that market and get their advice and insight on what marketing activities work and don’t.

Use the season to your advantage

Create a seasonal offer or event that puts you back on people’s radars. What need does your offering particularly serve in the Autumn? Even if your products or services have year-round appeal, can an aspect of the Autumn shine a spotlight on a particular use for them. For example a security company I know offer a wide range of products but they often make a big noise about their security lighting range at this time of year. It ties in with the nights getting darker for longer. What aspect of your business offering that ties in with the season could you showcase on your website, in your social media, in your advertising etc?

Use your customers’ products and services and recommend them.

Why not use your customers’ products or services and,(if they are good), help their marketing and promote your business in the process? Write a testimonial which they can send round their customers and/or use in their publicity. Make sure you include a brief description of what your business does and your business name in that recommendation. And who knows that particular customer may reciprocate.

Our survey says…

Consider a quick survey on an issue affecting your customers – use free software like Survey Monkey and turn the findings into a small easy to read report. Be seen to be the spokesperson on this insight and share your findings with your customers, target customers and relevant press.

Ideally you want to be able to offer some insight to the research results and relate this back in some way to your business strengths. Don’t attempt to do a thesis, it’s better to run a simple survey that’s quick for people to complete. This will help you to get a good volume of respondents and generate some cost effective publicity from the findings.

Make it personal

Target your customers and potential customers with a personalised or tailored communication. Blanket mailings often end up in the bin as people know from the look of the envelope what’s a mailshot and what’s not. Also, people’s email inboxes are full to bursting. Play this to your advantage and focus instead on smaller groups with highly tailored offers or communications. Make sure the calls to action are easy to undertake. Do follow up your communications with a call to improve their success rate.

Get out and network

Depending on where your target market is, try to get out and mingle amongst them. The more your face and name is visible to them, the more likely they’ll remember you when they have a need. So consider networking, attending their events such as trade shows, exhibitions and the like.

If you’re selling to consumers, consider the markets, festivals or events they visit. Also see what events your suppliers or customers are running and go along and support them. They’re usually free and will give you the chance to talk to potential target customers and valuable contacts. In fact your customer or supplier hosting the event may be happy to introduce you to particularly useful ones.

Do a good deed for good PR

It’s not easy getting your business in the press with a PR story about your products or services. Local journalists will be more amenable to stories of businesses ‘doing good’ in their local community. So see if there’s a local charity you can support and think of activities you can do together. For example, can your business lend a hand with a particular challenge? The more innovative the activity, the more the press will be interested.

Be sensitive with how you manage the publicity for this. If you’re using every opportunity to blatantly sell your business then people are going to switch off. Talk with the charity about how you can best support them. Good charities will want to help you too to secure your loyalty. Many have formed networking clubs of their benefactors to help donors gain commercial opportunities from their involvement in the charity. See if this is possible with yours.

Keep it fresh

If your customers and target customers are social media junkies then make sure you’re keeping your social media presence fresh and engaging. Run simple competitions or surveys (you can always ask them for suggestions if your mind’s drawn a blank). Also consider giving out seasonal tips, ideas, suggestions or offers. And don’t forget to respond to any comments they pose to you.

See if you can run a joint promotion with a complementary business who has a strong social network following of your customers. Can you offer any incentives to their fan base and vice versa?

Create an event to bring customers in

Can you create a tasting, preview, workshop or surgery to showcase a particular product or service line or reward valuable customers? This doesn’t have to be a major investment. Create a simple invite – either printed or electronic, invest in some nice drinks and nibbles and plan a pleasant and useful experience. Can you get a speaker who’d be of interest? Can you theme the event and bring in complementary suppliers who will give tasters of their products too? Make sure you follow up everyone who attends – perhaps with a special offer off their next purchase or a multi-buy deal.

Make more of your email signature

If your business sends out a lot of emails then consider changing your email signature to showcase a specific product, service or news item each month. It will help your customers and potential customers to grasp the broader offering you have. It may also act as a prompt for a specific need they have.

In the same way, keep your website’s homepage fresh with information – especially if a lot of your new business is recommended by existing customers and contacts. Many of those new customers are likely to look at your website before getting in touch.

Consult your website and online advertising analytics

Look beyond the traffic volumes at the words and phrases people are putting into search engines to get to you. What are the popular phrases and what’s not there that should be? Use this information to fine-tune your search engine optimisation. Ditch phrases and campaigns that aren’t working and focus on the ones that are.

Turn the news to your advantage

Whilst you may not have anything new to say there are news stories and popular interests/trends emerging every day. Can any offer you an opportunity to promote your business? A good recent example of this was Specsavers who reacted quickly by turning the gaffe with the South Korean flag displayed before North Korea’s Olympic football match into an ad that reinforced their ‘Should have gone to Specsavers’ slogan. The ad generated a lot of light-hearted publicity and positive news interest for Specsavers. Can you do something, albeit on a smaller scale, from news and events happening in your markets?
The best marketing is built on a strong knowledge of the target audience. In reality, you probably know more about your customers than you think but that shouldn’t stop you trying to find out more. Customers are never static. Their needs, preferences and interests are constantly changing. The good news is that the more you know, the more cost-effective your marketing can be. You can strip out the various activities that will be ignored and focus on the ones that will certainly put you on people’s radars. Finally, try and build a bit of spontaneity into your marketing and play to the moment. In our very busy and noisy world, it’s more likely to get you noticed.

Michelle Daniels

An experienced and effective business development and marketing strategist, Michelle has built a successful career increasing top line growth for service businesses and organisations. She helps her clients turn their marketing, business development and thought leadership plans into reality with her ‘hands on’ support and practical advice. A prolific writer, Michelle also combines creative flair with business nous to produce highly effective results. She has written (and ghostwritten) for many professional and business publications and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and professional services marketing group. Extended Thinking is a hands-on marketing and business development consultancy. Bringing together great minds and great ‘doers’, we help our clients devise and implement plans that achieve real business growth. Our clients come from a wide variety of backgrounds and sectors, but invariably are those who are too busy or lack the resources to action their marketing and business development plans. We roll our sleeves up and muck in to free them up to do what they really want to do and are good at doing.

Be the change that you want to see. Step into your leadership.


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