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Small Business Marketing: How to Get Big Results on a Small Budget

Two hands holding up a sign that says, Big dreams hav small beginnings.

No wonder small business marketing is hated and feared by the majority of business owners. The demands are enormous, time-consuming, and confusing!

Besides running the day-to-day aspects of your business, you’re supposed to:

  • Send out punchy email newsletters

  • Write catchy/inspirational/meaningful posts on Facebook or LinkedIn

  • Understand Google ads, Pinterest, Instagram, and...

…any other bright, shiny digital object that dazzles and promises more business...all just to make a buck. Need an Advil just to wrap your head around it all? You’re not alone. SMB’s are the backbone of this country.

And yet, most business owners feel like they need a daily chiropractic adjustment just to answer this one question,

“What’s the best small business marketing strategy to grow my business?”

Followed by this question,

“And how do I do it on a small budget?”

The good news is you can not only win at marketing with a small budget, you can thrive. Here’s what you don’t do first.

Marketing Plan First? Nope. (Do This Instead!)

Yes, I know. It sounds counterintuitive, but starting with a marketing plan is not the first step any business should take. That’s actually putting the cart before the horse.

The real first step is mostly just given lip service, but it is THE most important and profitable step to winning at the marketing game.

And that step is to know your audience inside and out. Questions like,

Who are they? Where do they hang out? How old are they? What are their likes and dislikes? etc. are all easy market research.

That’s important info to start with, but if you want your marketing to be profitable, put on your thinking hat and dig into these questions:

  • What is your target market really looking for that your service/product provides? (Think life-changing goal)

  • What obstacles/problems keep them from meeting that goal/making that change?

  • If they were to commit to your product/service, how will their lives change for the better?

  • If they don’t use your product/service, what will it cost them?

This step is foundational to your marketing plan and it’s life changing for your business. When you demonstrate thoroughly to your target market that you understand their deepest desires, their secret fears, and their unspoken hopes for a better future, who do you think they’ll turn to for help?

Start with understanding your peeps first. That’s where the money is!

The Little Understood Small Business Marketing Strategy That Grows Sales

Customers don’t care about YOUR business journey, they only care about how you can solve their problem.

Every time you demonstrate your understanding of what they want--and you deliver on your promise to help them get it-- it’s money in your pocket.

What really moves people to connect--and ultimately buy--from you is your understanding of their frustrations, then providing a valuable solution.

For example, “I need to buy a new car.” That doesn’t motivate people to buy. Plenty of people need a new car but stick with their old one.

So, why are they are holding onto their old car? That reason--and how you overcome it--wins the sale.

Carmax built a very profitable business by addressing consumers’ fears of buying from a dealership.

Not only did they address that common obstacle, they turned it into a selling point. But they aren’t the only ones who understand how much money you can make by speaking to what people most want.

Take a look at this extraordinary commercial from Gerber Knives. Here’s a company that knows its audience backward, forwards, and inside out.

Heady stuff, right?

Gerber Knives knows that their audience doesn’t just want to buy a knife, (an external desire). Their target audience wants to buy a kick-ass, take-no-prisoners knife that can measure up to their idea of adventure. (internal motivation).

And that’s what Gerber sells.

For any marketing to be profitable, large or small budgets, understanding the internal drivers of your target audience is critical.

Then you must show them that you have the solution to what they want. This creates tremendous customer loyalty, which in turn, makes you money (as long as your product or service lives up to its name.)

Once this step is polished and primed, you’re ready to move on to creating your small budget marketing plan.

And congratulations, you just saved yourself a lot of wasted time and advertising dollars.

Marketing Strategy and Goals: How to Find What Will Really Work

Now that you have a deep understanding of what drives your audience, it makes it so much easier to strategize your marketing.

That’s how you make a marketing plan work! Protect your investment of money and time by getting specific with your marketing goals.

  • How much additional business do you want in the next 90 days?

  • How do you plan to achieve it?

  • Are you going to increase repeat business to achieve this goal? If so, how do you plan to do that?

  • How will you reach your target audience?

Just as understanding your audience is inherent to your financial success, so is creating a Unique Selling Proposition.

Your USP must demonstrate that you understand what your audience wants and it shows them how you stand out from the competition.

If you have worked through understanding your audience, creating a USP will not be difficult.

Tracking Online Marketing Results for More Than Dollars & Cents

For tracking online campaigns, use the free tool, Google Search Console. It track visitors, leads, and revenue generated online.

Hard data is always good because it’s measurable. Just don’t discount the less measurable objectives like social media engagement.

While you can’t always measure social media results in terms of dollars and cents, if used effectively, it can tell you what your audience most responds to, grows your customer loyalty and build a great business reputation.

Social Media Overwhelm? Here’s What To Do

Social media is often a black hole for businesses. There are so many platforms and so much to do, it’s overwhelming!

social media signs

As a small business on a small budget, choose one or two digital avenues, the ones that are most used by your target audience.

You don’t have to be everywhere. You just have to be where it counts and work it.

  • Provide your peeps with good tips they can use right now

  • Give them a chuckle

  • Share valuable content and videos that help them

  • Post pictures of happy customers and tell their story (with their permission). You’ll see that these posts are the ones that get the most likes, comments, and shares. And that’s good stuff!

  • Show community support. Promote a non-profit’s cause

  • Make 10% of your posts promotional

When you show a sincere desire to help, people pick up on it right away and respond in kind. And that leads me to a pet peeve I have with cutting the wrong corners...

Why Facebook is No Substitute for A Website

Don’t do it. Not ever. Never.

I get it. Your marketing budget is tight, but this is not the place to cut corners and Facebook is not a substitute for a website.

In fact, it screams, “Poor man’s website right here!” A business without a website reduces your credibility.

Think about it.

  • How can people learn more about you and your company?

  • Where’s the in-depth information on what you offer and how you can make their lives better?

Unless you’re willing to boost every post you write, Facebook will only reach a third of your audience at any one time.

Get a website and use Facebook the right way. Here’s how.

Social Media Marketing for Small Business: How to Use Facebook Profitably

Life is short in Facebook Land. In a nanosecond, whatever you wanted your audience to know has vaporized. Instead, use Facebook for engagement and to drive traffic back to your website where information remains a constant.

Driving traffic to your site will also help with rankings.

Boost content that got a lot of engagement to increase your reach. Attract more followers with a campaign. Use Facebook ads to reach your target audience and grow your email list.

More than 2,000,000 small to mid-sized businesses use it as an inexpensive, yet effective way to grow their businesses.

Facebook is the master of advanced targeting, allowing you to zero in on a specific audience using interests, age, location, online behavior, sex, and so on.

Creating the ads is easy but you do need to have a solid headline and some descriptive language. Again, understanding your audience’s deepest desires will help you create a great ad.

Facebook Ads Manager allows you to run multiple ad sets so that you can find a winning formula without a lot of technical skill.

Initially, it does take some trial and error. However, there are numerous 3rd party tools that can help. Or, you may decide to hire someone to do it for you.

Either way, Facebook ads are valuable and inexpensive to use thanks to the built-in demographic tools.

Just as importantly, you decide the dollar amount you want to spend. Stick your toe in the water, at first, to find what works. Then move full steam ahead. Now, that’s good news for small business marketing.

Google Ads: “Maybe” for A Small Business Marketing Budget

For businesses on a small marketing budget, massive Google Ad campaigns are not always feasible. However, if this is an avenue you want to pursue, you can often find coupons and discounts for Ads. Google sometimes offers them.

Check your web hosting service to see if they have an advertising discount code as part of your subscription. Just get someone who knows what they’re doing with Ads.

Otherwise, you can blow a lot of money and see no return on your investment.

Google Business Profile: The New Word-of-Mouth Referral Plan

Arguably the most powerful local marketing tool a small business can have, Google Business Profile is also the most abused and under utilized.

Too many businesses don’t respect the power of this free marketing tool. GBP puts a face on your business and immediately gives your business visibility and credibility.

Here’s what I mean. A quick search for “roanoke plumber” resulted in this:

Google Map Pack

At the very top, you see 3 paid ads. Below that, you see 3 business listings in what is called the Google Snack Pack.

This is a coveted position for local businesses because it showcases them, allowing businesses to get more leads.

So, how can you get into Google’s coveted 3-pack?

By optimizing your GBP listing. A complete and accurate GBP listing instantly adds credibility for the consumer.

Google  Business Profile

For example, if a customer has recommended you and the prospect Googles your business, what will they see?

  • Google reviews?

  • Up-to-date address?

  • Current hours of operation?

  • Questions from customers?

  • Additional web reviews?

  • Google Map?

  • Pictures of your business and the services you offer?

This information must be kept up-to-date. Otherwise, it looks like a tired storefront to the public.

Additionally, use GBP to post offers, meaty blog posts, testimonials, and to promote local non-profits you’re involved with.

The more complete and up-to-date your listing, the better! Finally, make sure your listing has more citations than your top competitor.

Citations are online business directory listings that influence rankings.

Now, about that website...

The Real Reason You Still Need A Website

Yes, Google has downgraded driving traffic to websites. And yes, you still need one because it’s the new word of mouth referral.

Think about it. When someone recommends your business, what does that person do? Googles it! Your website builds credibility and makes a business “real.” It also creates a strong first impression of your business, a lot like a first date.


Your website must demonstrate that you solve your target market’s problem. Social media platforms can’t do that because they weren’t designed to.

Make sure your site is mobile-friendly to accommodate the many devices consumers use to access the web.

  • Use in-store marketing to promote website coupons, offers that can be found on your site. They must access your website to use the offer.

  • Have a PDF download with valuable information your audience wants. Use that to drive prospects to your email list.

  • Use online ads or promoted posts to drive traffic to a landing page to add them to your email list or engage them with an offer.

The more traffic you drive to your site, the better your search engine rankings. And you want a secure site. Google has repeatedly stated that if the site is not secure, it will de-rank it.

That means converting your site from non-secure HTTP to a secure HTTPS with a Secure Socket Layer certificate. Talk to your hosting provider about getting one.

Not secure website graphic

Since most of the people who visit your website won’t buy right away, offer them a free download, free service trial, etc. and get them on your list!

That means your site must be mobile-friendly, accommodating the many devices that consumers use to access the web.

SEO & Your Website: No Headache Required

Info graphic listing 5 SEO secrets

Local businesses don’t utilize the power of search engine optimization. Mostly because it’s hard to understand and it makes their heads hurt.

The good news is that for local search, you really don’t have to have an advanced degree in digital marketing.

Just use the basics and you’ll be ahead of the game.

Here’s what you do:

-Optimize your site with keywords people are mostly using to find your product or service. (No keyword stuffing!) Ubersuggest is a great free tool for finding the best keywords to use.

-Label pictures with related keywords plus the city and state. For example, “best window cleaning, staunton va.”

-Add alt tags to your pictures. This is a short description of your picture.

-Meta descriptions--No longer a ranking factor, meta descriptions serve as an excellent call-to-action.

-Post instructional videos or videos that show how you solve a problem

-Blog! Create meaty posts to help with rankings and offer free tips to customers

And that brings us to the mother of all online marketing…

Content Marketing: Why It Attracts the Right Customers

Graphic with content marketing words

Google loves it when businesses provide valuable content that helps searchers. But it’s not just about search engines.

Good content marketing helps to attract your target market, allowing you to build a relationship with them. And ultimately, to sell to them.

Let your customers guide you.

  • Think about the questions your hear most and solve them in a post

  • Answer common frustrations and how to best solve them

  • Share upcoming trends and show how they will affect your customers.

That’s why email is still the best way to share that content.

Why Email Marketing Still Makes Sense

Email marketing, the cornerstone of digital marketing, is vital to every business. It builds authority and credibility. There are two valuable ways to use it:

1-For existing customers

It builds a fence around your most valuable customers. There are several ways to do that.

An email newsletter provides valuable tips, links to posts on your site that provide more information, and offers.

email @ sign in an envelope

It’s a low-cost way to reach people who want to hear from you.

Using email funnels, you can segment your audience according to what they like to buy. Then send offers and valuable information to them.

Segmenting your audience can greatly increase sales because it targets only those interested in that particular product/service.

Inexpensive, you can automate your campaigns and they are easy to set up.

2- Lead Nurturing

Not everyone visiting your site will buy from you immediately. To build their trust, offer a free download that addresses a problem they want solved in exchange for their email address, a free service trial, or a coupon to use in your business.

Then start marketing to them!

More Local Marketing Ideas for a Shoestring Budget

For local businesses, the more you become involved in your community, the better! Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Collaborate with complementary businesses--Build business relationships within your community that are mutually beneficial, creating referrals for you.

  • Create a referral program in your business.

  • Join the Chamber of Commerce and work it. The Chamber offers you the opportunity to host workshops. Do it. It’s a great way to get referrals.

  • Do strategic giveaways. Properly positioned, giving away something of value can bring you more business.

  • Teach a class on your subject matter. Use your email list to promote it and offer it at your place of business. Make sure it provides great value and gives participants the opportunity to buy from your business.

  • Promote a free consultation

  • Join a local networking group

  • Speak at an event. Think special interest groups, Rotary Clubs, etc.

  • Offer staff incentives--Who better to sell for you than your staff?

  • Coupon deals? Well, maybe…

A Word of Caution About Heavily Discounted Offers

With agencies like Groupon around, you may be tempted to use them to get people in the door.

Groupon has been highly successful for some industries, but not others. New hairdressers, for example, can build a clientele using massively discounted offers.

Store tags with percentages off

However, if you have a high-end luxury service or product, you may only attract people looking to buy cheap and move on.

The spa industry is a good example of that. Bottom line, do your homework before saying yes.

The Biggest Small Business Marketing Tip I Can Give You

Small budget, small business marketing doesn’t have to mean you can’t get the business you want.

Like all businesses, it does mean you have to dig deep into your customers’ psyche and create marketing that speaks to them.

Create strong awareness of your business and how it can solve a problem for people. Maybe you have less money to spend on generating new business.

But here’s something to consider. Just because a business may have a lot of money to throw at marketing doesn’t mean the money is spent well.

As a small business on a small budget, you have to be careful about how you spend your money, and that’s a blessing.

It forces you to make more careful decisions, to evaluate closely what’s working and what isn’t. All of it will pay off in the long run.

And when it does, your challenge will be to continue to think like a small business on a small budget.

Want to learn more about how to effectively attract targeted customers to your business? Get a complimentary 30-minute consult with me. I'll give you at least 3 tips that you can implement right now.


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