How to Market Your Business on a Small or Zero Budget

How to Market Your Business on a Small or Zero Budget

By: Laura Dolan, Senior Copywriter, Keap  


If you’re a small business owner trying to establish your priorities and allocate money where it’s needed most, marketing may not be first on your list. Other things may be taking precedence such as inventory, hiring a sufficient amount of people and renting a business space.


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Even though you don’t have the funds to hire a marketing team just yet, you can still get the word out about your business’ existence. So, what’s the best way to go about attracting customers to your store without a proper marketing strategy?  

Check out the following ways you can still market your small business on a modest or lacking budget:


Post Valuable Content on Your Site for Generating Leads

The first place to start is announcing to the world that you have a website. Your website’s homepage is where you’ll make your first impression, think of it as your storefront. Speaking of which, post your website’s URL everywhere, including the windows of your store, your business card, on your products’ packaging, etc.

Your website should be easy to navigate and distinctly designed with your business branding in mind so that customers know they’ve come to the right place.

You also want to make sure your business’ contact information is accurate and easy to find on the site. Do a spot check every so often to see if images and links are relevant and directing customers to the correct place.

Ensure that your business’ content is compelling enough to capture the attention of your target audience with the following valuable tools:

  • Product videos with demos and tutorials
  • Product descriptions with purchase links
  • Podcasts (see below)
  • Webinars (see below)
  • Infographics
  • Guides
  • Virtual conferences/events
  • White-papers
  • Ebooks
  • Surveys/quizzes
  • Blog posts

Next, entice your leads into accessing your content. You want to format it as an exchange; for them to watch a video, for example, generate a gated form that they’ll have to populate every time a new customer requests to download it.

Then, assuming the form doesn’t discourage the lead from clicking away, they will fill it out. From there, you’ll have everything you need to follow up with them while your business is top of mind. Reach out via email and simply ask what they thought of the video and if you could be of any further assistance, creating the beginning of a friendly dialogue that will gradually (hopefully) grow into a stable business relationship that you can nurture for years to come.  

You can also repurpose your content. For example, you could turn a case study into an infographic or a series of blog posts into an extensive guide, or a podcast you recorded could be uploaded as a YouTube video. Then you can start promoting it as fresh content all over again to stay relevant to your customers.


Visit Networking Events

As an entrepreneur, you learn to network like a boss. It’s one of the most effective ways to build robust relationships that can help grow your business. You can do this in many ways. First, start by joining face-to-face networking groups in your community, such as:

  • The local Chamber of Commerce
  • Business Networking International
  • The Young Entrepreneur’s Council
  • The Entrepreneur’s Organization

SCORE, or the Service Corps of Retired Executives, which is a non-profit organization that provides free consultation services and advice to entrepreneurs

Joining these types of organizations will open the door to local business events that will grant you the opportunity to go out and present your sales pitch in a conducive setting.

Industry trade shows are also fantastic networking events. You don’t necessarily need the budget to set up a booth, just simply register, attend and make sure you take plenty of business cards to distribute with all of your company’s contact information. Walk around the conference floor and speak with other organizations that can either supplement your business or become potential customers depending on your product or service.

If you’d instead build up from a smaller level, consider becoming more involved in your community. You can sponsor a local marathon or little league team, or volunteer at your local charity or non-profit. Ask to participate in a street fair or farmers market where you can give away free swag with your company’s logo on it such as magnets or pens so you can stay top of mind.

Offer to speak at any of these events or, simply create your speaking venue.

Organize an event or host a class at your local library, college or co-working space to talk about your business. Promote your speaking event by printing out flyers and placing them on community bulletin boards in your local library or coffee shop. You can also promote it on your social media channels.


Offer Discounts and Giveaways

Consider offering a discount on your buyers’ first purchase such as 50% off their first month’s subscription or a free trial.

The intent is to build awareness and introduce your business to potential customers to see if they like what you’re offering, hoping they’re so impressed that they come back for more.

You can also join forces with a complementary business in your industry and suggest hosting a contest together as a way to cross-promote your businesses.

Promote your contest or giveaway as the chance to win a discounted membership to your service or one free recently released product.

Use social media to promote your contest and remind your followers of the deadline. When the contest is over, announce the winner on all of your social platforms.


Use HARO

If your business publishes a regular blog, use a platform such as HARO (Help A Reporter Out) to build a backlink network that will increase your website’s exposure on other platforms.

Leverage your blogs to create a narrative revolving around some of the products and services you provide–if you don’t have a writer on your team, HARO is a great networking tool for those in the blogging industry. It helps reporters find an abundance of resources for upcoming stories and media coverage daily.

It also helps connect writers who want to generate high-quality backlinks from various authority sites.

The key to achieving links from your HARO efforts is to focus on providing high-quality info such as actionable strategies and resources, on the requests.

Reach out to HARO or recruit a graduate student as an intern, preferably one with SEO knowledge, to help flesh out your website’s content.

You can also reach out to other publications and offer to contribute an article. It’s free, and many magazines accept guest contributions that allow you to promote your business in your bio.

Become a renowned industry expert by answering questions on platforms like Quora, Reddit or participating in online forums that are relevant to your industry. Not only is it cost-effective, but it can also expose you to an entirely new audience.  


Host Podcasts and Webinars

Podcasting is an excellent way to build brand awareness and educate your listeners about topics associated with your company that will further deepen your audience’s understanding of your products and services.

Start by purchasing a quality microphone and headset; it’ll be worth the small investment. Then, gather other people in your company who are experts in their field to educate your customers on how to best use your product to improve their lives. Invite other business owners and experts to join your podcast as guests so that they can promote their businesses as well.

Make sure to market your podcasts appropriately on your website, social media posts and digital newsletters.

To efficiently distribute your podcasts, consider subscribing to a service like Libsyn, which ranges from $5 to $40 a month depending on your storage plan. Or Buzzsprout, which is free if you’re only uploading two hours per month, or it ranges from $12 to $24 per month depending on how many hours of upload. This way, your podcasts will show up on different networks including iTunes, Google Play, iHeartRadio and Spotify, to name a few.

You should also consider hosting webinars to further educate and engage with your customers. You may argue that webinars can be expensive to operate, but not always. You just have to get resourceful and know where to find free or low-cost options for small business owners.

Some affordable options include:

Create accounts on Google My Business and Yelp

Create a Google My Business account to not only ensure your business always shows up in a local search, but you will be visible on Google Maps and Google Reviews as well.

Speaking of reviews, you should also consider adding your local business to Yelp as a great way to generate positive reviews and feedback from customers. You can also engage with customers in the comments whenever they have questions or express any concerns. Customers love to see when businesses interact with consumers to either thank them for their great reviews or remedy any negative situations they may have encountered.

Creating both of these accounts is free and are very effective ways to increase your visibility in search results.


Ask For Referrals

To guarantee repeat business, encourage referrals by creating incentives for customers to grow your client base.

Set up a customer referral program in the following ways:

  • Know what type of referral you’re looking for–there are different levels of referral systems, gauge which one is most appropriate for your business:

  1. Ask a customer for contact information of someone who might be interested in doing business with you
  2. Ask a customer who discusses your business with the potential referral and can attest if they’re interested in learning more

  • Develop a system–either request a referral on an invoice or send a referral link in a confirmation email.
  • Time it right–figure out the best time to ask for a referral and make it part of your sales and customer service process.
  • Pick a reward for customers that matter–understand what motivates your customers to give you a referral, and then design your program to provide rewards addressing their motivation. Don’t just send a generic gift card; make it personal. Leverage upsell or cross-sell items as rewards and incentives for referring a friend.
  • Create a referral landing page–make it simple for your customers to find where they can leave reviews, testimonials and referrals. Include a link to the landing page on the purchase confirmation or send it in a survey a few days after the product was delivered.
  • Bring the program to your customers’ attention–your customers may not even be aware this program exists. Direct them to it with a call-to-action in your next email campaign or add it to the main navigation bar on the homepage of your website.
  • Follow up in a timely fashion–build a timeline or set up alerts in your customer referral program, so you know exactly when to follow up on a referral.

Leverage Social Media

In our current digital era, it’s imperative to have a social media presence, whether that includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube, LinkedIn or all of the above.

They are great ways to build brand awareness, tell your brand’s story and engage with your followers. Joining social media is always free and as long as you have all the apps connected to your phone, just simply use your camera to upload pictures, videos and post status updates.

  • Some robust ways to engage on social media include:
  • Increase engagement by posting content your audience will find helpful or interesting
  • Use hashtags on a trending topic
  • Find an influencer who will speak highly of your brand
  • Be consistent with posting content
  • Go live to keep your audience engaged and invested
  • Be authentic
  • Keep promotions and sales posts to a maximum of 20% of your content mix

Join or create groups on Facebook and LinkedIn to offer valuable advice and information to build trust in your brand and garner credibility. Make it topical, so it doesn’t seem so promotional; your followers will find it more valuable, and it will motivate them to find out more about you and what you offer.

LinkedIn is considered one of the more professional social media platforms, so leverage it wisely by leaving thoughtful and constructive comments on your contacts’ status updates. LinkedIn calls attention to your activity on the feed so you will get noticed by more industry experts even if they’re not connected to you, yet.

You can upload videos on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, allowing you to live stream events such as a behind-the-scenes sneak peek of a new product. Try posting how-to videos or capturing footage of an event such as a trade show or demonstrating your business’ positive culture by posting videos of your fun office environment and staff members.


Guerrilla Marketing

Finally, let your imagination run wild with guerrilla marketing; there are no limits as to what you can do, except ensure that you comply with the law. As long as you don’t put your company’s reputation at risk, it’s a unique way to capture your leads’ attention in the most fun and cost-effective way possible.

Some quick ideas to spread your business’ awareness include:

  • Sticking a magnetic sign, bumper sticker or window decal to your car with your business name and contact info on it; you can also give them away as free swag next time you’re attending a networking event
  • Leverage your email signature by adding a call-to-action to visit your website whenever you send out an email
  • Graffiti your company’s logo or slogan somewhere in the community, but make sure you get permission to mark up a piece of property first
  • Use stencils to create street art
  • Place stickers with your logo around the city
  • Do a flash mob
  • Generate pop-up stores

This is your chance to leverage guerrilla marketing to stay on brand and create a robust image of your company and your products that will leave a lasting impression on your potential buyers.



Laura Dolan is the Senior Copywriter for SEO at Keap. She has been a writer and editor for over 14 years publishing pieces in B2B and B2C industries including food and drink, energy, construction, supply chain, education, technology, retail, pet products, mental health, real estate, and engineering. She has also written and edited for international publications in the U.K., Canada, Australia, and India. When she’s not writing, she loves to spend time with her husband, Jeff, four stepchildren, dog, Sparky and cat, Piper.