In a world dominated by corporate giants, it can be challenging for small businesses to compete primarily if the infrastructure in your country is weak.
It should not deter aspiring entrepreneurs or anyone from turning their dream or hobby into a business.
There are many advantages and disadvantages to running your business. If you can get your management, marketing strategy and marketing tactic right, your business will be successful. This topic is what this blog post focuses on.
Good marketing always contains one key element that entrepreneurs have in abundance, and many big brands wish they had more of, i.e. creativity.
Even if you’re operating on a tiny budget, using the right digital marketing tool with the right amount of creativity in your content marketing effort, you can create a successful marketing campaign that gets your marketing message in front of the right audience.
But first, you may wonder:
What is a Shoestring Budget?
According to this, the idiom or slang term shoestring often describes a small amount of money, which may be inadequate to fund the intended purpose of its use in full.
Thus, a shoestring budget is any slim budget, a limited budget or a tight budget, whether it’s a household budget or your business.
What Makes Up a Shoestring Budget?
When the money for setting up your business is an inadequate amount which you must stretch to achieve the bare minimum, it means you have a shoestring budget. Companies operating on a shoestring budget means they have limited access to additional funding.
Marketing on a Shoestring Budget
Marketing sounds expensive. And for a lot of companies, it is costly. Most small businesses don’t have lots of money for big-budget marketing campaigns.
According to this article, failing to market your business may put you at a disadvantage to your marketing-savvy competitors.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. While some companies can invest significant budgets on marketing, it is still possible for a company to do marketing on a lean budget.
And even if you’re limited to the tiny budget, you can still see excellent results. It might take longer, but still, some marketing is much better than no marketing at all. And, in time, your marketing efforts will stack up and become more apparent.
As noted here, as a small business owner and entrepreneur, every money counts. Every investment has to pay off with an immediate or short-term return on your investment.
But as the above article notes, we are fortunate that there are many free and low-cost options for any business doing a digital marketing campaign or outbound marketing on a budget in our digital age.
These days, you don’t have to pay a ton of money to a marketing firm to create a Google Ads (formerly Google Adword) or an email marketing campaign to market your business.
If your budget doesn’t have much room for a digital marketing program, here are a few tips that can help you bootstrapping your small business.
Do It Yourself
As a small company or small business owner, you’re probably just starting and don’t have the resources yet to hire. Therefore, you need to get comfortable doing things yourself.
Though your complimentary card may have a fancy title like ‘Founder’ or ‘CEO’, you will wear several hats in the initial days.
For instance, you may have to play the role of your receptionist, secretary, bookkeeper, graphics designer, social media manager, driver, cleaner and security guard! Doing all these things will help you save money.
At this stage in your business, where you are operating on a shoestring budget, make Google your best friend. Go on Google and try to find answers and solutions to questions and issues that arise.
Create a Google alert notification for any topic related to your business so that you can stay abreast of the latest news in your industry.
Get Involved and Design In-house
These days there are lots of apps. Using these apps will enable you to get involved in desktop publishing. It saves you some money.
However, I often advise clients that their brand identity is not something they should take lightly. Don’t be “penny-wise” regarding designing and printing your business logo, business card, stationery, blog article, and other marketing materials.
If you have the resources but no skills to do these in-house, it’s better to outsource these to professionals who can help you craft a professional brand identity.
As the saying goes, you never have a second chance to make an excellent first impression. So the best thing is to get it right the first time around.
The same goes for the content you create for your content marketing efforts. If you don’t have the skills in house, get a content marketing firm to do it for you.
Get Your Trademark and Copyright
Years ago, during my first business venture, I learnt the hard way the value of trademarks and copyright. You see, back then, I was approaching a lot of potential clients with nothing more than my ideas and intellectual property.
Only to discover that one of the potential clients I approached ended up taking my tagline and using it to advertise one of their products! To add salt to injury, they planted a billboard for the product near my street!
Getting your trademark and copyright issues sorted might entail you using the services of a lawyer. It will be more than your shoestring budget. Therefore, look for a lawyer willing to work pro bono.
However, based on my experience, this is not an area you need to overlook when starting your small business.
Know Your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT)
Owning a small business in most cases means working from home. Working from home allows you to save on costs by eliminating the overhead of separate premises.
It will enable you to have more flexibility in your working hours and greater control over your working environment.Create your niche market by being able to offer a tailored service or a unique product that exactly meets your customers' needs. Click To Tweet
You must identify the strengths and weaknesses of your business to look for opportunities to build on and overcome any potential threats.
Doing so will help you market the business by targeting the right audience and conveying the right messages about you, your products, and your services.
A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis might help you start marketing on a lean budget.
For example, identify your Unique Selling Point (USP) and make it the main point, differentiating your offering from your competitors.
Being able to help potential customers to appreciate the unique qualities of your brand will go a long way in converting them into loyal customers and brand advocates.
Ask yourself whether your offer is in a growth sector, whether future demand will increase, remain stable or decrease and about the competition. What do your competitors supply?
Think about the specialist skills, knowledge and capability, or what you could do to challenge the existing market leaders. Can you offer superior services or products for the same or slightly more money?
It is now relatively cost-effective to develop a website to promote your company. A site can be an effective way of raising your profile and publicising your services.
Developing a website doesn’t have to be a complicated or expensive process. But since we now generate much business via the Internet, it is a channel that you should not ignore.
The strategic use of your site and social networks together can help to bring about massive growth for your business.
Where appropriate, always ask your potential customers to leave testimonials, customer feedback and reviews about your brand online on websites like Yelp.
Have lots of positive reviews online about your brand will go a long way in boosting your marketing efforts.
Find Strategic Partnerships
If you find yourself getting burned out, then consider spending your startup time and scarce financial resource in selecting and hiring a freelancer to help you – if you can afford one.
It might also be helpful to strike up a partnership with a more significant business, perhaps enabling you to use a desk in their offices once a week.
By creating a symbiotic relationship with another company, you may then have access to more resources while they may enjoy your expertise.
They can also provide the targeted expertise you may need in your business and be a credible resource to provide the counsel you need to avoid making any common mistake associated with startups.
Organise a Local Meetup Group
If possible, try talking to others working in your field to determine how they make the most of the infrastructure available.
By asking about their marketing strategies, you may learn novel ways of implementing yours.
Find out as much as you can about your customers, which will put you in a stronger position to respond to their needs and compete.
There are several ways to network. You can send someone an email, make a phone call, engage with them on a social media platform, WhatsApp, etc.
Before you attempt to connect and network with people, make sure you have an elevator pitch on hand. So you are not at a loss for what to say when people ask you what you do.
Try to get public speaking gigs even if you have to do these for free initially. Public speaking gigs will help you reduce your advertising spend, get your name out there, and establish you as an authority in your niche.
Connect, Communicate, and Network
If possible, try talking to others working in your field to find out how they make the most of the infrastructure available in your country. Find out as much as you can about your customers as possible, as this will put you in a stronger position to respond to their needs and compete.
Before you attempt to connect and network with people, make sure you have an elevator pitch on hand. So you are not at a loss for what to say when people ask you what you do.
Try to get public speaking gigs even if you have to do these for free initially. Public speaking gigs will help you get your name out there and establish you as an authority in your niche.
Digital marketing and social media marketing are here to stay. Therefore, you need to take advantage of these to help you market your business.
At the very minimum, have a Facebook and Twitter account. Post content, especially video content, regularly. It will help you to build a strong rapport with your audience on social media.
Quit automating your social media activities and start engaging with your followers instead. Get chatty on Twitter and Facebook.
Have an account on LinkedIn and post often. Join relevant LinkedIn groups that focus on your niche. It is critical to use LinkedIn as a platform to establish yourself as a thought leader in your niche.
Don’t forget to build your brand on Instagram by giving your followers a glimpse behind the scenes where appropriate.
If you have a dedicated Facebook business page (it’s different from your regular Facebook profile), then don’t be afraid to ‘pay-to-play’ on Facebook.
While you’re at it, consider getting on the podcasting bandwagon if you can.
Have you launched a new product or service offering? Write a press release on press release sites. A press release will help to create a buzz around your brand.
Some credible press release sites will even publish your press release for free, helping you get some free publicity.
Building and nurturing professional relationships with journalists in your locality will go a long way in helping you build your reputation as a local expert in your niche.
These journalists will turn to you as the local expert when they need information and statistics about your niche to write their article.
Prioritise Local Search
According to this article, search engine rankings are more important than ever, especially if you have a physical location.
Think about it: What’s the first thing you do when you need to buy something? You look online.
Whether you plan to buy it online or visit a store, you’re likely going to start with a web search to do your research or track down the closest store.
For local businesses with a physical location, claiming your business on Google My Business is a critical and free first step that you should include in your marketing mix.
Claiming your business online with Google lets you adjust how your business appears in search rankings and maps, including your hours, location, photos, and customer reviews.
According to the article cited above, this step is crucial because 50% of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphone end up visiting a store within 24 hours, and 34% who search on their computer or tablet do the same.
Invest in Content Marketing
The same article cited above notes that content marketing can be a free and effective way to position yourself as an expert in your field.
Content marketing allows people to find you through search engine rankings and social media websites.
It involves creating and distributing helpful material that’s audience-focused and serves the purpose of boosting customer acquisition.
One of the most common forms of content marketing is blogging. You need to publish a blog post either on your website or guest post on other companies’ blogs and vice versa.
The former helps grow your audience, but the latter extends your reach to other relevant audiences.
Don’t underestimate the importance of guest blogging. If you’re starting, guesting blogging or article marketing can work wonders in getting your business name out there.
Create evergreen content that is timeless and will stay valuable and relevant for years to come.
Focus on informing instead of selling to position your company as a trustworthy brand worth doing business with;
Publishing evergreen content consistently on a set schedule will help to boost your search rankings. It will also help you build and keep a loyal readership and establish your business as a helpful resource.
Content marketing is not as expensive and complicated as you think. But note that one primary goal of content marketing is search engine optimisation (SEO).
And you will not get the SEO benefit or return on investment to your website if you create content on all other platforms while forgetting your website.
Copy What Works
There is a high possibility that you know some competitors that are doing marvellous work with their marketing.
There’s no shame in copying whatever digital marketing strategy or digital marketing tool that’s working for them. Whatever’s working for your competitors may likely work for you on a small scale or tight budget. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
If you’re a business owner in a competitive industry, you should use guerrilla marketing. Use it to drive potential customers to your website and drive conversions on your site.
According to this, guerrilla marketing can involve major indoor and outdoor promotions, user experiences that create brand awareness, or even stealth campaigns that indirectly lead people to think about your company and its products.
Other than the time needed in preparation and execution, guerilla marketing often requires nothing more than a little theatrical creativity.
So if you are looking to raise awareness and attract new customers, consider this marketing technique.
But a note of caution. Guerrilla marketing is a little risky. But the risk should only be in the success or failure of your marketing campaign and not in your running afoul of the law. So do nothing illegal that will land you in prison or worse.
Your Existing Customers
The money you spend attempting to gain new customers will exceed your spending to keep these same customers. So make sure you look after your existing customers.
The simple act of giving gifts and souvenirs itself is more meaningful to your existing customers than its value. It is especially so if you add a personal touch to the present or souvenir.
If you impress your existing customers with your performance, it will not take much to persuade them to help you promote your business.
Take the time to build and nurture business relationships with your existing customers. It will help establish strong bonds with them and give them a reason to be loyal to your company. Excellent customer service is essential.
Marketing your small business doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You can take advantage of many strategies and marketing tactics to help spread the word, and most of them are affordable (or even free).
All it takes is a little determination, creativity, and a carefully planned marketing strategy.
A small business will always have bigger competitors, but this doesn’t mean you can’t compete successfully.
Create your niche market by offering a tailored service or unique product that exactly meets your customers’ needs.
Make special offers to your customer base to attract them to your brand. Your being small and having a shoestring budget means that you ensure you get as many returns as possible for your marketing efforts.
Get on Google to research people’s questions about your brand, product, service, or industry. Try to provide answers to these questions on your blog or social media.
You can even use these questions as a basis for forming your elevator pitch, so you are never at a loss for what to say when you meet a potential customer.
Encourage your customers to leave reviews and testimonials online about your brand on online review sites like Yelp, etc. Reviews will help to establish your brand on search engines like Google.
Your size potentially gives you much more flexibility to respond to your customers. You can build strong, personal relationships and spend more time working with them.
Base your marketing tactics and marketing decisions on accurate information about your costs. Keep a careful eye on your product mix and stick to your business plan.
This way, you stand a good chance of success. Try not to fall into the trap of competing on price alone and remember that, while profit requires sales, sales don’t mean profit.
Did I omit any important marketing tips? Let me know in the comment section below.
And as a final thought, remember that it’s not a bad idea to get a consultation from an experienced marketing professional. Doing so will prevent you from wasting your precious marketing budget on expensive campaigns or shiny marketing tools.
So if you need help, let me know. I’ll be glad to help.
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