Ever dream about the awesome things you could do to promote your company if you had a nearly unlimited budget? We all do!
If you find yourself envying the likes of Apple and Coca-Cola who seem to be everywhere, I have some news for you: not even they have an unlimited budget. Much like all of us, they still have to make choices and put some of their ideas on hold for lack of budget.
However small your budget is, you can still make it matter. Here’s how:
Step 1: Understand that you will have to make (hard) choices
There are hundreds if not thousands of digital marketing channels.
If you take a look at the picture above, you’ll quickly realize that you couldn’t possibly be on all these channels.
So what are you to do?
Accept that your business will never be where you want it to be?
Not at all!
First of all, you don’t have to be everywhere. You only have to be where your target audience is. No matter how big your budget is, you shouldn’t waste money on channels just because they are ‘trendy’ and because your competition is doing it.
Instead, ask yourself this simple question: ‘Will this new channel help me GROW?’ If the answer is ‘yes’, go ahead and invest in it. If it’s ‘no’, let it go.
What if you’re unsure, you ask?
Well, in that case there’s always testing. And the second step to help get you started:
Step 2: Get to know your buyer persona in-depth
Put your money where your crowd is.
When you analyze your buyer persona, try to go beyond the socio-demographic characteristics like age and location.
Learn where your persona ‘hangs out’ online. What kind of blogs they read? Where do they like to get their information from? Do they prefer podcasts or white papers? Webinars or blog posts?
Answer these questions and you will have the first draft of your marketing strategy on a budget.
Step 3: Set SMART goals
Forget about traffic and followers. These are the biggest pet peeves of marketers. More importantly, they are not goals, they are a means to an end.
Speaking of that end, your safest bet here is to align your marketing goals to your business goals. The catch is that you have to be smart about it.
Would you like to grow your business? Of course you’d like it!
Do you need more clients? Don’t we all?
These may be goals, but they aren’t SMART ones.
Knowing what smart goals are, here’s how you could transform the basic ones above:
I want to grow my business. → I want my business to grow by 20% year-over-year.
I want more clients. → I want to acquire 10 premium clients per month.
These examples are specific, measureable, relevant, and timely. Whether they are attainable or not it’s up to you to decide.
Their main advantage is that they will keep you accountable. You won’t chase new, shiny trends if they don’t line up with your goal. This is marketing accountability 101.
Now let’s assume that you followed these steps and still found yourself with a lot of channels on your shortlist. And you still need to make some cuts. Where should you begin?
Let’s take a look at some of the most affordable marketing tactics. When you make the choices, keep in mind your goals and your buyer persona at all times.
Affordable marketing tactics
1. SEO content writing
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has two major advantages:
- It requires a small upfront investment
- It can produce results for years to come
And one disadvantage:
- You need to be consistent about it
In other words: you can’t publish a blog post and expect miracles. But if you keep at it, the results (lead generation and conversion) will come for years.
At Idunn, the digital marketing agency I run, 99% of our clients come organically from SEO content or from posts like this one that I publish on third-party websites. People like what they read and they get in touch with us to help them with content writing/copywriting, social media or strategy.
This strategy has been working for us six months after we started working hard on our content and on promoting it. The key, though, is consistency. We constantly publish new fresh content that aligns with both our business and the needs of our buyer persona.
2. Email marketing
Some studies say that email marketing done right can have an ROI of up to 4300%. If this percentage sounds too good to be true, take a moment to think about it.
Email service providers like MailChimp offer 100% free plans, so your financial investment is minimal. All you have to do is build your email list (don’t buy it, OK? It’s both illegal and pointless) and create the right content for your campaigns.
3. PPC advertising
I know, this can get expensive. But it doesn’t have to.
With the recent changes in the Facebook algorithm, most business pages are irrelevant and have a reach that’s close to zero if they don’t sponsor their posts.
Even a smidge of a budget can get you really far.
The Catch-22 of Facebook posts is that the more popular they are, the more popular they become. If a lot of people engage with your posts by liking, sharing or commenting on it, Facebook considers that it’s very relevant and it will show it to even more people.
Thus, even a $5 boost on your best posts can turn you into an overnight sensation.
Even more, Google AdWords can turn out to be quite cheap depending on your industry. If you sell running shoes or wedding dresses, you will have to pay a lot to have your ads shown – these are competitive industries.
If, on the other hand, you are in a niche industry, Google AdWords are the best way to get your business off the ground with a minimal investment.
I typically recommend our clients to start with AdWords if they have a new business and a new website, while building their SEO strategy and rankings at the same time.
4. Content repurposing
Coming up with new, exciting topics (AND writing them) can be expensive and time-consuming.
The good news is that repurposing content is both cheap and hassle-free. A webinar you hosted can turn into a series of blog posts, several blog posts on the same topic can become a great white paper and so on. You can read more about repurposing content here.
5. Social media (the smart way)
We already established that being popular on social media comes with a price tag that can be quite hefty sometimes. Luckily, there are ways around it.
Twitter chats, for example, are a great way to network with your peers and to showcase your expertise. The same goes for Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Or for the less beaten track of answering questions on Quora and Reddit.
The thing all these have in common is that you can’t be promotional here. You have to go the inbound way and show your expertise by offering valuable advice to people who need it. Avoid saying ‘we are the best realtors in the area’ and prove it through your in-depth advice.
Great marketing can never be 100% free. Even if it only costs time, it’s still an investment you have to make.
However, you can make the most out of your budget by not stretching yourself too thin. If you can outsource something (like web development or content writing), do it. Yes, it will cost money. But it will also free you up to do what you do best: strategize about growing your business.
The calculation you have to make is rather simple: how many hours per week do you put into something that can be outsourced? How much do those hours cost? Odds are that a third-party could do it for less. And, let’s be fair, they could probably do it better since they are specialists in that area.