Marketing is expensive. There’s no getting around that fact.
Undeniable fact number two: Marketing is also necessary.
If you want your B2B business to grow, you absolutely need to invest in marketing it in some way. Word of mouth is great, after all, but it’s often not enough on its own. Even if it would be eventually, you need a lot of momentum and a lot of customers for word of mouth to be significant enough to be sending you the amount of new customers that you need.
This poses a challenge for small businesses who are on a shoestring budget, which many are. It costs a lot to operate a business and because of the price tags and the overwhelming number of options that it involves, marketing is sometimes what ends up getting skipped.
The good news is, we’ve got the solution, and in this post we’re going to take a look at 8 different small business marketing tips to help you get the results you want without breaking the bank.
1. Always Carry Business Cards
Business cards give you a quick way to exchange information and they can lend some credibility and professionalism, too. You can meet potential clients, vendors, or even employees pretty much anywhere, so you want to be prepared.
I can’t tell how you many times I’ve been out somewhere and meet someone who needs a copywriter or content marketer, but I can tell you that my business cards have paid for themselves many times over. I always have a few stashed in my purse because I’m often introduced at get togethers to people as “she ghostwrites books” or “she blogs for a living,” and many small business owners will find that the same will be true for them.
People ask about what I do, and about 10% of the time they’re in a position where they need a content marketer/copywriter/editor. I give them my card, and they get in touch within a few days.
Not only are business cards a cost effective small business marketing tactic, they’re also a great way to find leads that you also have a personal rapport with.
Business cards are one thing you can afford to invest in fully (don’t forget, they count as a business expense come tax time!). I recommend MOO, and to go big with some of their fancy options.
Make sure it matches your branding and ideally have your name, phone number, website, and social profiles (if applicable) attached. B2B businesses should include their LinkedIn profile if they’re active there.
This ties in a lot with the business card strategy, but it works online and in person. Leverage your network for all it’s worth (without being obnoxious) and you’ll see much better results.
Your network already knows and hopefully trusts you. Reaching out and letting them know that your business is open and what you can do for them is all that’s needed. This can be effective even if it’s a single Facebook post letting your friends know about your goods and services.
People who know you most will be most likely to check it out and they may even tag some of their friends who need the services you offer. There’s a huge audience out there who needs your services, after all, and a recommendation from a friend can help you find each other.
It’s also good to network within industry groups. I’m in a large number of groups for writers and there are groups like this for every industry. Make yourself known in them, even if they’re online—participate, ask questions, and answer questions, too. People often refer work and clients to each other in these groups, so making yourself a standout and building relationships there can be invaluable.
3. Offer Incentives for Referrals
Notice that I don’t say “start a referral program.” It’s the same kind of idea, but my phrasing is intentional here. Most small businesses don’t have the money to set up an expensive online referral system with custom links and tracking and automatic payouts.
Instead, you can let your current clients know that if they send you a referral that turns into a customer, you’ll give them 10% off your next invoice. I offer this to my clients when I’m actively taking on new clients and I always make sure to send out email reminders of this perk if my schedule is looking a little slow. I even send the emails to past clients who haven’t hired me in a while and the discount (and just getting in touch) would often result in them hiring me for another project.
Referrals from clients will give you warm, qualified leads. These leads will know what to expect from you and your clients won’t send them your way knowing they’d be a nightmare client or on too tight of a budget to be able to afford you.
4. Work With Other Small Businesses
Partnering up with other small businesses—officially or unofficially—is a great way to go. This could be a vendor, but it could also be other businesses in complementary industries that share a target audience with you. For brick-and-mortar businesses, this would probably mean sticking to other businesses nearby.
Partnerships and collaborations can be flexible. Different strategies you could use include:
- Setting up a referral program where you send each other clients and pay a 10% fee on the first project booked.
- Offering package deals together, like if a site developer and a graphic designer partnered up to offer a full site redesign package.
- Going in together on prizes for a social media contest, with each business contributing an equal share to make the prize more valuable.
5. Start Writing
Content marketing is mostly free (unless you outsource it) and it allows you to rank for more keywords, keep your site content fresh, establish expertise and offer valuable information to your target audience. It also shows that your business is actively up and running to new customers—which is always a plus—and that you’re invested in them.
Your on-site blog should be updated consistently and regularly. Blog posts should have a goal in mind, like getting users to subscribe to your email list or get in touch with you to ask about a product or service mentioned in the post.
You can also move your content marketing strategy off your own site and onto someone else’s. Pitch sites where your target audience will read your work. Don’t turn your post into a sales pitch, because publications will never accept it, but know that you can often have one link to your own content in the post and a link to your site in your bio at the end.
When guest posting, get creative.
If you’re a florist, for example, you don’t just want to write for magazines for florists. Write a post for a wedding magazine about how to choose a bouquet that matches your wedding. Then write a post on a site that deals with organizing a funeral after a loved one has passed and write about appropriate and symbolic flowers that match the family’s budget. This is how you’ll most effectively connect with your target audience.
6. Email Marketing
All those emails you’ve managed to capture through blogging, social media contests and past purchases? Don’t just neglect them. Use email marketing campaigns to stay in touch with your audience, leads and customers both included.
Your email marketing can help to nurture relationships with customers and solutions like MailChimp are affordable for small businesses to use. You can send out a few emails a month, or set up triggered autoresponder campaigns like the following:
- A welcome email series that thanks users for signing up
- Triggered autoresponders that send follow-ups based on page views or abandoned carts
- Order confirmation series, which include information on purchase order, receipts and tracking information if relevant
7. Offer Giveaways, Discounts, or Trials
If you want to get new clients quickly, offering discounts, giveaways or free trials to leads is a great way to drive some conversions. This presents a low-risk, high-reward situation for them, where they have everything to gain and nothing to lose. They don’t have to worry about you disappearing after they make that first down payment, or paying too much for glitchy software that doesn’t actually work.
You know your product or service is good, this can help you show other users, too.
A lot of businesses list these benefits on the homepage of their site or within the first few emails in order to grab users while you still have their interest and before they move on to someone else. Make sure to always specific that it’s for first-time customers only, or it’ll chew a hole in your pocket quickly.
8. Say Yes to Speaking Opportunities
Once your business starts to gain traction, you may be surprised how often you’re asked to appear as a speaker or expert panelist of some sort. This could include just needing to email a writer a small quote or tip for an article, or it could mean hosting a webinar or appearing in front of an audience.
Whenever possible (and unless it will hurt your business), always say yes to these, even if they don’t pay well or at all. They allow you to build major credibility and can often connect you to your audience and help generate new leads, too.
Whether these events are local or online, announce them online so that your audience and potential leads can see that you’ve participated in an event as an invited expert, giving you the most results possible out of the engagement.
Marketing is necessary if you want your business to survive, let alone grow, but that doesn’t mean it needs to break the bank. These small business marketing tips can help you to actively invest in your business so you can get the most out of any budget that you have available.
I’ve personally used each of these strategies to get my business off the ground when it was new and I was pretty much broke, so I can speak to their effectiveness. Back these tips up with great products or services and you’ll see growth before you know it.
What do you think? Which strategies have you used for your small business’s marketing campaigns? What strategies are you most excited to try? Drop your thoughts and questions in the comments below!