Small Business Marketing on a Budget

Businesses need customers, but to get customers, you need to let people know that your business exists. The right marketing plan puts your business in front of customers and draws them toward your products or services. However, when you’re just getting started, you may not have a lot of money to devote to marketing. Luckily, there are all kinds of low-cost marketing opportunities for small businesses. Check out these ideas.

Start your Tax ID (EIN) Application

Craft an Elevator Pitch

The elevator pitch is a short summary of your business, designed to pitch your products or services to potential clients and/or investors. Called an elevator pitch because it was traditionally delivered to people in elevators in high rises, these pitches could just as easily be called soccer sideline pitches or grocery store pitches in the modern day.

Work out a pitch for your business, and practice delivering it with friends or family. Then, whenever you see anyone who might be a good client or who may want to invest in your business, have your pitch ready to roll. To be successful, you need to be succinct and clear, but you also want to paint a picture of why people need your product or services.

Leverage Your Community

Once you have a few clients, leverage their satisfaction to find more clients. Ask current clients to recommend you to their friends, family, and colleagues, and encourage them to post about your business on social media.

To sweeten the deal for your clients, consider offering bonus incentives. For instance, you might want to give customers a discount or even a cashback bonus for referrals. Alternatively, have a drawing for a prize, and stipulate that to be entered in the drawing people have to mention you on social media or review your business on Yelp!, Angie’s List, or a review site focused on your industry.


In all cases, be collaborative and proactive about your marketing efforts. Ask new customers how they heard about your business, and devote your time and energy to the marketing efforts that yield the best results. Sit down on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, or whatever works for you) and take time to look at your marketing strategy, identify areas to improve, try a few new marketing opportunities, and continue working on your existing marketing plans.


If you have trouble finding other like-minded professionals to share referrals with you, attend local networking events or join civic and professional organizations. You can also meet potential clients through the right events or groups. Additionally, you get your name into the community and build your reputation as a community-minded engaged professional, and your business benefits by extension.

Give a Speech

This strategy tends to be the most effective when you know exactly which customers you want to reach. For instance, if you’re doing business-to-business sales, research which businesses could benefit from your project, and volunteer or attend a conference. If you’re not able to publicly speak, then put together a telephone pitch, and call them. Similarly, if you want to reach customers in a certain income bracket, find a neighborhood that has demographics that meet your specs and start knocking on doors to let people know about your business.

Create Buzz

In the digital world you have to be online. However, your online presence can vary depending on the competition. Regardless of what you do, every brick-and-mortar business needs a Google business listing. This is a free service, and it increases the chance that people will find your business when they search for your business name, product, or services. Additionally, the business listing contains critical information about your store hours and location.

Ideally, most businesses should also have a website. In relatively rural areas and small towns where you don’t have a lot of competition, a basic website detailing your products or services can work fine. In this situation, think of your website as a digital brochure.

In urban areas with a lot of competition, you need to put a lot of content on your site. If you post blogs or web pages with keywords related to your products or services, you increase the chance of getting found by the search engines. Ultimately, you may want to hire a search engine optimization (SEO) professional, but when on a budget, you can research content marketing and handle a lot on your own.

Last but definitely not least, you should create social media accounts. Try to target the platforms where most of your customers spend time, rather than spreading yourself thin on multiple platforms. Post fun facts, info about new products, details about sales, and anything else related to your business, and encourage your followers to share or retweet your posts.

Ask for Referrals

Other business owners can also be a useful resource when you’re trying to market your business on a budget. Reach out to business owners whose offerings complement yours. For instance, if you’re a wedding photographer, you can benefit from contacting wedding planners, caterers, officiants, or other professionals. If you’re a dog groomer, talk with veterinarians or dog trainers, Ask them to recommend your services to their clients, and then return the favor by recommending their businesses to your clients.

Build Relationships

Building relationships with customers and prospects is extremely important for small businesses. You need to put your name out there so people get to know your brand. Media coverage is a perfect way to reach new customers without spending any money. When you open your business, launch a new service, or have anything else to announce, send press releases to the local media. Detail what you’re doing, why people should care, and how to find you.

Offer Coupons

Coupons are a great way to drive interest in your brand and products/services. Have a special offering for new customers, or give repeat customers an incentive to shop again. Whatever your strategy, be sure to promote your offering so customers and prospects know you have a special deal.

Give Away Collateral

Print materials can also be an effective part of a low-cost marketing strategy. Have business cards in your pocket ready to give to people at the end of your elevator speech. Collect addresses of existing customers and mail them coupons or special offers. Print out brochures to put on cars or hang on local bulletin boards.

Marketing can be a lot of fun, and it’s essential for new entrepreneurs. To be as successful as possible, try multiple techniques and then focus on what’s working the best. As your budget grows, blend paid marketing with the low-cost ideas explained above.