How to Market Your Small Business on a Budget

Any seasoned entrepreneur can tell you that the effectiveness of their marketing efforts is extremely important to the success of their business. Setting up your storefront or website and hoping for people to come visit you is a lackluster method to keeping your business afloat.

While the term “marketing” might sound like an expensive undertaking, if done right it doesn’t have to cost a ton of money in order to be effective.

There are many avenues to marketing that you can take. What’s most effective for your business will depend on the industry, type of service or offering, and your level of commitment.

Online Marketing

In the world of the internet, businesses have tons of opportunity to get their name out there. The biggest challenge to this is that there are so many other businesses vying for the same attention.

Digital Advertising

Oftentimes, many people think this competition makes digital advertising much too expensive for the “little guys.” In reality, if you have a very targeted audience, and set up your advertising correctly, you can get clicks and even conversions for much cheaper than you’d expect.

You can set up Facebook remarketing ads that retarget your previous website visitors in their News Feed. This can be extremely effective since they’re already knowledgeable about your brand, and can be a good way to nudge or remind them to become your customer.

In addition, remarketing can be a great way to provide lots of value for free to increase their trust level with your brand and ultimately drive them to a conversion later down the line.

Even if you feel like it’s a worthwhile investment right now, it’s wise to add remarketing tags from Facebook and Google to your website so that when you do decide its time, you have an existing “audience” of people to remarket to.

Being Active in the Digital Community

Regardless of your business model, it’s likely that plenty of your customers are hanging out somewhere online. If you can find that place and join the conversation, you have the potential to gain a lot.

A good place to start is to Google your industry with the word “forum” at the end of the query. Go through a few of the results and decide which forum you will focus on. The trick is to make sure you are providing a ton of value and not trying to just push sales messages all day.

Get in there and answer questions about topics you are an expert in, and let your name start getting recognized as a top contributor in the community. You can usually add your business information to your forum signature so you can start to gain a reputation and jumpstart brand recognition.

If forums aren’t your style, you might start a blog that answers questions and provides cool insights into various aspects of your business. Being active in a digital space may mean writing for other websites, sharing information through podcasts or interviews, or continually assisting others through platforms like Yahoo Answers or Reddit. With each of these avenues, the only thing that will be spent is your time!


Local Marketing

Many brick and mortar stores will benefit immensely from marketing their businesses more heavily in their physical communities. While digital marketing can play a role, there is a lot to be said about being the industry expert for your city. In addition, there are a lot less competitors when you are focusing on your area, versus the country or state as a whole.

Local Events and Meetups

When you are focusing on gaining prospects from your local community, attending events in the area is an important way to get your business out there. Not only are you going to be networking with other local business owners, but you could possibly meet your next client or get some referrals. These events might be industry related, or even gatherings of like-minded entrepreneurs.

You can find these types of events on sites like that allow people to list local events and groups by category. You can also check out your local Chamber of Commerce, newspaper listings, or community websites for events in your area. Arrive prepared with business cards, marketing collateral, and clever branded giveaway items to help your company stand out. It never hurts to have a place to collect email addresses to sign up, either! Offer the people you meet fun freebies to boost brand recognition, or even discounts and coupons to further incentivize them to consider your business. Lead generation doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be smart and personable.

Local Sponsorships

Have you ever seen a little league baseball game and wondered how or why those businesses spent money to buy the team shirts? It’s because their name gets posted all over the community! Not only do little kids wear these shirts all over town, in countless team photos, but if their team wins they could get a spot in the sports section of the local website.

If it makes sense for your business or industry, this could be a great way to get some extra exposure for not much cash. Consider sponsoring a marathon or charity walk, a school fundraiser, or popular annual event. The perks are plenty and can include mention of your business in print ads, online, tickets to the event itself, and more. While some of these sponsorships can get really pricey, there are undoubtedly smaller groups and events looking for sponsors who will take them at any cost. Get to know up-and-coming businesses and influencers in your area, and let them know you are interested in increasing your brand exposure. You never know who will need just a little more cash or a little something special to add to a swag bag!

Donate to Charity Events and Giveaways

There are often charity events in larger cities and towns that openly welcome donations in order to raise more money. Your product or service could end up in a raffle that people bid on and your name gets out there. This could be the perfect even to offer up some free goods in order to drive awareness of your brand and get your name on the event website, if applicable.

Having 500 or so event attendees seeing your brand and having the ability to win your prize is great marketing for local owners who might already have some traction in the area. This tactic takes barely any work, and you are in control of the cost based on what type of gift or discount you wish to provide!

Leveraging Relationships

It’s a common idea that the average person knows at least 200 people. You likely have someone in your broader circle of influence that can help get some referrals for you, or at least give you a spark of inspiration as to where to go next.

If you’d like to get introductions to more people who can help, try looking into your university’s alumni group, as they may have meetups or contact sheets that allow you to get in touch with your fellow graduates. They may also provide marketing opportunities for future students if you offer discounts to other alumni.

In addition to alumni groups, there are plenty of professional organizations and associations with local chapters that you can join. Your local Toastmaster’s chapter, a group focused on improving the public speaking skills of businesspeople, can be a great way to network and find likeminded individuals. Do some digging – you’ll likely find a number of both formal and casual circles of professionals who have information and insights to share. There may be a member’s fee, but the knowledge and connections you earn will ensure that this spend pays off in dividends.

There are plenty of opportunities to market your business both in the digital space, as well as your local area. In addition to regular marketing, leveraging your existing contacts can provide a huge boost to your client base or even general knowledge of an industry. You can also find plenty of industry or market specific groups and organizations to join by doing a simple Google search, or reaching out to your local Chamber of Commerce. Depending on your business model, a combination of these efforts might be valuable for gaining traction and ensuring the success of your company.

About Author

Katie Salerno Avatar

Katie S.

Reviewed By: Kaite S. - Marketing Brand Specialist

Tenacious brand warrior who is laser-focused on boosting our brand through effective social media presence and multiple resources. Principal producer of marvelous messages and email exposés. Message + Creative maestro who has an opening for a puppy co-worker with the expectation they stay clear of her pommes frites.