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35 Budget-Friendly Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

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Want to grow your small business? Or perhaps you’re just trying to hold on to the customers you already have? Either way, for SMEs budgets are the biggest problem. There never seems to be enough money to fuel all your ideas or your growth plans.

I spent more than 12 years working with startups and small businesses to help them optimize their budgets and get more out of every dollar they spend on marketing. Doing this helped me understand which marketing tactics bring the biggest ROI for the smallest budget.

You can start implementing these tactics on your own or outsource them, depending on how your budget is structured and what your in-house competencies are. Before we dig in, a final word of caution: these tactics are fit for long-term growth, for companies that want to grow sustainably and keep growing for years. They are the building blocks you need for a solid foundation.

To make it easier for you to skim through them, they are divided into larger, more general areas.

Content Marketing and SEO

This is my favorite playground and the way I’ve organically grown two businesses, so you’ll see quite a few ideas here.

  1. Start blogging. If you haven’t already. If you have, make it a regular thing. Being constant is the most important thing here.
  2. Always optimize your content for search engines. You don’t need to make SEO a top priority if other tactics have better potential, but it NEVER hurts to have optimized content. Organic traffic is a goldmine that can keep on giving for years to come.
  3. Repurpose your content. Turn blog posts into eBooks or infographics, whitepapers into podcasts, blog posts into videos and so on. You’ll do more with less, an essential if you’re on a tight budget. More ideas for content repurposing here.
  4. Focus more on evergreen content, the kind that doesn’t have an expiration date. It’s the best tool to establish you as a thought leader. But also:
  5. Publish news-worthy, time-sensitive content occasionally. World events, comments on news and developments in your industry, capitalizing on a current trend – they are all great for social media traction. Ideally, no more than 10% of what you publish on your website should be time-sensitive.
  6. Guest blogging. Write on third-party platforms as often as possible. Inside scoop: I publish articles like this one regularly and a lot of our clients have come to us from a guest post signed by me. Guest blogging is the most cost-effective way to reach new audiences.
  7. Team-centric content. Showcase your team, either one member at a time or by explaining how you work. People love to see sneak peeks into businesses’ workflows. Plus, this humanizes your brand.
  8. Create more than one type of content. I see brands often get stuck in a single content type. No matter how well it works, it’s important to diversify. Experiment with blogging, whitepapers, videos, podcasts, infographics, and more. Short on time? Go back to #3 – content repurposing.
  9. Interview your team and/or your C-level execs. Depending on your brand voice, these could be either fun interviews or completely serious ones designed to position your brand as a leader.
  10. Use testimonials in your content. Social proof is essential, so focus on gathering feedback and adding it to any piece of content you publish.
  11. Leverage free SEO tools. Google Ads can give you keyword ideas and so can a basic Google Search. Google Search Console can help you find keyword gaps. Surfer SEO has a free extension you can use in your browser. Search for “Free SEO tools” and you’re bound to find a few gems of your own.
  12. Post customer stories. Interview a customer and ask them how your company helped them. Ideally, get this interview on video and then transcribe it to get more content formats out of it.
  13. Publish your content on more than one platform. Your content won’t get discovered on its own. Use social media, email, and more to advertise everything you create and publish. Have you considered adding a link to your latest blog to your email signature?
  14. Invest in premium content. Go beyond blog posts and publish quarterly whitepapers or eBooks for instance. Whether they are gated content or free to access for everyone, they will attract a ton of links and shares.
  15. Invest a small amount in ads to promote your content on social media. Even $5 invested to boost blog post link on Facebook can spark more engagement and bring you a much better organic reach.
  16. Always interlink your content. Add links to other blog posts and web pages in everything you publish. This will help with both SEO and keeping visitors longer on your website/reducing your bounce rate.

Social Media

Let’s look at what you can do to boost your social media ROI with a minimal investment.

  1. Use a social media marketing and management solution. It will save you hours every week and it’s worth every penny. We’ve been working with Sendible for nearly 7 years, both for our own social media accounts and for those of our clients.
  2. Memes aren’t just for teens. Capitalize on current trends and create your own memes – you can do it in minutes for free. Just make sure they aren’t offensive!
  3. Keep social media human. Post photos of your team as often as possible.
  4. Keep social media social. No, this is not a typo. Just a reminder to engage with others on social media, not just set your calendar to auto-post and forget about it.
  5. Publish posts that spark engagement. Polls and questions are good examples here.
  6. Ask for feedback on social media. It’s a great way to collect reviews and testimonials that you can then use everywhere else.
  7. And then post that feedback on social media, too!
  8. Keep growing your community. Add links to your social media profiles to your website and to your email signature. Invest small amounts to promote posts or your page.

Measure Your Efforts

You invest a lot of time and money in marketing. But do you really know what works and what doesn’t?

  1. Add Google Analytics to your website. And don’t forget to set goals and track which of your content pieces get the most traction.
  2. Keep track of where all your customers come from. Personalized links, referral links, Google Ads reports, or simply asking them bluntly are all great ways to know which of your channels have the best ROI.
  3. Measure the conversion rate of every marketing tactic you use.
  4. Don’t forget about measuring real value. Perhaps your SEO brings a lot of traffic. But how much of that traffic are you actually converting/monetizing?
  5. Calculate the average lifetime value of your customers. This way, you’ll know the exact ROI of your marketing. Bonus: you’ll also know if you should invest the bulk of your budget in attracting new customers, or upselling/cross-selling to existing ones.
  6. To discount or not to discount? Run an A/B test of a discounted/non-discounted product or service to learn if your audience is price-sensitive or not.
  7. Measure customer satisfaction.

Get Help When You Need It

Small businesses are almost always short-staffed. But this doesn’t mean that you should postpone your plans to grow. You don’t always need to hire internally. In fact, oftentimes it’s easier and more cost-effective to outsource. Here’s where to start:

  1. Outsource content writing and copywriting. They are time-consuming and, more often than not, an outside perspective is closer to what your customers really want to see/read. Check out my agency’s content writing services!
  2. Outsource graphic design. You may not need a full-time designer, but it helps to have someone you can pass on projects. Professionally-created images look better on your website and on social media!
  3. Work with agencies or freelancers for small projects. If no one on your team can find the time to get something done, you can always outsource that something to a freelancer or a specialized company.
  4. Outsource video editing. It’s too time-consuming to be done in-house.

That’s it! This is the list of marketing ideas you can start implementing right away to fuel your growth. None of them are too expensive (most of them are free!) and they are proven to work!

What’s your favorite?

About the author


Adriana Tica

Adriana Tica is a trend analyst, marketer and writer with 15+ years in the field. She owns two digital marketing agencies, Idunn and Copywritech, and a recently-launched consulting business. On SiteProNews, she shares Ideas to Power Your Future on topics like digital trends, marketing, SEO, copywriting, and more.