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20 Small Business Marketing Ideas For $20 or Less!

marketing ideas

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Looking for great low-cost marketing ideas? Of course, you are!

How many times have you heard marketing people say that spending money on marketing is an “investment”? I’m going to share something with you that will probably make you smile and nod your head; Money that goes out of my pocket is an expense, it’s not an investment until it starts paying for itself and then some.

Never invest more than you can afford to lose — Dr. Phil

When Dr. Phil said this on the Oprah show years ago, he was talking about investing in relationships. In this case, I’m talking about investing in marketing. I see so many people throwing money at marketing strategies, tactics, tools, and coaches and then getting NOTHING back; no customers, no revenue, not even a lesson learned. That is not an investment, that is an expense.

So, in the spirit of only investing in something that you can afford to lose, I’m sharing 20 low-cost marketing ideas that you can try for very little risk and potentially a good amount of reward. If you’ve only been generating new business by referral, this is a great way to expand your marketing one marketing idea at a time.

1. Online Business Listing

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Claim your local business listings is essential to be found online, and it’s free! [/tweet_box]

So, get the marketing ball rolling with Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yellow Pages, Yelp and Facebook, and make it easier for your customers to find you.

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Here is super infographic from Deluxe Corporation (@DeluxeCorp) showing you 20 places where you can easily list your business online:[/tweet_box]


2. Door-to-Door Advertising

Placing promotional materials on doors is a quick and easy way to get your business brand and services advertised locally.

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Placing promotional materials on doors is a quick and easy way to get your business brand and services advertised locally.[/tweet_box]

tips-for-using-door-hangers (1)

3. Team Up

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Partner up with another business and share your advertising costs and time with a related business. [/tweet_box]

For example:

  • Private music instructor + Private academic tutor
  • Landscaping company + Pool maintenance company
  • Mobile vehicle tune-up service + Mobile vehicle detailing service
  • Hair and nails + Massage

Think of these as co-branded partnerships that go together like Jiff Peanut Butter and Smucker’s Jelly. Two brands that belong together. The great thing about this kind of marketing strategy is that it’s virtually FREE and allows you and your parter(s) to leverage each others’ customers. You both sell different things to the same customer. This is a win-win situation. Take a few minutes to think about what businesses sell a complementary product or service to yours. Get on the phone, stop by and have a conversation.

[thrive_text_block color=”orange” headline=”Are You Brave Enough?”]If you want to do something REALLY radical — you can get into a partner relationship with a competitor. Think about the customers you’ve lost to a competitor. Now image that your competitor has lost customers as well. What if you guys swapped?those lost customers? It’s a win for you and your competitor as well as a win for each of your customers who get to explore an alternative that may be a better fit for them. [/thrive_text_block]

4. Raise Your Prices!

Is your product unique, in high demand or better than sliced bread? Your pricing should reflect the value of your product and your target market segment.

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]”Raising prices isn’t just to profit more, but to work more deliberately with the customers who value you…”[/tweet_box]

pricing-science (1)

5. Current Events

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Tie your product or service to trending current events. For example, is your product safe for the environment? Does your product or company’s community involvement promote the greater good in some way? Let your customers know![/tweet_box]

6. Personal Touch

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Photos of you and your employees convey friendliness, trust and confidence in your company. Snap some pictures and use them with quotations in promotional materials.[/tweet_box]

7. Act Now!

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Emphasize the expiration dates of your promotions. Make sure your promotions don’t expire on weekends, holidays or other potentially high-revenue days.[/tweet_box]

8. Business Cards

The quality of your business card should equally convey the quality of your brand and services. Additionally, whether counter help, maintenance, cooks or drivers, giving all of your employees personalized business cards is both active and passive marketing.

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]BE BOLD! On the back of your business card, print a GIFT CERTIFICATE. Not a coupon, not a 2 for 1 but an honest to goodness claimable gift certificate that will drive traffic to your store or site and literally pay for itself because free money makes people spend more.[/tweet_box]

9. Questions? Listen Up!

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Questions from your customers give you insight into what they are looking for and to what your company may not be providing in a communicable manner.[/tweet_box]

10. Say, “Thank You!”

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]

Thank customers, vendors, referrals and any other outside individual or company that supports you in some way. A phone call, email, hand-written note, a special gift or discount offer is memorable.[/tweet_box]

11. Branding Gifts

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Use company branding merchandise imprinted with your business info/logo. From key tags, mouse pads, stress relievers, pedometers and candy, to conventional mugs, magnets and ballpoint pens, choose items that are useful![/tweet_box]

12. Emotional Marketing

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Some products sell because they are cuddly and cute. Others because they are amusingly ugly. All products fulfill some emotion. Hit those heart strings (even with packaging) and sell your products![/tweet_box]

13. Make No Assumptions

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]

Never assume your customers:

  • Can’t afford your products or services
  • Don’t understand your products or services
  • Won’t buy
  • Won’t return
  • Won’t shop your competitors


And, never assume the opposite!

14. Multi-channel Marketing

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Surpass traditional advertising with multi-channel marketing. For example, if you are running a direct-mail postcard promotion, make sure your website address is prominently positioned.[/tweet_box]

15. Suggestion Box

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Give your customers the opportunity to provide feedback via survey postcards and/or email surveys. Link their time and effort to a valued-customer membership service, if you offer one.[/tweet_box]

16. More Than Expected

Spoiler alert! Instead of 20 marketing ideas, you’re getting 21. A little thoughtfulness goes a long way to being remembered in a positive light. For example, [tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]if you are shipping an order to a customer, include one of your company branding items as a “Thank You” gesture.[/tweet_box]

17. Ear to the Ground

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Maintain excellent relationships with your vendors, suppliers and the salespeople that call on you. They may know your competition better than you.[/tweet_box]

18. Take Stock

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Assess your company’s marketing strategy. Write down the amount of time, money and energy you spend on each marketing channel (e.g. email campaign, direct mail, networking events, etc.). Refocus your efforts on channels that work.[/tweet_box]

19. Know Your Customer

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Define your customer(s). Write down details about who will buy your products and services. Nail ’em down and refocus your marketing efforts![/tweet_box]

  • Age, race, gender identification?
  • Marital status, children?
  • Occupation, income, rent/own?
  • Local/regional/digital location?
  • Belief system, philosophy, political affiliation?
  • Magazine subscriptions, website interests?
  • A frugal shopper or a compulsive spendthrift?
  • Shop online, brick-and-mortar or both?
  • Vacations where? Time of year?
  • Vehicle make/model/year?
  • On Facebook? Ever heard of Facebook?

20. Become an Expert

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Become an expert and trusted source of information in your industry. Your expertise (or lack of) is a major part of your image. Offer seminars or classes (fee or free) to establish yourself as the go-to expert.[/tweet_box]

21. Be Social!

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]If you’re not a social media guru, become one quickly! Do your online research and determine which social media networks necessitate your investment in time and effort.[/tweet_box]

You don’t have to do all of these low-cost marketing ideas. Start with ONE, implement it, measure the results. If you liked it, tweak it and keep it, if not select another one. My advice is not to choose more than three at any one time.

Happy Marketing!

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