There are only three things that matter to you: finding customers, keeping customers, and making money. That’s what marketing is for — isn’t it? Then there are our other two favorite things; time and money.And those two things are almost always lacking when it comes to marketing. So how do you decide how much to spend on marketing? And how do you make the most of your marketing dollar? To answer the first question, all you really need is $500 and a few hours a day to dedicate to your business’ marketing efforts.

Here are some low budget marketing ideas to consider:

#1. Invest in a decent camera/video camera. This is where some of that $500 should go. You will need an HD digital camera and video recorder to take meaningful, entertaining pictures and videos to post on social media channels. Yes, that means you need to register (for free) on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Create a page or feed where you can post content about your community, business, and industry.

Why spend part of your marketing budget on a good camera? Because we live in a visual world.Today’s generation and generations to come will respond better to images and video online than they do to text. In fact, when Facebook did a study of which posts are more likely to be shared or liked, it found [Tweet “Got $500 for marketing? Invest in a camera! Photo posts get 39% more engagement on Facebook”].

#2. Write a blog post and promote it on social media channels. Setting up your social accounts and posting on a regular basis shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes a day. Writing a blog post per week will take a little more time, but shouldn’t take more than an hour per week because you know your business and the industry so well. The hardest part of the task will be deciding what to write about. The key is to think about your customers and what they are most interested in as it relates to your product or service. Then think, how can I write an interesting “list” post about this. It’s proven that web visitors love blog posts about lists, i.e. “Top 10 Kids Shows on Netflix You Wish Would Go Away.” That’s great, you may be thinking, but why is this part of the low budget marketing ideas I’m suggesting? Because, Google has made it clear through its ongoing algorithm updates that it will continue to require business websites to provide unique, engaging content to web visitors in order to get decent rank in search results. Blog posts and social media are a great way to provide that and generate links that can help your website gain web traffic.

If writing isn’t your schtick or you really don’t have the time to write, check out this amazing service called Textbroker. You set your budget and assign it to the writers at Textbroker, and within a day or two you will have a high quality, researched article to post on your site. Here’s another wonderful thing I’ve discovered with this tool. The writers are smart about the topic and will also insert specific keyword phrases into the article. This is a fantastic way to frontload some blog posts and keep your head above water without sacrificing quality.

#3. Try out a Pay-Per-Click or Facebook Ad Campaign. This will use a portion of your $500 marketing budget, but it’s a good strategy to test. Online ads may not work for your business, but for others it’s immensely helpful at driving highly converting traffic to your website. Plus, both Google and Facebook offer some highly helpful free resources in how to set up these campaigns at a low cost. Still don’t know how much to spend on marketing You may not need to spend anything but your time.

Consider these free marketing tools:

Hootsuite: This tool allows you to plan out your social media posts for the week and schedule them in one sitting. This takes the daily planning out of your schedule so you can focus on running your business.

Google’s Keyword Tool: This tool allows you to see what keywords people are searching based on a general idea. Say you have an idea to write about “DIY kitchen repair.” You type that into Google’s free keyword tool and see that more people are searching for “Do It Yourself Kitchen Repair” than they are “DIY Kitchen Repair.” That will tell you which keywords to use in blog posts, social media posts, and on your website.

MailChimp: This is an email marketing platform that provides a free option for sites with less than 2,000 email subscribers. Of course, you must have an email provider to send emails so that you can nurture customers and leads. Of course there are dozens of other free marketing tools, but these three will get you started. I hope these tips help you decide how to spend your precious time and dollars on marketing your business.

photo credit: Historias Visuales via photopin cc