In today’s hyper-competitive market, it’s never been more important to break through the clutter and reach your target audience. But when you’re a small business, how do you compete with bigger companies with bigger marketing budgets? We spoke to Emma Rose Gallimore, author of Plan to Profit: The Essential Marketing Guide For Busy Business Owners, to learn more about affordable marketing ideas in small business.
As a small business, you might not have the marketing budget of big players like Sony, Apple, or Google—but that doesn’t mean you can’t do big things! You don’t need a huge marketing budget to make an impact on your audience. In fact, sometimes it’s the most affordable marketing ideas that give you the most bang for your buck.
But what, exactly, are those affordable marketing ideas? How can you get the word out about your company, increase brand recognition, and drive sales when you’re working on a shoestring budget?
Below, we share five marketing ideas that can do big things for your business—no matter how tight your budget:
01. Go skyscraper high with your content
When you create skyscraper content, you’re going to want to share it across all your social media platforms. Canva’s social graphics templates are already sized for each platform, making it easy to customize to fit your branding and content.
When it comes to cost-effective ways to generate leads and connect with your audience, you won’t find many strategies as effective as content marketing.
Content marketing is a win-win; you get to share your expertise and establish yourself as a go-to resource in your niche market and your customers get access to that expertise before they decide to buy your product or service.
“Content marketing works...because it gives it gives the customer something valuable up front,” says Emma. “When you do content marketing well, customers come to trust you. You've already given them value in the form of your content marketing, so it's easy for them to believe that your product or service will be worth spending money on.”
But the key phrase there? Doing content marketing well.
Throwing together a short blog post that doesn’t really address any of your customers’ issues isn’t going to do much for your marketing. If you want to be successful with your content marketing, you need to provide real value to your audience—and you need to do it better than anyone else.
And the best way to do that? The Skyscraper Technique.
The Skyscraper Technique allows you to identify the content that’s performing well—and then take that content to the next level to drive results for your business.
The strategy is simple: First, you do some Google research to figure out what content is ranking at the top of your industry, or for the keywords you’re trying to rank for. Once you know what’s already performing well, you can create similar content—but take it to a whole new level. Make it longer, make it more detailed, make it more helpful—just make it overall better than the content that’s already ranking #1.
Once you have a piece of content that blows the original out of the water, all that’s left to do is reach out to authoritative sites that link to the original content and let them know you’ve created something better. Does reaching out to those sites take time and effort? Sure. But it’s time and effort well spent—because once they respond, you’ll have a bunch of high-quality sites driving traffic to your content, which will help you rise up in your SEO ranking, increase your visibility, and make it way easier for potential customers to find you.
02. Try lead magnet content
Infographics make great lead magnets. Using one of Canva’s infographic templates, like this Business Infographic template, allow you to easily present your data in a visually impactful way—without spending a ton of time on the design process.
Creating skyscraper content is a great content marketing strategy—but it’s not the only one that can drive serious results for your business.
Lead magnets are a piece of content you offer to your audience in exchange for their contact information (typically in the form of an email address)—and they are crazy effective.
When it comes to lead magnets, the sky’s the limit. Everything from ebooks to how-to guides, checklists to worksheets, templates to swipe files can make great lead magnets. The only requirement is that it has to be something your audience wants badly enough that they’re willing to give you their email address in order to access it—which means you have to pack that lead magnet full of measurable value.
So, for example, as part of her strategy to promote her book, Gallimore created a workbook designed to help business owners better understand marketing. Again, this is a win-win strategy whatever way you look at it. Her audience gets access to a helpful resource, Gallimore gets to establish herself as an expert, and—most importantly—Gallimore gets to build out her email list with qualified leads that she can continue to market to (and drive sales of her book in the process).
Lead magnets work for every niche, industry, and business type—and when you do them right, the end result is an email list full of customers in your target demographic that you can market to for years to come.
03. Use high-quality graphics to tell your story
Whether you’re looking to design a logo or a social graphic, a web banner or a marketing brochure, Canva has the template you need to create incredible designs that will propel your small business forward. And our templates are free—which means using Canva is about as affordable of a marketing idea you’ll find.
No matter what industry you’re in, chances are, the market is filled to the brim with competition. If you want your brand to break through all the clutter and grab people’s attention, it needs to speak to them visually.
Or, in other words, you need to invest in good design.
“Good design makes it easy for people to absorb your message. It catches their eye and makes them stop and look. Just as a baby will gaze longer at a beautiful face (it's true, look it up) a customer will spend more time with a graphic or website that is well-designed,” says Gallimore. “[And] when you combine good design with solid branding you have a winning strategy.”
Back in the day, brands that wanted to create a visually impactful brand needed to either hire a designer or work with an agency. But that expertise doesn’t come cheap; quality designers and agencies can cost thousands of dollars every month—not exactly affordable marketing ideas.
But great design doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. You can build a stand-out brand (and all the assets that go with it) without completely blowing your budget—if you know what resources to tap.
04. Start a social media conversation
Sharing inspirational messaging and impactful imagery is a great way to start a conversation with your followers. Start with the Dream Sunset Instagram Post template and customize with your own messaging before posting on brand’s Instagram page.
Most brands are all about social media advertising, which can definitely be effective, but also expensive.
If you want to use social media as a way to market your business without killing your budget, use it to be social—or, in other words, leverage social media platforms as a way to have direct conversations with your customers.
Choose a few social media platforms to focus on, and then start meaningful conversations with your audience across those platforms. Look up the questions your customers are asking on Quora and provide helpful, meaningful responses. Figure out the most active Facebook groups in your industry and establish yourself as a resource there. Make your brand Instagram a place where you engage directly with your customers.
The key to using social media to your advantage—even if you’re on a shoestring budget—is to use it as a place to engage one-on-one with your customers. The more organic conversations you have, the better relationship you’ll build with your customers—and the more likely they’ll be to want to do business with you.
“The best free way to improve your marketing is by building relationships...You don't always have to be selling,” says Gallimore. “When people get to know you, they'll feel more comfortable buying from you and they'll recommend you to their friends and customers.”
05. Get the most bang for your buck
If you want to stretch your marketing budget, you should squeeze the most out of all your content and repurpose it across multiple platforms—including Pinterest, which can drive major traffic. Customizing a Pinterest Graphic template, like this Brown Cookies Recipe Pinterest Graphic, is a great way to make your content stand out on Pinterest.
When you create a great marketing asset, you’re going to want to get it out there in front of your customers ASAP.
But once it’s out there, that’s it...right?
If you want to get the most bang for your buck, you need to take every marketing asset you create—whether that’s a video, an infographic, or a lead magnet—and repurpose it as many ways as possible.
Did you write an ebook to generate leads? Break up the content and repurpose it as a blog series. Creating a video for your website? Stream a preview on Facebook Live to get people excited to see the final product. Did you design a killer infographic? Post it on all your social media platforms, pull the information and write it as a blog post, add it to your website...you get the picture.
The point is, if you want to keep things affordable, you need to squeeze as much benefit as possible from every marketing dollar you spend. So when you invest your time and budget into creating something great, don’t stop there—think outside of the box and figure out other ways you can use to increase your reach (and drive sales in the process).
Marketing can be effective and affordable
Marketing doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to be effective. And now that you know which affordable marketing ideas can give you big results on a small budget, all that’s left to do is get out there and start marketing!