Winning in Business on a Budget: Marketing

It is the digital age,  and technology advances seem to happen daily. So I try to pay attention.

Watching – and benefiting – from all these technology changes creates a desire to improve my own business. To update my systems. To simplify my processes. To enhance my marketing – to brand and expand.  In Ries’ Pieces, the blog on the business of branding, Laura Ries says, “All brands need to stay focused on the battles they can win. Not the ones they can’t.” As small business owners there are a lot of battles that we can’t win because of budget and access. But if we can shift our mind-set, there are more ways to win than we realize.


Make your mark in the right place.

It’s easy to watch TV and try to imitate what you see big companies do. But in reality most small business owners are not trying to take over the world or even the state—just their little part of the city.  If this is true for you, then work to make your mark in your area. You don’t need to blanket half the state with your marketing pieces if the the people you want to reach (at least in the beginning) are all in a few neighboring cities. This way you can maximize your marketing dollars.

Free is an option.

Money is a necessity.

Effective marketing brings in more money.

Yet, you need money to market.

Wait a minute—it that really true? Yes. No. Sometimes.

You don’t have to have bundles of company cash to start marketing. But you certainly can’t afford to skip the marketing part of your business. There are free options. It’s the difference between advertising (paid marketing) and publicity (free marketing).

Marketing guarantees attention.

Paying for marketing guarantees that people will have the chance to see your ad and hear about your business, but it doesn’t guarantee that they will care. With publicity, you give up the guarantee that your message will be seen — but if it is, it will be a more engaging story.  The reporter, the journalist, the voice has to find your story interesting and choose to share it. If they do, then you have the chance to get attention for your business without spending  money. For publicity, you pay in other ways.

What’s happening with your company that your local paper or news could get excited about? Take the time to find the story and once you do, write a press release and send it to the local paper. You just may get some great publicity out of it. For publicity to work, you will need combinations of the following:

  1. Authentic relationships with the storytellers in your city. Get known for letting them know about great stories in your community, even those that aren’t about you. Hip them to cool things happening with local charities, youth events and your business. And remember, you don’t have to do this yourself; someone else on your team can. Just be friendly, sincere and helpful.
  2. Engaging press releases that make it interesting and as easy as possible to tell your story. The media needs the facts and something interesting to share. A press release costs you the time it takes to write it. Again, if you’re not good with writing, then find a member of your team who is or take the time to learn—this skill will pay off in many areas of your business.
  3. Stories worth telling. That means something that matters to the community, not just to you. Figure out what matters to your city. Then share your story with your community in mind.

Want to know more about press releases? Janet Meiners Thaeler gives excellent advice in Five Killer Press Release Tips for Small Businesses.


Jamillah Warner Jamillah Warner (Ms.J), a poet with a passion for business, is a Georgia-based writer and speaker and the Marketing Coordinator at Nobuko Solutions. She also provides marketing and communication quick tips in her getCLEAR! MicroNewsletter.

8 Reactions
  1. This is great advice for SMBs. There are many ways to market your company that do not cost money. Many SMBs are starting to manage their online reputation more effectively. There are many third party services out there that offer a free service that will help cut down the amount of time that it takes to manage ones online reputation.

  2. I like your point that many small businesses look to bigger companies for tips on how to market. If you don’t have the same goals (or budget), that ain’t going to work. Use them as inspiration to create your own marketing plan.

  3. I enjoyed reading your explanation on the difference between advertising and publicity. There are a lot of inexpensive options available!

    I posted this article on

  4. This is a great article. I love that you point out that “free is an option”. I work with free marketing all the time. There is definitely a difference between advertising and publicity and nothing is guaranteed. We as small business owners need to make an effort to focus and make our story interesting for the public (your community) to engage in.

  5. That quote from Laura Ries is a keeper. Thanks!

  6. Great tips. It’s important to remember that the big companies didn’t start off big, they were built little by little. Take your budget and maximize it for ROI, and take advantage of free options, because they have an ROI also. They may not cost you any money, but they cost time. Put a dollar value to your time, and figure what your ROI would be for the time spent, and maximize it.

  7. It is possible for an entrepreneur to win in business even if his budget on marketing is limited. So, first of all an entrepreneur should focus on the most cost-effective marketing technique. So, when you get the first income you should spend it on advertisement and business promotion and get more revenue in the end.