Your Massive Guide to Small Business Marketing on a Budget

marketing on a budget

If you’re reading Small Business Trends on a regular basis, you know the importance of marketing your business online.

You likely have an online presence, and perhaps a brick and mortar location too, and you want to establish online visibility for best results and so people can find you.

It’s pretty important to consider a variety of factors, many of which you may not have heard about before, in order to successfully build your online visibility as a small business.

This guide examines the key components for marketing on a budget in your small business. Not all small businesses have unlimited capital, so the tips here won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Better yet, you can probably do them on your own. So read on …

Don’t Ignore Local Search (Costs $0)

Local search is one of the most important things a small business with a physical location should consider. It may even be the most important thing.

Think about the last 10 years and how the yellow pages — do you use them anymore — barely exist. The local yellow pages in some places used to be this three pound book! Now, it’s a quarter of the width and height and is about 200 pages.

Small Business Deals

Without a doubt, local search is imperative for your business presence. The fact of the matter is that people are searching for you online. They aren’t searching their home for an outdated yellow book to find you.

Fortunately, there are tools to help. The Local SEO Checklist is a free checklist that identifies areas of improvement for all small business websites. It focuses on the various components that enhance your online visibility, be it the basics like setting up Google Webmaster Tools, or doing more enhanced updates like generating a schema.

Don’t know what that means? The Local SEO Checklist has more information and direct links to do just about everything you need.

Run A Google AdWords Campaign; Use Free Credits (Costs Between $0 – $5)

Okay, not all online marketing is free. It may cost $25 — but you’ll get $75 free if you commit to that $25 spend. Google wants you to utilize AdWords. Doing very specific geotargeted campaigns can enhance your visibility in front of the right eyeballs pretty substantially.

Using AdWords isn’t for everyone, but if you can make it work for you, especially with $75 free, you can bid on a few keywords for almost zero spend to test and see if it’s working. There’s very little risk if you haven’t used AdWords before.

Write A Guest Blog, Or Two (Costs $0)

Content marketing is all the rage lately.

By writing a guest article, you are communicating to potential buyers that you’re an interesting business. You’re also communicating to search engines that you are relevant. Usually, a guest article lends credibility but it also helps search engines find you.

Provide valuable content in the article but don’t overdo it. Spammy links will raise eyebrows. But the more you write, the more thought leadership you exhibit, and the better your chances are for scoring business. People like dealing with smart people.

Keep Your Business Listings Consistent Across The Web (Costs Between $5 – $50)

Consistency is key when it comes to local SEO. Your rankings actually depend on it.

If you’re listed as Bob’s Building Company on one site and Bob’s Building Contractors on another site, that causes confusion.

Search engines don’t know what’s authoritative and what to believe. They won’t think of you as credible. Focus on being consistent across the board.

If you want to do this easily, Synup is an awesome solution. It’s super low cost but saves you the time and hassle of managing your physical location across the board.

Run Alerts, Comment On Blog Posts That Make Sense (Costs $0)

Building your presence is not just about your on-site and Google marketing but it is about relationship building as well. Relevant businesses or websites need to know about you and that means learning where they exist on the Web.

How would you find them? The best way to monitor your presence is by using a tool like Mention. There’s a free version and a more extensive version for other types of mentions.

Alternatively, Google Alerts still exists but doesn’t seem to be as great at actually alerting you of new mentions.

Once you determine what to monitor for and the results are pouring in, engage! Comment, and more importantly, provide value. Don’t respond with “my business does this too, thanks for reading!”

Provide something substantive that shows you genuinely are interested in giving to the community rather than only taking from it.

Run Google Alerts On Competitors, Clone What You Think They’re Doing Well (Costs $0)

Want to rock your small business marketing? Have a close eye to what your competitors are doing and clone it. Better yet, do it better.

It’s pretty easy to find out what your competitors are doing, and you don’t need to do it on an ongoing basis (though if they’re innovative, you may consider it).

You can get Google Alerts sent to you when something major is picked up by the wires. Google Alerts won’t pick up on blog mentions and that’s where Mention would be better suited for you.

But you can also do your own analysis of what your competitors are doing. Use social media and search to find out what they may be up to. You’ll often find that they’re not hiding it from you.

Write Some Evergreen Content (Cost $0)

If you’re running a business, chances are you’re smart in something. That’s probably the something in which your business specializes.

Perhaps you’re a caterer who makes delicious meals for your local community, or you’re a technology repair shop and can fix anything from iPads to PCs.

You’re the best qualified person to write something awesome that’s relevant to your business. In this case, evergreen content is the best. You want it to be relevant today, tomorrow, and one year down the road.

Then again, if it isn’t relevant one year down the road, you need to keep churning out content. The more content, the better!

Use Question and Answer Sites To Your Advantage (Cost $0)

Taking advantage of networks to promote content is absolutely imperative. Question-and-answer sites, in particular, are regarded highly by search engines.

These days, a site like Quora is considered reputable by search engines, as is Yahoo Answers and Also check out the up-and-coming site, CareerDean, which is focused exclusively on career questions and has just launched, but already has an established niche community.

There’s something to be said about establishing authority when using Q&A sites. People start to trust you. People want to learn more about you. And at the end of the day, maybe they’ll hire you.

Isn’t that what you’re after, anyway?

Participate In Forums (Cost $0)

Forums, like question-and-answer sites, are yet another great way to establish credibility. Do you know of any industry forums where potential customers hang out? Find them and participate.

It should be reinforced that you should give and not take from the forum experience. Establish your thought leadership and give to the community. The more value you offer to the community, the more people will appreciate what you have to offer and the more likely they’ll even recommend you when someone is looking for the expertise that you can deliver upon.

Install Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools For Tracking (Cost $0)

Here’s an easy one: set up Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools, and link them together so that they talk to each other. This shows you the visits to your site, and it reports any types of issues that may be preventing the Google spider from accessing your site.

It’s important to be mindful of the data reported in both of these tools, and use it to improve the user experience.

Give Great Descriptions (Cost $0)

What are you offering to a potential customer? Write unique product and service descriptions on your website, where you highlight your unique value propositions. Why should people do business with you rather than your competitor?

Display Testimonials (Cost $0)

Is someone super happy with the service you provided for them? Get their quote–maybe something they’ve written, maybe a link to a tweet, maybe a video testimonial–and put it on your website. The social proof lends credibility to you being a valuable business partner.

Seize the Day on Video (Cost $0)

Videos don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. You can create short videos that describe your products and services — in fact, you can even use your smartphone to do so, though it won’t look as great as having it professionally done — and publish them on social media channels like YouTube and Facebook.

And if you do have the budget to invest in high-quality video, you can enlist the services of good companies to make that happen. If you do choose to go down that route, your video may be your most expensive investment.

Network in Person (Cost $0-50)

Visit local events and take photos that you can share on social media. Sponsor local events to get to know people. Go to seminars and meetups. Talk about your experiences on your company blog, Instagram, or anywhere else you envision you can promote your footprint.

Getting your business on the map isn’t a costly venture. Your only investment, in most cases, is time. If time isn’t on your side, an intern can help too. But without a doubt, by following the tips above, you can rock in the small business marketing space and be miles ahead of your competition.

Budget Image via Shutterstock

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Tamar Weinberg Tamar is the Chief Strategy Officer of Small Business Trends. She does behind the scenes work as well as advertising sales for the Small Business Trends network, and occasionally you'll see her write articles like this one here.

30 Reactions
  1. Great post Tamar. All great idea. For the AdWords idea, just remember to do a little reading before setting up your first campaign or you’ll spend the $25, get $75 free and get no results. Just a couple pointers:

    – Don’t use broad match keywords; start with exact match and modified broad match
    – Send traffic to a landing page with a very clear next step (call-to-action)
    – Install the conversion tracking code on your thank you page so you can measure success

  2. Most online business owners see unique content as product descriptions and ads written by themselves. While they provide numerous SEO benefits, Google doesn’t favour them as the best kind of content. According to a recent Yodle survey as much as 23% of small business owners don’t see any value in collecting client reviews. They very often contain relevant keywords, drawing attention to your product but their biggest strength lies in how Google perceives them. Each opinion written by a client contains unique wording and style. Search engines see that and prioritize your websites over other outlets.
    Clients highly value personalised experience and even negative reviews can help companies showcase their initiative, thus boosting loyalty and satisfaction.

    The easiest option to manage that is through hiring a third-party feedback collecting company, like eKomi or Feefo. It is very important that the solutions they offer be purchase-based to boost the credibility of your brand. Independent reviews gain much more trust that in-house managed testimonials.

    By carefully listening to what your customers have got to say, you can quickly react to any issues or make changes to your product to make sure your clients don’t start exploring the competition’s offer.

    • Yup. Testimonials and reviews are key in ensuring people go with you versus the competition. Thanks Jacob.

  3. Yes! Great article here and this is what I’ve been telling clients. I love how the common theme here is $0 and in return you just have to engage with others. Thanks for sharing!

    -connect @EdTroxellCreative

    • Tamar Weinberg

      And thanks for commenting, Ed 🙂

    • Marketing doesn’t really need to cost a ton. If you think that it is more about building relationships and less about just being another office task, you’ll understand that the best marketing actions really doesn’t cost as much.

  4. Epic. Simply epic! I think with free marketing, you’re just limited to your imagination! Copying competitors is a great tip, especially if they’re doing it right.

    • Tamar Weinberg

      Glad you liked the piece, Stu. I <3 copying competitors -- and then doing it much better 🙂

  5. Excellent list, Tamar! Not the usual – “social media is the be-all and end-all” that so many others have shared over and over again. There are so many other things that can be done at no- or low-cost in locations that aren’t quite as ‘noisy’ as some of the social media sites. Thanks for sharing our ideas.

  6. Great article. For a local start up the traditional marketing methods like flyers,posters,postal mails will work fine. Any of these things need big investments. It all depends on your target group.for small restaurants like mine postal mails works great. By mailing offers and specials directly to the customers you can easily make sure that it reached them. I hired Troi mailing services who does direct mail advertising in toronto for my restaurant . Since the investment is low even a small conversion rate will help you make profit.

  7. A great article that still relevant in 2016, evergreen content rocks! Personally I’ve never had much success with adwords, but I know those who do. Content marketing is the way forward for now, and for local businesses the local search results are a great opportunity ro out compete the big boys.

  8. It is important to promote using paid methods but to chosoe the ones that will give you the maximum return. This way, you get to maximize your budget for maximum returns.

  9. Google Alert is a great idea but technically aren’t always sending the alert on-time.

    I tried Google Adwords a number of times but have no luck in getting a good ROI.

    Always love Google as a company but 2 products above are owned by them ;(

  10. Very informative article. I have been doing guest blog posts for quite some time, and this method works just awesome!

  11. These are great ideas. I love how you included the price in each. It may be easier for marketing budgeting. And most of them costs $0.

  12. This is a great article and a very good list. I find that most of what is here is what I am telling clients and or doing on a daily basis. Nice work!