6 Ways to Market Your Business on a Shoestring Budget

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Is a "marketing plan" only for people with lots money to spend on a multi-faceted advertising program? Not necessarily. Check out these tips for maximizing your exposure even when you have a shoestring budget.

Employ Social Media Strategically

Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest...and about a million others. It's understandable that social media marketing is somewhat overwhelming -- but it doesn't need to be. Effective social media marketing starts with knowing exactly who your most important audience members are, then crafting a content plan meant to amplify your reach and influence.

Start an Email List

In 5 Simple Steps to Growing Your Email List, Mitchell York writes: "You have a high level of expertise in your business, or you wouldn't have started it. What you may not realize, though, is that by sharing a little bit of that knowledge for free you can entice customers and prospects to give you their email information. For example, if you're a photographer, you can offer simple tips on how to take better, more interesting photos at family events. If you run a garden shop, you can offer tips on preparing garden beds in the spring and winter and how to care for plants. And all anyone needs to do to get that information is to give you an email address to send it to."

Turn Your Customers Into Your Sales Force

Take a page from the book The Referral Engine in cultivating one of the best marketing strategies around: "When a referral strategy pervades your entire business thinking, you begin to approach customer relationships by asking "What am I here to give?" or "How can I serve" as opposed to "What can I sell?" You begin to look for and develop strategic partner relationships with a view toward adding value...instead of as a means to get in front of new prospects."

Guest Blogging and Article Marketing

New marketing strategies often focus on creating a blog that puts out great content that touts the prime features of a product or service. But it's tough to get traction when you're starting out, and if that's the case for your business, guest blogging or article marketing may be for you. Like anything else in low-cost marketing, it pays to be strategic. Avoid the perils of the "stab, stick and blast" strategy with these tips.

Pay Per Click and Social Advertising

Pay Per Click advertising can pay, especially because it doesn't cost you a dime unless it's working and getting people to click. Further, PPC is scalable to any budget. With Google Adwords, you bid on certain keywords related to your business and then are charged a nominal amount (a few cents to a few dollars) every time someone clicks on your ad.

Social advertising (on Facebook and Twitter) is a relative newcomer to the scene but is nonetheless powerful. On the social networks, you can pay to have a certain update promoted to a larger audience, or serve ads to a specific demographic. Like Pay Per Click advertising, these campaigns are completely scalable, so even if you have a $20 budget, you can still get started.

Ask for Help

Even asking for money can be a successful marketing effort on its own. Consider the "crowdfunding" campaign of clothing manufacturer Flint and Tinder for a new product, a hoodie. This hoodie was far from an ordinary hoodie -- it came with a unique backstory. Wanting to differentiate themselves from "fast fashion" retailers like H&M, Flint and Tinder guarantee their domestically made hoodie for life. They launched a Kickstarter to get it off the ground, and the story was so compelling that they actually exceeded their target by an incredible amount. Setting out to raise $50,000, they made over a million dollars. ​Crowdfunding meets marketing? It is definitely an example of creative storytelling in action.