Marketing on a budget is a challenge many small businesses face. However, it's not impossible. With fewer resources, your small business needs to be strategic with how and where you invest your time and efforts.
In this article, we go over 5 low-cost digital marketing strategies for small businesses and the tools to help you grow.
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Why Online Marketing Is Important For Small Businesses?
Your target audience is sure to be online. As of 2022:
- 63.1% of the total population uses the internet; that is more than 5 billion people
- 59.3% of the population is active on social media; amounting to 4.74 billion users
No matter the size of your business or your budget, online marketing can help you build your brand, reach new audiences, and turn them into loyal customers who will bring you more business.
Nowadays, an online presence is a must for most businesses as it signals legitimacy. The customer buying journey involves many online touchpoints. With online marketing for small businesses you reach your audience in every part of their buying journey.
Strategy #1 Boost Your Content Marketing
Content marketing is a method of using free content—like blogs, videos, and images—to raise brand awareness. You create informational and educational content that helps your customers. They find your content when they look for answers on search engines and thus discover your brand for free! Content marketing allows you to connect with your audience, build trust, and drive sales, but costs 62% less than traditional forms of marketing. Some ideas to get started:
Start a Blog
Blogs can be a cost-effective lead generation and brand-building marketing channel. Websites with a blog receive 55% more visitors. When your audience is asking questions online, make sure you´ll be there with an answer. Writing high-quality blog posts takes between 4-6 hours, which is why many business founders opt for outsourcing blog writing.
Create Educational Videos
According to video marketing statistics, 81% of video marketers say video has helped them increase sales; 88% of consumers say video has convinced them to buy a brand´s product. Social media users nowadays are drawn towards short-form video content (10-60 seconds) which you post on TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts. This type of content is easy to create - all you need is a smartphone to film, edit, and upload your video across the social media channels your brand is active. Growing your brand with social media video marketing has never before been so easy!
Leveraging user-generated video content is another cost-effective digital marketing strategy for small businesses. Semrush´s Video Submission Management tool makes it easy for your customers to upload feedback videos. You can use them to educate potential customers about your products and brand.
Get Involved in Forums
Forums like Reddit, Quora, and online groups such as Facebook groups are underrated marketing channels. They're entirely free and that's where your audience is among peers.
Keep in mind that such platforms revolve around community. Don´t be overly promotional or it might come across as spam. Instead, provide genuine value to the community. For instance, you can answer questions and add a link to a blog post on your website for a more detailed answer.
Guest posting allows you to establish your brand´s expertise, boost awareness, and increase your website traffic by exposing your brand to another business´ built audience. Find reputable blogs on your niche and pitch relevant blog post ideas.
Strategy #2 Improve Google Rankings for Free
People are not going to find your content on page 47 of Google. The top three results on Google get over 55% of all the clicks. Here's how you can improve your Google rankings for free.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the cornerstone of a good organic marketing strategy. You can learn how to optimize your content for search engines for free. Check online for small business SEO guides and online SEO courses to get you started.
Use SEO tools
Semrush offers an SEO Toolkit with over 20 tools to assist you in every part of your SEO strategy, from competitive and keyword research to link building and SEO analytics. With a free Semrush account, you can get access to a number of Semrush SEO tools.
Target Local Search
Local searches typically have less competition and a high transaction intent. For instance, the keyword “buy CBD gummies” has a 100% keyword difficulty score on Semrush.
Meanwhile, the keyword “buy CBD gummies in New York” is way less competitive, with a KD score of 42%. Even though this keyword has a lower search volume, it is easier to rank for and you can capture the targeted demand that is looking to make a purchase.
List on Google Business
List your small business on Google My Business (GMB) to show up on local Google searches and Google Maps. Ecommerce stores that serve a specific area/region can also list their business on GMB without having a physical business address.
Optimize your GMB profile by ensuring that your information is up-to-date and proactively asking for customer reviews to attest to your brand´s credibility. Make it easy for your customers to leave a review by sending them Google´s review request link via email. For instance, you can send a review request email after the customer has received your order. Remember to always respond to reviews.
Strategy #3 Leverage Your Social Media
There are 6 major social media platforms that have over 1 billion monthly active users:
- Facebook: 2.934 billion
- YouTube: 2.515 billion
- Whatsapp: 2 billion
- Instagram: 1.386 billion
- WeChat: 1.299 billion
- TikTok: 1 billion
Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are more popular with younger social media users. Facebook and Whatsapp are a favorite of the older generation. Pick one or two major channels and build a social media following there.
Integrate Paid and Organic Social Media
Sponsored posts and promotional content is required to get that initial growth on socials. But you dont have to spend thousands of dollars. Small budgets of $50-$100 with otherwise useful and engaging free content can really grow your following. All you need is to be dedicated with your posting schedule.
Use Comments to Start Conversations
Social media is a two-way communication channel. Take the time to be social - comment on others´ posts and reply to customer comments on your posts. Gary Vaynerchuk calls this the $1.80 strategy (Dollar Eighty). Leave your 2 cents on 9 posts across 10 relevant hashtags (0.02 x 9 x 10). Follow this strategy across your social channels to start conversations and grow your reach.
Find Influencers to Partner with Your Brand
Partnering with influencers gives you access to their audience of loyal followers. You can partner with nano and micro-influencers (1-10k followers) as a small business. These influencers tend to have highly engaged followers and charge around $100 per post, significantly less than big influencers.
Just as with any marketing campaign, start by defining your campaign goals. Then, find the right influencers to partner with. If you have a branded hashtag, start your search there for influencers that may already use your products. Next, look at top posts under relevant hashtags to find active users in the community.
Look at the audience demographics and engagement rate of the shortlisted influencers. Also, make sure that the influencers´ brand values align with yours.
Strategy #4 Expand your online income streams
Many marketing channels can turn into an extra source of income. For example, if you have an ecommerce store, you can sell directly on Instagram or on online marketplaces.
Start An eBay Business
eBay has over 138 million users, making it one of the top online marketplaces to list your products on. Similar to other marketplaces, eBay charges its sellers a number of fees per sale based on the product category and other payment fees. You also have the option to upgrade your eBay listing for a fee by making it stand out. Read the success story of ecommerce founder Tamika Richie to get more ideas about selling on eBay.
Start An Amazon FBA Business
With Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) you get access to Amazon’s logistics network. Setting up an FBA store on Amazon requires little upfront costs and in a few minutes, you are visible to over 200 million Amazon Prime members. There are a variety of ecommerce tools to help you run a successful Amazon FBA business. For example, you can use:
- Product research for Amazon to find high profit, low competition products to sell.
- Keyword Wizard for Amazon to find high-volume, low-competition keywords to increase visibility on Amazon search.
- PPC optimizer tool to optimize ad campaigns on the platform.
Read our complete beginner’s guide on how to start selling on Amazon to learn more.
Become An Affiliate Marketer
There are two ways you can earn as an affiliate marketer:
- Monetize your blog, social media, email, or other communication channels by promoting another brand´s products/services and earn commission for each sale
- Create your own Affiliate Marketing Program for influencers and other creators to sell your products for you, in exchange for a commission
#5 Use marketing technology
Marketing technology (MarTech) refers to the set of tools and software that can assist you reach your marketing goals. Nowadays, MarTech is widely available, affordable, and can take your marketing strategy to the next level.
Conduct Customer Surveys
Enrich and optimize your marketing and business efforts by gathering customer insights. Build a simple survey for free on Survey Monkey, Qualtrics, or any other customer survey software and send it to your customers via email.
Personalized Email Marketing
Personalized emails have 6x higher transaction rates. Yet, 70% of brands fail to use personalization. Email personalization goes beyond addressing the recipient by their name. Personalize your ecommerce marketing campaigns by offering custom recommendations and deals to your customers based on their previous searches, likes, and purchases.
You can automate all this using email automation software. MailChimp is a popular email marketing software that offers a free plan. If you want to use features such as A/B testing, which can be quite useful once you have a big enough email list, you have to upgrade to a paid plan.
Remarketing Lists for Search Ads allow you to target audiences that have previously visited your site. It is popular internet marketing for small business owners. With RLSA you can serve this audience ads in related Google searches or across the Google Display Network. These types of ads are cost-effective as they target audiences that have already shown an interest in your brand.
How to Choose the Right Web Marketing Strategy for Your Business
There isn't one right web marketing strategy for small businesses. The right strategy will depend on your target audience, business objectives and KPIs. So, start by defining those while taking your resources into account. Educate yourself on one idea and start taking action. After few months of effort in one area, you can add another channel. So for example, you start with a blog first, then create videos, then start working on socials. You can also plan your marketing calendar for a month and focus on 1 small task each day. Once you´ve set a marketing strategy in place, give it time to see results before switching to a different strategy.
The digital marketing landscape is undoubtedly becoming more competitive. Not having an online presence is not an option anymore for many small businesses. This doesn't mean you need to pour large amounts of money to make digital marketing work. As a small business you can leverage organic marketing, free tools, and a strategic approach to compete online and grow your business.
You've read to the end, you rock! Follow us on social media, and don’t miss new opportunities to increase your profits:
Once you get started with online marketing, you’ll be ready to expand your ecommerce business to other larger platforms. Read our Selling on Amazon Vs eBay Guide to choose the best one for your business!