Entrepreneur, solopreneur, small-business owner, freelancer – whatever you call yourself, you’re most likely a jack-of-all-trades and a master of one. (At least one. Probably more. Because, let’s be honest, that’s your job description.)
By now, small-business marketing is feeling a bit old hat. You’ve done a lot of what you’ve been told to do. You’ve seen moderate success. But, you’ve worn out a lot of the big marketing ideas touted on every blog and in every book. You’ve probably tried some of the lesser-known ideas, too. And you’re very, very tired of running across business marketing ideas targeted at medium and large companies; they’re expensive, they’re boring, and they don’t work for your business. And when your marketing budget doesn’t allow you to take advantage of the same creative marketing ideas that enterprises are using to attract and retain customers, it’s discouraging.
And that brings us to where we are now: Creative, low-cost small business marketing ideas (and low-budget marketing ideas that any business can use) that you’ve either not thought of, or not thought of in a few decades. (You’ll see where we’re going with this, in a minute.) Because you need fresh ideas and new thoughts. You need creative inspiration. You need the newest, oldest cheap marketing ideas to propel your business forward and boost your bottom line. Here are 55 of our favorite, low-cost marketing ideas:
- General Low-Cost Business Marketing Ideas
- Cheap Marketing Ideas for Social Media
- Inexpensive Digital & Content Marketing Ideas
- Local Marketing Ideas
- Kickin’ It Old School
General Low-Cost Business Marketing Ideas
Before you do anything else, market yourself into a raise
1. Update your marketing plan
One of the best things you can do, before you get to the other 49 items on this list, is to revisit your current marketing strategy. Do you still have the same goals and objectives, plans and methods? Do you need to add or subtract anything from your marketing campaigns? Are you marketing to the right target audience to reach potential customers? Are you working toward achieving your goals – and are your current efforts working? Etcetera, etcetera.
2. Make more money by increasing your prices
And now, the second most-important tactic to boosting your bottom line: the dreaded price increase. It may be a scary prospect – how can you raise prices without losing clients and/or customers? – but as the world become more expensive (or you increase in expertise), you’ll need to find a way to sell a price increase to your clients.
3. Pump it up with a press release
Think the press release has gone the way of the dinosaurs? Luckily for small businesses, it hasn’t, and it remains one of the most effective cheap marketing ideas. The key to writing a brand-building press release is in the hook – what new happening, current event, or other aspect of your business can you make interesting? – and in its distribution which, depending on your budget (zero or just string?), can be as simple as soliciting your local newspaper.
4. Reward your loyal (and not-so-loyal) customers
Rewards programs are not just for the supermarket. Today, you can leverage your email list to build a rewards / customer loyalty program for past and current customers, either as a frequent-purchase reward for loyal customers (if your business lends itself to that model), as part of a customer referral program, or as some other incentive.
5. Embrace the power of joint collaboration
Oh, the power of the joint business venture! Whether you’re joining forces with your next-door neighbor or collaborating with an industry partner across the globe, consider joining together to create creative content marketing collateral (a webinar, for example), a great package deal, or joint event, or another deliverable.
6. Ask for endorsements (Yes, seriously!)
I know a lot of our readers are introverts. Asking for praise may be the last thing you want to do but, luckily, the internet is here for you. Whether you’re a freelancer asking for endorsements via LinkedIn or enabling reviews on your Facebook Page or another social media platform, customer testimonials are a totally free way to prove your value.
7. Give your product or service away
Wait, that doesn’t sound free now, does it? And, okay, if you sell $10K home generators, this may not work for you. But, for most professionals, it’s possible to give away a product, or a product sample, or a highly targeted, value-rich free consultation about your product or service. If it provides true value (and not just faux promotion), then your potential customers will want it.
8. Offer incentives to current subscribers
Email mailing list incentives are not restricted to discounts alone; there are many irresistible offers you can offer your subscribers, not only to keep them coming back but also to create and air of exclusivity. Even better, many of today’s most popular incentives are digital collateral, so they incur no additional cost beyond the time you take to create them.
9. Create scarcity with limited-edition products or services
Some of the best cheap marketing ideas involve simply repurposing what you already have. And thus was born the limited-edition product or service, which rebrands a current product or service for a specific holiday or purpose. Don’t forget to share your limited-edition products or limited-time offers on your social media channels to reach every potential customer.
10. Build a new package for your products or services
You’re familiar with product bundles – buy this whole package, get an $X discount! – so why not try it with your product or service? For products, this creative marketing idea can be as easy as bundling similar goods; for services, it can be a bit trickier, but think outside the box. Social media managers, for example, can create economical monthly packages that incorporate common deliverables.
11. Leverage existing relationships to grow your audience
Word-of-mouth is still very alive and well, which means so is relationship marketing. Spend some time away from the office building relationship with past clients, colleagues, local business owners, friends, and even family – anyone who could benefit from what you do. But, tread carefully: Only share your goods with people who could truly benefit, or you’ll come off sounding disingenuous and overly self-promotional.
12. Reward your most loyal customers
Okay, so by now we’ve covered the basics of offering exclusive deals to subscribers and offering discounts to your email list. But, consider stepping it up a big notch and offering ultra-exclusive – think really, truly exclusive for only the smallest upper percentile of your customers – discounts to loyal customers who have been with you for years, or purchased a certain amount of product, or achieved any other profit-producing milestone.
13. Look into local or industry business awards
If you have a hook or are just really great at your job, most local business networks and/or online industries offer a variety of accolades, awards, and affiliations that can boost your credibility and authority. Bonus points for awards that offer badges or other social proof that you can display on your website, social profiles, in your email signature, and other online presence.
14. Wiggle your way into a radio guest spot
People still love listening to the radio and, with the advent of internet-based niche radio, there’s a place for almost everyone. So, start digging around to find your place– a radio spot (or podcast) where you can spread your expertise, help people, and snag some free promotion.
Cheap Marketing Ideas for Social Media
Go on, embrace your inner meme
15. Comment, comment, and comment some more
If you’re looking for an easy, free, and low-stress creative marketing idea to start networking within your industry, then start commenting on industry blogs. Do not promote yourself; just comment, add some valuable insight or otherwise contribute to the conversation. Do this over weeks and months, and people will learn who you are. Some will navigate to your site. And a few will likely become customers.
16. Hop aboard the trend bandwagon
We know – this one feels pretty disingenuous, doesn’t it? But in reality, embracing trends – whether they be Twitter hashtags or Google trending keywords – is a good way to keep on top of what the market’s talking about, what your customers want, and what aspects of your product or service are most in demand. Plus, you just might get inspired by a new creative marketing idea related to current trends you can leverage to grow your business.
17. Embrace the hashtags
While we’re on the topic of trending hashtags, we’re going to go all in. ALL. IN. Because hashtags are now a key component of any social media marketing strategy and, best of all, they’re free. Use hashtags wisely to get the word out, leverage current memes, cultivate content, and otherwise draw and retain interest in your brand.
18. Share engaging content
Well, of course you should share your own but that’s an obvious choice and not one for this list. What we’re talking about here is sharing attention-grabbing content from other sources on your social media accounts. We love this for two main reasons: 1) It’s free, even in time (you don’t write it, just link it); and 2) It’s a great way to network, be a part of your industry, and spread a bit of praise to experts with whom you’d like to build relationships.
19. Improve the images you use
Whether we’re talking about blog imagery, brochure photos, infographics, or your all-important social media posts, you can pull off great bang-for-your-buck with a few high-quality professional photos (check out stock photo sites or even freebies like Pixabay) paired with slick graphics, courtesy of Canva, Piktochart, or similar drag-and-drop image designers. An extra 15 minutes can make a big difference in the impact of your images.
20. Snag immediate interest with a live stream
Facebook or YouTube or anywhere in between, livestreaming is a popular and inexpensive creative marketing idea. It’s a great way to capture attention in today’s distracted world, as you grab people right now, when they’re online and seeking either distraction or knowledge. What’s more, your livestream notifications are much more likely to show up in your followers’ news feeds/notifications, which is a huge benefit in today’s hard-to-get-eyes marketing world.
21. Re-share user-generated content
Whether you’re sourcing content your ferreted out or re-sharing content your followers have shared via your branded hashtag, posting your fans’ content can create a strong sense of community and inclusivity. What’s more, you make your followers feel accepted and part of your in-crowd, thus boosting brand loyalty in the process.
22. Recycle, reuse, repurpose
It’s not just for plastic: You can recycle, reuse, and repurpose your existing content, which saves you the time and cost of creating new collateral. For example, if you’ve created a series of niche posts on your company blog, consider updating their info and then turning them into a really powerful digital download, either in exchange for an email address or as a paid eBook.
23. Embrace the Rafflecopter and run a social media contest
Everyone loves a good contest and nowhere more than on social media. If you’re looking to grow your social following quickly, running a social media contest will do more than boost your followers. Online contests are cheap marketing ideas that can also send plenty of new traffic to your website (and, hopefully, your email list).
Inexpensive Digital & Content Marketing Ideas
Evergreen content keeps ’em coming for years to come
24. Increase your search engine optimization efforts
Search engine optimization (SEO) can be expensive depending on how much you want to invest in it, but it’s also one of the easiest and cheapest DIY marketing ideas if you follow a few tricks of the trade. Basic SEO tactics like keyword research, optimizing your page titles, meta titles, and meta descriptions, optimizing the headings in your blog posts and other website content, creating content that answers your target audience’s commonly asked questions, creating high-quality, in-depth content that showcases your expertise and provides value to your readers, and building backlinks are all SEO strategies you can implement for free (or at a low cost) if you’re willing to put in a little time. Make sure Google efficiently crawls all the pages on your website. You can use a visual sitemap generator to do this.
You’ll also want to monitor your website analytics to determine what content your visitors are spending the most time on (and create more content like it to make your website ‘stickier’) and identify issues like high bounce rates that you can address. For instance, if your visitors are landing on a page on your website after searching for a term like, “how to create your own podcast” but immediately leaving after reaching your site, there’s a good chance your content doesn’t adequately address the visitor’s search intent.
To solve this problem, you can create more detailed, targeted content that specifically addresses the intent behind the search: they want to find out how to create their own podcast. You should also ensure that your content is well-organized and structured in such a way that it’s easy to scan and easy to read. (Think: headings that clearly convey what an article is about and are presented in a logical order, short paragraphs, bullet points, and relevant images that break up the text).
25. Do some local SEO
If you have a local business, local SEO can be an incredibly effective way to drive more traffic to your website and to your physical business locations. Even if you don’t have a physical business location but offer services to customers in particular areas, local SEO can improve your visibility. How to do it? Create a Google My Business profile to promote your business on Google Maps and in Google Search, add location-based keywords to your content (including the titles, headings, copy, and meta tags and descriptions), encourage customers to review your business online, and get listed in local directories.
26. Create brand recognition (and genuine value) via your newsletter
Too many small businesses consider email marketing newsletters as the odd promotional medium when, in reality, your email campaigns build brand awareness, keeps you present in your customers’ minds, and delivers time-sensitive discounts, deals, and other can’t-say-not offers. Offer something of value to your target market, such as a downloadable guide or toolkit, in exchange for their email address to grow your email marketing list. Email is still an essential component of creative content marketing in 2021.
27. Don’t just blog, guest blog
Maintaining your own brand blog is a great thing – and one you probably already do. That’s why it’s not on this list of things you haven’t thought of. What you may not already do, though, is write guest posts; that is, blog on other sites within your industry where you can provide relevant content to connect with influencers, grow your email list, and otherwise grow your business by reaching more members of your target market. Need ideas for guest posts? Check out these valuable tips for generating blog post ideas that work.
28. Promote your products and services by guest blogging
Guest blogging isn’t just for building authority and backlinks; it’s an effective strategy for promoting your products and services, too. This low-cost marketing idea can be a bit tricky to implement because most blogs don’t want to publish guest posts that are purely promotional. However, if you can come up with relevant topics that provide value to readers and naturally lends to mentioning how your product or service can help someone solve a problem, you have a winner. Before pitching guest post ideas to relevant blogs, do some research on the website and stick to sites that have a high domain authority (DA) – 50 or higher is usually a good benchmark to aim for – with healthy monthly search volume.
29. Pitch journalists on Help A Reporter Out (HARO)
Help A Reporter Out is a service that connects journalists with expert sources for their articles. You can sign up to receive emails three times each day with a list of queries reporters have submitted to the platform in various categories. While there’s no guarantee your pitch will be selected, there are a few best practices that can increase your odds of success.
First, only pitch to relevant queries that you’re qualified to comment on. Second, be sure to read the query carefully to follow any instructions and make sure you meet the requirements noted by the reporter. And finally, provide your answer or at least clearly communicate exactly how you can help the reporter and what expertise you can offer. Vague pitches such as, “I work in the industry and I’m sure I can provide you with some information. Call me as soon as possible at 1-000-000-0000,” is almost guaranteed to get your pitch ignored.
30. Create a podcast
The barriers to entry to the podcasting world are lower than ever before. With tons of apps and tools that make it easy for anyone to start podcasting – even without a sophisticated studio setup – now is a great time to create a podcast. Podcasts are convenient because people can listen during their daily commute, while they’re working out, or just about anytime and anywhere they like. You can listen to a podcast while you’re driving, but you certainly can’t read an article or watch a video!
If you want to cater to those who prefer to watch videos, consider creating a video podcast, which allows you to also distribute the audio content to podcast services for those who prefer audio formats as well.
So, how do you create a podcast? Well, there are several options. You could use an app like Anchor that offers all the tools you need to create, distribute, and monetize podcasts in a single app. (Yes, you can even record podcasts using only your smartphone!) There are other platforms offering similar all-in-one features, too. Or, you could get some podcasting equipment and editing software to record and perfect your podcast episodes, get a podcast host, and submit your podcasts to iTunes and other podcast directories.
If you’re not certain podcasting is right for you, it’s more cost-effective to start simple with an all-in-one platform and then invest in more sophisticated equipment and tools if you decide to stick with it.
31. Learn, practice, and write killer sales letters
There is still power in the sales letter – or, at the very least, in the principles behind the sales letter – in creative content marketing. So, do your business and yourself a huge favor, and learn how to write a foolproof sales letter. Whether you use it or not (and yes, you can use it both in print or via email, landing page, or other digital delivery), understanding the psychology of sales and how it relates to your product/service, will go a long way toward organizing your thoughts and offerings into a coherent offer.
32. Host a webinar, virtual meeting, or seminar
Whether you know it or not, you have valuable knowledge in something your customers want to know. (It could be as simple as how your product works and how that will solve their problems.) And whether you know it or not, a webinar or online event can be a great place to share that knowledge as part of your creative content marketing campaigns – and build your email list and customer base.
33. Revamp your logo and/or tagline
Your logo and brand tagline say a lot about your business: Not only do they sum up what they do, but they give visual and voice clues as to your brand personality. If you created your own logo via a free service, or if you’re just not totally satisfied with how it looks, consider getting it professionally redesigned. There are plenty of logo design services out there, including Fiverr (be sure to read reviews and vet your freelancer!), that can help you create a logo that really shows off who you are.
34. Leverage evergreen content for leads and sales
Evergreen content is content that will stay fresh and/or relevant for days, weeks, months, and even years to come, making it a vital component of every creative content marketing campaign. It’s also content that is hyper-relevant to your industry and will pull organic search results, social media clicks, and other traffic to your site, where you can then hook leads into your sales funnel. Plus, evergreen content is great for search engine optimization, and it makes for great guest posts, too.
35. Don’t just create, share videos
Video is king when it comes to creative content marketing, and that’s not going to change any time soon, but that doesn’t mean you have to invest thousands into your video marketing. You can start small by sharing (and learning from) others’ videos and when you’re ready, you can move on to creating mid-quality video content on a decent phone. Bottom line: You don’t need the big bucks to create branded video. Who knows? You might just create the next big viral video using nothing but your smartphone!
36. Capture shares, visibility, and new followers with a giveaway or contest
The beauty of a running a giveaway or contest on your social media accounts is that it’s easy and, depending on what you offer, can be very inexpensive. Obviously, you can give away your own product or service but, if that doesn’t lend itself to the model, you can give away related collateral. For example, if you’re a social media manager, consider running a giveaway for a camera or phone (with a great camera) that your clients could use to generate their own images. Looking for some inspiration? Check out these amazing Instagram giveaways.
37. Dip your toes into video with instructional content
Video can be an intimidating digital marketing medium to dive into, which is why we love the humble but oh-so-useful instructional video. Not only is it cheap – hi, smartphone camera! – but most consumers don’t have high expectations for instructional videos; the main requirement is that they be clear and, therefore, helpful. So go ahead – educate your industry on something you know well and, while you’re in the process, make sure your expertise and personality shine. If you have a marketing team, you could even create a series of instructional videos featuring individual team members providing instruction on their area of expertise. Instructional videos can be helpful for providing top-notch customer service, as well, giving you creative content marketing resources you can send to customers to help them solve common problems or share in a knowledge base to answer frequently asked questions.
38. Dive deep into the world of Reddit
Chances are, your creative content marketing strategy doesn’t include Reddit but we’re here to tell you that it this can be grassroots marketing gold. The self-titled “front page of the internet,” Reddit can be great for hyper-niche, high-quality content, particularly that directed at a tech-savvy (or self-professed geeky) audience. Tread very, very carefully here, though, because one false step and you could become a Reddit joke – not exactly the kind of creative content marketing you’re looking for!
39. Start churning out articles, or, at least, article ideas
The barrier to entry is sometimes enough to stop you in your tracks but, let’s be blunt – branded content doesn’t have to be scary. To get started with creative content marketing, you’ll need to start working on ideas. Lots and lots of ideas. Then, start writing. No, seriously. Just. Start. Writing. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll have your first draft. And second draft. And then, your first published piece of content marketing.
40. Go super niche
Have you ever considered creating a super-niche website or sub-brand? In today’s competitive landscape, niche online marketing is highly effective. The beauty in reaching out to a hyper-niche audience is that you feel like an answer to all their problems. After all, it’s one thing to market your natural skincare products, but it’s another to offer natural, handmade skincare products for people who are allergic to coconut oil. That’s because even if you already offer those products, they’re buried deep on your site. But, if you build a website for your coconut oil-free, handmade, and natural skincare products, you’re going to rank well in search engines and feel like a perfect match for people who need these products.
Local Marketing Ideas
Get involved in community events (but not for the rewards; just do it)
41. Lure new customers into trying out your discounts
Depending on what kind of good or service you offer, free coupons and/or discounts can be just the ticket to tempting new customers to give you a try. Don’t be afraid to double-up on your low-cost marketing here, either: If you already print business cards, flyers, door hangers, etc. – any type of print media that you hand to customers – print the backside with your coupon.
42. Network like it’s your job
There’s this tendency today to do everything online, even if you’re a local brick-and-mortar. (And especially if you’re not.) But, face-to-face networking still has great value, within both your community and your industry. Of course, COVID-19 changed the game, and face-to-face networking opportunities are still not as abundant as they once were as the world recovers from the pandemic. Fortunately, there are still plenty of opportunities to network in unique ways, even when traditional face-to-face interaction isn’t possible. After all, this is the era of Zoom videoconferencing, and while it’s not quite the same as genuine face-to-face interactions, it’s the next best thing – plus, you can network with professionals in any industry around the world with videoconferencing tools. In fact, new videoconferencing tools like Twine are cropping up to meet the need for virtual face-to-face networking.
43. Buddy up with local vendors
If you’re in the type of industry that allows for built-in networking – say, you purchase your source materials from other vendors – then consider asking your connections whether they know of anyone who would benefit from your product or service (Ditto asking current clients whether they can refer you to other potential clients). Word of mouth marketing is still incredibly powerful in 2021 as consumers are increasingly wary of being sold to and likely to trust recommendations from friends, family, and professional contacts they have an existing relationship with.
44. Speak your knowledge far and wide
While you may not think of yourself as a public speaker, most entrepreneurs and business owners have valuable knowledge to share. So, whether you’re looking to make some extra bank via pro speaking engagements or are looking to leverage knowledge for potential leads, know that you can uncover lucrative speaking opportunities in almost any industry. With many industry conferences and events shifting to virtual formats in the wake of COVID-19, there are plenty of virtual speaking opportunities to be had for industry thought leaders.
45. Actively participate in community events.
If your business is even a bit local (or if you’re just an active part of your community), this is a good time to get involved. Get out there. Donate your time, your resources, or your services. Volunteer something for a silent auction or local charity. Connect to your community and you’ll find it earns dividends over the next months, years and decades.
46. Step away from the screen and embrace the face-to-face network
Your local Chamber of Commerce, professional groups, or even not-even-a-little-bit-related-to-your-industry groups are perfect. Because, while you may not try to make sales through these networks, human interaction can be key to perfecting your pitch and remembering what it is to make face-to-face contact. And, when these groups are held virtually for social distancing or even mere convenience, you can still get that valuable face-to-face interaction through videoconferencing with other attendees and even private video chats to get to know a new contact and talk about how you can help each other grow your businesses. Check out sites like Eventbrite and Meetups to find virtual networking events near you.
47. Rub elbows with local media
If you’ve done anything of note lately – won an award, remodeled your space, contributed to the community, or done anything else newsworthy or unique – then there’s a chance that local media will be interested. Give it a go; the worst they can say is no.
Kickin’ It Old School
Old-school can be new, if you know how to werk it
48. Canvass the neighborhood for new customers
If it still works for politicians and lawn services, then why not for you? Indeed, while canvassing the neighborhood definitely falls into the “old-school” category, we also happily label it an oldie-but-goody. Because it works! Give it a try with inexpensive marketing materials like flyers or brochures, and start handing them out a local businesses, stores, parks, or other public places where your customers frequent.
49. Hang your offer on all the doors
If you think canvassing stops at flyers, think again! Door hangers are not only very effective – since they’re likely the only thing hung on the door, they’re very noticeable, but they can also be very creative. Bring your marketing efforts into 2021 and beyond with an on-brand, possibly humorous, and very eye-catching door hanger.
50. Promote yourself with business cards
Oh hey there, old friend! If you think the business card was dead, here’s another reality check: Not only are business cards alive and well, but they’re still a very viable marketing tactic. Indeed, your business card should accompany every handshake and every new business connection, and thanks to the incredibly creative business cards you can now design, your card can help your brand really stand out from the crowd.
51. Handwrite a thank-you note or greeting card
If it sounds like the post-holiday, post-birthday homework your mom used to give you in the 70s and 80s, then it’s time to embrace the lessons of your childhood. Indeed, in the digital age it’s the handwritten notes and greeting cards that allow you to stand out – especially if you mail your handwritten goodies, accompanied by coupons, freebies, or other inclusions. Send a greeting card with a handwritten note to your most loyal customers for the holidays or send a handwritten thank you note with an order from a new customer.
52. Embrace the beauty of the brochure
Brochures don’t work for every business but for the ones that they do – boy, do they! And, considering that brochures are increasingly less common, producing and handing out an on-trend brochure grabs attention, spreads knowledge, and demonstrates your ability to think outside the digital box.
53. Slap on those car magnets (Nope, not kidding)
You don’t see car magnets very often anymore – and that’s why they can be so effective. (Especially when paired with great imagery.) It’ll depend on your industry but say, if you own a hotel or vacation rental in a nearby drive-to destination, advertising that hotel or vacation rental on your car, in the drive-from destination, can be just the suggestion would-be vacationers need. Bottom line: Car signs can be very effective.
54. Network and grow your following via a local business card drawing
If you have a physical storefront, chances are you also have feet in the door. And that means that you’re in prime position to host a business card drawing – think: of the fishbowl variety with a local gift certificate as prize – that’ll encourage more people into your shop and into your business sphere. What’s more, you’ll be able to inform the participants via email that they did/didn’t win, while inviting them to join your email list for notifications of future drawings (among other info). The great thing about this marketing idea is that it works even if you’re limiting the number of customers in your physical store or office location for social distancing purposes.
55. Set out a sidewalk sign (and maybe be funny about it)
If you get pedestrian traffic into your local store, then a sidewalk sign can act as a most perfect welcome. Huge bonus points if you can find a way to make it funny. Trust us – people will want to come in and find more of the funny. If you have neighboring businesses who also have a sense of humor, you can even start a sign war – it’s one of those creative marketing strategies that’s sure to attract lots of attention.
Now, you tell us – what are you favorite ideas on our list? What do you think you’ll tackle first? And, what low-budget guerrilla marketing ideas did we miss? Please share!
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