5 Tips for Marketing Very Small Businesses on a Shoestring Budget

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5 Tips for Marketing Very Small Businesses on a Shoestring Budget

Last month I presented a program on Marketing Objectives for a group of new businesses in a neighboring community. As I started, one business owner stopped me and asked this question:

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“What if I’m a new business, say a home contractor/remodeler, and I only have $50,000 of start-up money. Joe has hired me to remodel his kitchen but I need to use some of my start up to buy supplies before starting his job. I really don’t have much or anything to contribute toward marketing. What do I do?”

In the rural South where we are based, our economy is fueled by true mom and pop entrepreneurs. They aren’t making millions of dollars selling franchises. They are hoping to feed their families from their small business income. Every dollars counts here.

Before this question I had suggested setting aside 5-10% of your total budget for marketing. In this case you’d be looking at $2500-5000 for the entire year. While it’s small, it’s doable; we just have to be REALLY creative.

shoestring budgetIf you are working with a small budget, here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Forget traditional media, for now. I’m not saying forget it forever. But you can easily spend your entire budget on commercial production and a couple months television runs. You might consider some traditional media if other businesses near yours wanted to go together for a newspaper ad or television commercial run and you’d only have to pay 25% of the total costs.

2. Focus on “grass roots” marketing. In the scenario above, my suggestion is to figure out who else deals with people who want to remodel their homes: realtors, home supply stores, insurance companies, etc. Create a flyer, have it printed, show up with a box of donuts or cookies and get to know these guys. You can spend $500 and fill up your calendar. If you aren’t a remodeler, make a list of other businesses that have the same target market you have. Offer to promote their business to your customers if they’ll do the same for you.

3. Ask for referrals. Word of mouth has always been and will always be your best source of advertising. When you finish a job, ask your client what you could have done better. If they are completely happy, ask them for the names and contact information of 5 friends to whom they would recommend your services. Follow up with their friends with a phone call, flyer or door hanger. Also ask them to leave reviews on your Google page.

4. Go door to door. Take door hangers into a neighborhood that’s just old enough to need remodels or that has a lot of “For Sale” signs. Blanket the neighborhood with your information.

5.As you get reviews on your Google page (you’ll need to claim and set up that page, but it’s free), send potential customers there for credibility.

The key to marketing for small companies with small budgets falls back to working with other business owners. We all have the same goal: to grow our business by helping our customer. The more we work together, the more we all win.

Shoestring Budget

7 COMMENTS

  1. Good article. Don’t forget social media,too: Pinterest is great for pictures (before/after for fashion, remodeling, etc), Twitter for 2-3 sentences (140 characters), Google+ if you have something people are passionate about (art, antiques, quilting, fishing…), Facebook if you want to reach individual consumers, or LinkedIn if you want to reach business professionals. I learned a lot of marketing tips with the free training at bootcamp.daveiscrazy.com.

  2. I agree with Chris Knight, social media is the way to go and it’s free! Do a blog and write or repost articles on your area of expertise. Offer tips. Write or buy an ebook and give it away to your target market. Also, what about a crawl on your local cable station, it would be very inexpensive. There are plenty of ways to advertise now without spending a lot of money.

  3. When using door hangers, make sure to observe any community covenants. Some communities do not allow you to hang materials on doors or even on mailboxes. Another sure to work is the U.S. Post Offices Every Door Direct distribution service. They will get your flyers into the hands of every person on a route for a low cost. Saves you time, leg-work. For contractors, don’t overlook the ability to place yard signs on site where you are performing work. “Another Great Kitchen Transformation by Acme Kitchens” makes a great advertisement and acts almost like a referral program when neighbors see it in the yard where your crew is at work. Don’t forget to use signage on your vehicle. When parked on site or traveling around town, it is one of the best and most visible marketing efforts you can have. (Just make sure not to be an aggressive, or obnoxious driver!) Create a program to reward those who make referrals–send them a gift card to a favorite local restaurant or savings on future work with you.