When it comes to marketing, most small to mid-sized businesses have the same three questions:
- How do I get started with marketing?
- Where do I focus my marketing efforts?
- How do I market my business, when I don’t have much (if any) money?
Define your terms
Before giving an answer, it’s important to clarify a few terms.
Advertising: Paying for exposure
Marketing: an attempt to start a conversation with your target audience for promoting your brand or offer
Inbound marketing: also known as content marketing; creating valuable content that draws in your audience so they initiate the conversation
Outbound marketing: intentionally reaching out to your audience in attempt to start the conversation
Networking: plugging into people and communities for the purpose of growing your network
Put in the Work
If you’re just getting started and have little to no money, I don’t recommend paying for advertising. Wait until you have a solidified budget that you can afford allocating to increased exposure before paying for ads. Focus on marketing before advertising.
When it comes to marketing, it takes work… and someone has to do it. You either do the work yourself or you pay someone to do it. Chances are, if you’re reading a post on “how to market your business on a budget” then you don’t have a lot of money to pay someone, so you’re going to have to put in some sweat equity.
Sweat Equity: Increasing value earned from labor… aka, putting in the work!
Who, What and Where to Market?
We already defined our terms, now it’s time to think about what that could look like for your business. There are three golden questions that every business owner should ask regarding marketing:
- Who am I trying to serve? (The answer to this question determines your target audience)
- What problems are they trying to solve as it relates to my brand? (The answer to this question determines your offer)
- Where is their attention? (The answer to this question determines where you should focus your marketing efforts.)
After answering those questions, all you have to do is formulate a plan and stick to it for 4-7 months.
Formulate a Plan
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Every business wants to focus on inbound marketing because quite frankly, everyone hates outbound marketing. Inbound marketing is great, but it’s really for the long-game. You have to get started early, and you often won’t see the results of your inbound marketing efforts for some time. You must have multiple marketing strategies or tactics happening simultaneously. Choose 1-3 things you can do in each category (inbound, outbound, and networking). You should always have at least 4-7 marketing tactics going on at one time.
Inbound marketing could include creating content on your blog to increase organic SEO, or creating resources (such as whitepapers and how-to guides) for free download in exchange for contact information. Outbound marketing could include picking up the phone and calling people, or knocking on their door, or directly reaching out to individuals through social media. Networking could include joining a group (like your local chamber of commerce), or attending events where your audience is likely to congregate.
The point is you need to consider where your audience’s attention is, then be there!
A lot of businesses have the wild shotgun approach to marketing where they try anything and everything with no particular strategy, then switch it up every month. The result is well, no results! You need a bit of confidence before delving into any strategy, which is why formulating a plan is critical. But once your plan is formulated, you need to commit to it for at least 4-7 months before changing anything. You’re not going to see instant results – consistency is the key. That doesn’t mean that you won’t tweak or spot check things as you go. That’s a give-in. However, when it comes to your overall strategy you need to be consistent for a period of time to really test what works and what doesn’t.