You’re a small business. You need to get your message out there. But your marketing budget is tiny. It’s time to get creative!

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a massive marketing budget? Prime-time TV slots, celebrity endorsements, perhaps creating a new font, just for your logo. Of course, money doesn’t cure every marketing problem, but it can certainly help.

Sadly, for the majority of UK companies, that remains a fantasy. For thousands of micro- and small businesses, even funding a local radio ad would be a stretch.

The good news is that with a little creativity, it’s surprising how effective low-budget marketing can be. We’ve already blogged about making your budget go further — so this time, we’ll add some cost-effective marketing ideas for you to consider.

1. Unleash your inner guerrilla.

Guerrilla marketing refers to unconventional, low-budget methods that usually take place in public spaces. One of the first examples was the publicity campaign used to create a buzz about The Blair Witch Project.’ Strapped for cash, the filmmakers just used several ingenious methods to create a mythology around the film, such as handing out flyers asking for information about the ‘missing students.’

Some guerrilla marketing methods can be ethically questionable, such as pavement graffiti or staging flash-mobs, but they don’t have to be. Think, for example, of the bright spark who embossed a company strapline on his sandals, then went for extended walks on the beach.

With guerrilla tactics, the only limits are your own imagination and nerve.

2. Engage your critics

No matter how great your business, you can’t please everyone. Sooner or later, someone, somewhere is going to be unhappy with the service you’ve provided. What’s more, they’re going to tell everyone about it. Research suggests that we’re three times more likely to tell people about a negative experience with a company than a positive one. And therein lies a low-budget marketing opportunity.

Imagine that instead of ignoring your critic, or grudgingly offering them a discount, you went out of your way to turn their experience into a positive one. What if you explained that you’re sorry that you didn’t deliver on this occasion, but you’d be delighted to make up for it. Maybe you could throw in a generous freebie, or a behind-the-scenes visit to your place of work.

Yes, your spirit might rebel at the idea. Yes, you might rant about a compensation culture. But this is business and converting a negative voice to a positive one is worth its weight in gold.

3. Leverage word-of-mouth

Word-of-mouth remains one of the most powerful ways of expanding your client base. So why not leverage this for even faster growth?

One easy way of doing this is to start a referral scheme. Simply offer some sort of incentive — such as a future discount on your services — to any client who finds you new business. Even huge companies like Nationwide, Plusnet and Sky offer ‘Recommend a Friend’ schemes. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t make it work for you as well.

A word to the wise: you’ll need to calculate carefully what you can afford to give away!

4. The power of giving

A growing number of consumers are interested in a company’s ethical track record. They want to buy from companies that protect the environment, have ethical supply chains, help local communities and so on.

With this in mind, forming links with charities and other initiatives can be a marketing opportunity. Is this cynically exploiting a good cause for your own gain? Not at all. You’re contributing your money or time to a worthy cause and receiving something in return.

Depending on your resources, you could:

  • make a financial contribution
  • give away freebies at their events
  • offer a discount to supporters of that cause
  • volunteer your time at fundraisers or projects

Look for something that aligns nicely with your business and your personal values and it’s a win-win situation.

5. Hand-draw your infographics

Infographics are already a cost-effective form of marketing. On websites, emails and print media, they  grab attention and engage your audience.

There are plenty of packages to allow you to produce your own infographics. But for a creative twist, why not hand-draw your own?

If you think that requires some artistic talent, think again. Imperfect artwork and wonky lines have their own folksy charm. Take a look at these examples — we think that for the right sort of business, a home-produced infographic can add a personal element that you can’t get from a slick, computer-generated drawing.

Our philosophy at MV Marketing is that creative, effective marketing needn’t cost the earth. We specialise in meeting the individual needs of small businesses. For a personal touch backed by oodles of marketing know-how, please get in touch.