11 Marketing Ideas For Small Businesses On A Budget

By Kristina Cisnero



Marketing your small business doesn’t have to break the bank. With the growing digital marketing landscape, there are many creative and cost-effective marketing tactics you can use to increase awareness of your products and services. Many businesses may think they have to go big on their marketing strategies to be visible among their competition. To dispel that belief, I’ve put together a list of 11 low-budget marketing ideas for small businesses below.

Here are 11 marketing ideas for small businesses that don’t have to break the bank

Referral program

A referral program is an excellent way to encourage people to become brand ambassadors of your product or service. The main benefit of a referral program is you can use your existing customer base to help you find new customers. A referral program is an overarching concept that includes affiliate programs, customer referral programs, and partner programs. When choosing the type of referral program you want to deploy for your company, it’s crucial you pick the right variation. After you’ve chosen the type of referral program you’re going to use, increase awareness of your referral program by prompting people to invite friends using tools like LoginRadius’s friend invite product.

a marketing idea for small businesses includes referral marketing

Content marketing

Creating and distributing valuable and relevant content provides you with the opportunity to drive traffic to your website and increase customer acquisition. Content marketing includes creating content pieces like: white papers, e-books, blog posts, webinars, podcasts, case studies, videos, plus a strategic content promotion plan. The last part is extremely important if you want content marketing to make an impact on your business. Creating great content is good, but if you’re not attracting any traffic to your content, you’ll be missing an opportunity to really benefit from the power of content marketing. For example, you can start by creating a social media content calendar to organize your content promotion plan. Our in-house social media marketers live by their content calendar to ensure that our content gets promoted effectively on the right channels.

using a social media content calendar can help you with your content marketing efforts which is a marketing idea for small businesses
An example of a social media content calendar, download it here.

Hosting a MeetUp 

A meetup is a casual, free event that any small business or organization or a small group of people can host. These events are a great opportunity to increase your user network offline, as well as boost brand awareness, and improve product or service knowledge. Events have proven to have a positive effect on relationships with customers and improve the visibility of your business locally and globally.

Here at Hootsuite, we call meetups HootUps, and our global brand ambassadors have hosted over 600 Hootups to date. These Hootups have helped us increase brand awareness in 62 countries, in many we don’t have a physical presence in.

Email marketing

Emails are an inexpensive way to promote your content and product right at the palm of people’s hands—if they read their emails on their mobile device. Myths of email being dead have been dispelled over and over again with user data. It is also not very technical— small businesses can easily set up their email marketing campaigns using tools like MailChimp. You can use email to upsell to your current customers, educate customers about new products, strategy, and upcoming events. Additionally, email decreases a paper trail, which is more expensive and less sustainable than a month-long subscription to MailChimp’s growing business plan.

Team up with your partners and other related businesses

Teaming up with your partners and related businesses means twice as much brand awareness. You can do this by working with your business partners on a case study or an event. For example, Google teams up with their small business partners to host small events to promote the small business plus Google products.

Participate in forums and groups

Quora, Reddit, LinkedIn Groups, and Google+ communities are just a couple of the many  forums and online groups that you can participate in. Engaging in these online communities allows you to increase your online network with potential new customers. Sharing your insights and engaging in conversations adds credibility and trust to your brand. When the opportunity is right, you can also include a link to your website or blog for people to learn more about your business.

For example, whenever I write a blog post, I search up a LinkedIn group or a Google+ community that is relevant to the topic. I then I engage by including a link to the blog post that can answer any questions being discussed.

A marketing idea for small business can include using LinkedIn Groups

In-kind sponsorship for a non-profit organization

Non-profit organizations are always looking for sponsors, in-kind or monetary. For small businesses on a tight budget, an in-kind sponsorship is just as good as monetary sponsorship. Being a sponsor for a non-profit organization increases your reach and provides you the opportunity to get your product in the hands of potential new customers. For example, you can sponsor a regional marketing organization if your target audience are marketers. These marketing organizations host events on a monthly or bi-annual basis, which allows you to to provide sponsorship for more than one opportunity.

Participate in speaking engagements

Speaking engagements, big or small, provides you the opportunity to educate people about your product, services, and industry. Whether it’s a speaking engagement at a local college’s class, or at a MeetUp or a large conference, always say “yes” to participate as a speaker. Not only is this good for developing your public speaking skills, it’s also an opportunity to get your brand in front of potential new customers. For example, my alma mater has asked me countless times to speak in classes about what I do at Hootsuite, as well as the company itself. Taking these opportunities allows me to educate future Hootsuite users or even potential employees.

Apply for awards

Applying for business awards are a cost-effective way to garner some PR for your company. It also validates who you are as a brand, as well adds credibility to your business. You can apply for awards such as your local top business awards and Deloitte’s Top 50 awards. Applying for these awards puts your business on the map amongst some of the major players in your industry and gets your brand in front of people that you may not necessarily reach through other marketing tactics.


Search engine optimization is an effective process that increases your website or a web page’s visibility in the unpaid (organic) search engines. Along with content marketing, when you optimize your content for the search engines you’re able to increase awareness, drive traffic to your website, and be amongst competitors fighting for your potential new customers. SEO allows you to rank for search terms that people are searching for without having to pay for an ad.

Social media marketing

Lastly, one of the most cost effective marketing tactics is social media marketing, the use of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and the list goes on, to market your company in an online social way. There are many benefits of social media for business, and, when used effectively, social media marketing can contribute to the success and growth in many areas of your business. For example, social media can help you reach new customers outside of your geographic location, promote content and events, and validate your company’s credibility.

Start marketing your small business on social media today using Hootsuite.

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