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Five marketing tips for businesses on a budget

Small businesses often think of marketing as an expensive luxury, but it shouldn't be. Here are five cheap, alternative methods to reach consumers on a budget.

For any successful small to medium enterprise (SME), keeping to a strict budget is essential. Unfortunately, marketing spend is often sacrificed for the sake of a better bottom line in the short term, with little regard for the long-term investment benefits. There are plenty of opportunities to raise your brand awareness without breaking the bank. Here are five of the best.


1. Customer referrals


It's more cost effective to build your business on recommendations. A 2014 analysis of studies showed that it costs anywhere from five to 25 times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to keep one. If you can get your existing customers to recommend you to others, that cost is reduced. The best way to trigger referrals is to exceed expectations at every turn. Consider setting up a preferred customer scheme to reward loyal buyers with discounts and incentives; this helps increase retention while stimulating discussion among your target market.


2. Social media


With the average Australian spending more than 12 hours on Facebook every week, social media is one of the best ways to stay in touch with customers. While there's no magic formula, this might involve sharing useful tips and content, answering questions about your products, or simply saying thanks for positive feedback. If you think of your website as an online home, social media is the cocktail party where you can mingle – generating positive buzz around your brand.


3. Targeted digital advertising


People are sharing information about themselves every day online, which advertisers are using to their advantage. This can range from age, gender and occupational details to specific habits, like favourite foods and TV shows. It allows you to strategically target your online ads at people who closely match your customer persona. A safe strategy is to start with a small ad spend and increase it over time as the results grow.


4. Joint ventures and workshops


Offline activities can still bring big returns. Participating in presentations and workshops at a local business centre is an opportunity to demonstrate your skills and experience, and to connect with other business owners to explore joint venture opportunities. Be sure to get their LinkedIn profile details so you can continue the relationship online.


5. Content creation


A website is only as effective as its content. A blog, a podcast, instructional videos and colourful infographics can all help build a powerful marketing funnel. Being bold and original will keep your audience engaged and excited to hear from you.


Small business marketing doesn't have to be an expensive chore. And cheap marketing doesn't have to sacrifice quality. By keeping yourself engaged, both online and throughout your business network, success on a shoestring is easier than you might think.