11 Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses on a Budget!

There are now 4.5 million entrepreneurs in the UK and with a further 600,000 emerging since 2010, the landscape for small business marketing is changing – and changing fast! At the same time, I’m sure you have noticed that prices, on most things which are essential to running a business, have been rising.  From the upward gas and electricity bills to the increase in your car fuel, prices are rising on almost everything. For the small business owner it’s starting to get really tough and cuts will need to be implemented.

Marketing Ideas Small Business

The good news though, is that there are still affordable marketing options available. They may not produce the same effects as paying for adverts or flyer dropping in your town centre but, as Mark Twain once said, “Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.”

So money may not matter just as much as you assume and with a little bit of savvy thinking and a few hours extra work, we’re sure you can make these 11 ideas work for you…

1. Start a Blog

Now, no doubt you’ve already thought about social media. A Facebook Business page is an absolute must and if you’re not already on Twitter then it could be time to start. The next step for really filling out a social media strategy is setting up your personal or business blog. You’re not aiming for comical genius or writing an eBook; you’re just writing some opinions on local issues, sharing insider information (like the latest dishes heading to your restaurant menu) or even starring customer reviews.

The idea is to create something that is worthy of being shared. You’re not looking to bring down Mashable; you’re just looking to create something that your family, friends and possibly even colleagues/employees will share. With the average person being ‘friends’ with 115 people on Facebook, personal recommendations from friends via sharing your blog posts will push your marketing further and possibly result in sales.

2. Ask Bloggers to Review You

If you own a restaurant, bar or local venue, why not offer bloggers the chance to come down and review you? It’s great to get a local perspective on your business and it can really help boost your online profile. Ok so maybe you’re a little bit worried about negative reviews after watching one too many episodes of Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, but in reality most will want to help craft a review that will attract customers to you.

To make the blog go further and tie into your social media presence, make sure you offer a prize where people are required to follow you on Twitter/Facebook to enter. If you are a bar owner then a free bottle of champagne would make a great prize, whereas a beauty focused company could offer product samples!

3. Guest Blog

Isn’t guest blogging just for the e-commerce industry? Well, actually, no. With a bustling and saturated blogging industry, many bloggers are turning to niche subjects or concentrating on local issues rather than global issues to attract readers. The great thing about local bloggers is that they are craving content and you can help give it to them (with a little cherry on top!).

Let’s say you work in the retail estate industry. You may well know there are a lot of harsh whispers said about estate agents and they can often get a bad rep. A guest blog could be a great chance to clear up the rumours, offer useful advice and get business. With a host of blogs focused on family and family issues, blogs like 10 Ways Know When to Move House or How to File a Noise Complaint, could attract readers and offer valuable advice.

We’re not saying this is going to make you millions, but every little idea helps and with the right strategy it could be an affordable idea to bring in more business.

4. Claim Your Google Plus Local Listing

Something that is so underutilised in the local business world is taking advantage of Google Local Listings. Think about where people search when they are looking for a local takeaway, or where do people look when thinking about recruiting a carpenter? As the online world expands, more people are using Google to search for local businesses than ever before. The great thing is that appearing in Google’s Local Listing (also known as ‘the pack’) is relatively easy and can be achieved at little cost. Our Head of Everything Google, Dan McKay has developed an ever-evolving 6 step guide to Local SEO and how results can be achieved here.

5. Ask customers for online reviews

It could be on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp or Google, but wherever you get reviews try to get them online. Recent research has shown that personal online reviews are highly effective at driving business and I’m sure you know that negative reviews can have the opposite effect.

With people more than willing to go out of their way to publish a negative review online, make sure you think up a strategy to have customers positively commenting online. The great thing about Facebook is that the review will stay at the top of your page and reviews published via Google have been shown to push you further up the ‘pack’.

Think about a strategy to ‘out’ review your competitors. It could be a simple ‘Did you enjoy your meal? Leave a review on our Facebook Page and Receive 10% off the next time you swing round for dinner!’.

6. Utilise Photography for Business Links

Depending on your industry and the type of small business you own, the photography you take in and around your business could offer potential as a marketing idea. On the internet a lot of people like to take and use images that don’t belong to them or credit the wrong sources. Using an online picture tracking tool like image raider, means you can keep track of who is using your photos. When you find an offending webmaster, ask them to link to your website and credit you by business name.

To start you will need to set up a Flickr account and upload all your photos. Using a Creative Commons license you will allow people to use your photography, with the expectation they will credit you. This has been shown to work especially well, and when used in conjunction with image raider it can be a really smart tactic.

This could be a particularly good idea for commercial photographers who will no doubt understand the pain of people using uncredited images, but also small businesses like bars or restaurants who take a lot of photos for use on marketing materials.

7. Learn about Press Releases and How to use them

Are you sharing a story to boost your business? With a plethora of local news outlets constantly on the lookout for the latest news, using journalists to boost your business profile can often be a cost effective marketing idea. Whether you’re running a restaurant theme for the month in support of a national cause or offering free computer lessons at a local library, stories that can help fill out a local paper column or act as a local human interest story on the radio can help boost your business.

Getting started may be a little intimidating and the odds of getting a result really depend on your story, but if you’re interested in getting started read our Small Business Guide to Press Releases here.

8. Get Involved and Sponsor Local Events

Jumping on local events, whether it’s getting your business involved with the day to day planning or diving into sponsorship, can be a great marketing tactic that not only results in a huge push in marketing terms, but also ties the cultural connotations of the event to your business.

With big local events you will find news outlets will jump on the event with non-stop 24 hour coverage. A head sponsor may find their name tied directly to the event ‘Leyland Carnival – sponsored by DJ Stainthorp Motors’. Whereas a local hotel that leases out a room for free may find their full name is also tied directly to the event. For example: Mosley Charity Ball at the District Park Hotel’.

This may seem expensive, but you don’t need to be a head sponsor to receive many of the benefits of sponsoring a local event. If you’re donating your particular expertise to an event you could ask that your logo be placed on the event invitations, posters or banners. Additionally lots of events hold a tombola where you can get lots of eyes on a prize you’ve donated.

9. Incentivise customers to bring in new customers

Who better to sell your business than satisfied customers? If your business is in an industry where you are likely to see a large number of returning customers, why not incentivise them to develop new customers in a referral scheme? Online or Offline, referral campaigns have a track record of quickly growing businesses and they can even start by simply incentivising family and friends to shout about your business!

For many online businesses, a referral can start with something as simple as a tweet and we’re confident that small local businesses can use these tactics too. For a small business such as a local hairdresser, why not have a batch of your own referral business cards made up? Write the name of the customer on the reverse of the business card and ask them to refer you to friends or family members for 10% off their next cut? This can work in all manner of businesses from restaurants to trade fields!

10. Enter Local Business Award Competitions

This suggestion may appear a little intimidating, but entering Local Business Award Competitions can be a great way to push extra marketing your way and also give you a little confidence boost. Sure you probably don’t need the extra pat of the back, but the social media and general marketing efforts that go into these competitions could be difference between you and the competition.

Many of the winners end up in local newspapers and being able to call yourself the winner is a real treat. See a list of Local Business Award Competitions here.

11. Set up an affiliate agreement

Similar to a referral scheme, an affiliate agreement is set up by a business and a third party ‘affiliate’. The third party ‘affiliate’ then uses their influence or marketing efforts to encourage new customers to buy from the business. Online these usually include blogs or videos that allow you to put advertisements on their content. For each click which results in a sale the website or content owner will receive a percentage of the sale.

Offline this can mean simple agreements between people who hold an authority over your target market or speak to your target market often. Let’s say you’re an electrician, in the small village of Leyland there is a number of shops selling electrical and tradesmen goods, why not try to set up an affiliate agreement with the electrical shops? For a percentage of the sale they may be more than willing to refer customers to your business!


About Scott Taylor

Scott is Chief Storyteller for 123Print UK, an online print company who are determined to help British Businesses grow. He regularly writes content on social media, branding and public relations and has achieved coverage in many publications.

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