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3 ways to market your business on the cheap

By: Leslie Youngblood

There can be a lot of hand-wringing and worry when it comes to marketing your small business. As a business owner or entrepreneur, you may feel confident in what you do, but uncertain about how to best take the marketing reigns. And when it comes to hiring an agency, the higher price points may make that avenue unobtainable. It’s seems like a catch-22: Can’t do it myself, can’t afford to have someone else do it. Well, I’m happy to tell you, that’s not true. There are a slew of ways to get the word out on your business, build brand awareness and capture more leads and customers for very little dollars.

Here are three of the easiest and cheapest.

1. Social Media: Yep, I said it, and you know I’m not the only one. There are nearly 2.5 billion people globally on social media. Just let that sink in.There’s a reason social media works for small business advertising and marketing. It allows you to build your brand and connect to those customers at a budget you get to decide on—And sometimes for nothing at all.

First and foremost, don’t try to do every single social media platform. Think about your brand and your customers and choose two or three to start with that you know you can do consistently and do well. Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are a good, simple and effective mix. SnapChat might not be the right channel or have the right demographic for your business. Tumblr might require more time and effort than is worth to you right now. And that’s okay. As you grow and get familiar with other channels, you’ll get ready to expand your social media footprint. Now given all this, let’s take a quick look at the ultimate social media juggernaut, Facebook, and check out a few simple, effective and inexpensive marketing methods you can utilize there.

  • Build Your Page: Hopefully you have a Facebook Business page already up and running. Make sure you consistently post and respond to comments and messages. This is key to establishing your presence, helps you gain followers, and ups your credibility. We recently had a new follower comment to us about how impressed and surprised they were at Excelerate America’s number of Facebook Followers and quality of our posts. And that’s because we plan and make a point to post every day, and by doing so, grow our following.

  • Utilize Facebook Ads and Boosted Posts: Amongst those millions of people on Facebook, you can create a Facebook ad and target it right down to thousands in order to talk to the right audience. It also allows you to set your budget, starting at $5. That’s less than a latte at Starbucks. You can also boost a post you already have on your page, to make sure that it gets seen by more people.

  • Facebook Live: Facebook Live allows you to live-stream videos to your followers. It’s growing in popularity and is super easy to use. Once you’re done with your live video it will post to your page so it can be viewed anytime by other page visitors. You can also download the video and use it for other purposes like presentations, or your business website. Video is a powerful avenue that allows your customers to see you in a way that static pictures and words can’t. Try starting a weekly, or even monthly Facebook Live video series about your area of business that customers and fans will be interested in. If you’re a retail store, do styling sessions showing the latest arrivals and how to wear them. If you’re a software developer, discuss new innovations and tech trends to look out for. You’re not only building brand awareness, but establishing yourself as an expert in the field.

2. Find an Influencer or Two: With influencer marketing, you ask (and most likely pay) an influential person to talk up and promote your brand. It’s kind of like the new way to be a spokesperson, but done in a much more organic way. An influencer can be someone more famous or it can be your best friend’s well-connected niece who has 5,000 Instagram followers. What’s key with influencer marketing is the new audience it connects your brand to, so make sure you choose an influencer that makes sense for your brand. Selecting a fashionista influencer when you run an IT company might not be the right fit, but going with someone who’s a well-known app developer or investor could be really lucrative. The influencer’s audience trusts them and the information they share, and that means good things for you.

3. Grassroots: Some people have used only grassroots marketing to build and grow their brand to amazing results. There’s a local Detroit boutique who grew their Instagram following alone to over 11,000 followers in less than three years just by word of mouth and making local connections. Grassroots marketing is also known as guerilla marketing and is based on targeting your efforts to a small group of people in the hopes that the group will spread your message to a much larger audience. You do this by being your own best brand ambassador and taking your message to a new small group of people on a regular basis. Think local networking events, conferences, business openings and ribbon cuttings. Reach out to those local conferences and submit yourself as an expert to speak on a panel. You should also join a few related local organizations, such as women’s foundations, minority organizations, cultural groups and more.

These sorts of things might have a few membership or ticket fees from time to time, but you can surely find at least a dozen or so free events each month. Then, you’ll simply have to pay to arm yourself with nice business cards for all the new connections you’re sure to make. Going out into your community and supporting your fellow business owners and entrepreneurs, and they in return supporting you. Now that’s a beautiful thing.

Have you tried any of the inexpensive marketing ideas I listed above? How did those executions work out for you? Or do you think I missed anything? Let me know and drop me a line, anytime.

Leslie Youngblood is the Creative Director for Excelerate America, a community-driven business accelerator that helps small businesses excel and grow in the digital economy. You can tell her how wrong she is and message her with a better list of cheap marketing ideas at leslie.youngblood@excelerateamerica.com.

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