Business Essentials

Marketing on a budget: a guide for SMEs - Brought to you by NatWest

Marketing on a budget: a guide for SMEs - Brought to you by NatWest

Thursday, 07 May 2020

Marketing can seem dauntingly expensive, but there are plenty of ways to shout about your business on a small budget. Hear from marketers and business owners about the free or low-cost techniques that have worked for them.


Even the greatest of business ideas can fail without the right types of marketing. But how can you compete with bigger competitors when your budget is already being stretched thin?


Use social media as a free PR tool

Public relations is a great place to start, says Julie Cocquerelle, marketing manager at JournoLink, a platform that connects businesses with media opportunities.


“PR is about building up your brand via third-party recommendations and there are many free digital tools out there that can help you do that on a tight budget,” she says. “Social media is a particularly effective way to reach new people, establish your brand voice and nurture relationships with prospects and existing clientele.”


Every business has access to social media but not all know how to get the most out of it, so there’s still an opportunity to get ahead – just be sure to fully understand the features available to you. “The main platforms offer various tools that can help you enhance your online profile,” Cocquerelle says, before listing Facebook recommendations, Facebook events and Twitter lists as examples.


Harness the power of the media

PR shouldn’t be limited to social networks – the media is another tool you can use to get your name in front of prospective customers for free. “Pitching your stories to journalists is a great way to increase your online presence and to drive traffic to your website,” Cocquerelle says.


By getting your name into the content published on platforms with large and relevant audiences, you’re able to build general awareness and potentially bring people to your website, especially if you can secure backlinks (links to your site from an external site). Just be sure that your website is set up to convert visitors into customers.


JournoLink is one way to find writers looking for stories, but also consider joining industry-relevant groups on platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook, and search #JournoRequest or #PRRequest on Twitter. “Lots of small businesses feel they don’t have stories to tell to do PR effectively,” Cocquerelle says. “But with media requests, it’s the other way around: you are responding to a request so you’re automatically in the shoes of the ‘helper’ instead of trying to get journalists to help you.”


Create useful content for your target audience

It’s not enough to share other people’s content on your social channels – you’ll achieve a lot more by creating your own, as long as it’s useful for the people you’re trying to reach.


“The same resources and platforms available to you are also available to everyone else – including your competitors – so it’s important to stand out with your content,” says Stephanie Melodia, founder of digital marketing agency Bloom. “Know who you’re talking to and make sure you effectively communicate your brand message.”


“Use your social media network to share news and stories around your business,” adds Rebecca Oatley, managing director of Cherish PR. “But make sure you’re creating great content for people to share, not just shameless sales messages.”


Consider more traditional methods

You’d be forgiven for thinking digital marketing was the only way to go in 2019, but more traditional methods can be effective and inexpensive if you’re willing to work hard.


London-based illustrator Rosie Brooks did just that, distributing 200 postcards to carefully selected addresses in her local area.

“For relatively little money you can experiment with ads on platforms like Google and Facebook. If you’ve done your customer planning correctly, you can create laser-focused ads that really pack a punch”

Dan Andrews, CEO and founder, the tree

“It started small,” she says. “I printed off a few cards and dropped them off on the way to a friend’s house. I quickly realised the savings I could make if I made more and walked further.”


Brooks’ postcards contained information about her business along with a little taster of her illustration work, but it wouldn’t have been enough to just post them through random doors. “I created a database of companies I wanted to market to – mostly publishers and advertising agencies,” she says. “I then organised them all by postcode, put little dots on a map and worked out walking routes based on the biggest clusters of dots.”

Not all postcards led directly to work, but Brooks received plenty of positive reactions on top of the commissions she did get. “Postcards in the digital age get remembered,” she says.


Experiment with online advertising

Online advertising – including paid posts on social media sites and search engines – can be a useful marketing outlet for some businesses, as Daniel Andrews, CEO and founder of marketing agency the tree, explains: “For relatively little money you can experiment with ads on platforms like Google and Facebook. Just make sure you know who you’re talking to. If you’ve done your customer planning correctly, you can create laser-focused ads that really pack a punch.”


Five budget-friendly marketing tips

  1. Build and engage with your audience on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
  2. Get your stories out through social and traditional media platforms.
  3. Make yourself useful with carefully crafted online content.
  4. Stand out with more personal marketing methods.
  5. Take the time to see which advertising channels work for your business, and test continually.


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