A common dilemma small businesses face is how they can allot some of their very limited budgets into a good marketing campaign with the risk of not getting a decent ROI. Ad space in newspapers and billboards isn’t cheap and they only run for a relatively short amount of time. Commercials even on local channels cost a lot to produce, much less get on TV in the first place. Relying on good word of mouth isn’t much of a plan either. What’s a small business owner to do? Try out these five marketing methods that are proven to be effective and won’t cost you a fortune to run. #1. Start a Website The Internet has become an integral part of the average person’s life that you can no longer have zero online presence if you want people to know about your business and what you offer. A website is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it doesn’t have to be closed down during holidays. Every piece of important information regarding your business such as contact details, store locations, product catalogue, prices, promos, etc. can be easily accessed by anyone with an Internet connection (and who doesn’t these days?). Just make sure to get a professional web designer that understands your business’ vision to translate it into an attractive and functional site that people will find easy to navigate. You can have yourself a decent website for about $2,500 to $3,000 that accounts for everything from hosting to a CMS (content management system). #2. Start a Blog Building off the importance of having a website, you should look into creating unique and useful content in that website with a blog. Instead of just having your visitors look up information about your business then leave immediately once they get it, you can start building a greater relationship with them by providing content that they can find value in. Tackle issues that are relevant to the concerns your customers are facing, and write it in a language that you know they will understand. Tie in the use of your own products as the solution to the problems you bring up in the blog posts. Make your business invaluable to your audience’s daily lives, and establish your brand as something they can trust. The only real cost here is time, as you will need to commit to a schedule to deliver consistent quality content. #3. List Your Business on Online Directories and Location-based Apps It’s not all about having a base of operations on the Internet to establish an online presence. If you’re just starting a website, the chances of people visiting it without knowing about your business in the first place is very low. That is why you should have your business listed on popular online directories and location-based apps. Google is the biggest search engine in the world, so you want your business showing up in their search results pages. Register your business on Google Places for Business and Local Google+. Mobile is another platform you need to account for, with everyone using smartphones and tablets nowadays to find stores, restaurants, and other brick-and-mortar outlets. Sign up for Foursquare and Yelp to have your business show up on mobile apps. Best of all is that getting listed in these directories will cost you nothing. #4. Offer Discounts Nothing perks up a customer’s ears more than hearing the word “discount” (except for “free” which we will get into later). Getting something for less than its intended value is a great feeling that anybody can relate to, and it’s a simple way of getting more attention toward your products. Just be mindful of how you plan on recouping whatever loss you might take from selling the products at a lower price. Giving the discount through bulk orders, or having customers sign up for a newsletter or a loyalty program are just a handful of ways you can offer discounts while getting something valuable in return. #5. Use Promotional Products The one thing that trumps discounts is giving stuff to your customers for free. Instead of just giving your actual products which probably cost a good amount of money to produce, use promotional customized products like a tote bag, sticky notes, or any sort of imprinted apparel with your business’ logo on them. Bundle a promo item with a product if a customer makes a minimum single-receipt purchase. Give them exclusively to people who sign up for a mailing list or for those who attend a product launch. There are several ways to do it, and you can expect a good ROI because of the increased brand awareness your business will get. As long as those items provide a tangible benefit, your customers will be carrying them around wherever they go, acting as a mobile advertisement and a constant reminder for them about your business. You don’t have to spend on costly TV spots or celebrity endorsements to get your business in the minds of the masses. The Internet has made marketing much easier for the upstart entrepreneur, and combined with time-tested methods of playing to what consumers want, a small business has no limits to success. Images: ”marketing strategy – text in 3d blue glass cubes with white letters, business concept / Shutterstock.com“ __________________________________________________________________________________ Connect with Tweak Your Biz: Would you like to write for Tweak Your Biz? Tweak Your Biz is an international, business advice community and online publication. Today it is read by over 140,000 business people each month (unique visitors, Google Analytics, December, 2013). 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