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How Small Businesses Can Thrive With Limited Marketing Budgets 

3 Mins read

Small business owners (SBOs) know how to do more with less. Whether they’re navigating economic pressures, grappling with constrained resources, or managing everything from sales and accounting to customer service, SBOs find a way to get the job done, even without the luxury of a big budget. Luckily, in the life of an SBO, money is not always the answer and perfection is not always the goal. This is especially true when it comes to marketing a small business. Although a big-budget marketing plan can seem like the only pathway to notoriety and success, it’s oftentimes the reason many businesses struggle to profit when getting off the ground.

Instead, by strategizing around readily available resources, SBOs can keep marketing efforts streamlined yet efficient, and maximize the ROI of a limited budget while still staying competitive in today’s marketplace.

When SBOs carefully prioritize, it allows them to put their dollars behind creative, scrappy marketing tactics that move the needle without breaking the bank. There are several reasons why this approach can be effective and can hold up against competitors with bigger budgets and a broader reach. Here are a few tips and recommendations that both emerging and established entrepreneurs can deploy to successfully build their brand and engage customers, even on a shoestring budget.

Let two-way communication influence your marketing messages

By conducting research to determine how your target audience gets their information, your business can identify the platforms where they spend the most time. This allows you to avoid wasting budget on marketing efforts that are less likely to be effective and creates an open line for you to connect and communicate to your customers.

Quick in-person surveys at checkout, via email or on social media can reveal so much about your customer’s preferences and, inversely, can help you better understand if your customers know who you are, what you do and what makes you different.

Developing an understanding of where your audience – and adopting a consistent cadence of two-way communication – is essential to ensure that your marketing reaches the right people with the right message, and as a result, maximizes your brand’s chances of success. By leveraging data and insights to produce marketing that reflects the needs and wants of your customer base, your business can see a higher return on investment.

Create trust

Familiarity leads to trust and trust is what builds longer-term customer relationships that drive continued sales. No matter the size of your business, being present (and available) on social media allows you to break down barriers between brand and customer and communicate in a way that’s approachable and authentic.

Today, an active on presence on social media is a non-negotiable for SBOs, but it’s also important to look for other ways to build trust through everything you do. A relatable tone of voice, for example, will make your brand feel trustworthy and encourage customers to continue their relationship with you.

Once you find your brand’s authentic voice, bring it to life. Printed materials like flyers, postcards and branded packaging are a great way to show off your brand’s personality. Highlighting customer testimonials on your website can reinforce your image as a reputable business.

Prioritize simplicity and quality

To be simple is to be focused, and when you are marketing your small business, your product and how it connects to your brand should be your utmost priority. From your logo and your website to personal touches like handwritten thank you notes, your audience wants to see why they should choose you over another business in the market.

Admittedly, it is easy for SBOs to get stuck in wanting to expand their marketing to keep up with larger competitors, but your focus should be on the message and what you are presenting to your target audience. Your customers are more likely to pay attention if you strive for authenticity and simplicity over perfection.

Be unapologetically consistent

Consistency is worth its weight in gold. That’s a great thing for an SBO working with finite financial resources. The most established and successful brands favor cohesion and consistency in their marketing — a unified look that is delivered 100 percent of the time — because they understand that familiarity drives their business. A cohesive, consistent look to your marketing inspires confidence in your professionalism, helps build trust and credibility, and strengthens your rapport with customers.

I often tell our VistaPrint customers that it doesn’t require a big budget to market your small business. And the best part? There’s really no barrier to starting.

If you’re just starting out, try experimenting to see what works. As your sales grow, set aside a greater portion of your revenue for your marketing budget and start to define how you’ll spend it.

Whatever tactics you choose, it’s important to remember that your brand and your marketing are long-term, ongoing investments in your growth as a small business owner.

Erin Shea is Senior Director, North America Marketing at VistaPrint, the marketing and design partner to small businesses.

Marketing stock image by Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

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