Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget

market your small business on a shoestring budget

How to market your small business on a shoestring budget is quite a popular question for new business owners because typically their start-up funds are limited.

Have you started your own business recently? Are you feeling nervous and excited all at the same time? Feeling nervous is to be expected. Of course you want your small business to do well, but to make that happen you need to get the word out about your business so that you can attract lots of new customers, with cash in hand, ready to buy. But as a small business, how do you do that without spending a lot of money on traditional advertising? I mean, come ‘on, you don’t want to be broke before you even get started. Instead of spending lots of cash on traditional advertising that may or may not work, learn how to market your small business on a shoestring budget so that you can keep your expenses to a minimum.

Define Your Target Market

The most inexpensive way to effectively manage your marketing campaign is to figure out where you want to focus it.

You can save a lot of money by avoiding a blanket marketing campaign that tries to appeal to too many people, or tries to grab the attention of someone who isn't interested at all in your product or service.

Far too many people think they just have to market to everyone possible, but that's time wasted marketing to people who actually have a higher chance of being interested in your niche. After all, you wouldn't market lawn care services to people who live in apartments, would you?

Once you have your target market defined you can begin putting together an inexpensive marketing campaign that will attract new customers to your business on an on-going basis.

8 Ways to Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget

business cards

Inexpensive Business Cards and Postcards

The cheapest way to get the word out offline is through cheap postcards and business cards, which you can easily find and order online. They don't cost much, but give you a lot of space and time to present potential customers with the essentials of what you can do, and how to contact you.

Often times you can pin up your postcards on bulletin boards at your local library, grocery store, coffee shops, and so on.

Your business cards will be necessary, if and when you choose to attend networking events, as well as any other social business events. If your potential customers are at an event then you should be there too.


The most effective and inexpensive way to market your business on a shoestring budget is by attending networking events.

If you have a local Chamber of Commerce you can begin there. Visit their website to find out when they host business networking meetings and call and ask them if you can attend the first one for free to check it out.

Then go online and look for a BNI Networking Chapter that is close to where you operate your business. Once you find one, contact them either by phone or email to find out how you can attend one of their meetings for free.

The point of going to the first meeting of each organization for free is that you want to see if the group is a good fit for you.

LinkedIn is another great place to find information on local networking events. Create a business account on LinkedIn and then search for any local networking meetings.

Create a Website or a Blog

Before you setup your online presence you need to consider which avenue is best for your type of business. Should you create a static website or a blog that you will update on a regular basis? Perhaps you should consider doing both.

A static website is a great way to get the word out there about the type of products you are selling or the services you are offering. As you organize content for your website you want to be sure to include the benefits that people will receive from buying your products or using your services.

You also want to provide some background information about your business and make it extremely easy for people to find you either online, by phone, or at your location, if you operate a brick and mortar business.

You can use your blog to talk more specifically about your business and to keep people up-to-date on current specials and events. You can also use it as a way of providing useful tips and helpful information based on your niche. For example, if you are a massage therapist you could write about things such as “5 Ways to Avoid Back Pain”.

Yes you want your blog and website to look professional, but when you are first starting your business, hiring a professional web developer may be outside of your budget.

Instead you have a number of options. You could use WordPress and one of the many popular themes to get you started.


Always find a way to ask for testimonials that you can include on your website.

You can include them on all of your marketing materials that you create as your business grows. Ask for permission to include their name below the testimonial as well.

Partner With Other Businesses

Do a search for other businesses that have the same target market as you but offer a different service. For example, if you are a massage therapist that works solo, it would be beneficial for you to create a partnership with a chiropractor and a naturopath. Why? Because as you build a trusting relationship with your clients they will most likely turn to you for a referral when they need a treatment that you do not offer. So you can refer them to the chiropractor and he can refer his clients to you when they would prefer a massage.

Another example is a company that lays new floors should partner with a company that does window coverings. That way whenever either of you are in a customer’s home selling, and installing your product, you can refer the other if the customer is interested.

Add Your Business to Google Places

As soon as your small business has a phone number you should add your business to Google Places. This makes it a lot easier for someone to find you when they do a search online for your type of business.

Find a Way to Get Free Local Media Coverage

If your customers are local to your business then find a way to get free local media coverage about your business. Check your local newspapers to see if they have a section where they allow new small businesses to post their name, contact info and a brief summary of what they do.

Contact the editor of your local newspaper to talk about your business. Quite often, if your business is unique the editor will send a reporter out to do a story about your business and what you have to offer to your local community.

As well, offer to sponsor a local charity or local school sports team and pay for the team members shirts with your company name on the back of them.  Make sure to attend some of the games as well.

Social Media

If you are starting a small business then I bet you already know that the best way to market your business on a shoestring budget is to get active with social media and to use every avenue possible based on who your target market is.

Create a Business Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter account. And depending on your type of business, you may wish to consider a Pinterest account too.

Use giveaways to increase your followers. You can giveaway cash, free product, gift cards, or a free service to entice people to follow you.

Once you have followers make sure to interact with them on a daily basis. Simply posting a new link to something interesting everyday won’t cut it. You need to ask questions of your followers, answer their questions, and look for anyway possible to start online conversations that will help people get to know you and your business.

Always Be Marketing!

As you launch your new business and work hard to get the word out there you will come across many more ways to market your small business on a shoestring budget. The most important thing that you want to do is to be consistent.

Setup a schedule that lists all of your marketing tasks and put specific dates beside each task. Indicate which ones you will do on a daily basis, weekly basis and monthly basis.

And even as your business grows and you get really busy, always make time to market your business. Many people think that once their business is booming they can stop marketing, but then a few months later customers stop calling and they wonder why. Always be marketing so that customers remember you, and keep coming back, and hopefully tell their friends too.



    • Savvy Scot

      Savvy Scot 02/06/2013 4:48 a.m. #

      Society has evolved to a point that if you don't have social media, potential customers will question the quality or even existance of your business! Nice post

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/06/2013 2:56 p.m. #

        Yes, social media and either a website or a blog. I recently did an online search for a new accountant and couldn't believe how many of them were listed in the online yellow pages but didn't have a website.

    • Laurie

      Laurie 02/06/2013 6:40 a.m. #

      Great tips, Sicorra! We just got business cards for $5 on clearance at Vistaprint. It can be done on the cheap!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/06/2013 2:57 p.m. #

        I use their business cards all the time, especially when they have a free shipping offer. They can turn out really nice.

    • DC @  Young Adult Money

      DC @ Young Adult Money 02/06/2013 6:43 a.m. #

      This is some really good information, Sicorra. I think the starting piont is to have a solid website/blog as well as a social media presence. These assets really can make a small business look and feel legitimate. Of course, with YAM it is essentially a content site, but I know of others who are freelance writers, software developers, musicians/producers, and others who utilize the web to gain legitimacy, get their word out, and have a point of first contact with potential clients.

      In fact, there is a couple of awesome guest posts on my site next week by freelance writers and a freelance musician/producer.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/06/2013 2:59 p.m. #

        Thanks very much DC! I agree that having an online presence does make a business look legitimate these days, and as well, if someone wants to, they can easily use it to make their tiny business look so much bigger and compete with the big guys out there if that is what they want to do.

        Look forward to your guest posts next week. Are you going on vacation?

    • AverageJoe

      AverageJoe 02/06/2013 7:22 a.m. #

      Great tips. One thing NOT to skimp on is your logo. If you can do everything else cheaply, a well-built logo will be advertising itself. It's also a huge turnoff for someone looking for professionalism when your logo looks like it was drawn by a 3rd grader.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/06/2013 3:02 p.m. #

        And you can get very nice looking logos for not a lot of money at places like 99Designs where people compete for your business.

    • Raquel

      Raquel 02/06/2013 9:51 a.m. #

      Great tips on Marketing on a budget! There really are many low-cost options.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/06/2013 3:03 p.m. #

        Yes, there are. A person just needs to be creative.

    • Pauline

      Pauline 02/06/2013 10:49 a.m. #

      Great tips. I have used Fiverr a couple of time, to get a quick task done cheaply, it is a good place to go. Of course you won't have a top of the art website design but you can get a small graphic or a good quality picture, etc.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/06/2013 3:04 p.m. #

        Yes, I have used Fiverr a few times as well for quick things.

    • Corina Ramos

      Corina Ramos 02/06/2013 11:20 a.m. #

      Hi Sicorra,

      You've shared some great ideas here. I'm definitely on a shoestring budget and these suggestions you give certainly help. And you're right because of my tiny budget I have to be consistent and constant in marketing my site on social media to make up for marketing I can't afford :)

      Another thing I found helpful is submitting your website to free online directories like Google Places and Super Pages.

      Great tips lady, hope you're having a great day!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/06/2013 3:05 p.m. #

        Hey Corina! Great to see you!

        Yes, I can't believe how many brick and mortar businesses for example forget to use Google Places. It is free, easy, and so important.

    • krantcents

      krantcents 02/06/2013 11:49 a.m. #

      Good points! Word of mouth is extremely important for business. That is why social media is so impactful.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/06/2013 3:06 p.m. #

        Word of mouth is the best free advertising. Attending networking groups on a weekly basis really helps with that as well. Once people get to know you they are happy to refer you to people that they know.

    • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

      Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 02/06/2013 12:19 p.m. #

      Great tips, Sicorra. It is overwhelming when you launch a new business, but having a great marketing plan that you will execute is critical. There are so many more inexpensive options these days. Social media is really important, but time consuming. I personally found it to be tremendously beneficial, so it's been worth the effort and time. Sometimes I think the hardest thing to do is let people know you're open for business. But people can't hire or promote you if they don't know what you're doing.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/06/2013 3:08 p.m. #

        I agree that it is time consuming. Sometime it is even harder to keep working on it if you don't see results. Social media is a big help these days compared to even 10 years ago.

    • Justin@TheFrugalPath

      Justin@TheFrugalPath 02/06/2013 6:26 p.m. #

      Another inexpensive way to market your business is to use on of these magnetic car decals. They can help you market your business while you're out running errands and stumble upon customers that otherwise wouldn't have noticed your business.

      • KK @ Student Debt Survivor

        KK @ Student Debt Survivor 02/06/2013 9:16 p.m. #

        We got a couple of those for our car when we started our business. If I remember correctly we got them for free at vistaprint during a sale. We just paid shipping. I was really pleased with the quality.

    • Grayson @ Debt Roundup

      Grayson @ Debt Roundup 02/07/2013 11:46 a.m. #

      I marketed my ecommerce business on a shoestring for 4 years. You do what you have to in order to succeed. It makes you get creative.

    • Karyn S

      Karyn S 02/08/2013 1:35 p.m. #

      All these points should be a blueprint in terms of what to do once you start your business. Great job with the post!

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