40 Low-Budget Marketing Ideas for Your Small Business

These inexpensive marketing ideas can have big results

Businessman using megaphone
••• Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

They say you have to spend money to make money, and that's certainly true of marketing. But if you've only got a small budget to market your business, these ideas for cheap or even free marketing can help you get the best bang for your limited buck.

Expand Your Network

1. Learn how to ask for referrals—and do it. You're much more likely to get something if you ask for it.

2. Learn how to tell prospective clients what you do. Rambling or being flustered won't win you any converts. Learn how to win them over by emphasizing the benefits.

3. Discover the most likely places to find clients—and go to those places. 

4. Join a face-to-face networking group. If you're running a local business, and you're not already a member of at least one local networking group, put this at the top of your to-do list in capital letters and move on it. There's no faster, easier way to make contacts and get known in your local community.

5. Join professional or business organizations. This is just a more specific way of networking, and a great way to make business contacts.

6. Participate in local business mixers or trade fairs.

7. Save money by learning how to properly prepare for a trade show before you attend any.

Find Ways to Attract New Customers

9. Give free workshops or classes related to your products and services. People love to learn, so classes can be a great way to form a more meaningful connection with customers.

10. Create a snazzy logo and tagline for your business and use them on all your documents (including email).

11. Create a brochure. Brochures can be great sales tools. They give potential customers who want to think over your pitch to have something to take away with them. They're great in-hand marketing material when you're discussing your products or services with customers, and something you can send out as advertising, too. 

12. Develop business partnerships and do cross-promotion with other businesses. Cross-promotion keeps things cheap by sharing the costs of advertising, and it can create valuable synergies that benefit all the partners.

13. Participate in a joint venture. This is another great way to share costs between businesses.

14. Send out promotions with your invoices. You're sending out a document anyhow, so why not include a promotion?

15. Learn how to write a killer sales letter. Whether you're using direct mail or email, this will work for both. And once you've written one, be sure to learn how to maximize the response to your sales letter. 

16. Create an email newsletter. This gives you a great opportunity to stay in regular contact with your customers.

17. Become a radio guest. Radio is far from dead and can be a very effective way of targeting your potential customers.

18. Get free publicity for your business by involving the media (including social media) in your grand openings, moves, or charity events.

19. Sponsor (or at least play a big role in) a community charitable event.

20. Learn what the worst marketing blunders are—and avoid them.

Grow Your Online Presence

21. Create a website for your small business if you don't have one. Even if all your website does is present the who, what, where, and why of your business, at least it gives you a home on the web and a chance of coming up in local search results—critical for getting your business found nowadays.

22. Create a blog for your business. If you do it right, blogging is an inexpensive way to create a bigger market for your products or services. Post regularly and make sure you have something of value to share.

23. Visit and comment on other relevant blogs regularly. Be smart; pick the ones your customers are likely to be visiting, too.

24. Develop and implement a social media plan. Growing your presence on social media can be very effective low-budget marketing.

25. Create a Facebook page for your business.

26. Tweet about your business on Twitter.

27. Use Pinterest to promote your business.

28. Use LinkedIn to connect with potential clients and customers.

29. Spend some money on social media advertising. All the major platforms offer forms of inexpensive advertising, often with incredible targeting options.

30. Create a video about your product or service and post it on YouTube—or even get your own YouTube channel up and running.

31. Write articles on topics related to your business and encourage people to post them for free.

Be Bold

32. Remember that when you run a small business, you are your business. Practice PAK skills to promote yourself and your business every day.

33. Apply for business awards. Many business organizations choose top businesses each year, covering all kinds of categories such as customer service. There's nothing wrong with a nomination from a friend—or even nominating yourself. A nomination turns into free marketing for your business.

34. Learn how to create a powerful sales presentation that persuades customers to buy.

36. Advertise your business on your vehicle.

37. Put a plastic business card holder on the side of your vehicle.

38. Blow your own horn. Get over being shy and promote yourself. Everyone has something they can be proud of. Whether it's an award, a new skill, a milestone, or work for the community, practice self-promotion by speaking and writing about your accomplishments. Add a line about something you're proud of to your email signature and to your stationery. Announce it on Facebook; tweet about it; add it to your LinkedIn profile. Let other people know.

39. Learn how to present a price increase to a client—and keep the client.

Revisit and Revise

40. Create or update your marketing plan. Have you even looked at your marketing plan lately? Haul it out. Have a look. Are those marketing objectives still what you're trying to achieve? Do you have new ones? And what are you doing to achieve them now? At the least, it's time for a new marketing campaign. And maybe it's even time for a whole low-budget marketing makeover.