Marketing on a shoestring: 5 tips SMEs will love

When you’re running a small business, the odds are that you’re too time-pressed or lack enough staff members to justify spending huge amounts of money and effort on marketing. If this is true for you, you’re not alone – 55% of SME owners say that a lack of finance is getting in the way of their business growth, and a close 54% citing time pressures, according to the SME Business Boost report. So what do you do next if you want to market your business and increase growth, but don’t know where to start? We have five tips below that will get your company off the ground for next to nothing.

Wait a minute, Mr Postman

Years ago the only way of reaching customers in their homes used to be sending mail-outs or flyers directly to their address. Thankfully, email has since trumped snail mail – being faster, more environmentally-friendly and relatively cost efficient. Don’t think that just because your business is small that it doesn’t warrant an email newsletter. Get organised and ask your customers or clients for their email addresses, and if they’re happy to be contacted, let them know about your latest offers, opening hours or simply send a seasonal greeting. Many nifty sites online offer free and professional looking email services. Find out how to get set up with one of these email marketing services (without spending anything) right here.

Don’t become a one man band

According to the SME Business Boost report, 71% of small business owners are juggling more than one role within their business – you can bet that includes managing the marketing. When you’re light on internal skills, consider the value of outsourcing some marketing services. This really is a case of spending now to save later. Professional products will support your business indefinitely, while a shoddy, DIY job will only have to be re-done at a later date, costing not just your budget but also your brand image. Find a local, recommended designer who can help you create good signage, business cards, and perhaps a flagship advert that will work all year round. Unless you’re a designer yourself, leave the creating to the professionals!

Know the value of PR

The world of PR may sound like a minefield, but there are some easy ways to navigate it if you’re a small business with few marketing resources. Think about approaching local newspapers and business sections with a story – perhaps you’re launching a new product, hiring new staff or you’ve raised a great amount for charity. Keep your pitch factual and relevant to the local area, and you may see an article come out of it. Never written a press release before? Scroll to the bottom of this guide for a super simple template.

Successful socialising

Social media is now tailored more than ever to be business-friendly, as well as user-friendly, and it’s a great place to build a community with your customers. If you use your social media tactfully, you can reap the rewards. And, as with all marketing, you need to know where your customers are to find them. While most companies think Facebook or Twitter first, if you specialise in providing a beautiful product or service, then you may find that a lot of your customers are keen Instagram or Pinterest users. Keep up a consistent stream of fresh content – not only will you be advertising your products to the people who want to hear about them, but you’ll be providing a point of contact that your customers are happy to use to communicate with you.

Use Google to get your business on the map

You probably know that Google is a powerful, well-used online search engine. You may also have spotted that they’re pretty good at listing local businesses when you’re searching for places on the map. Make sure your business isn’t missed out: Get started with Google for Business.  Essentially it’s like setting up a digital signpost which points towards your company whenever people search for certain services in their area. And it’s completely free. For those who aren’t novices at Google Business, use this amazing flowchart to make sure you haven’t missed any beneficial steps. Another nifty tip is using Google Analytics, a completely free tool that you can link to your website to see how well it’s performing (including amount of traffic, most popular pages, and how your customers are finding your website). Insights like these can make a huge difference to sales: this hotel company used Google Analytics to explore what content their customers preferred, and as a result managed to double their bookings. Get your small business on the digital track with Google Analytics here.