Marketing on a budget: 14 low-cost marketing ideas

marketing on a low budget

No marketing budget? No problem.

It's a total misconception that you need a huge marketing budget to build your brand and boost sales. In fact, you can build a highly effective marketing strategy with a tiny budget. Here's how.

14 ideas to do marketing on a budget

  1. Content marketing
  2. SEO
  3. Low budget advertising
  4. Social media
  5. Write for industry publications
  6. Collect emails with a pop-up or opt-in
  7. Email newsletters
  8. Budget video content
  9. Create free graphics
  10. Podcast or webinars
  11. Build your personal brand
  12. Loyalty programs
  13. Referral incentives
  14. Budget-friendly marketing software

Rather than trying to do everything on this list, choose to focus on a few of the low-cost marketing strategies that best suit your business type and audience. Why not make it a goal to try some fresh marketing ideas this year?

1. Embrace content marketing

Listen to James Watt:

"When it comes to twenty-first-century marketing, not having a budget is definitely not a problem. In fact, it is a massive advantage."

The advantage is that you're forced to get clever about your marketing. One of the best ways to do that is with content marketing.

James Watt adds: "You can now potentially reach the whole world for less money than it costs to put an advert in the Manchester Evening News... If your content is good enough, you can cause a viral tidal wave from your bedroom.”

Make the most of the free content marketing opportunities in front of you. For the cost of your website domain and hosting (which you should have anyway), you can publish blog posts that build your brand and direct attention to your business.

For zero-budget content marketing, you can also publish articles for free on Medium and have them curated for relevant topics if your writing is good enough.

2. Get long-term marketing results with SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not only a free marketing strategy, but it also delivers future results without any extra investment needed from you.

Start by focusing on the basics of SEO: high-quality content, a technically sound website, and trusted links back to your website. If your website is run on WordPress, install the Yoast plugin for simple SEO guidance on your posts and pages.

If you have a brick and mortar business, make sure you're optimizing for local SEO with a Google My Business profile.

google my business example

3. Plan your ad spend carefully

As a small business with no marketing budget, know that you don't have to pay for ads to be successful. But when done well, ads can be a valuable use of the little budget you have.

To put your advertising spend to the best use, only promote the best content you have, starting with the smallest possible budget and waiting to see engagement before you put more money in it.

Before getting started with ads, ensure you already...

4. Make the most of social media

It's possible to do a lot of effective social media marketing with no budget. You don't need a lot of money to create engaging content and share it on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or other networks your audience uses.

Before you start paying for ads, make sure you're already doing the best you can organically. Are you posting regularly, keeping your brand consistent and getting a good response for the content you're sharing?

5. Write for industry publications

In every industry, there are a few publications that are the go-to authorities. More often than not, they accept guest contributions from others in the industry. Check their websites for a "Write for us" section, or otherwise reach out and share your interest in writing an article on a topic you care about for them.

6. Collect email addresses with a pop-up or opt-in

There's a reason that marketing pros beg you not to rely too heavily on your Instagram audience or members of your Facebook group. You're building your business on rented land.

Email is still alive and kicking, and collecting emails is a much more sustainable business model than building social media followers.

One of the easiest ways to convert website visitors to subscribers is with a website pop-up. Use a tool like Optinmonster or Mailchimp's pop-up forms feature to offer a piece of content in exchange for your visitor's email address.

sign up pop up

7. Send a regular newsletter

If you're building up your email list, don't let it gather dust and make your subscribers forget who you are. Email is one of the best low-cost marketing strategies you have.

With a regular email newsletter sent with a budget-friendly email tool like Mailchimp or MailerLite, you can keep your fans engaged and get more sales for your small business.

8. Create video content

It no longer matters if you don't have fancy video equipment. Your phone camera will do just fine, or borrow a friend's camera if it’s better. To begin with, you could create short meet-the-team videos or product information videos and see how they're received.

As with starting a podcast or running a webinar, it's better to get started with what you have until waiting until you have more budget.

9. Create low-budget graphics

Free design tools like Canva make it simple for anyone to create decent design materials, including social media graphics, posters or blog header images. Keep it simple and stick to the ready-to-use templates rather than trying to create something too elaborate.

create free designs

10. Start a podcast or run webinars

It can feel like everyone has a podcast, but this doesn't mean that it's too late to start. Focus on getting the content right instead of finding fancy equipment when you're just starting out. Although you shouldn't put out something that's bad quality, your audience will be far less worried than you about it being perfect.

11. Build your personal brand

As a CEO or founder, some of the best business opportunities come from the people you know personally. Get out there and build your personal brand.

This doesn't have to mean networking evenings with canapés – it can be as simple as posting on LinkedIn, seeking out speaking opportunities, writing blog posts under your name on Medium, or even publishing a book about what you've learned in your career so far. Don't hide away behind your business.

12. Create a loyalty program

Customer retention is one of the most powerful ways to build a sustainable and profitable business.

HBR have found that it's 5 to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer.

A 5% increase in customer retention can increase company revenue by a whopping 25-95%.

To increase customer retention, always be on the lookout for ways to provide the best customer experience. Some small businesses also get results from creating a loyalty program that rewards repeat buyers with upgrades or discounts.

13. Offering referral incentives to happy customers

On a similar note, do you encourage happy customers to recommend you to others? As with repeat purchases, providing an exceptional buying experience and incentives like discount codes for both giver and recipient can increase word-of-mouth advertising.

14. Save money on software by choosing all-in-one or freemium systems

If your small business needs to do marketing with a tight budget, you might think that most software is out of your reach. However, there are lots of inexpensive marketing tools that can fit any budget – even if that's $0.

Some of the best free marketing apps are:

When you're using multiple tools, staying organized gets much more difficult. To keep your business tools always up-to-date, use PieSync to create a reliable two-way sync between apps so you never have to worry about importing and exporting data. Get started with a free trial here.

About Lucy Fuggle

Lucy Fuggle writes for PieSync, the two-way contact sync tool for hundreds of apps. She also works with her clients to make their brand matter with a content-rich marketing strategy.