If you’re looking to grow your small business but don’t have the money to throw at marketing (I wouldn’t recommend the throwing part even if you do), you’re not alone. It’s tough starting a business, and reading up on some tips is a great way to start.
Owning a handmade subscription company, I spend a lot of my time talking to handmade artists about their products and businesses. As a result, I’ve learned a lot about how to do small business marketing on a budget, and I thought it was time to share a couple of tips here—I hope they can benefit you as well.
So here we go:
My top 2 tips for Small Business Marketing on a Budget
Tip 1: Get a review….or ten
Regardless of how wonderful a product you have, it is highly unlikely that the world will ever hear about it unless you can get other people to start talking about it too.
The best first step in my opinion is to get an independent source to review your product, online. If you are selling a physical product, figure out your target demographic and do a web search for blogs that have the same target market. For example, if you create a cool handmade baby product—find a mom blogger with a baby and contact her, letting her know about your product and asking if she’d like to check it out for free.
How to choose a blog & write the email:
- Choosing a blog: Don’t aim too high.
This may sound like the opposite advice your mother used to give you, but take heed. If you try and aim too high your email will likely not be read at all. Depending on the stage your shop and product is in, you want to choose a blog of an appropriate readership size.If you’re quite a new business, with just a so-so website/shop and product photos, find a blogger that has a nice blog and a decent amount of readers (you can get an idea of that by the number of comments on each post or use one of these analytics sites here). A blog that gets only 2 or 3 comments on each post is a good start if you’re really new to the game. That being said, if you already have a bit of online traction and have stellar product photos, you can shoot for a blog that is a bit more well-read.
- Be personal: Connect with the blogger
When addressing the email (“Dear xyz”), make sure you use the blogger’s actual name. Most personal bloggers use their real names online, and if you haven’t taken the time to look around their site and figure out what it is they may write you off.Comment on something (positive) about their blog. Make sure you actually take time to explore their blog and read some articles, so you know a bit about the blogger you’re talking to. Blogs are usually personal spaces, and bloggers like to interact with people who truly read their articles. A good example would be “I really enjoyed your article on your favorite books to read to babies—I used to read the same ones to my little one!”.
- Be polite: Ask for their opinion
Instead of outright asking them to help you market your product—let them know that you value their opinion in the relevant marketplace, and that you would love feedback on your new product. Don’t mention that you are trying to do small business marketing on a budget —it will sound like you are asking them to work for free so you don’t have to spend any money. Instead, simply offer to send them a sample free of charge, in exchange for an honest review.
Tip 2: Make the most of your current fans
Even if your current customers/fans consist exclusively of your family and friends, make sure you utilize them as a resource. You are a single voice, so get a few other voices working in your favor.
How to make the most of your current fans:
- Make a Newsletter….and use it!
This actually took me awhile to get the hang of, because it seems like it would be a pain in the butt. But now that we do it at Fair Ivy, I can’t stress enough how much of a difference this makes to sales.
My advice is to get a free account over at MailChimp, and start with one of their signup forms (for your website) and email templates. It’s as simple as slotting in your own text and a couple of images, and the newsletter looks pretty professional. A good idea is to start with some simple news, such as new products or links to new product reviews, and see what generates the most response (MailChimp includes analytics so you can see what people are doing with your newsletter emails). Try sending new newsletters once a month at first, and then twice a month. Once you feel like you have a good grasp on the newsletter system, try out some new ideas, like small giveaways, or asking for customer feedback or reviews on your shop. Regardless of the newsletter content, make sure you always include links to your shop!
- Reward fans for their loyalty
Your best customers are the customers you’ve already acquired. Studies show it takes a lot less effort to get a new conversion from a previous customer than it does to generate an entirely new customer—so make sure you keep those previous customers happy and coming back for more!
There are great ways to do this without spending any money—it just depends on what you’re selling. A great thing to give away is knowledge. If you are an expert on a particular topic, write a blog post about it and share the content with your loyal fans first. If you do graphic design, create a badge or graphic that your previous customers can download and use for free on their own websites! Here’s a great example below from the lovely Wedding Chicks:
If you don’t have the ability to distribute things like free printables, sometimes the best way to reward customers is to simply write them a personal email and let them know how much you appreciate their business. It’s surprising, but I haven’t received many of these—but whenever I do, I feel really touched and connected with the small business or artist who sent the message. Suddenly they feel more like a friend than a faceless internet being—and the next time they message me, I pay more attention.
So there you go! Those two tips for small business marketing on a budget should hopefully get you on the right track.
Keep your eyes on the blog, because I will soon be posting more tips for small businesses (especially handmade businesses), such as the importance of good product photography (I bet at least one of your friends knows how to take great photos—ask around!) and how to price your products.