It’s no secret that we are living in uncertain and scary times right now, which spells big trouble for a lot of businesses all over the world.
But it’s a particularly challenging environment for small businesses who operate on a limited marketing budget at the best of times.
With business on a sharp decline, and a cash flow that’s quickly drying up, many small businesses are really struggling to stay afloat.
However, while many different businesses may have been brought to a standstill (perhaps yours included), this doesn’t mean you should stop marketing your business.
In fact, you should be doing the opposite so that when we come out the other end of the current coronavirus pandemic and impending financial crisis, you’ll be prepared to kickstart your business into top gear once again.
But you’ve probably heard marketers all over the place saying the same thing:
“don’t stop marketing, invest in marketing more now than ever!“
And I know what nearly every small business owner would be thinking:
“I can’t even pay my staff right now, let alone invest in marketing!”
I hear you… continuing to market your business sounds good in theory, but in reality it almost seems impossible right now because most small businesses don’t have the cash reserves to continue operating for very long once business dries up, so finding cash to spend on marketing is extremely difficult.
But there’s some good news:
there are still effective ways you can market on a shoestring budget to ensure that you can keep your audience informed, build authority and presence online, and encourage them to come back to you when all of this craziness is over.
And the best part is that you can do these things yourself while business is quiet – instead of paying someone to do them for you.
1. Ensure Google My Business is Properly Optimised
Google My Business
You will be able to emphasise who you are, what products you sell, where you are located, and ensure all of your information is up to date. One of the best tools that local businesses have is Google My Business. It’s free, it’s easy to use, and it will easily help you to manage your online presence.
When you have properly filled this out and people search for your business, a knowledge card will be displayed. This will give people all kinds of information about you, including:
- Business Name
- Business Type
- Hours of operation
- Phone Number
- Link to website
- Link to Google maps
- Overall Star Rating
- Popular times to visit
- Related Searches
Google My Business Knowledge Card
This will allow your potential audience to learn so much about you at a glance and decide whether they need to work with you. Make sure you carefully go through each section and category and take your time filling it in.
You don’t want to rush or miss anything out – take your time filling in your description, address, and other details. They absolutely must be consistent across all platforms, which is why taking your time is essential.
Using great images and videos is also a nice idea and will help you to finish your profile.
Alongside Google My Business, focus on Google Reviews to make an even bigger online impact – and on that note, make sure to leave reviews on local businesses too!
2. Content Marketing
Content marketing has been an effective digital marketing strategy for a long time now, and will continue to be an effective long-term strategy for businesses of all sizes into the future – particularly now that people will be consuming much more content online through the COVID-19 pandemic – since everyone’s locked inside with nowhere to go!
The objective of content marketing is to produce helpful, relevant and accurate information for your audience that helps answer a question or problem they may have.
You could write content, make video online free of cost, or create podcasts! And the result of effective content marketing is that you become an authoritative source of content within your niche, that people trust and turn to when they need answers.
According to Meghan McKenzie from Crowd Content:
Content marketing also provides long-term value for your business, especially when compared to other channels. It can help you rank for search terms and drive organic traffic now and in the future, and you can revisit and update content later to fit more specific needs. Plus, you can continue to promote content and future updates via other channels like email and social media, driving even more traffic to important pages.
In other words, content marketing has the most potential to keep your business alive in the long-term, so if you’ve got the capacity to create high quality, informative and engaging content then now is the perfect time to step on the gas.
What type of content should you create?
Well, this depends a lot on your target audience, where they spend time online and how they consume media. It also depends on your business, and the most effective way to deliver your content.
Webinars are hugely beneficial, as people love consuming content in video format, and they will be able to take your advice at any time. You don’t need much to setup a webinar, as there’s heaps of great free webinar platforms out there.
Written content such blog articles, white papers, case studies for people who perhaps work in an office environment or are more attuned to reading rather than watching video. One key way to get started on some great blog content is to brainstorm 10 of your most commonly asked questions, then map out a highly detailed, original response to each.
Video and streaming
Many fitness experts and gyms are transitioning from traditional gyms to online video streaming for people to follow to stay fit at home.
These are a great way of visually presenting content in a fun and creative way, that might otherwise be a little boring. And you don’t need to be a graphic designer to create stunning infographics – just head over to Canva or Venngage to get started for free! You’ll be amazed at what you can create.
Most businesses have an email list of current or past clients they’ve done business with. This is a golden opportunity to reach out and communicate with people you already know need your product or service.
This may take a little more of a time commitment, and require some basic gear to get started, but can be a great way of connecting with your audience and really building brand awareness and authority.
You don’t need to pick all of the above, you just need to decide what form of content your target audience will prefer to digest, along with your capacity to produce the content.
For more information on how to get started and come up with some effective content marketing ideas, check out this quick guide by WebFx – or if you’ve got more time on your hands head on over to keap to check out this epic guide by Keap on content marketing for small businesses.
3. Leverage Social Media
Leveraging social media is one of the smartest and easiest ways to market your business on a shoestring budget. The great thing about social media is that it’s free, and you don’t need any special skills to make it work for you – you just need to show a little personality!
Build social media pages, but make sure you consider where you are most likely to find your audience – is it Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or even the newly created TikTok?. You should do a little research and consider things such as your target audience’s age, geographic location and general interests. Do you sell directly to customers or are you a B2B business?
Considering all of these things to identify your target audience will help you narrow down the best platforms to target for the best engagement and results. Here’s a great guide by PromoRepublic on how to find your best audience on social media.
You don’t need to have every single platform, especially since you’ll need to manage them all and keep them up to date, but you should make sure you have the most important ones where your target audience are more likely to hang out.
Once you have your platforms, make sure you have filled in and personalised each profile with your address, about me, and other information – and don’t forget to add your branding! This will allow customers to easily recognise you and build trust. You can then take advantage of Facebook’s and Google’s free ad credits to attract people to your social pages and your business in general.
Building an audience on your social pages can take a lot of time, and it isn’t something that will happen overnight. To accomplish this effectively you’re going to need to keep on sharing valuable information and go out of your way to contribute to communities and help people out.
For example, if you’re a dentist that has had to close down due to Covid-19, you could continuously share great tips, allowing your audience to take care of their teeth at home, or even provide troubleshooting options. You could even host competitions that they can cash in on when all of this is over, which should help you to expand your reach further.
4. Stay Active and Involved in Community Discussions
Don’t underestimate just how powerful community discussions can be. Facebook community groups are a great place for this, but you can do it on pretty much any platform.
Keep a keen eye out for discussions you can get involved in, but don’t hesitate to start your own discussions, either.
Ask people interesting questions and make them want to interact with you. This is another opportunity to use your platform to provide tips and advice for potential and existing customers, which will not only add value to their lives but encourage them to remember you when all of this has passed.
Your answers should be helpful, friendly, professional – even humorous and interesting if possible. It could be a good idea at this stage to decide on your brand’s ‘brand voice’ and then stick to that as you craft answers and advice.
A key point to remember when engaging in community discussions is to focus on being helpful and informative… no selling!
These forums are not the place to sell your products or services, and you’ll likely be quickly shut down if you do cross the line. You need to remember the long-term benefits of this type of tactic, which is building trust and authority within your local community – and of course just being a good community member by helping people where you can!
5. Leverage Partnerships With Other Local Businesses
When you think about it, most other businesses around you are going to be in the exact same position as you right now.
This means it’s a great time to create and leverage partnerships with them.
Ask yourself this:
how can you combine forces to help serve customers in this new world where people are self isolating or quarantined, and shops aren’t opening to the public?
New opportunities are popping up every day, which means it’s a great time to look at partnering with other businesses to solve these newly arising problems that your customers are encountering.
It might not seem obvious at first, but in most cases if you can get creative and think outside the box a little, then you’ll find a way. Tthere are so many benefits to partnering with other local businesses – not only do you both get to share one another’s audience, you will both help to build that feeling of community spirit, raising awareness and saving money all at the same time.
This is why networking with other local businesses and partnering together is a great idea.
As you can see, marketing on a shoestring budget is entirely possible, and something you can continue to do whether or not you’re stuggling through a global pandemic!
Start now and you’ill be able to inform, entertain, and provide value to your audience, all while continuing to gain exposure for your business in these tough times. When all of this is over, you’ll be glad you did it!
Nearly all businesses are doing it really tough right now, and it’s important to remember that there will be an end to this madness. So you just need to do everything you can to push your business through to the other side.
The key takeaway is that whaever doesn’t cost you money, will cost you time. And if your business has slowed down dramatically over the last few weeks, and your cash flow is down – you’ve now got time on your side… So go and get marketing on a shoestring budget!