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Great marketing takes time, money, and expertise. Big companies have the resources to invest in big campaigns. However, small businesses with limited funds and even less time must rely on their own ingenuity to get noticed.

Not all founders come from marketing backgrounds, though. Without relevant experience, many businesses—even those with great products—struggle to grow their audiences. Countless companies with enormous potential have faded into obscurity because their founders did not have the marketing knowledge necessary to break through the noise.

You may not be able to afford an expensive agency, but you also can’t afford to ignore your marketing needs. Try these low-cost and free marketing tips to give your small business a fighting chance no matter what your marketing budget.

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Great Marketing Starts with Email Marketing

Email marketing delivers an enormous lift for little money. According to email agency Litmus, companies earn $42 for every dollar they spend on email marketing, up from $38 for every dollar in 2018.

However, that 4,200% ROI doesn’t happen by accident. So make sure your website captures email addresses effectively. Send an email to your subscriber list at least once every couple of weeks. Tools like MailChimp provide free options for small companies to get started.

Focus Less on Branding and More on Great Marketing

Your small business doesn’t need snazzy branding yet. So instead of wasting precious hours and dollars crafting beautiful graphics and enforcing your style sheet, pick one good image and use it all over the place. The time for better branding will come later. In the early days, spend your energies on direct communication channels.

Fix Your Website

If your website doesn’t cater to mobile users, fix it immediately. Buyers love to search on their phones in 2020, and Google strongly favors mobile-friendly sites in its search rankings. Hawke Media, an outsourced CMO agency that also offers a la carte services, recommends a “less is more” approach to help mobile users feel comfortable.

Promote Your Advantages Instead of Launching Attacks

People like positivity, and negativity rarely leads to great marketing. Therefore, instead of trashing your competitors, talk about your own products and services.

You may win some short-term battles with combative marketing. However, if you have a small budget, you could quickly find yourself waging war against a company with a much larger arsenal. Save the big guns for a time when you can afford to use them.

Use Small Tests to identify Winning Tactics

Say you have enough money to try social media marketing, but you only have enough to go hard on one channel. Therefore, instead of choosing based on instinct, run a series of small tests to see where your ad performs the best. Then dump the rest of your money into the most successful channel. You’re better off spending 10% of your budget to test and optimize in a proven spot than spreading your money around evenly for middling results.

Leverage Referrals

Incentivize your customer base to bring their friends and families into the fold. To do this, create a loyalty program or offer referral bonuses for both the person referring and the person being referred. This will encourage word-of-mouth marketing—and word-of-mouth marketing is always great marketing.

Referral software company ReferralRock recommends starting with the reward and working back from there. Incentives from a B2B software company will differ greatly from those offered by a toy store.

Give Nicer Swag to Fewer People

Don’t waste money on cheap products no one will use. This is not great marketing. Shotgun marketing approaches rarely provide the same returns as highly targeted campaigns.

Instead, think about your ideal customers, identify a few targets, then create some highly customized swag to send along with a handwritten note for each person. This works well for B2B companies and B2C companies that sell more expensive products.

Reach Out to Like-Minded Communities

Why build a community from scratch when you can borrow someone else’s? Identify brands that share your company’s mission and reach out to discuss potential partnerships. Engage with users on social media who comment on pages similar to yours.

For example, a yoga supplies business can quickly gain fans by engaging with people in mindfulness and meditation groups.

Host a Contest

Nothing gets the masses moving like free stuff. Depending on your product, you may want to offer one big prize or an assortment of smaller ones.

Also, think about the needs of your audience as you design your contest. Ask users to follow your page and share your post as a requirement of entry. By the end of the contest, you should see a substantial lift in your email signups and web traffic.

Great Marketing Isn’t Just for the Big Dogs

Marketing isn’t reserved solely for companies with deep pockets. If you have a small budget, you can find an agency or contractor to work with you and help get your brand noticed. Use these strategies to get the ball rolling, find a partner when you’re ready, and stay committed to your growth. The more you invest in great marketing, the greater the returns will be.