The bank account is looking a bit worse for wear, time is tight, and you need to really step up your business’ marketing to get everything back on track. Sound familiar?
There’s a cycle that a lot of businesses experience as they mature and develop – marketing takes time and money; money which is generated through marketing. Plenty of small business owners have found it hard to break this cycle and effectively advertise their products and services because of the roadblocks brought about by upfront costs. So how do you develop a marketing strategy that doesn’t cost the earth, but is still effective? Let’s explore…
Over the years, development of design software has not only made it easier to design your own collateral, but more cost-effective as well. If you’re looking to create simple, basic graphics for a social media page, free products like MS Publisher and Canva may be the solution for you. The availability of free vector graphic and stock image sites (some which don’t require attribution) are also a great resource to us if you’re looking to flex your creative muscles on a budget.
On the lower end of the paid scale, stock image websites such as Shutterstock and BigStock are available for a membership fee, giving you access to hundreds of millions of stock photos, so you’re bound to find something that suits you and your business. More advanced software like the Adobe Creative suite (InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop etc.) come in at a higher price point but may be worthwhile if you’re likely to use them enough.
Advertising your business
Once you’ve got the hang of creating your content, you’ll need to get it out to your audience. Thankfully, social media platforms are not only a great place to meet your target market, they’re also free to use. For example, posting on Facebook groups that discuss topics relevant to your business (with admin permission of course) is a good place to start, and means you’ll be reaching people that you know already have a vested interest in what your business is about. Gumtree also offers a free ad service, which can be a powerful tool if you’re looking to get another touch point out there for potential customers. Both of these platforms also have paid ad services – Facebook’s boosted post and page promotion ad types are great for targeting relevant demographics; while Gumtree’s featured ads and “urgent” categories make your listings more visible.
Importantly, advertising your business doesn’t have to be expensive to start with, but it can be scaled up as your business grows, and your marketing strategy develops along with it.
Reviewing your marketing
With all the time, effort and energy you spend marketing your small business, it’s crucial to know whether what you’re doing is worthwhile. Reviewing your marketing efforts includes measuring your Return on Investment (ROI); tracking your spending; monitoring your reach and engagement; and tweaking your strategy accordingly. Some programs and apps allow you to link your social media profiles, post content, and generate reports from them all in the one dashboard. These programs include Hootsuite and Sprout Social, among others. While these do cost a small subscription fee, the reporting and posting functionality they bring can be great time-savers.
An alternative is a spreadsheet-based reporting tool. This is something you can create yourself using Excel, allowing you to manually enter your total spend over a time period; where you allocated your budget; the stats coming out of the different platforms (each major platform has some basic insights); and any other metrics you feel are appropriate. As this is your marketing strategy you’re reviewing, be sure to include the measurements you feel are most important. Crucially, take the results on board and adjust your marketing strategy to suit – if a certain strategy is working well, see if pushing it harder will further improve things, and if something isn’t working out, don’t be afraid to put it on the backburner for a while or assess how you might adjust it.
Developing and maintaining an effective marketing strategy for your small business can be challenging, but as we’ve explored, it doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. Being smart about where you spend your money, and how much you allocate to different resources, can have a significant impact on your bottom line, for better or for worse.