It goes without saying, small businesses and early stage startups are always staring down the barrel with regards to their funding, and marketing, a vital aspect of business, can run you dry to the bone. But it can be done frugally, given that proprietors realise that there are ways to marketing without splurging on advertising. They can achieve a good return on low investments; provided they spend enough time and effort to craft a carefully constructed marketing strategy.
If you are looking to spread the word about your business and get customers on a shoestring budget, here are five tactics that you can employ:
Focus on a narrow audience
Large companies have the marketing budget to cast a wider net to target a large audience, both online and offline. For small businesses and startups, however, each rupee spent on marketing that does not yield the desired result is a rupee wasted. So there needs to absolute clarity while identifying a focused audience and target them specifically. The ideal way to go about this is to create a profile of your ideal customers, understand their wants and needs and identify the best way to reach them. It's important to craft a clear message that aligns with your overall goal and measure the result of every marketing strategy that you employ.
Social media and content marketing
Nearly every business unit has come on the social media marketing bandwagon, all thanks to the reach it offers. For a recently-started company standing out in this overcrowded realm of social media is difficult, but it can still be done. Rather than getting trapped with the concept of advertising on social media - paying huge sums to the like of Facebook and Google - you should use content marketing to spread the message about your business. That way, you get to tell a more compelling story about your brand and what it's attempting to do in a far more engaging manner than advertising. A carefully crafted content strategy that uses blog posts, videos and infographics is more effective than advertising for one simple reason: it educates people instead of selling to them — which is by far the best marketing strategy to employ.
Use email lists
Emails are an extremely powerful marketing tool that yield far better acquisition and conversion rates than social media. They allow you to reach a vast audience for minimal costs and several email management services don't even charge businesses with small email lists. By leveraging user generated content and crafting appealing messages, emails can be used to foster relationships with your audience members in a way that no other marketing channel can match. That's why you should spend the necessary time and effort to curate email lists of all those people who you think can benefit from your product/service. Never send out unsolicited emails or bombard people; that's the surest way to be marked as a spammer.
Use referral programmes
Handing out discounts is a common way for businesses to gain customers in their early days. This strategy works falteringly but it can be easily bolstered by pairing it with a referral programme. By incentivising people to refer their acquaintances, you're creating a highly specific marketing channel without any extra effort. Also since the recommendation is by someone known, people would be more inclined to try your product or service. With this strategy, you effectively gain two customers for the price of one. For real world examples of the efficacy of referral programmes, just look at companies like Ola, Hike messenger and Box8, all of whom adopted this strategy to quickly gain a large number of users in short time spans when they started out.
Build connections with customers
Customer satisfaction should be the highest priority for all businesses. All the brilliant marketing in the world isn't going to help grow if people aren't happy with what you're selling. Customers these days don't hesitate to share their bad experiences with a company on social media and people always look at customer reviews before purchasing anything. Paying close attention to customer care and preventing, and solving, all their grievances results in happy customers who automatically become ambassadors for your business. This can be done by engaging with your followers on social media, responding to their queries and resolving it at the earliest.
A marketing plan that requires minimum expenditure can be more effective than an expensive and expansive one provided that it's strategized properly. And once you get started and begin observing what's working and what isn't, you can hone it to suit the unique needs of your business.