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Inexpensive Marketing Ideas For Small Businesses

Business owners are relentlessly bombarded with phone calls, mailers, and other ads promising to grow their business for a large financial investment.

For little to no money, though, there are effective marketing options that have yielded excellent results for small businesses.


People trust what other people say.

Businesses regularly spend big bucks on advertising while ignoring the marketing potential of something free that’s right under their noses: their existing customer base.

92% of consumers trust the opinions of friends and family over other advertising. [Source: Nielsen]

72% of consumers said reading positive customer reviews increased their trust in a business. [Source: BrightLocal]

However, before people will talk about a business, they must have something worth talking about.

People like to feel special, belong to an exclusive group, and receive elite service. Consider “secret” menu items, for example. We enjoy having insider information that others may not have and spread it to our friends and family like currency.

A good marketing strategy takes advantage of this and divulges exclusive information or secrets for customers to pass on.

Another behavior to leverage is how we may relate to a product even without direct advertising when something triggers us to remember it. For example, someone deciding where to go for dinner on Tuesday chose a Mexican restaurant because a coworker recently told them about the restaurant’s Taco Tuesday specials. They were triggered by “Tuesday” to remember the restaurant and ultimately gave them their business.


Social media empowers us to connect with friends, network with their friends, and so on. There’s power in numbers!

Platforms such as Linked-In, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are free to use and provide excellent opportunities to reach big audiences.

Someone can open a social media account under their business name and post links to their informative articles, educate their niche market, and include in-article links to their products and services.

Social media can boost credibility and encourage word of mouth when businesses share their expertise and tips or participate in discussions on public forums.

Social media isn’t about selling, although sales often occur as a result of online networking and relationship building. Helping others can earn businesses a spot at the front of the line when consumers have product or service needs.

Social media providers have inexpensive advertising options, as well, that are worth looking into for broader outreach.


Growing businesses might consider networking with older businesses and asking them to refer smaller cases or underserved customers to them.

Successful referrals should be followed-up with hand-written notes and small gifts to the referring business, perhaps a gift card to a coffee shop or restaurant, to thank them for their support. This can be an effective way to grow a client base without a lot of advertising expense.

Furthermore, businesses can host special events with other businesses. By combining customer databases, the businesses are exposed to new prospect segments for a relatively small investment. For instance, a bookkeeping firm could partner with a CPA and a restaurant to hold a community meeting about tax planning. The CPA and the bookkeeper could offer tips for reducing tax liabilities, potentially connecting with new prospects within each other’s client bases, while the restaurant would gain new customers when attendees decided to return with others for a future meal.

Which brings up the point: always feed attendees! Free food is a huge participation incentive.

Businesses can also offer incentives to other companies’ employees. For example, a business might offer a company’s employees 20% off products or services when they show company ID.

Call a company’s headquarters or HR department to find out how to offer these discounts. Some already have employee perks programs in place and could easily include your offer.

Another way to involve the community is to start an informal group providing something of value to a niche market. For example, hosting a monthly breakfast or cocktail hour to discuss industry current events and news will bring business owners and leaders together in an informal, low-pressure environment that predisposes them to a positive relationship with the business and establishes the business as being savvy in their field.


Consumers want simple, relevant content they can use.

Content communicates a message or information, such as articles, videos, web pages, infographics, etc.

Effective content targets prospective customers and establishes a business as an expert in their field. For example, an esthetician could create content about the importance of wearing sunscreen or the benefits of microdermabrasion.

Writing an article for a trade magazine, publishing content on a blog, giving a speech, or landing a short spot on a local radio show are all effective ways to deliver content.

Offering people free resource content, such as guides or reports that are packed with information, can be a great way for businesses to gain attention while gathering contacts, as well.

For example, a useful cheat sheet could be delivered via e-mail to interested people who provided their names and e-mail addresses. The contact information could then be added to a mailing list and every month or so, the business could send out more useful content (without sales pitches) to build credibility, trust, and remind potential customers who to contact when they’re ready to buy.

The right marketing strategy can drive continuous traffic, generate leads, and create sales for pennies.

That doesn’t mean there’s no investment, though. It takes a lot of planning and effort to create genuine and meaningful consumer trust and spark conversations within a target market. One Source Services, Inc. can help!

If a company can roll out a strategy based on finding meaningful connections, then they can convert customers into brand ambassadors for their business.

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