th images menu user export search eye clock list list2 arrow-left untitled twitter facebook googleplus instagram cross photos entrep-logo-svg

Here's How I Took My Business From Paper to Profitable With Minimal Marketing Spend

Despite what small businesses with tight budgets believe, marketing spend shouldn't be the first to go
By Allie Decker |


 

 

When I was a senior in college, I pitched my undergraduate capstone project as such: I was going to start a business . . . on paper. As a marketing major stuck in an artsy honors program, my capstone project options were limited to literature seminars or the like. So, I tracked down my favorite marketing professor and begged her to customize a syllabus for me. 

 

About a month into my project, I had another ridiculous epiphany. Hey, I thought, let’s do this for real. I had a mentor, I was already starting this business on paper, and I'd grown up around the concept. Why not turn this into a real party?

 

So, my business gained a name, a face and a website. And I gained a title of ownership and a responsibility to deliver. Well, turns out I didn’t have all the resources I needed: My budget was zilch. I may have been working a part-time paid internship, but I was still in school and didn’t live with my parents. (Go me!)

 

Many small businesses with tight budgets believe that marketing spend should be the first to go. I was no different. But, I refused to limit myself to through-the-roof traditional advertising expenses. So, I got creative.

 

Here’s how I grew my business from paper (literally) to profitable with little to no marketing spend.

 

 

1. Network like crazy

I worked my network. At 21, my measly network consisted of my mom and dad, my hair stylist, my college professors (that actually liked me) and my friends’ parents. But, you’d be surprised at how many people will help out a young entrepreneur. Once I built up the courage to cold call and email strangers I found online or through friends, many were willing to hear my story, give me advice and even leverage their networks on my behalf. (I even got a little mention in our local paper.)

 

Tip: If you plan to start networking as a marketing tactic, be sure to have your elevator pitch prepared. The average attention span of an adult (regardless of how helpful he or she is feeling) is about six to eight seconds, so don’t be boring. Also, be prepared to hear “no.” Some folks are busy or disinterested. Dust yourself off and move on.

 

 

2. Partner with other local businesses

I traded advertising and exposure. Thankfully, I live in an area that celebrates local startups and where small business owners support each other. Since my business’s target audience is well-defined (which is important), I contacted non-competing businesses that market to similar clientele and offered cross-promotional opportunities. Even those small businesses that have plenty of marketing spend love free advertising.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

 

Tip: If you’re interested in cross-marketing and aren’t yet well-known in the area, prepare your numbers. For example, my business’s events touch 1,000-plus women and reach even more through social media and email. I used these statistics when selling my business to others. Established businesses may love free advertising, but they'll want to know they’re getting as much exposure as they’re giving.

 

 

3. Be smart about email marketing

I emailed the heck out of people. Man, oh man, are emails annoying. I was apprehensive to use email with my business, but the truth is email marketing is hardly dead. So, I chose a free email marketing software, placed a web form on my website, asked for emails at check-out and offered an enewsletter. Turns out email has become the best way to reach the masses and build relationships with my customers.

 

Tip: Although email marketing is still alive and kicking, I do believe it’s abused and overused by a variety of businesses. If you choose to leverage emails, be gentle with your customers’ inboxes. Craft your email subject lines with grace and mystery, and only send along emails a couple times a week. I've learned that the more they see your name, the less likely they are to open your emails.

 

 

4. Focus on the social platforms your customers actually use

I leveraged social media correctly. After first creating my website, I jumped right into snagging similar handles on multiple networks. Bad move, Allie. Turns out, I only needed Facebook and Instagram. Once I lightened my load, I was able to give my business an online personality, post what my audience wanted to see and even invest in some advertising.

 

Tip: I initially wasted a lot of time and energy because I didn’t do my research. I didn’t consider where my target audience was hanging out. I was trying to leverage social media networks that weren’t going to work. If you choose to use social media for your business (which you should), figure out where your people are. You don’t have to have a presence on every network simply because it exists.

 

Those are the basic four ways I marketed my business on a shoestring budget. Once I established my social media and email funnel, I started to leverage coupons and giveaways to drum up traffic and exposure. This year, I plan to check out affiliate marketing to creative a passive income stream as well as Help a Reporter Out to further boost my name.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

 

Bottom line: There are many inexpensive ways to engage customers, build relationships and promote your business. For small businesses, it’s not always about what you spend on marketing and promotion. It’s about the time and effort you dedicate and the connection it provides for your customers.

 

 

*****

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.

 

Latest Articles

Is Your Work Ethic Better than Average? Find Out in 5 Questions

How does your work ethic compare to the average person?

byCarolyn Sun | October 22, 2017 08:00:00

3 Steps to Better Motivate Employees With Performance-Based Pay

Avoid underpaying your current talent and overpaying new outside hires

byRobert Glazer | October 22, 2017 06:00:00

No Office? No Problem! 5 Key Tips for Working on the Go

Is your desk where ever you happen to have your laptop plugged in? Then learn these survival secrets

byVictoria Cairl | October 22, 2017 02:00:00

Vice President Leni Robredo Launches New Program to Fight Poverty

The program will help create jobs and develop skills of local residents.

byPaolo Chua for TownandCountry.ph | October 22, 2017 00:00:00

PH’s Leading Online Stock Broker Reports “Possible Breach” Affecting Client Data

But COL Financial assures clients of the integrity of their account balances and stock positions

byEntrepreneur Staff | October 21, 2017 11:00:00

(Infographic) The Future According to Elon Musk

Plans and predictions for our world and beyond, according to the man behind SpaceX

byEmily Conklin | October 21, 2017 08:00:00

Don't Be Like the Woman Who Poisoned the Office Coffee Pot -- Follow These 10 Steps to Conquer Work Stress

Essential principles to help you get grounded, so you feel confident, calm and secure when things...

byMarianne Clyde | October 21, 2017 06:00:00

The 4 Mindsets You Need to Adopt to Succeed

How you approach your work is more important to your success than what specifically you're working...

byTimothy Sykes | October 21, 2017 02:00:00

This Easy Psychological Hack Could Increase Your Savings

Apparently, emotions play a huge role when it comes to financial health

byKhatrina Bonagua for FHM.com.ph | October 21, 2017 00:00:00

How Much Money Are College Entrance Exam Review Centers Making?

A close look at revenues and profits of MSA Group and AHEAD Learning Systems

byPauline Macaraeg | October 20, 2017 14:00:00

Which PH Tycoons Are Partnering with Their Potential Disruptors?

PwC’s 2017 Philippine Startup Survey says big businesses are tying up with innovative startups

byLorenzo Kyle Subido | October 20, 2017 13:00:00

The Most Common Habit of Self-Made Millionaires

Develop this habit if you sincerely want to retire as a self-made millionaire

byBrian Tracy | October 20, 2017 08:00:00