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Shoestring Marketing: 7 Creative Marketing Ideas for Small Budgets

In an extremely tight economy, many small businesses find themselves trying to figure out how they can cut their marketing budgets while still being able to reach as many potential customers as they can. Advertising can quickly become very expensive but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways you can get your business front and center without breaking the bank.

Many people immediately think of social media as a relatively inexpensive and effective method of reaching clients, but it is not the only way. Here are seven unique, tested and proven ways to engage your current customers and help you gain more on a shoestring marketing budget.

Elevator Pitch

Craft an elevator pitch. You should always be marketing for your business. No matter where you are or what you are doing there are potential opportunities to bring attention to your business. According to research an adult’s average attention span is between 6 to 8 seconds.

This means that, that is all the time that you have to grab and keep someone’s attention. If within those first 6 to 8 seconds you get someone’s attention then you should be able to sell him or her your services or product within a minute. If you develop a killer elevator pitch then the return on your investment will pay out in dividends.

A lot of people hate speaking in public and sometimes find it even more uncomfortable speaking to small groups of people. However, if you want to draw attention to your business you have to be able to talk to anyone at any moment about what you can do and what you have to offer.

Many organizations are looking for qualified experts in different fields who can perform presentations to their groups. You don’t have to be a professional as long as the information you have to share is helpful to an organizations group. So take a deep breath and step out and perform.

The best thing about speaking to an audience is that the more you do it, the easier it gets. Plus, when you perform as a guest speaker it positions you as an authority figure in your field.If you really, really don’t like speaking to others then you can let your car speak for you.

By using a magnetic sign with your company’s logo you can make sure that your business’ name is displayed everywhere you drive without you having to say anything. It’s a one-time cost for each sign and you can even ask your friends and family to help advertise by sticking one on their cars.

Use Others to Help Gain Exposure

You don’t have to think worldwide when it comes to your marketing tactics. The easiest and most effective way to increase your marketing efforts is by looking locally. What is going on in your community?

If there is a community parade you can link up with other businesses to create a float that advertises all of your businesses. This will help you develop a great relationship with other businesses that can help you in the future. You can also exchange coupons or flyers and advertise them at your business giving both of you increased exposure.

If your customers rave about your services then don’t be shy about asking them to refer their friends. You can simply ask them to tell their friends about the business or offer incentives like bringing a friend and receiving a discount.


There honestly isn’t a better way to build your business besides getting out there, shaking a few hands, and getting to know people. While networking doesn’t normally provide an instant gratification and requires a significant time commitment it is still one of the greatest ways any businessperson can gain attention for their business.

Establishing strong relationships with your customers is just as important as working towards gaining new ones since it is a lot less expensive to keep a customer than it is to get a new one. One inexpensive way to keep your current customers coming back is by launching an email campaign.

If you provide your customers with information they look forward to receiving then they will keep coming back and even share your emails with their friends potentially drawing in more customers.

When in Doubt, Turn to Social Media

If you haven’t noticed, social media is everywhere. There are 1.35 billion users on Facebook alone and 284 million users on Twitter. That means by just using Facebook and Twitter your business could potentially be exposed to over 1.6 billion people.

There is no other method available online or offline that allows you to reach that many people at the click of a button. Another great thing about social media is the fact that advertising is very inexpensive.

Another social media network that can not only expose you to a significant amount of users but also help you develop great business relationships is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great networking tool. Not only can you join LinkedIn groups that have a connection with your niche you can also host a LinkedIn event. This can build awareness for your brand and generate leads for your business.

If you want to build your brands authority and gain a bunch of visitors then social media is the marketing tool for you. Create business accounts with the top used social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest and you will be well on your way to a huge following. If your business is image-oriented another great social media network that is all about gorgeous images is Instagram.

Give Things Away

Everyone loves discounts. Even more than discounted products or services people love free things. Coupons are a great way to attract new customers to your business. Research has proven that if someone has a coupon they will go out of their way to use that coupon.

Using coupons also helps generate return visitors. Since you are establishing that you will provide the same quality as others for a better price customers won’t mind coming back to you. Especially if they felt like they received a good deal.

Along with coupons you can offer people the opportunity to experience your product or service free of charge. Chances are they will want to purchase it. In today’s economy people feel more comfortable purchasing something after they’ve been able to use it and see how they like it. You don’t have to offer the full version/size of your product or service. A trial size version will show them what your business has to offer while leaving them wanting more.

If you have a decent following a great way to gain more followers is by throwing an online contest. Many companies will donate their products or services in exchange for advertisement in your contest. The chance to win a free product will draw in tons of participants while gaining exposure for your company.

Websites like Rafflecopter allow you to set up a contest and embed the entry form on your website or social media profile. You can set it up that in order to earn an entry into the contest the participant has to like your page, follow you, sign up for your newsletter, etc.

Work With Other Businesses

A unique way to gain exposure and develop relationships with other businesses is by having a business card drawing. All you have to do is put a fishbowl on display at your business with a sign asking visitors to drop their business cards in.

If they leave their business card they are entered for a chance to win something like a free dinner if you own a restaurant. Or, a free month of fitness classes if you own a gym class. At the end of the month you have collected a ton of business cards.

Even though only one can win you can email the businesses that didn’t, inviting them to sign up for your newsletter, which will let them know whenever you have another giveaway or any special offers.

Provide Information

Everyone uses YouTube making video content extremely valuable. While professional YouTube videos can end up costing big bucks you can get by hiring a film student or even by doing it yourself. There are tons of websites like Lynda with helpful tutorials that show you how to shoot video like an expert.

There are some businesses that upload YouTube videos showing behind the scenes footage of how their products are made, all shot using iPhones. If video sounds like too much for you to try right now you can make informational slideshows using PowerPoint and upload them on SlideShare.

Another way to send your customers valuable information is by collecting e-mail addresses and sending out newsletters packed full of info. They could include updates about your products or services, blog posts about things going on with your company, and even special promotions you have going on.

The only cost for e-mail marketing is the initial time it takes to set up your campaign and the low, monthly cost of your marketing service.


If you are working with a shoestring marketing budget, don’t worry. There are plenty of marketing tactics that can be used that won’t blow your budget. These seven, inexpensive marketing strategies are the perfect way to help you build relationships, engage your customers, and continue to gain exposure for your business.

Remember, it’s not always about the amount of money you’ve spent on marketing, sometimes a little time and effort end up delivering way more than money ever could.

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About Sean Donahoe

Sean is one of the most recognized industry leaders in business and marketing. As a popular speaker, author, consultant he has helped over 50,000 students world wide find success in their businesses and has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and businesses of every size grow and thrive...

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