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Marketing Tactics

Smart Marketing Ideas For Small Businesses

How to boost your business with a tiny marketing budget.

Casandra Visser

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You’ve scraped together every cent that you have to get your business up and running but have you included marketing costs in your budget?

If not, know that there is a way for you to still promote your business and not have to try and find additional funds. There is always an opportunity available, regardless of the industry that you are in.

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas will not get you anywhere.” – Lee Iacocca

How to Evaluate Small Business Marketing Ideas

Before you start trying to tick every marketing box possible you need to take the time to understand which marketing ideas are going to give you the fastest and best return on investment.

Consider the following points before you decide which marketing opportunities will work best for your business:

  1. Objectives. Your marketing needs to match your objectives so refer back to your marketing plan to remind yourself what these are. Do you want to build strong relationships with clients, do you want to increase your sales by a large percentage in the next 6 months or do you want to establish your brand as an expert in your industry?
  2. Customers. It might seem obvious but many entrepreneurs tend to overlook their customers and don’t analyse exactly how they are spending their time. Another aspect that needs to be considered is when you want to reach your customers. This will also help you to decide on your marketing options.
  3. Product. The type of product or service that you will be marketing will also play a role in how and when you should market it to potential customers. When would your users be in the best frame of mind to receive information on your offering?
  4. Cost. Obviously cost is not going to be your biggest concern if you have a very small or no budget at all but there might be some small business marketing ideas that will require you to fork out a small amount of money to get the benefits that you’re looking for so keep this in mind and perhaps see where you could possible get the funds for this.
  5. Time. You need to ask yourself how much time you have available to spend on your marketing efforts as this too will contribute to the marketing ideas that you decide on. Some platforms such as social media require daily monitoring and activity while getting someone to hand out brochures is a whole other ball game.
  6. Competition. Where are your competitors currently advertising? If you’re looking at the same marketing platforms that they are currently present on then ask yourself how you can be better. Otherwise, take the time to consider options that they might not have considered yet.

Small Business Marketing Idea Options

By deciding on the right mix of marketing ideas you can really give your start-up a fighting chance so forget the idea of marketing being expensive and difficult and check out some of the many free small business marketing ideas that you can take advantage of.

1. Get Networking

Get-Networking-Low Cost Marketing Ideas

You’ll be surprised at how many small business networking events are taking place all over the country every week so take advantage of this. These events will not only give you access to potential customers but they offer you an opportunity to market your business for the price of an admission fee if anything.  Contact your local chamber of commerce or keep an eye on websites like the National Small Business Chamber.

Top Tips

  • Don’t try too hard to impress people at a networking event. Being yourself will earn you more respect.
  • Avoid interrupting others. Listening is important as it shows you are genuinely interested in what someone has to say. Don’t answer your cellphone or stop to greet someone else while they’re speaking either.
  • Be prepared. Walk into an event with business cards and be able to answer basic questions about your business to avoid looking like an amateur.

Useful Links

2. Design a Free Website

Design-a-Website-Small Business Marketing Ideas

Almost every business you come across today as some sort of a website because most consumers tend to turn to the web when they need information. Luckily, setting up a basic website is a lot easier than you think. Sites such as WordPress, Wix, Weebly and Yola are all perfect options for creating a simple online presence for your business. If you are looking for something more advanced, you can choose to purchase a specific WordPress template for a small cost that will give you the online features that you need.

Top Tips

  • Choose a website address that explains or gives browsers an idea of what your website is about.
  • Simpler is better. Don’t go overboard with colours or how much information you include on your site.
  • Make it easy for browsers to contact you.

Useful Links

3. Create a Business Card

Business-Card-Design-Low Cost Marketing Ideas

Many entrepreneurs tend to overlook the smaller, tried and tested marketing ideas that are still very effective. Business cards are very affordable to print and it could mean the difference between missing an opportunity at a networking event and building a relationship with a long term client.

Top Tips

  • Colours and fonts are important so think twice before you choose a font that is hard to read.
  • Provide the receiver with more than one way to contact you so think about including your landline, cell and email address.
  • Present your card properly. Don’t push it towards someone over a table or leave it on their notebook. Hand it to them face-to-face wherever possible.
  • Business cards don’t need to be boring. You can really get creative and design it in an unusual shape that represents your brand.

Useful Links

4. Write Up a Storm

Write-a-Blog-Small Business Marketing Ideas

A great way to establish yourself and your brand as an industry expert is to find blogs that you might be able to contribute to. Create a list of some key blogs that have good amounts of traffic and create a few pieces that you can submit to the blog owner but make sure that whatever you write is of benefit to their readers and that you’re not just punting your own product. Another option is to start your own blog if you already have a website. Update it weekly with content that your users will enjoy reading and will pass onto their friends, family and colleagues.

Top Tips

  • Always make your content relevant to your audience as well as to what your business does.
  • Online content is usually scanned so take advantages of sub-headers and bullet points where possible
  • If you’re submitting a blog post to another website try and get the email of the person who will be making the decision to publish it or not to find out if they have any criteria that you’ll need to meet
  • There is always a way to draw a reader in regardless of what you are writing about. Find your uniqueness.

Useful Links

5. Become the Talk of the Town

Social-Media-Marketing-Small Business Marketing Ideas

Having a presence on social media is another free small business marketing idea to take advantage of. This doesn’t mean that you should register your business on every social network possible but instead select one or two where you know that potential customers like to spend their time. Social media pages need to be monitored and updated on a regular basis so make sure that you have the time to do this or at least have someone who can attend to any queries that you might receive.

Top Tips

  • Make sure that your social media pages are complete. Don’t leave your avatar blank, fill in your profile and include a way for users to get in touch with you
  • Always respond to comments, questions or complaints directed at you within 24 hours
  • Thank users for good feedback and find out how you can assist them when the feedback isn’t so great
  • Keep promotional tweets to a minimum or you won’t end up with much of an online following

Useful Links

6. Create Loyalty

Loyalty-Rewards-Programme-Small Business Marketing Ideas

Loyalty programmes are the perfect way to keep customers coming back and it doesn’t have to cost much either. Decide whether your loyalty card will be printed or online and how customers will earn points. You should also make sure that the reward you are offering is something that you can actually deliver on. Another benefit of loyalty programmes is that they usually have a knock-on word of mouth effect.

Top Tips

  • Keep the tasks realistic. If customers are finding it difficult to complete a task to receive a reward then they will lose interest in your programme
  • Rewards don’t need to cost you a fortune but spend what you can to make the incentive worthwhile for your customers.
  • Partner with another brand or business. This way you can save costs and you both benefit from it.
  • Make sure that the rewards suite your business. Cash rewards and discounts are perfect for a retail business while the same approach won’t necessarily work for a gardening business.

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7. Pop Them An Email

Email-Marketing-Small Business Marketing Ideas

Your website can have so many other benefits besides your customers finding you online. Why not setup a newsletter sign up box to start building an email database. You can then use this to send out a weekly or bi-weekly mailer to your list informing them about your latest specials, interesting content or a new competition that you are currently running. Everyone hates spam so put some time into making your mailers stand out and be worth the open.

Top Tips

  • Put some thought into the design and layout of your newsletter. Does it properly represent your business?
  • Don’t overwhelm your readers with a busy mailer that is purely promotional. They will more than likely delete it.
  • Make it easy to subscribe and unsubscribe from your marketing mailers.
  • Use powerful wording to get more people to open your emails.

Useful Links

8. Don’t Forget the End Bit

Email-Signatures-Low Cost Marketing Ideas

Every bit of exposure for your brand is going to count so don’t forget to add a good looking email signature to everything you send out. Having links in your email signature is a completely free marketing tool and will generate website and social media traffic.

Top Tips

  • Add your logo to your signature to give it a visual element.
  • Add social media logos to your signature so that people can follow and like your pages.
  • Go easy on the disclaimers. Make it short, simple and professional.

Useful Links

9. Make them Winners

Competitions-Small Business Marketing Ideas

Customers and potential customers are always keen to win something so why not take advantage of the excitement of a competition and run one on your site or even your social media pages. You can even take it a step further and get users to fill in a survey in exchange for an entry into a draw. This way your business benefits in more ways than one.

Top Tips

  • Don’t make your competition entry instructions overly complicated, it puts users off.
  • Make the prize worth their while.
  • Try to run your competition on your website instead of directly on your social media pages. Advertise the competition on your social media platforms so that they can be shared and execute the competition on your website to increase visitors and product/services exposure.

Useful Links

10.  Ramp Up Your Customer Service

Customer-Service-Low Cost Marketing Ideas

Customers remember where they have received outstanding service and tend to recommend these brands to people they know more often than a brand that gave them average service. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool and a marketing idea that will never cost you anything. It doesn’t take much to provide your customers with a memorable experience so capitalise on this whether you run an online store or a B2B company.

Top Tips

  • Aim to please your customer but not to an extent where you are jumping through hoops and jeopardising relationships with other clients or your employees
  • Get your team onboard with excellent customer service so that customers have a great experience regardless of who they’re dealing with.
  • Always be polite and professional, even when you’re having a bad day. This is your business afterall.

Useful Links

Casandra Visser is a Digital Marketing & Content Strategist and writes for Entrepreneur Media SA.

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Marketing Tactics

How Content Marketing Adds Real Value To Your Customers’ Lives

If you’re marketing on a budget, content marketing is a great way to reach your audience, add real value and gain brand traction – without breaking the bank.

Greg Tinkler

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Content marketing is a relatively new type of marketing that most businesses are still trying to get their heads around. Unlike traditional media advertising, which interrupts customers to get noticed, content marketing provides content that customers want in exchange for permission to market a product or service.

Disrupted media

There’s a saying, fish where the fish are. Marketing is the same. You need your message to appear where your audience’s attention lies. I don’t believe billboards or even TV adverts hold consumer attention anymore. People aren’t looking at billboards as they drive past; most aren’t even looking at the road, they’re so busy staring at their mobile device or listening to a podcast.

Related: Your 4-Part Formula For Creating Killer Content Marketing Videos

The traditional advertising model creates ad content that interrupts consumers. Billboards, TV commercials and radio advertisements momentarily disrupt what you actually want to be doing — watching your favourite TV show or listening to a song or chat show.

These ads don’t provide any real value to the customer and they don’t offer an immediate reason to even be viewed or engaged with. Instead, they rely on good placement, clever wording and brilliant creativity to capture your attention for a brief period of time.

The rise of content marketing

In response to these problems and restrictions, content marketing is on the rise. As a marketing alternative, it’s not only more cost effective, but it doesn’t aim to interrupt your customer. Instead, it aims to add real value to their lives and businesses by plugging directly into their interests, problems and challenges.

So how does content marketing work? Companies and marketers create content in the form of blog posts, podcast recordings, downloadable guides and infographics, video content and articles that don’t push products, but offer interesting advice, tips and opinions.

The value to consumers is provided in two ways: As educational content and as entertainment content. In both cases, access to this content is free, heightening its value.

Related: 5 Reasons Your Small Business Needs Content Marketing

Get the most out of content marketing

Here are three ways to get the most out of your content marketing efforts:

  1. Provide content that your customers want. Don’t make the mistake of writing your blog posts about your business. Lesson number one is that people don’t care about your business. Provide valuable content that customers want and need in exchange for their attention. This content can be educational or entertaining. It can be a ‘How to Guide’, an in-depth stats-driven article or an entertaining video. Just make sure it’s about them, and not you.
  2. Focus on content for the customer’s benefit and only occasionally promote or push your product. This is the rule most brands and companies struggle to understand. If you’re going to provide value to your customers, you need to mostly write content for the customer’s benefit and only occasionally promote your products within the content. People are interested in articles and posts that benefit them, not ad posts touting how awesome your products are. Give your customers content that they want, and nine times out of ten you’ll be rewarded with engaged and targeted audiences.
  3. Write cornerstone content. Cornerstone content is content that can be easily found by your ideal customers. It’s content that provides incredible value to customers over a long period of time. How-To Guides, resources, 101 content and instructional videos all fall into this category. It should be content that customers can refer back to, and which has a long lifespan. This also immediately increases the ROI of your content production, as you only need to create the content once, but it will continue to bring returns.

Bringing it all together

As you make your final marketing push for the year and gear up for next year, make sure content marketing forms a vital part of your strategy. Learn to write engaging blog posts, invest in a podcast setup and push video content. No one is expecting your content to be perfect — you are the expert in your area, and have great advice to share. That’s what will keep your audience engaged and coming back for more.

Just remember that this is a long play. Success won’t happen overnight. It takes time to build momentum — but over time, you will notice increased traffic, more leads and more sales.


Getting Started

  • Do you know what your clients are interested in, concerned with or challenged by?
  • Are you offering advice, tips or opinions that tap into these areas?
  • Does your content mostly focus on your clients and not you?

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Marketing Tactics

4 Ways To Implement Strategic Marketing Without Breaking The Bank

Marketing your start-up is all about the right strategies, not how much money you spend. You need to build your reputation from the ground up. Here’s how you can get started.

Mongezi Mtati

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Strategic marketing

Building a fledgling business is as much about increasing your client base as it is about building a positive reputation around the business and its expertise. Many experts and seasoned entrepreneurs argue that clients buy from people they trust and building that trust hinges on various parameters.

Take Steve Jobs, Wendy Luhabe, Richard Branson and many other leading business minds whose brands are built on years of credibility and trust. The truth is that equal attention needs to be given to great products and building trust within your client base.

Here are five skills that we’ve used to build our reputation at WordStart.

1Sharpen your writing skills for media and general communication

Create media coverage. Write on a company platform (like a blog) or for established media outlets. This will position you and your business in ways that get people to listen and share your knowledge.

Having your name next to an article on a respected platform can lead to useful connections with relevant contacts. A series of media features and industry commentary also help to position your business and team as experts in your field.

2Share industry trends

People will generally do research in and around an industry to find insights and trends, sometimes before they buy anything in that industry — and even afterwards. When I search for information on photography, Canon appears more than any other brand and they tend to set the scene on which device to buy.

Imagine your business is construction and that homeowners endorse your skills as a home improvement specialist. Packaging your knowledge into industry trends is also a great way to use your own lessons about the industry as you grow and it also helps you to connect with potential customers. Useful information with your name on it can increase your sales and client base.

3Edit. Edit. Edit

back-space

Something that cannot be stressed enough is that your writing in client documents can tarnish your brand. Many businesses tend to overlook the importance of grammar in their documents.

It can be difficult to reread and rewrite documents that you use in the business, but that is precisely what can lead to the loss of new and existing business.

Pay attention to how your business uses language and edit that work. When in doubt, read it again and be sure that nothing was missed. 

4Practice public speaking and search for opportunities

After you have written for various publications, you increase the likelihood of being invited to speak at conferences and seminars, which means that people put a face and voice to the written expertise. In some instances, the speaking engagements can be paid for by conference organisers which can be an additional revenue stream.

Public speaking, especially industry-related speaking, will increase the likelihood of selling more products or services and this will separate you from the competition. By increasing the trust customers have in you, you can improve the likelihood of them buying from you.

Once a business is positioned as a team of experts with the ability to speak for their industry, opportunities open up for that business to create unique content. Industry leaders who are able to help the public to connect the dots through the information they share are regularly on guest lists.

Is there anything you can share that your industry peers and the public may find eye-opening? There may be a conference organiser looking for you.

5Educate the market and build a client base

One of the advantages of being part of an industry is that you have inside information that the general public does not have. This presents an opportunity for you and your business to become a self-nominated industry mouthpiece.

When an individual and business share news about an industry, they can create a new client base because the public associates them with that information.

One of the best cases in South Africa is Discovery’s Vitality rewards programme, where you earn points for being healthy. This does not mean that Momentum, Bonitas, Sanlam, Sizwe and other players do not have similar or even better offerings. Vitality is more visible and more vocal about the fact that leading a healthier life can get you rewards.


A great reputation may lead to positive word-of-mouth for your business and increased sales over a longer period than a single marketing message.

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Marketing Tactics

Cut The Bull That Comes With Women Saudi Drivers

If there is an opportunity to increase sales and dominate a market, hell they are going in, briefing their agencies to start the marketing and… well, cue the thoughtlessness.

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Women belong in the kitchen, right? Wrong! Now they can drive in Saudi, and you know what that means? They can fetch the groceries too!

Bet the Feminists clicked on this article looking to wage a social media war. No need. The afore mentioned thinking is exactly how the quick acting social media teams of major car manufacturers are acting after King Salman announced the lift on banning women drivers in the kingdom.

Whether we think it’s progressive is not the debate here right now. I personally think its great that such a country who has long ‘protected’ its women from the horrors on the road now believes that women are capable of taking care of themselves out there. The issue? Let’s take one step back and mention one South African social brand so you can see where I am heading. Take Bic Pens with their infamous 2015 #HappyWomensDay post reading, “Look like a Girl, Act like a Lady, Think like a Man, Work like a Boss”. 

bic-campaign-on-womens-day

What does a Pen in South Africa and a Car in Saudi Araba have in common you ask? All their CEO’s have a twig and two berries (66% of those car manufacturers who ‘praised’ Saudi Women drivers on social, are white men) and they didn’t get there without some form of business knowledge.

Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing

If there is an opportunity to increase sales and dominate a market, hell they are going in, briefing their agencies to start the marketing and… well, cue the thoughtlessness.

Thinking before Tweeting 

There is nothing like a good tactical on Social Media. Every brand wants to be Oreos during the super bowl when the lights went out. Every Marketing Manager wants to be the one to get his or her clever execution out first because time is of the essence.

Did the car manufacturers do great tactical work? Absolutely!

Did the car manufacturers think about the role they didn’t play in the fight for the cause? Absolutely NOT! They just saw another opportunity to capitalise on ‘to be relevant’.

This ever-connected digital world we live in comes with an opportunity for brands to build deep relationships with their customers. Sure relevance is key, but do (straight, white, male) brands have a place in that conversation now that the hard work is done (by strong Saudi Women)? Was fighting for women’s rights to drive in Saudi ever part of their Brand DNA before the last week of September 2017? Nope, they just see an increase in sales come June 2018.

Common amongst those tactical auto brands’ values were customer service promises, the comfort of people in cars, and sustainability. Only one vouched for the respect for diversity, while another strived for integrity, vowing to keep its doors open to men and women alike. While I can understand that a Trans National Corporation needed to respect culture and politicophere of Saudi to be able to operate there, was there not an opportunity to lead the charge and help the 10- year fight for equality on the Kingdom’s roads? Would their auto brands need to advertise after being part of the battle after that?

The irony is that The Women to Drive Movement started with a 2007 YouTube video. Did none of these brands have an ORM tool that picked this up? I wonder if any evaluated the risks vs the returns had they supported the movement.

Sullivan Principles Anyone?

Back in 1977, The Sullivan Principles was a part of the world’s Corporate Social Responsibility as brands applied pressure on apartheid, South Africa. The corporate protest came with the thought that if business divested in SA, apartheid would eventually be cash-strapped and collapse. At the time General Motors was the biggest employer of Black South Africans and eventually was the first to pull out.

In 1999 the new Global Sullivan Principles was unveiled by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the preamble reads:

“The objectives of the Global Sullivan Principles are to support economic, social and political justice by companies where they do business; to support human rights and to encourage equal opportunity at all levels of employment, including racial and gender diversity on decision making committees and boards; to train and advance disadvantaged workers for technical, supervisory and management opportunities; and to assist with greater tolerance and understanding among peoples; thereby, helping to improve the quality of life for communities, workers and children with dignity and equality.”

Related: Direct Marketing: Go Where Your Customers Are

The first part of the new Sullivan Principles reads:

(We) “express our support for universal human rights and, particularly, those of our employees, the communities within which we operate, and parties with whom we do business.”

If brands actually invested in the people and their lives first, the customers will follow. Do this and there would be no need to be super tactical when it comes to the celebrations of the marginalised. We need brands to value ethical and corporate social responsibility they have in the markets they operate in. We have seen that the likes of General Motors can have an impact on a country, especially in South Africa (let’s drop the fact that they have divested again for the purposes of this).

Bottom line is advertising, marketing and brands have the power to shape the world years before a few people can go at it alone. Yes, businesses need to make money, but see the bigger returns when you are a part of something. The returns will be greater than the PR value you got on that meaningless, thoughtless, and unearned tweet. I promise you.

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