Affordable Small Business Marketing Techniques

So you’ve started a new business. Or you want to grow an existing one. How can you use affordable small business marketing techniques to help you grow?
Affordable Small Business Marketing Techniques

Affordable Small Business Marketing Techniques

If you are searching for affordable small business marketing techniques, we recommend that you:

  1. Know your audience 
  2. Know your buyer journey
  3. Set clear goals
  4. Forecast your budget
  5. Test & learn

These ideas will set your business up with strong foundations. And the only cost involved is the cost of your time.

1. Know Your Audience

Yes, it sounds basic, but you need to know as much about your audience as possible to market your services or products effectively to them. 

You can’t reach and have an impact on a group of people when you don’t know who they are, where they are or when they are there (or what interests them!) 

You need to know:

  • Who they are 
  • Where they work or live
  • What motivates them
  • And does your service or product solve a problem that they currently have and are willing to spend money on?

The last point may sound strange, but if your product or service doesn’t solve a problem your intended customers have, it’s unlikely they’ll spend time or money thinking about purchasing it. 

This process of building an understanding of your potential customers is often referred to as persona development. It enables you to create a representation or fictional example of your ideal customer. And there are some great free templates available to help you do this.

The need to gather this information is the same whether you’re marketing to a business (B2B marketing) or an individual consumer (B2C marketing.) Businesses are made up of people, after all!

You probably also have more than one distinct group of people that you are looking to reach. If you’re marketing to a business, this may be the CEO, the CFO and Board Members, or if you’re marketing to consumers, this may be families or households. 

In both of these scenarios, you need to understand why your product or service would appeal to each individual (be it C-level executives and a variety of board members or individual family members). 

You need to ask:

  • What makes each group unique?
  • How will your messaging change for each of these groups?

This is referred to as segmentation in marketing. Generally, marketers create groups of people with similar needs or problems and then create messaging to address these needs.

For example, you may find your service helps CEOs enables the HR team to better manage hiring processes, which then helps the business achieve better results by hiring better people. 

The service may be appealing to a CFO as it saves money, however, so your messaging should be adjusted based on the needs of both of these groups (or segments).

Ultimately, basic marketing principles state that you need to understand who needs your product or service and why.

If you haven’t already validated this, you need to do this before you do anything else. If not, you may waste a lot of money and time on marketing tools and techniques that don’t generate the results you’re looking for.

2. Understand Your Buyer Journey

As well as knowing your potential customers well, and dividing them into segments, you want to understand as much as you can about their buyer journey.

A buyer journey is a path that an individual or business takes to identify that they need a solution to a problem and then purchase a solution. 

While individuals and segments don’t always do this in the same way, you can find patterns emerging if you start to analyse this behaviour.

There are a variety of ways to set up a buyer journey map, but you should always try to observe or interview your target customers where possible before you fill these out.

You can find some ideas on how to set up your own buyer journey maps from Upland. 

3. Set Clear Goals

What are your business goals right now? In 3 months? In 6 months? In 1, 2 or 5 years? 

Effective marketing tactics can’t be put in place until you’re clear on your business goals, as they need to be tightly aligned with your business objectives. 

Potential goals that can drive your marketing, both short and long term, include:

  • Brand awareness (Who needs to know about you? Why? How will you measure this?)
  • Revenue growth (How much? By when? From whom?)
  • Product or service adoption (How many? By when? What does this mean for your business e.g. break-even point?)

Having these goals will enable you to:

  • Understand what success looks like
  • Know what you’re aiming for 
  • Help decide which channels are most appropriate to help you reach your goals
  • Enable you to evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing efforts

We also recommend that you set these up in SMART goal format. This means that your goals should be:

Specific: It should detail exactly what you wish to achieve

Measurable: You need to be able to measure it easily

Actionable: You need to have the resources to make it happen

Time-bound: You need to have a clear timeframe

Realistic: It must be embedded in reality based on what you know of your business and your intended customers.

Using this format can move from vague goals such as:

“We need to drive revenue this financial year” to “Generate $150,000 in revenue within the next 6 months”.

You can then start to break this goal down to work out your exact plans to achieve this. For example, how many new deals do you need to reach $150,000 in revenue? Where are you going to find these potential customers? How are you going to approach them?

4. Forecast Your Budget

Many businesses expect marketing costs to be a set split of their revenue or a standard slice of their expenditure pie. We dislike this method of budgeting, however, as each business and market in which it operates is different.

We recommend marketing forecasting where possible. Yes, this will take you more time, but it will also give you a much more accurate picture of what is likely to happen with your marketing activities.

It also creates a realistic picture of what you will need to spend to drive the results you want in each channel. This way, you can decide what’s affordable for your business and what’s not.

For example, you may be a new business that wishes to acquire new customers through your website. 

You decide to start with a Google Ads search campaign to do this. Instead of deciding to allocate a set amount, a forecasting approach looks instead like this:

  1. Set a SMART Goal e.g. Generate 10 new customers through the website within the next month.
  2. Confirm likely traffic to your website based on the search terms you will be targeting e.g. 100 users in one month.
  3. Confirm the likely conversion rate (of sign-ups) from the search traffic to your website. You can do this using industry benchmarks (average conversion rate for search campaigns of 8.82%). So, if you get an effective ad in front of 100 users, you should convert 8.2 of them. Given this, you may want to expand your reach slightly, so you are likely to end up with 10 customers, not 8.
  4. If the cost per click of each visitor to your site is $20, this means you should spend approximately $2000 on this activity (100 visitors x $20 cost per click).
  5. If we assume that your customers have a lifetime value of $1000 each, you’re spending $2000 now to make $8000 of future revenue.
  6. You can then decide if you want to proceed based on the above estimations.

Yes, it’s much more work than simply guesstimating how much you need, but it’s also far more accurate. It should also stop any nasty surprises about marketing costs if you look at all of your activities this way. And what could be a more affordable small business marketing technique than that?!

5. Test & Learn

Never put all of your resources into one channel or marketing tactic without testing its performance first. 

As the world becomes more digitised, it’s easy to put a small spend on an activity and get some initial performance signals to decide if you want to proceed or amend your approach. 

Benchmarks across almost all channels are available for free, so you can get basic data per channel such as:

Over time, you should aim to grow your own data pool to benchmark against, but this free benchmark data is a great place to start until you have this.

If your activities aren’t achieving the benchmarks listed, it’s time to look at the messaging as well as the audience you’re putting it in front of. Are they the right people? Is it the right message? Is the timing right?

As you continue to amend your approach and hopefully improve your performance, try to change only one element at a time. This way, if something works well, you know what’s responsible for the improved results!

Affordable Small Business Marketing Summary

The best and most affordable small business marketing techniques are based on smart planning and a strong understanding of why your product or service is needed. You don’t need flashy tools or the latest technology to achieve this, but rather time and critical analysis.