Your complete guide to low cost marketing for start-ups

Building a small business up from the ground is simultaneously one of the most exciting and daunting things you’ll ever do. In order to enjoy the massively rewarding moments every now and then, you’ll need to overcome obstacles daily – some of which are bigger than others.

Two of the biggest challenges you’ll face in the early days are building brand awareness and operating on a tight budget. Unfortunately, both can work against each other. For instance, the TV and radio ads your sector’s biggest firms rely on are likely to be out of reach, so too are billboards or expensive headline-grabbing PR stunts.

This doesn’t mean you should be ignoring marketing altogether, though. There are plenty of ways to build and engage your audience without spending loads of cash. In this article, we’ll discuss a few of your best options.

Social media and start-up businesses

The internet has revolutionised human communication, with social media being a prominent example. In the UK, the average social media user spends 2.2 hours of every day engrossed in their various feeds, and the figure is even higher in other areas of the world.

These platforms aren’t just being used to bring people closer together, either – they’re also bridging gaps between consumers and businesses. Tools like Facebook and Twitter essentially provide common ground, and give businesses a chance to ditch their corporate image in favour of a friendlier face. What’s more, they tend to be extremely cost-effective.

If your budget is particularly tight, you could go for the free option with no extras, to get your brand out there. If you have a little bit to spend, you might want to start promoting your posts and placing advertisements in users’ feeds to increase your reach. Just be sure to use the provided analytics tools to track performance and continuously target the best people.

Using social media is a no-brainer, but think carefully about what you do with it. You could just share relevant articles published by others in your industry, but you’ll get better results by creating your own, original content. Take things a step further by using it as an additional customer service channel.

Email for low cost marketing

Social media might have an army of users, but email has more. In fact, there’s thought to be around four billion accounts in existence at present, and as the internet spreads into new territories, this figure’s only likely to grow. Today, you simply have to be on email.

While it can be difficult to get right, there are plenty of advantages to using email, and if you’re on a budget it’s definitely worth considering.

While the age range of social media’s user-base is slowly expanding, it’s still very much seen as a young person’s game – not quite covering everyone. Email, on the other hand, is the primary communication form for most internet users. It’s also a lot more prominent in enterprise environments, so if you’re marketing to other businesses, it could be the best way to go.

Email is best used as a way to promote your own products and services directly, perhaps by using voucher codes or simply just sending brand updates. Unlike social media, it’s not ideal for sharing other people’s content, but you can promote your own articles – provided they’re relevant. Just be sure to use the data you have to target properly; this way, you reach the right people and can address them personally. You want to make the recipient feel valued.

SMS messages for start-ups

We can’t talk about inexpensive marketing methods suitable for small businesses without covering SMS. Introduced in the early 1990s, this channel has well and truly stood the test of time. According to estimates from eMarketer, mobile phone ownership will break the five-billion barrier in 2017 – that means over 70 per cent of the global population will be able to send and receive text messages. So, if you’re after reach, you can’t really beat it.

While email has long been used for business communications and promotional messages, texting is often reserved for conversing with friends and family. This actually increases its effectiveness as a marketing tool, as it provides businesses with a more personal platform through which to contact consumers. Providing messages are targeted properly and the right tone is adopted, it’s a great way to form and maintain lasting relationships.

Open rates also show SMS to be an extremely effective marketing tool. Perhaps due to the personal nature mentioned above, 98 per cent of all text messages are opened by their recipients. In contrast, only 20 per cent of emails are opened, and just 12 per cent of Facebook posts are read. What’s more, it takes, on average, 90 seconds for someone to respond to a text. With emails, it takes 90 minutes – assuming they’ve read it of course.

It’s clear that SMS is a powerful marketing tool, and cheap too, but its effectiveness will depend on how you use it. Research shows that only two per cent of consumers are happy to receive more than five messages from one company in a month, for example. Some 83 per cent only want two, so be sure to spread them out. Relevance is just as important; use the data you have to target your audience with deals and information they might actually want.

So there you have it; three simple, cheap and effective ways to get your new business off to a flying start. Proof that marketing doesn’t have to cost the earth!