If I Only Had $100 For Marketing…

I love talking about marketing strategy with new people. But oftentimes, the conversation goes a little like this:

First, they excitedly explain what they do.

Then we talk about their goals.

From there, we explore what they’re currently doing to market their business.

And then we talk about new opportunities.

And usually, after all of that is done, and while everyone’s excitement level is sky-high, an important detail is added to the equation:

“I don’t really have a marketing budget in place.”

It’s a bummer, to say the least.

And I get it: Times are tough. And when you’re running lean, it’s hard to cough up a little extra cash.

Ultimately, it’s a catch-22: You need cash for marketing, but you need marketing to get cash (i.e., new business).

I’ve been kicking the problem around in my head for a while, and I’m finally addressing it head-on: What if you only have $100 to market your business?

What to Do With A Limited Marketing Budget

First off, let’s flip the script. If you have $100 for marketing, you might as well have $0 for marketing.

So get the budget out of your mind. 

Instead of focusing on cash, focus on time

How much time can you and your team devote to marketing? 

It’s not always an exciting consideration (you’ve got other things to take care of, after all), but it’s critical.

You won’t get a billboard for $100. 

You won’t get a TV spot for $100. 

Hell, even with social media ads, you won’t get really far with $100 (but we’ll discuss that in a moment). 

But what can you realistically do that’s cost-effective?

Low-Cost Marketing Strategies to Leverage

Low-Cost Marketing Strategies

OK, now that we’re pretending that $100 is actually $0, here’s are a few strategies you can mix and match:

1. Tap your network. 

When was the last time you connected with people in your network?

Do they know that you’re open to referrals?

If not, it’s time to pull out your contact list and start setting up coffee dates.

Or, if you’d like to be a little more modern, start hitting up your email list.

And you don’t need to stop at one email.

Instead, you could build out an entire email campaign.

So, instead of an email essentially saying, “Hey, we’ve got a new widget and I think you should check it out,” you could have an entire email series that explains the widget’s numerous uses and benefits.

And while you’re at it, remember that anything being shared to your email list should probably be shared on social media as well!

2. Grow your network. 

I hate networking. Hate networking. It puts me on edge, and I have to work really hard to be social and charming and, quite frankly, myself. 

For a long time, I was a BNI member, which was a critical first step in building Poetica Marketing and helping me tap into the Pittsburgh market. 

And although I’m no longer a member, I’m still in contact with many of the people I built relationships with, and I can honestly say it was one of the best things I’ve ever done for my business. 

But BNI (and your local Chamber of Commerce and similar organizations) aren’t the only places to connect with people invested in your success. 

In fact, you can find more engaging ways to connect with people.

Personally, I like meeting people at “F” Up Nights (an event that allows people to talk about their greatest business failures) and Nerd Nite (an event for people to talk about their favorite nerdy topics in a comedic format). 

Again, I’ve met wonderful, influential, and supportive people through those channels. 

But it’s important to remember that networking doesn’t need to be face-to-face or even screen-to-screen (in a world of Zoom calls). 

One of the best resources I’ve found is Connection U, a Pittsburgh-focused Facebook group built to help local professionals connect, and I’ve used to it fill a few holes in my professional Rolodex. 

Ultimately, you should follow a route that best supports you and your business.

3. Leverage influencers and partnerships.

If you don’t have the right audience (or the right sized audience), you need someone who does. 

That’s what an influencer or partner is for. 

By working with a third party, you can tap into a captive audience that’s already aligned with your brand and value proposition.

But before we get much further, let’s break down the differences:

What’s an influencer?

An influencer is anyone with a sizeable, engaged audience and who is capable of swaying their followers’ purchasing decisions. 

Kim Kardashian is one of the most popular influencers out there—and she’s built a personal brand that’s empowered her to charge thousands and thousands of dollars to promote products. 

But working with an influencer doesn’t have to cost a fortune. 

Three of the most popular low-cost strategies: 

  • Promo codes. An influencer can give their followers a unique promo code that they can then use while buying things on your website. Each month, you calculate how much product was sold using that specific promo code, and then you cut the influencer a cut of the profits from those sales. 
  • Free products/services. Some influencers are willing to work for much less than a cut of the profits. I’ve even worked alongside individuals who have literally promoted a brand in an Instagram post for a free bag of chips. 
  • Tit for tat. This is a simple exchange of services or shoutouts on social media. The influencer promotes your band, and you offer free services or shoutouts in return. A win-win.

What’s a partnership?

One of the primary differences between an influencer relationship and a partnership is location. 

An influencer is primarily going to promote you on their blog or social media channels. 

But a partnership (in the marketing sense) is more likely to promote you in other places. 

The other big difference: In a partnership, your partner has an invested interest in seeing you succeed. 

Maybe they’re getting a referral kickback. Maybe they’re getting a cut of all profits. Or maybe you strike a deal to use their IP prominently in your products or services. 

Whatever it is, a partnership is often a more symbiotic and long-lasting relationship.

4. Position yourself as an authority.

There are numerous ways to position yourself as an authority (and I’ll talk about creating content in a moment), but one of the easiest shortcuts is to get in front of a captive audience. 

This could be on a panel at a local conference. It could be as a guest on a national radio show. Or it could be as a speaker on an industry podcast. 

If you don’t have a publicist or an assistant, picking up these opportunities can seem daunting and far out of reach. 

But it’s sometimes easier than you think. 

I’ve been a guest on the music podcasts Slightly Fuzzed and The Morning Buzz for one reason: I asked if they’d have me as a guest. 

That simple.

If 90% of success is showing up, the other 10% is looking for opportunities.

5. Host an event to showcase your product or service.

I don’t want to overwhelm you with this step, and I certainly realize how expensive and difficult event planning can be, especially if you’ve never done it before.

But you could spend that $100 on booze and hors d’oeuvres and invite your friends and professional associates to the office one evening to showcase your latest product or talk about a new innovative twist to your services.

The trick here is to get people excited about what you do—and keep you and your brand top of mind for when they need help in the future.

6. Start creating content.

There are 100 different ways to create content, and this section of the blog could be split into 100 other blogs of the same length. 

But for our purposes here, I’ll focus on two different areas: social media and blogging. 

In general, social media is good for getting short-lived results quickly, and blogging is good for getting long-term results in the future. 

Here’s what to know:

Creating Content for Social Media

I’m writing this in June of 2022, and the hottest thing on social media right now is video–especially “reels.”

That’s true across Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

If you want to get serious about social media, start pumping out videos. 

And it doesn’t need to be complicated. 

One of my favorite TikTok stars right now is @ChefReactions, a chef who watches and reacts to other videos of people cooking. He has grown popular in part because of his grumpy attitude and harsh sense of humor, but it works. 

@chefreactions #duet with @cooking_with_fire a rare 10/10 spotted #chef #fyp ♬ Cumbia Buena – Grupo La Cumbia

And the greatest thing is that the format he’s using really only takes a few minutes to pull off. 

He watches a video that someone else already made.

He reacts to it.

He posts it. 

Simple. And he’s amassed more than 200,000 followers along the way.

But there are other ways of keeping things simple, like this video I stumbled across today:

There are a few things that work here:

  1. There’s a larger emerging trend across social media where business owners begrudgingly (and openly) accept that they must also be content creators. This video plays into that trend.
  2. It stays on topic. This video is an interesting collection of the creator at work, and it’s a soothing visual to take in.

Simple. Elegant. Effective.

To be honest, we could spend days talking about social media best practices. But the important thing to note is this: Get comfortable creating video. 

Then grow from there.

Creating Content for Blogs

Blogging is, in my opinion, one of the most underutilized marketing opportunities for businesses. In addition to helping you dive into your products and services, blogging is a key piece of any SEO strategy.

To make it work:

1. Focus on long-hanging keyword opportunities. There are tons of tools out there to help you identify potential keyphrases for your business, but Google’s Keyword Planner is a good free option.

2. Build content around questions that are frequently asked or around click-worthy phrases. Formulas for catchy headlines include:

  • How to do X
  • Top 10 Mistakes of X
  • What is X?

3. Promote all content through your existing channels. That includes social media and email blasts!

Done correctly, blogging can result in a massive increase in monthly site traffic, leading to additional sales, sign-ups, and conversions.

7. Consider Some Extremely Targeted Ads

Alright. So, at this point, you’ve worked through the other free (but time-intensive) options, and you probably have a few things to show for it. 

Maybe you have an IG reel with a few thousand views, an upcoming collaboration with a social media influencer, or maybe you’re going to make a guest appearance on your favorite podcast. 

Whatever the progress is, you now have momentum

And that’s where the $100 you have can be most useful. 

From a dead start, $100 won’t get you very far. 

But when you have the momentum of great content that’s already resonating with an audience, you can leverage the cash in new ways. 

You can use it to amplify your already-great messaging. 

And there are a few options readily available to you:

  • Facebook Advertising – This has grown more complicated in recent years, and the targeting has dropped off as privacy concerns have become a bigger issue. However, you can still get very targeted with users on Facebook and Instagram, and that can stretch your dollar relatively far. 
  • Reddit Advertising – This is an often overlooked opportunity for small businesses, but I like it because it’s relatively effective, easy to set up, and the ads start showing pretty quickly. 
  • Radio/Podcasting Advertising – Depending on the station, small radio ad packages are relatively affordable. And as podcasting has grown more popular (and the data on listeners improved), self-serve ads on digital platforms have grown more accessible. 

Where to Learn More About Effective Marketing

If you’d like to find even more effective marketing techniques for tight budgets, check out The Strategic Marketer! I wrote this book to help busy business owners and marketers build great strategies. You can click on that link or download it here:

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