The lack of budgeting resources is the third top marketing challenge for a small business. If you aren’t a startup that has venture or angel capital, chances are you probably have a limited marketing budget. The first thing small businesses tend to cut when working with a tight budget is marketing.

Worst. Idea. Ever.

Yes, traditional advertising methods can sometimes be hard to measure and costly, but small businesses now have greater access to trackable, cost-effective marketing tools. Email marketing, for example, brings an average return of $38 for every $1 spent. Here are just a few ways you can market your business on a shoestring budget.

  1. Use Social Media

    According to the Pew Research Center Report of Social Media Usage: 2005-2015, nearly two-thirds of American adults use social media now. This is a near tenfold increase within the last decade. Popular social media channels include Snapchat, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Reddit, Pinterest, Instagram, and the ever-popular Twitter and Facebook. Each of these social media platforms is unique in its own right and require unique ways of engagement. Rather than try to master it all at once, choose a few you like and try to master those first.
  2. Leverage Your Community

    You don’t have to think big when it comes to your marketing efforts. What’s going on locally? Things like printing bookmarks to leave at your local library, or sponsoring a 5k charity walk/run or Little League team are a great way to expose your business to those in your community. Think about who your ideal customer is and how and where they spend their time. Then search for opportunities to get in front of your customer with your marketing message.
  3. Collaborate

    Collaboration helps you expand your customer base by reaching new people. Put together a group of non-competitive, synergistic businesses around your area to cross-promote with. You can use social media platforms, bundled promotions, reciprocal website links, fliers, or coupons.
  4. Network

    I’m a huge fan of networking. Getting out there and shaking a few hands is one of the best ways to build a business and get to know people. Building a strong network takes time, but it is one of the best assets any business person can have.
  5. Give a Speech

    A lot of people hate public speaking. However, many organizations are looking for qualified experts who can give a presentation on specific subject-matter to their groups. You don’t have to be a pro as long as the information you share is helpful to the audience. Plus, the more you do it the easier it will become. It will also position you as a credible authority in your field.
  6. Create Valuable Content

    Everybody loves great content, ESPECIALLY Google. Submitting articles to online authority sites, designing infographics, hosting podcasts, creating videos, and blogging are some of the many ways you can share information. Not only do you gain authority as an expert, but you also get free traffic. You can also offer to be a guest blogger for another complementary website or be interviewed on a podcast.
  7. Ask for Referrals

    Don’t be shy about asking for customer referrals. If asked, most people will provide a referral, but most never take the initiative to do it on their own. Referrals are an easy way to get new customers in the door. You are missing out on opportunities if you don’t ask for them.
  8. Build Relationships

    It is a lot less expensive to keep a customer than it is to get a new one. This is why it is crucial to establish strong relationships with your customer base. Keeping in touch with people through email marketing is just one of the ways you can do this. Ask customers for their email address when they visit your store or website.
  9. Offer Coupons

    Coupons are a good way for many businesses to attract new customers. Research has shown that customers will go out of their way to use a coupon! This method has been proven to be successful in expanding your customer base. Coupons can also generate return visits. For example, if you give a customer a coupon for a discount to use on future business, there’s a high probability they’ll be back.
  10. Give it Away

    Everyone loves free gifts! If someone has the opportunity to experience your product or service, chances are they will want to purchase more. Don’t be afraid to give someone a free trial or a sample. This will help you build a brand awareness and connect with potential customers. In today’s economy, people are more apt to purchase something they’ve been able to experience first.

You can also promote your products through Facebook groups where members agree to try your product for free or a discounted price in exchange for an honest review. Also, giving away gifts with your advertising on it such as notepads, pens, magnets, key chains etc. are always popular.

These ten, inexpensive strategies for marketing on a tight budget will help you build relationships, engage customers, and ultimately keep your brand in the forefront of your targeted audience. It’s not always about the money you have to spend on marketing, it’s about the time and effort you put into it and above all, the relevance it has to your customers.