In the current economic environment, starting a small business isn’t easy. Inflation is robbing consumers of purchasing power. And rising interest rates make borrowing money to fund early operations a costly endeavor. Those factors — and other economic headwinds — mean small businesses must pinch every penny to survive.
That being said, some expenditures simply can’t be avoided. And one of the most important among those is marketing. But that puts today’s small businesses in a catch-22. They can’t earn money without spending on marketing, but they need to be already earning money before they can spend it on marketing.
It’s a conundrum that means small businesses have to get creative to get the ball rolling, revenue-wise. Fortunately, there are still a handful of nearly-free marketing tactics that small businesses can build effective campaigns around. And with the right mix of them, it’s still possible to create a steady stream of early revenue to fund more expansive marketing efforts. Here are the three most effective nearly-free marketing tactics that still work in 2022.
Build an Authentic Social Media Presence
When most people think about the way businesses use social media today, they think of big brands trying to capitalize on the latest online trends. But small businesses shouldn’t try to approach social media in that way. Instead, they should work to build an authentic presence by engaging with the communities that intersect with their target market.
For many small business owners, this may seem counterintuitive. There is, after all, a natural tendency to want to use social media to spread a brand message or to sell products to an interested audience. But that will just make you look like every other big brand out there — except with fewer resources and less frequent posts.
By establishing an authentic social media presence, small businesses can accomplish several things at once. The first is that they can begin to build a loyal audience that will appreciate their messaging when it eventually comes. And the second is that they can do it without paying a marketing expert — it’s completely free to post when all you’re concerned with doing is being yourself.
Build an Email Marketing List
Believe it or not, many of today’s marketing thought leaders scoff at email. They consider it a relic of a bygone era, and not something businesses should waste their time on. But they couldn’t be more wrong. Recent statistics suggest that email marketing has an eye-popping ROI of $42 for every $1 spent. And that’s worth spending time on by any measure.
And best of all, email marketing is nearly free. A small business can launch an email marketing campaign for as little as $9 per month. And all they need to create is a high-quality email newsletter format and begin collecting emails from customers or anyone expressing interest in the business. For extra effect, small businesses can even use their social media presence to expand their email lists by soliciting emails from followers.
Devise and Execute a Content Strategy
It’s important to note that so far, we’ve only discussed marketing tactics that are somewhat ephemeral. With social media and email marketing, small businesses will only see effects that are commensurate with the amount of effort they put in. In other words, if they stop posting or sending emails, the resulting sales will dry up fast.
But that’s where content marketing comes in. It’s a strategy that takes a bit of effort to get going, but that will provide continuous benefits in the long term. The reason is simple. Content marketing can be evergreen. That means small businesses can base their content strategy on creating content that will always be useful and won’t require much in the way of upkeep.
And they can do it by exploiting their own expertise in their industry. For example, a plumbing business could create expert how-tos that teach homeowners how to solve common plumbing problems. Or, an eCommerce business might exploit their internal data to create useful infographics about ongoing product trends. In any case, evergreen content creates steady web traffic and works as a link magnet — building upon itself with no further efforts required.
A Solid, Mostly Free Foundation
Using nothing but the three tactics above, any small business can build a high-performance marketing strategy that costs them little more than some time and effort. And it’ll be an effective strategy, too. Countless businesses survive — and even thrive — using these tactics and never spend a dollar on advertising.
But what’s most important is the bottom-line flexibility the above tactics can create. By themselves, they can create a stable and reliable stream of revenue that opens up whole new doors where marketing’s concerned. So, consider them the foundational pieces of a long-term marketing strategy. They’re the perfect starting point and can take a small business wherever it has the drive and desire to go.