Digital Marketing on a Bare-Bones Budget: Cutting Costs in Times of Crisis

For many (if not most) businesses, right now seems anything but the time to be making any the purchase or investment decisions. The economic downturn of 2020 so far coupled with on-going uncertainty making it difficult to know where and how to invest whatever limited cash reserves you have.

But here’s the thing – with life slowly returning to at least some kind of normality in the UK, now’s also not the time to underestimate the importance of strategic marketing. The consumer public is opening its collective wallet once again, directing record sums of cash at all types of online channels.

We recently published a post outlining how best to appeal to audiences in a challenging era such as this. There’s no shortage of options, but what if you’re operating on the proverbial shoestring? Assuming you’ve very little money to invest in a marketing campaign right now, what can and should you be doing to make the most of what you have?

The Secret to Smart and Savvy Marketing 

Contrary to popular belief, in really isn’t necessary to spend vast sums of money to boost your business with a stellar marketing campaign. It’s simply a case of focusing on the more strategic approaches to marketing, as opposed to those that necessitate heavy initial investment.

For the most part, the following affordable marketing strategies will appeal primarily to smaller businesses. Though in the vast majority of instances, they can also be just as beneficial and profitable for much larger organisations.

In any case, these are all tried, tested and trusted options for making the most of a shoestring budget. Something which for many businesses is more important now than it has ever been.

1.  Start taking your blog more seriously

Far from a simple newsfeed, you should view your blog as the linchpin of your entire marketing, branding and general promotional strategy. This is where you’ll draw in visitors from elsewhere, demonstrate your knowledge, verify your authority and establish a sense of trust and respect. 

A good blog costs nothing to create and maintain, therefore should be within your top priorities where low-cost, high-impact marketing is concerned. Just be sure to follow the rule that states it’s better to post nothing at all than to post content of no real value or relevance for the reader.

2.  Create a Google My Business account

This is something you should have done long before now, but it’s never too late to get started. You’ll need to claim your listing to ensure your business shows up in local search, but this is also essential for collecting feedback and displaying your star rating and customer recommendations.

It’s not what you’d call a marketing technique or strategy in its own right, but the creation and completion of a Google My Business listing is one of the most important components of a broader marketing strategy.

3.  Start a YouTube channel

Here’s the thing – you don’t have to become the next viral superstar to profit from a venture into YouTube. The sheer popularity of video content these days makes the value of the whole thing self-explanatory. Not to mention, the fact that the only equipment you need is already built into your smartphone. 

Like a blog, a YouTube channel will only succeed when it features relevant, useful and regularly updated content your audience gets some level of value from. Getting started can be tricky, but hit your flow and the whole thing becomes a surprisingly enjoyable experience.

4.  Enter awards

You have to be in it to win it – a timeless cliché that’s also 100% accurate. You may have never won an industry award or accolade to date, but let’s face it – how many have you actually entered?

If there’s any kind of award or accolade handed out with any relevance to what you do, why not throw your hat into the ring? The worst that can happen is basically nothing, but boost your profile with a recognised award or accolade and you’re golden. 

5.  Plan a webinar or workshop

This can be a fantastic way of getting people on board with whatever it is you do. It’s basically a case of organising some kind of virtual online class, which is offered 100% free of charge and hosted by you – or one of your representatives.

A webinar or workshop can be held for just about any purpose. It could be a simple Q&A session, the opportunity to share inside information, a chance to teach your audience new skills and so on. Interaction and engagement hold the key to attracting and retaining the attention of your audience – webinars and workshops working wonders.

6.  Distribute press releases

The vast majority of local newspapers and publications don’t actually make that much effort to chase down stories. Instead, they wait for interesting snippets to come their way, courtesy of press releases. Hence, if there’s anything you feel is even remotely interesting to say about your brand, your sector or anything else at all, why not inform the press?

The beauty of PR distribution lies in the fact that it is essentially free. And if your press releases attract the attention of a local publisher, they’ll promote the living daylights out of your announcement or content for free. If you’ve not already developed effective and engaging PR writing skills, this is something to think about prioritising.

7. Contribute to an industry magazine

Online or offline, running a prominent ad campaign in an industry publication could set you back a small fortune. By contrast, contributing a premium-quality article of some kind is normally free. Paying to publish your work is one thing, but come up with something good enough and they’ll snap it up and publish it for free.

This can be a great way of both enhancing your authority and driving traffic to your website. The same also goes for standard guest posting on blogs and websites in general, but a recognised and credible industry publication usually holds way more weight. 

8.  Set up a referral programme

Free advertising at its absolute finest, which is also technically 100% free of charge to set up.  The long and short of it being that you basically introduce an incentive for your existing customers to bring someone else along for the ride.

Simply by offering them a 20% discount on their next purchase or a freebie of some kind, this could be all the motivation they need to send people over. Bigger incentives drive better results, but even something relatively simple can make a real difference.

9.  Set up an affiliate program

Better yet, you could always set up a rudimentary affiliate program and have other people sell your products or services directly on your behalf. Affiliate business opportunities are proving particularly popular right now, given their low initial setup costs and minimal risks for those taking part.

If you have a product or service you genuinely believe in, it simply makes sense to market it to the widest possible audience. The beauty being that with an affiliate program, those who subscribe do the hard work and cover most of the costs on your behalf.

10.  Organise a competition or giveaway

This is exactly the kind of time where freebies and giveaways are understandably irresistible. Hence, it’s also the perfect time to think about organising (or sponsoring) some kind of competition or giveaway.

It’s always been a sure-fire strategy for affordable marketing, though could prove particularly effective in the current climate. Competitions, contests, giveaways and the like combine entertainment with the opportunity to pick up something for free – just what’s called for in an era of indefinite doom and gloom.

11. Step up your e-mail strategy

An effective e-mail marketing strategy has the potential to deliver an exponentially higher ROI than any comparable social media, PPC or SEO strategy. The key to success lying in a combination of segmentation and personalisation, ensuring those who receive your emails get something of value out of the deal.

While it’s true to say that a meticulously segmented e-mail marketing campaign can be time consuming, it can also technically be 100% free of charge. It’s therefore just the kind of thing you should be prioritising, if you currently have more time than money on hand.

12.  Get serious on social media

Last up, activity across all major social platforms during lockdown hit all-time highs on a global basis. The long and short of it being that more people than ever before are using more social channels more frequently and for longer periods of time than any pre-lockdown period. 

Driven by a lack of anything better to do, people in record numbers have found themselves spending record amounts of time socialising online. Something that isn’t expected to change at any point in the foreseeable future. However heavily you were investing in your social strategy in the past, now’s the time to think about stepping things up a gear or two. 

For more information on any of the above or to discuss any aspect of digital marketing in more detail, get in touch with the team at Tait Pollack today.

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