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What Are the Best Ways to Market Your Small Business on a Budget?: Nine Key Tasks to Get You Started

If you’ve made the leap into being a small business owner, you know that clients aren’t just going to fall from the sky and pay you hundreds of dollars. (You do know that, right?)

So what are the best ways to promote your business when you’re just getting started and don’t have a huge budget?


The following nine tasks can help you be more visible to your ideal prospect and can help you convert them to an ideal client, faster.


Start Here!

1. Make a Plan for Your Small Business and Figure Out Your Offer

You’ve started a business, yay!


Now what? Where do you go from here? Start by making a plan! 


Your plan should have a couple of key things in it:

  • What you offer

  • Whom you’re offering it to

  • How you’re going to spend your limited marketing dollars

  • A timeframe

  • Goals to guide your progress


This may seem like a waste of your time, because doing this right now isn’t making you any money. But the reality is that if you’re just doing work with no real rhyme or reason, you’re going to get burnt out and not know if your efforts have been worthwhile.


Getting into the weeds figuring out details like your key offerings and ideal clients will allow you to measure future business decisions easier. You’ll be able to decide if your ideal client will benefit from you investing in something or offering something new or more niche. You’ll also know if you’re spending time on the right things because you’ll be able to judge them against these two metrics.


Once you’ve made those decisions, you can set aside a dedicated marketing budget (remember, you have to spend money to make money!) and figure out how it’s going to be spent. When I go through this exercise with my clients, I like building out the framework for 12 months. This allows us to look at things like sending holiday cards, upcoming conferences you want to go to, and big networking opportunities.


Defining a timeline and setting up measurable goals along the way will help you to know if the marketing efforts you’ve got in place are working, and if they’re not, you can dive into why not. Once you have your plan in place, add a block to your calendar once a month (I would recommend at the end of the month) to review and assess your progress.


Want to know more about what this looks like? Tell me in the comments below, or book a call with me and we can go through this exercise for your business together.


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2. Partner With an Expert

No, this isn’t just in here because marketing is part of what I do.


It’s here and number two on the list because you should be looking for and trusting people who are smarter than you!

Doing this early in your business development can give you more time to work on income-producing activities, and can give you the confidence to show up because you know things are getting done well.


Consider this: if you’re a lawyer, you’re really good at contracts and serving your clients’ best interests, right? People come to you because you’ve been to school, spent time studying complex legal cases, and the state says you know your stuff. So why wouldn’t you do the exact same thing and trust someone whose does what you need (CPA, Bookkeeper, Graphic Designer, Web Developer)?


The largest benefit in finding a trusted partner that does what you need? You can get back to focusing on what YOU do best, and leave what THEY do best, to them.*


This doesn’t just go for marketing professionals (but that is what I’m talking about in this blog). It can also mean hiring someone to take care of your books regularly, or hiring someone to write up your contract template one-time.


*Yes, I know there are plenty of options out there for the DIY approach. But just because they exist doesn’t mean that you’re going to a) know how to use them, b) enjoy spending your time on them, or c) be able to use them to create an output that’s as good as hiring a pro and being done with it. Stop settling for good enough!


3. Tackle Low Hanging Fruit First

As a new business owner, what are the best first uses for your marketing dollars?

MDC / First 120 Logo Design

I would argue it would be setting up your brand. That means figuring out what your business name is, what your logo looks like, and how you will present yourself to clients.


MDC / First 120 Brand Guide

That can go further into making sure you have branded documents, business cards, social media profiles, a branded email address, getting started on your website, and building a functional and beautiful email signature.


If you know that you don’t want your business name to be your legal name (e.g. Susie Smith, doing business as Susie Smith), you should allocate some marketing dollars to this first. Otherwise, you risk confusing clients down the road when you “all of a sudden” introduce a brand name and identity. And confused minds don’t buy.


4. Make Yourself Discoverable Online

So you’re out there doing good work and working with good people, but what if one of them wants to refer you to a friend? Where can that friend go to learn more about you?


Let’s be real, if someone refers a friend to you, the friend isn’t going to just call you up (typically). They’re going to check you out online. They’re going to see if what you have to offer is actually what they need.


And if they can’t find you, they’re going to have a hard time deciding on if they should call you. If they DO end up calling you even after they can’t find you… you’re starting that relationship off sans trust.

Don’t do that to yourself!


At the very minimum of minimums, have ONE really well-defined and active social media profile. Yes, even if you don’t like social media and don’t use it personally. You would be silly to believe that in this day and age, social media isn’t a search tool.  


What’s better? Having a website that has all the things!

Your website is usually the one place online where someone can go to learn everything about your business. It showcases your brand, shares what you do, talks about who you do it for, and should include social proof (testimonials, portfolio items, links to social media, etc.) that says you know your stuff.


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5. Focus on Service

Despite anything else you could be doing as a new small business owner trying to market themselves, you should be focusing on offering amazing customer service.


Fantastic customer service is going to be the ONE thing that can wipe out any irregularities in your branding, and it is the most likely reason people will send you referrals.


Folks just want to know that you “got this for them” and that you’re going to make sure it’s done right and done well. They want to know they can get in touch with you and ask questions. That you’re going to be their ‘go-to’.


If you think about going to a store or restaurant where it felt like a breath of fresh air when interacting with the team members there, what did that look like? If you’re a Disney Adult like me, just think of the interactions with the cast members at any park. What do they do differently than most other retail establishments?


They make you feel like the most important person in the world.

Do that for your clients – the referrals will follow.


If you want to read a book on how to create that experience, I highly recommend Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard! (That’s NOT an affiliate link.) It’s a quick read, I promise, and worth your time!


6. Leverage Freebies

For most people, a free marketing opportunity is social media. Getting online and creating content, interacting with content, and promoting your services is the best freebie there out there.

Here’s my recommendation for which platform to use for your business – choose one and get really good at it before jumping to another:

  • Instagram: B2C creative businesses that have a process or product they can showcase.

  • LinkedIn: B2B professionals, showcasing thought leadership.

  • Facebook: B2B and B2C businesses. Setup a business page, but focus on building relationship in and promoting your business in relevant groups. Otherwise, you’re paying to play, and it’s not cheap.


There’s an entire strategy behind how to create stellar content and promote it to the right people on social media. That’s not what we’re here to talk about. Just know that social media can be your best free marketing tool.


If you’re a local business operating locally, especially as a brick and mortar, look for opportunities to:

  • Post on a community bulletin board

  • Host or sponsor events

  • Network with other businesses in the area

  • Place strategic and low-cost ads in relevant local places / publications

  • Tap into new, unusual, or unique markets in your area


7. Don’t Be Afraid of The Hustle

As a new business owner, you’re going to have to work for what you want.


The internet revolution means that there are (probably) lots of other people out there doing what you do – but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it.

You’re going to be able to bring a whole new flavor and perspective to the business, and you should lean into what makes you different and better.


But you’ve still got to want it, go after it, and hustle for it. (Not ‘hustle’ in the bad way, like stealing people’s money.) You’ll have to lean into the bad days, work through them, and figure out what’s not working when the clients and revenue aren’t coming in.


You know how they say that an animal can sense your emotions – good or bad? Clients are the same way. If you’ve got a bad attitude about your business and you’re feeling righteous and annoyed that it’s not making you a millionaire overnight, they’re going to pick up on that.


Trust the process, do the things, and don’t be afraid of the work it’s going to take to achieve your version of success.


8. Gather Social Proof

Along the way of building your business, there are going to be things that say, “I know what I’m talking about.”


Generally, those will be testimonials. For creatives, that might be a portfolio of projects. In other situations, it might be contest entries/wins, or mentions in a publication, or guest spots on a podcast.


Regardless of what social proof looks like for you and your business, you should be gathering it all the time!

Social proof is going to help convert people from a maybe to a yes.


Put that ish everywhere. Make a highlight on your Instagram. Put it on your website. Post a blog about it. Send out an email blast that includes it.


Just make sure you’re always gathering it.


And Finally…


Look, I kind of already touched on this in the hustle tip above, but being a business owner is HARD.

You’re going to have good days and bad days. Hell, you’re going to have good months and bad months!

Things are going to throw you off course. Clients are going to fire you. People aren’t going to like you.


The trolls are everywhere.

That doesn’t mean you should give up on your daydream. If you felt strongly enough about building this business to get started, there is a reason for that! Lean into it, trust the process, and enjoy the ride.


There are going to be businesses that don’t work out, and every situation is unique. But don’t be the business that didn’t work out just because things got a little hard. Give it everything you’ve got and look for new tactics and opportunities so that you can know that you tried everything before throwing in the towel.


If this blog was helpful for you as business owner, tell me about it in the comments! If there is something you want to know more about, feel free to book a complimentary Idea to Execution call below.


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