Low-Cost Marketing Strategies For Small Businesses: Part 1 (Content Marketing)

Low-Cost Marketing Strategies For Small Businesses: Part 1 (Content Marketing)

Low-Cost Marketing Strategies For Small Businesses: Part 1 (Content Marketing)

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In our experience, many small or growing businesses have neither the time nor the resources to execute highly sophisticated marketing programs in-house. Some don’t even have a marketing team, let alone a marketing budget! We’ve also encountered large companies with limited resources and an inconsistent strategy. We often tell our clients that your marketing budget itself is not necessarily the problem, but rather how you use (or misuse) that budget.

It is possible to do a lot with a little and make a big impact, without breaking the bank. In this two-part blog series, we’ll show you how. In Part 1, we’ll focus on content marketing, and in Part 2, we’ll share inexpensive digital tactics you can implement to drive results..

Part 1: Content Marketing

When you break down content marketing into its various parts – keyword research, content calendars, the content funnel, etc – it can sound intimidating, expensive, and something that only a marketing mastermind understands. Honestly, it doesn’t have to be. Here are some effective content tactics that are free or relatively cheap to execute and will help drive your marketing into high gear.


Creating a blog is an excellent way to lay the groundwork for your content marketing efforts. Blog posts offer regular opportunities for you to position your company as a thought leader, as well as “warm up” your leads by creating content that moves them along the buyer journey. Not only that, but your blog has potential to continue enhancing your brand’s presence long after you hit submit on a post. By infusing your copy with the right keywords, it will boost your SEO, which means prospective customers will be more likely to find your website when searching for information online that relates to your product or service.

When writing a blog, it’s important to create valuable content that resonates with your audience, but this doesn’t require you to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning author! You and your team know your business and your customers better than anyone else, so set up a quick brainstorm to determine which topics may engage your audience. Additionally, you can supplement this with keyword research to determine what your audience searches for online related to your product or service (you can use a keyword platform like SEM Rush, Keywords Everywhere, or UberSuggest, all of which have free versions). From here, you can determine content ideas around these keywords and start to build a calendar.

 Here are some examples of content you can develop:

  • Write about each of your products and services

  • Present common issues your customers face and how you solve them

  • Answer frequently asked questions you receive during the sales process or customer interactions

  • Highlight or announce new features

  • Explain your start-up story or company’s mission

  • Write about trends in your industry

Every time you think to yourself, “I wish my customers knew….”, add it to the list of something to write about!

Email Newsletter

Digital technology is moving at the speed of light, as new platforms and apps are introduced almost daily. But no one can argue that the invention of email changed the face of everything. While it may feel like an old tactic, it is still one of the best channels for getting in front of your audience. Email works, and if you do it well, it can be one of your biggest drivers of ROI.

The average recipient of an email spends 1.1 seconds scanning an email before deciding if they want to read it. This means that the design of your email should be engaging and attention-grabbing, which isn’t very feasible through Gmail or Outlook. Although these two platforms are free, their capabilities are limited, so we recommend looking at other options. Mailchimp is a great alternative; it’s free for up to two thousand contacts and has a library of customizable email templates, which will allow you to bring more energy and life to your communications and show off your brand’s personality. It’s also an all-in-one marketing platform (website, automations, digital ads, social media, etc), should you be interested in pursuing these tactics.

Another advantage of using an email platform is the ability to track and capture activity, which enables you to better understand how your emails are performing and make adjustments to your approach as needed.

Now the question becomes: Who do you email and what do you send? For starters, you definitely want to send emails to existing customers, because your relationship with them does not end the minute you close the sale. Evidence shows it is far less expensive to retain customers than it is to get new ones, so you need to continue to engage them! You should also send emails to prospective customers, partners, and company contacts, all of which you likely have saved in your database. Your email newsletter should curate all of your activity from the last month (blogs, eBooks, company updates, events, etc) as well as offer promotions, announce events/webinars, run a contest, etc. The goal is to provide value to your audience and keep them aware of your brand, which will help you maintain current customers and eventually generate new ones.

Social Media

Maintaining an active presence on social media may seem like a full time job (and for some, it is!). But even with a low budget, you can still execute the basics of social media and start building your presence.

As with any tactic in marketing, social media starts with knowing your audience. Which social media platforms do they use? There are three simple ways to figure this out:

  • Distribute a survey to your customers and/or prospects to determine where and how they engage on social media.

  • Conduct secondary research online to see what information is available related to your target audience/demographics and social media use.

  • Check out your competitors’ social media pages. Which platforms do they use the most? Where do they see the most engagement?

You’ll find that Facebook and LinkedIn lend themselves better to sharing links (i.e. links to your blog posts), Twitter is often used for customer service, and Instagram is best for engaging visuals or short soundbites of content. But every audience is unique, so you won’t know for sure until you run some tests. As you learn more about your audience by seeing how they react to your content, you’ll be able to thoughtfully refine your strategy and ultimately turn them into customers for your business.

The most important thing to remember about social media is consistency and authenticity. Whether it’s every day or a couple times a week, find a cadence that you can maintain with valuable content. Posting content at random that isn’t relevant to your audience is a major turn-off!

If you’d like an even more comprehensive look at how to develop your social media strategy, check out our social media playbook for growing businesses. 

That’s a wrap for Part 1 of our “How to Market Your Business on a Shoestring Budget” blog series. Eventually, you will want to dive deeper into data and analytics to optimize your content marketing strategy – which takes additional time and resources. However, what we’ve outlined here is a great starting point. Stay tuned for Part 2, where we’ll share some inexpensive digital marketing tactics to help you drive results.

In the meantime, if you are a small or growing business looking to start a marketing program or take your existing program to the next level, we have a suite of services tailored specifically for you! We know that one size does not fit all, so as your outsourced marketing partner, we provide a menu of scalable marketing services to help meet your unique needs and budget.

About the Author

Marketing Director Amanda Cook helps clients develop sophisticated marketing campaigns that drive brand leadership, increase sales and elevate the customer experience. With over 15 years of experience, Amanda has delivered successful campaigns with bootstrapped budgets to leading marketing organizations at $1B companies. Whether local or global, she enjoys the challenge of uncovering a client’s business objectives and helping them build a strategy to succeed.

About &Marketing

In today’s fast paced world, many growing businesses are struggling to modernize their marketing approaches because either they don’t have the expertise or the bandwidth to do it themselves.

&Marketing provides seasoned marketing strategy professionals and a nimble execution team to help our clients achieve their goals. Our unique partnership model allows us to augment our client’s existing teams or outsource the entire marketing function in an affordable, flexible, and transparent way.

How To Know If Search Advertising Is Right For Your Business

How To Know If Search Advertising Is Right For Your Business

How To Know If Search Advertising Is Right For Your Business

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Search Advertising is a term that encompasses the practice of placing online ads through searching services like Google and Bing Ads. These placements are paired with other forms of advertising that target people based on the keywords they typically use to search online. Although Search Advertising can be one of the most effective marketing tactics with the highest ROI that can be used to drive consistent business growth, it can also be a huge waste of money. It’s important to remember that Search Advertising doesn’t work the same way for all businesses because it’s not a “one size fits all” solution.

Wondering is Search Advertising is right for you? Start with this guide.

How Search Advertising Works

In a nutshell, the goal of Search Advertising is to have your products or services show up when a person is actively looking for them or for something closely related to your offering. This distinction is key, because many traditional forms of advertising are “disruptive,” meaning that they place a message in front of a person whether they are searching for something similar or not.

For example, a billboard on a road displays a message to everyone driving on that road. The hope is that enough of the people who see that billboard might eventually need the products or services you’re promoting. Since most people drive the same roads multiple times, your message has time to reach people repeatedly over long periods. You pay up front for everyone to be able to see your ad whether it’s relevant to them or not. Search Advertising, on the other hand, is like having a billboard that only shows your ad to people who are driving on that road specifically with the need to see your product or service. 

The brilliance of Search Advertising is that, when done correctly, you only have to pay for the right people to see your ad at the right time. Instead of paying for a billboard for months to show a life insurance ad to everyone, you can show an add to people searching for “life insurance” at the very moment they are looking for it and are most likely to buy. It’s like having a billboard that advertises a new pizza parlor only to cars on the road that are looking for a place to stop for pizza.

How Search Advertising Doesn’t Work

Imagine you are opening a local mom-and-pop pizza restaurant in a local town. You might think, “I want to show my ad to everyone searching for the word ‘pizza’ in my area.” Unfortunately, this is what most people think when they start Search Advertising. The caveat is that language is messy and doesn’t work that way.

As a pizza restaurant, you don’t really want your products and services show up every time someone searches for “pizza” because there are too many reasons people might use that word. Here are some examples:

  • “What is the best frozen pizza brand?”

  • “I want a pizza costume for Halloween”

  • “What is a good vegetarian pizza recipe?”

  • “Why do the ninja turtles love pizza so much?”

  • “I want to see that pizza rat video from New York.”

All of these searches include the word “pizza”, but none of them are likely to be your customers. Instead, a good Search Advertising campaign will require words like “delivery”, “near me”, “restaurant”, or “take-out” to appear with “pizza” before your ad shows up for them.

Are People Actually Looking for Your Products and Services?

So here is the million-dollar question. Are people actually looking for your products or services online? If the answer is yes, then Search Advertising might be worth the investment. If the answer is no, then it probably won’t work. The biggest mistake organizations make when investing in Search Advertising is spending money on keywords that are related to their products and services but aren’t actually being used by people to look for those products and services.

An example of this is if your business is providing an incredibly niche B2B product like an “electromagnetic inductive heating oven” where you are selling this as a new solution for pizza restaurants to bake pizzas faster, with more consistent results. You have several big obstacles for using Search Advertising:

  • People who need your service probably don’t know it exists.

  • There are millions of people searching for “pizza” and “oven” but probably in no way related to your actual product. 

  • Most of the people searching for these keywords are consumers, but your target customer is only owners or operators of pizza-related businesses.

  • Even if you target the keywords your target customers might be already looking for, like “large pizza oven”, the challenge will be selling them a new product they are unfamiliar with while they are looking for something else.

Putting aside a small budget to show up on the rare chance someone does search “electromagnetic inductive heating oven” might be worth considering. However, investing time, money, and hopes into Search Advertising as a major source of business is probably a poor decision.

Start with Research

&Marketing helps small and medium-sized businesses figure out if Search Advertising is right for them by asking the following questions:

  • Is there a large volume of searches with keywords that are relevant to your products or services?

  • Do those search phrases look like they are potential customers, or are the keywords being used for other reasons?

  • Does the cost of advertising for the keywords predict a good ROI on your investment?

If the answer is yes to all of these questions, then Search Advertising might be a good decision for your business. If the answer is no, some experimentation might still be worth considering, but not one that’s worth investing a significant amount of your dollars.

Further Reading:

Tracey Colla wrote a great piece on different online marketing terms and what they mean so you can better translate when talking to digital marketers. Check out “HOW PAPER CLIP CAMPAIGNS HELP YOU GROW YOUR BUSINESS”.

We’re always ready to help you make smart decisions when it comes to marketing your business. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss whether or not Search Advertising is right for you,

About &Marketing

In today’s fast paced world, many growing businesses are struggling to modernize their marketing approaches because either they don’t have the expertise or the bandwidth to do it themselves.

&Marketing provides seasoned marketing strategy professionals and a nimble execution team to help our clients achieve their goals. Our unique partnership model allows us to augment our client’s existing teams or outsource the entire marketing function in an affordable, flexible, and transparent way.

How Paper Clip Campaigns Help You Grow Your Business

How Paper Clip Campaigns Help You Grow Your Business

How Paper Clip Campaigns Help You Grow Your Business

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We are Living in a Digital World, and I am [not] a Digital Girl

I am not a millennial, even though I sometimes play one at work.  Don’t get me wrong, I love most of what millennials love. Instagram?  Check. Craft beers? Check? Working remotely? I’m cool…

I joined the team at &Marketing about six months ago.  In this remote role, I am more of a marketing generalist, which is drastically different from my prior jobs in larger, more corporate-y food companies, where our functions were more siloed. For example, when I was a product marketer, my role would be to get the product to market, and then the digital team would take over.  At &Marketing we each play the role of the entire marketing department. So, we need to be able to talk about strategy, traditional marketing principles, new products and services, digital marketing, and marketing execution. To be completely transparent, the digital elements of this position have been the biggest challenge for me since I’ve never had to dip my toes into the digital pool.

In my first week at &Marketing, Rajat Kapur (&Marketing’s Founder and Managing Director) and I were talking about doing a series of activities for a client to grow their digital presence, including a “pay per click” campaign.  The only problem was that I wrote it down in my notes as a “paper clip” campaign and left wondering what “paper clip campaign” meant. Eventually, I ended up learning that a “pay per click” campaign meant advertising on Google to attract buyers, and we had a good laugh.

As I reflect on this humbling experience after having worked with several clients over the past few months, I have come to recognize the huge generational divide the digital revolution has brought with it.  Generations of marketers and business owners grew up without digital tools, and although strategic principles are timeless, so many elements have changed in the last 10-15 years. This younger generation only knows these digital tools and quite often, the two generations don’t speak the same language. Additionally, the digital marketing industry has successfully added a whole slew of terminology that makes things extremely difficult to understand.

I realize now that bridging this divide is a primary reason &Marketing has been successful:  To allow businesses who are not marketing experts to access the same level of expertise that larger, more tech-savvy organizations implement every day.

9 Digital Marketing Terms You Should Know

So, I decided to compile a short list of modern marketing terms that were confusing to me at first, but actually are quite simple once I learned their meaning.  Without further adieu, let’s learn some basic digital marketing jargon, shall we?

  • Search advertising – the main platforms for search advertising are Google ads and Bing. These are advertisements that display when people search on Google or Bing.

  • Landing page – the entry page on a company’s website that a user goes to when directed from an external link (like email or social media).

  • Keyword – a word or phrase someone uses to search for relevant topics on search engines. For example, if you were looking for a chocolate shop, a relevant keyword could be “Buy chocolate bars” or “Looking to purchase truffles from a chocolate shop”.

  • Retargeting – ads displayed on websites other than your own to people who have already visited your website to encourage them to return.

  • Click-through rate, or CTR – the percentage of users that actually click on a link vs those who saw it (an impression).

  • Pay per click, or PPC – a pricing model where companies are charged every time a user clicks on an ad, which leads people to a company’s website.

  • Cost per click, or CPC – a calculation to determine the total cost of an advertising program vs how many users visited a given page.

  • SEO or Search Engine Optimization – a way a company optimizes webpages to allow its website to rank higher on a search engine’s results page. The higher a site ranks, typically, the more traffic is generated (if the keyword has high traffic). SEO yields more targeted traffic to a site, but is usually a much longer process.

  • Conversion – when a visitor takes the desired action while visiting a company’s website. A conversion can be a purchase, membership signup, download or registration for newsletter.

In the last 6 months, I’ve learned a fair amount about digital marketing to complement my nearly 20 years of traditional marketing experience.  Would I call myself an expert? Never! But at least I can hold my own when talking to a teammate or client. The most important lesson I learned from this experience is that it’s OK not to know.  Own not knowing. Ask questions. Read up. Don’t pretend you know when you don’t. Good luck and keep swimming!

If you’re a marketing newbie looking for ways to implement a clear marketing strategy for your company, let us help you make it easier. Download our Marketing Planning Like a Pro to coordinate your approach and prioritize the right tactics.

About the Author

Tracey Colla is a Marketing Director at &Marketing. In her role, she is an outsourced marketing director for multiple clients, helping them execute modern marketing programs by understanding their business challenges, providing them sound advice, and coordinating activity with &Marketing’s experienced team of creatives, developers, analysts, and writers.  Tracey brings nearly 20 years of experience to &Marketing, including Peet’s Coffee and Jamba Juice. She lives with her husband, 9-year old son, and anxious rescue dog in the Philadelphia area.

About &Marketing

In today’s fast paced world, many growing businesses are struggling to modernize their marketing approaches because either they don’t have the expertise or the bandwidth to do it themselves.

&Marketing provides seasoned marketing strategy professionals and a nimble execution team to help our clients achieve their goals. Our unique partnership model allows us to augment our client’s existing teams or outsource the entire marketing function in an affordable, flexible, and transparent way.