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Cheap but Effective Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

David Kirby
David Kirby
Global Content Strategist at Intuit, Inc.

Creating strong content and spreading useful information is always a great investment.

The most powerful marketing can be cheap or even free. One of the best ways to get the word out is collaborating with other businesses.

Implementing an in-house marketing plan can feel daunting. Thankfully, not all marketing tactics require hiring a dedicated staff or shelling out thousands of dollars to contractors and freelancers. Spoiler alert: It's completely possible to snag a piece of that "customers wanna buy my products" pie without breaking the piggy bank.

There are three particularly effective yet inexpensive (or free!) marketing strategies that might come in handy during your campaign for market domination:

  • Partnerships
  • Business awards
  • Webinars and interviews

Each of these methods is based around this core idea: Marketing is easier when you team up with other awesome folks to accomplish your goals together. Let's get started.


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1. Partnering up

Sometimes it takes a buddy (or eight) to get to Mordor. Rather than you bearing the responsibility of marketing alone, it can be a great idea to work alongside another business or entrepreneur on a short- or long-term basis. Y'know, to find the Sam to your Frodo.

This starts with an awareness of influencers operating within your market. Sometimes other businesses will seek you out, but the best and most reliable method is to research and identify businesses you can partner with on your own. The associated legwork can prove profitable, assuming you choose your friends wisely.

When you provide and receive value, there's no need to worry about asking for a favor or inconveniencing them. You're simply recognizing how valuable everyone's time is and making the most of it. Great marketing is valuable not just to yourself, but to your customers.

You should look for a variety of potential criteria. A great partner often has ...

  • A good reputation and authority within their industry
  • An existing social media following
  • A need for skills or resources you can provide
  • The talents and resources to help you achieve your goals

Partnerships can take many different forms. Maybe you promote each other's social media posts, co-host an event, share research, or even develop a new product together. The specifics all boil down to what you both need and can get from the resulting partnership.

The process looks something like this:

1. Identify the needs of your company.
2. Research potential partners.
3. Identify the chosen partner's pain points.
4. Break the ice and show how you can help each other.
5. Negotiate and get this partnership party started.
6. Enjoy sweet, sweet marketing victory.

The next two marketing tactics I'll share also revolve around this idea of collaboration and cooperation. It's all about building those bridges.

2. Business awards and roundups

Remember that research you did earlier to find awesome businesses? It'll come in handy here too – they're the toast you gotta butter up.

In your years of surfing the web, I'm sure you've seen numerous lists like "Top 10 __ Apps of the Year" or "Best Companies in X or Y Niche." When created ethically, these awards serve two primary purposes:

  • Informing readers of resources they might find useful
  • Building gratitude and opening doors within the industry

There's nothing wrong with publishing a piece of yearly or seasonal "business award roundup" content. However, this content and public relations strategy should not be misused. The goal is to recognize and highlight the great work other businesses have been doing and introduce them to your existing customer base.

Awarding businesses should always be done honestly and according to what they've accomplished, rather than pandering. Also resist the urge to include your company or product in this roundup should it be about your industry. I've seen this many times, and it certainly calls your impartiality into question.

What are the perks of publishing a roundup or hosting an award ceremony? Here are a few best-case scenarios:

  • The award recipients or roundup honorees share your content with their own customers and readers, thus driving visits, social shares and potential backlinks to the content you created.

  • They see the value in your product or services and feature your company in a roundup or yearly award of their own, likely resulting in more organic and direct traffic to your site as well as a potential backlink.

  • It builds goodwill and trust, making other companies more willing to collaborate or partner with you on future marketing ventures.

All three of these potential outcomes can be hugely valuable in expanding the reach and presence of both businesses. It's easier to succeed with the help of some carefully chosen friends. It might seem like a simple thing, but this approach has resulted in plenty of social media conversations, content partnerships and other SEO benefits for businesses.

3. Webinars and interviews

Another one of my favorite low-cost strategies involves going directly to the subject matter experts by creating or participating in webinars or conducting interviews.

For those unfamiliar, a webinar is a web-based seminar where the speaker shares their expert knowledge with an audience on a particular subject. This can help establish your authority as a speaker on that subject, as well as draw attention to your topic of interest.

Webinars can be hosted live or recorded and shared later. Both methods are equally valid; however, I will say live webinars are a great way to build an audience and encourage viewer participation.

It's not difficult or expensive to get started. As long as you have video and audio recording equipment (smartphone, webcam, etc.), you can use Google Hangouts on Air to run a webinar or conduct an online interview for free, and it even integrates with YouTube. It doesn't get much more affordable than that, and it's an avenue to provide your customers with genuinely useful information.

At their core, webinars and interviews are quite similar in allowing industry experts to offer their unique insights on a specific topic and sparking conversations. Here's an example that blurred the lines between the two tactics: Earlier this year, we conducted a study in Canada and the United States to gain insight into wage fraud and time theft, identifying how prevalent it is and gauging the impact on both workers and employers. As part of this, we brought in two expert panelists who could speak to wage fraud and time theft respectively. Their experience and professional opinions gave our audience insight into data they wouldn't have had otherwise.

Putting the pieces together

No marketer has to be an island unto themselves. All three examples I shared revolve around this core idea that it's more effective to collaborate than isolate. Building business connections doesn't need to cost a dime, it can amplify your marketing efforts tenfold, and it's easy to get started. Make new contacts and friends. Go through your LinkedIn connections and see if anyone you know might be a good fit. There are plenty of creative and friendly folks out there who'd be happy to collaborate with you to achieve mutual goals. Your future customers will appreciate the extra effort you've made. 

Image Credit: baranq/Shutterstock
David Kirby
David Kirby
business.com Member
See David Kirby's Profile
I'm currently serving as a Global Content Strategist at Intuit, focusing on the TSheets by QuickBooks segment. Prior to that I was the Digital Content Manager at Neoreef, a web development company located in Boise, Idaho. I managed the content pipeline for 300+ clients and developed marketing content for ad campaigns, email campaigns, and social media. You can also find me moonlighting as an entertainment writer and storyteller with bylines at publications like Forbes, HuffPost, Engadget, Castleroid, and MoviePilot. When I'm not working, I spend my time writing screenplays and honing my storytelling skills.