4 Tips for Promoting Your Business on a Shoestring Budget

2015-07-15-1436966669-5879630-ShawnPorat.jpgShawn Porat is the CEO of Fortune Cookie Advertising, a non-traditional and out of home media placement company selling advertising space within fortune cookies at Chinese restaurants throughout the United States.

It is now easier than ever to start a business regardless of your current financial situation. It's always easier if you have some startup capital to invest, but there is still quite a bit you can accomplish with even the most limited budget. The following four guidelines are designed for businesses seeking effective promotional strategies that don't cost much to implement.

Take Advantage of Trial Offers

One way to save money when promoting your business is to take advantage of trial offers that many services make available. These usually range from one week to a month, and I've found you can accomplish quite a bit in a month if you are industrious. Some of the better-known companies that have trial offers include popular email service AWeber, eCommerce service Shopify and web hosting service Squarespace. Free trials give you a chance to get started with very little out-of-pocket expenses, allowing you to drop the ones that don't add tangible value to your enterprise.

Use Free Tools

When your business is web-based, there are many useful tools that are completely free. For almost every free tool, there are hundreds of paid ones that claim to be more powerful and sophisticated. In some cases this may be true, but when you are starting out and want to spend as little as possible, free tools are often sufficient. Here are just a few examples.
  • Google Analytics has a whole suite of features for tracking many aspects of your business.
  • Trello can aid managing projects with your team.
  • Free Keyword Tools identifies keywords that people use search online for you.
  • Dropbox is a great place to store files and to share projects if you work with a team.
  • Wave Accounting is a free accounting app that makes it simple to manage the finances for your business.
  • Google Drive includes Google Docs along with cloud storage and Google Calendar.
  • MailChimp is a feature-rich service for email marketing. It only allows you to send a certain number of emails for free, but as your business grows, you will be able to afford to upgrade.
Leverage Social Media and Self-Publishing Platforms

There are numerous ways to promote your business on social media for free or with very little investment. Some of these are so well-known that it's easy to overlook them or underestimate their effectiveness. Social media sites, for example, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest are all free (though you may want to upgrade your LinkedIn account at some point) and very powerful for marketing.

Email marketing is another free or very low-cost way to grow your customer base. You can use an email service such as ones I've already mentioned (AWeber or MailChimp) which let you set up professional looking opt-in forms on your website to attract subscribers.

Publishing articles and even books is another activity that is now free or very low cost. Amazon has a whole array of free self-publishing tools, the best known of which is Kindle, which you can uses to publish an eBook -- with hyperlinks -- for free. They also own CreateSpace, which allows you to publish print books on demand (meaning that books are printed as they are ordered as opposed to the traditional method of having to pay for them to be printed up front).

Don't Overlook Offline Promotional Tools

While many promotional methods are web-based, you shouldn't just limit yourself to these. Whether your business is brick and mortar or online, it's best to combine the power of the internet with creative offline marketing methods. There are many free and low-cost ways to promote your business offline; a few of the possibilities include:
  • Business cards and flyers are very traditional but never go out of style. If you want to stand out, design your business card, flyer or brochure in a creative, distinctive way.
  • Advertising in the classified section of print publications isn't free, but it's usually very reasonably priced compared to other advertising options.
  • Nontraditional promotional methods include guerrilla marketing tactics, which can be anything from organizing a flash mob to using street art to promote your business on a wall or sidewalk.
When working with a limited budget, you should strive to take advantage of as many free and low-cost promotional strategies as possible. Sometimes it only takes a little research and creativity to find a free way to do something that might otherwise cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.