What to do if you cannot afford a marketing budget

A marketing budget can help your business flourish, but it can be hard to build up in the first instance. A lot of small businesses and start-ups make a fundamental mistake of asking freelancers to work for no or low rates.

This shouldn’t be your default approach as it makes you seem unprofessional. Freelancers do what they do to earn a living. They’re not doing it for shits and giggles. Respecting that fact can help you build better relationships.

Even in an economic downturn, you have to remember that free work is going to be hard to come by.

So how do you start outreach and sales so you can build that marketing budget up? Here’s how.

Be available and approachable

Nothing will happen for your business or start-up from on the couch or in the office. You do have to get out there and network and meet people. The issue that most business people have though is they choose moments online and in real life that are about meeting peers.

You don’t want that. You want customers and potentially, stakeholders.

Spending time on Eventbrite, Humantix and Meetup can be a great way of finding where your customers roam. The early exercise is to sit down and write out your desired customer personas. Even in the digital realm, you can still get a sense of where to network!

Get a piece of paper and write down:

  • What matters to your customers
  • Where they would attend events
  • What media they consume
  • The kinds of online community groups they would join and so on

Then, be there. Make it your business to be present, helpful and supportive.

Write a list of places you can be and what the purpose is for being there. Chart the results. Learn from the experience. Time is an important asset when you have no marketing budget, so use it wisely by keeping track of what you do and what is effective.

You can also look at places like Sourcebottle for media call outs to maximise the PR potential and be available as an expert for journalists.

Be customer-centric

There’s a lot of writing on the internet. Most of it reflects the glory of the person who wrote it. People don’t want to know about you necessarily. They want to know how your product or service will enhance their life, change their day or make them feel.

Every product and service that exists is created for a reason. It’s about making that reason speak the language of the customer.

How you do this is look at:

  1. What problem do you solve for your customers
  2. What is the feeling they enjoy by using your products or services
  3. Addressing the barriers they have to buying your products without prompting
  4. Making your customer service amazing

You have every right to choose the right customer for your business. And yes, they are attracted to what you have on offer. But you also need to reaffirm why their decision to choose you over your competitor is the right one. That means speaking directly to your customers in a way that they understand.

Work on your business story

Being there is one thing, saying the right thing to invite conversation and attract eyeballs is another thing entirely.

Your story telling is an important feature of a successful business. Being able to answer questions succinctly, explain what you do and write about it effectively are all game-changers for fledgling businesses.

Even if you don’t believe yourself to be a strong writer, you can train yourself to be better at communicating what you do.

Here’s are the places you should focus on to begin with:

  • Pitching– have a 25 word and 75-word verbal pitch for when you meet people in person and online
  • Bio– spend time crafting a bio on social media platforms that are appealing, human and informative. Include keywords, factoids and humour
  • About page– people want to know about your company and how it helps them. They also want to be able to repeat what you do easily to their boss, wife, business partner or friend
  • Repeatable catchphrases – always make sure you have a few key repeating phrases that you share with people in your marketing, conversation and day to day business for their recall
  • Understand basic SEO – it doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult as my blog on upskilling SEO on a tight budget shows

The more able you are to access talking points and present well, the more likeable and understandable you become. You look confident when you can summarise who you are and what your value is. It costs nothing to your marketing budget to get your story down pat.

Be humble and kind

Australians have this weird relationship with confidence. We kind of bury it away lest we seem egotistical. Or we jump into some weird character that is all cheddar and sales. The standout in business these days is not the people that know how to sell. Or the people putting themselves down or being cynical. It’s those who are humble and kind.

If you want to fill a room with people that care about you and what you do, these are the qualities you need.

Confidence can be grown and it can be tempered. And that looks something like this:

  • Practice gratitude for your situation. Remind yourself of the good things you have in your life and the good things your products and services do for people. It helps you stay grounded in reality
  • Don’t lean into cynicism about other people’s achievements. Putting others down creates fear of trying your own thing or it makes you look like an arrogant pig. Neither is particularly useful
  • Connect with the purpose of your work. We all want to be satisfied and proud of the work we do. We want it to have meaning. If you allow the purpose of your work guide you, it’s easier to keep your direction

I know this may sound like some weird hippy shit but honestly, impressions count. If you spend your time drawing dust bunnies on the floor or you act as though the world owes you a parade for existing, that’s a chance to connect you may be blowing.

You cannot afford to have to reconnect and re-impress people when a marketing budget is tight.

Want to make your marketing budget stretch further? CHECK OUT MY BLOG NOW.

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