A lot of small businesses on tight budgets are worried about investing in marketing because they think marketing costs way more money than they can afford to spare and they think it’s a risky proposition.

Investing a lot of money in marketing might feel like a bit of a gamble. But not only is marketing cheaper than you might think, but it’s also vitally important in helping you make grow your business.

Marketing is one of the instances where you can get a significant return on your investment — even on a shoestring budget.

Marketing in the 21st century is easier than in the past because it can be more focused (laser-targeted, really) and can be easier to measure, too. It’s easier with the internet age to quickly get information from your marketing campaigns, to replicate and maximize successes, or to quickly switch gears, if necessary, which minimizes wasted marketing dollars.

Instead of thinking about investing in marketing and advertising for your business as a gamble, the right approach will make your efforts more like a calculated risk.

Here are some ideas for marketing on a shoestring budget:

  1. Start small. Set aside a small budget to begin with. Re-invest some of the dividends from these campaigns into further marketing.
  2. Leverage free tools. Social media tools and many free online tools can help you do marketing well. Build a following on free social sites, create profiles on professional business sites. Submit your business to local online business directories.
  3. Shop for discounts and coupons. Many marketing tools and programs will offer you a free trial. This can translate to profit before you spend any money. Google Adwords is a good example of this as Google will often give people a $50 or $100 Adwords coupon to start their paid search engine advertising campaign with. (Tip: Do some extensive research about effective Adwords campaign before using your free coupon so you can increase the chances of getting good results with it)
  4. Try tier two advertising programs. If you think a search engine marketing advertising campaign sounds too expensive, consider doing an ad campaign on a specific site, instead. Facebook advertising for instance, can be less expensive than many other online marketing campaigns and can provide you with laser targeted focus to geographic areas, age groups, gender, interest levels, and so on.
  5. Work on grassroots marketing campaigns which cost very little. Ask customers for testimonials and referrals. Strive to create viral content through blogs, YouTube, guest posts, and other online content.
  6. Do small giveaways or contests in exchange for product reviews and testimonials. These testimonials will be a goldmine for you as they’ll help you continually convert interested prospects into customers.
  7. Recruit affiliates to help you with your marketing. Affiliates who refer sales can earn a commission rate. This is much cheaper than paying salaried sales reps and many professional affiliates have large platform and good-sized marketing budgets of their own to work with.
  8. Write interesting content for your site. Your website is an essential tool for any small business and can work as a well-oiled marketing machine for you. Every page of your site can serve as a beacon landing page and can initiate a relationship with a visitor. Remember this when designing and authoring your website.
  9. Analyze results constantly. Your ability to assess your marketing results will help you plan an effective strategy going forward. Examine the communities you participate in, your social media following, your website traffic reports, your search engine rankings, and so on. All of this information will be useful to your future marketing efforts.

One of the first things a lot of small businesses cut first when money is tight is marketing. This is a usually a huge mistake. The right approach to marketing can mean great things for your business. If you’re having trouble, consider varying your approach and measuring the results. There has never been a better time for marketing as the opportunities in our globally connected world are huge!