Marketing, especially in the hyper-connected digital world, is tough and expensive.

With new technologies, platforms, apps, and services manifesting themselves every week, the marketing world moves at a blistering pace.

Large enterprises have the budget-luxury of experimenting with untested trends and tools. Small businesses and startups, on the other hand, have a meager budget to work with and need to be more frugal.

Instead of being on the cutting edge, small businesses find themselves just outside it, chasing the coat tails of competitors that have the means to test and invest in these tools.

If you and your company are limited by a shoestring budget, it can be difficult to compete, but not impossible. There are cost-effective strategies that can help you remain competitive, even with limited resources.

As an organization, you have to remain particularly tight-fisted and target less-expensive options that promise high returns. With a small budget, accuracy is everything when choosing the tactics to invest in. Discovering new ways to grow your business on a dime is a process that requires a constant eye and a knack for creative thinking, planning, and even a little bit of luck.

If you aren’t known to be frugal and budget conscious, the following six ways to market on a tight budget will get you thinking about where your budget is best spent.

1. Give away free stuff by writing about it

how to advertise your business for free

When it comes to content marketing, blogging is one of the most popular types of content for multiple reasons: it’s practical, easy to produce and low-cost.

Written articles and similar content types are also very effective.

  • Blog posts can easily be shared on social media channels and other relevant sites.
  • These articles provide relevant and valuable information to the customer. In a marketing landscape that is focused on the customer experience, offering this free value is an excellent way to get people to notice you.
  • Writing for an industry website or popular print publication yields a lot of potential benefits. Rather than pay the hundreds of dollars it costs to advertise on these platforms, submitting a written article is free. Not only does it provide the same benefits as advertising, but it also helps showcase that your company is very knowledgeable and skilled.

Producing written content is easy if you feel comfortable picking up the pen to write it. After all, no one knows the company and its voice better than you. Even if it has been awhile since you have written anything more than a grocery list, after a few smaller blog posts, you’ll be back in practice of writing.

That said, if you struggle or lack time to blog, it isn’t a lost cause. Hiring a freelance writer is affordable and a good way to ensure that all of your written efforts are done at a high level and with zero errors.

Many of these trained writers are also adept at producing eBooks. These informative guides are longer than your typical blog post and take longer to produce. However, they offer the potential for significant returns. A well-written eBook can help push additional traffic towards your website, capture leads, and allow your brand reputation to grow and prosper.

It’s also easy to link the download of a free eBook as an incentive to signing up for your email-based marketing campaigns or participate in other brand practices.

2. Email (nope, not dead yet)

how to advertise your business for free

If you’ve ever heard someone claim that email is a dead or on-its-way-out technology, then hopefully you didn’t ignore your better judgment and listen to them.

The truth is, email is far from the brink of extinction, especially when you consider that it has one of the highest ROI of any marketing channel.

According to MailChimp, the popular email marketing service, the stat line for email marketing is incredibly compelling. While the effectiveness of email can depend on the size of your company and industry, the average stats look something like this:

  • Open Rate Average: 21.60%
  • Click Rate Average: 2.69%
  • Unsubscribe Rate Average: 0.23%

Email can achieve these high rates because it encapsulates messages in a very decodable and deliverable way.

Plus, while not everyone has a Facebook account or even a smartphone, most of us do have an email address. No matter what your demographics are, your target audiences are using and communicating over email.

The steep side of marketing via email is building the lists and gaining customer’s contact information. If you are just starting an email newsletter or are having trouble attracting participation, you can try and incentivize signing up to encourage more customers to do so.

As mentioned before, an eBook can be a good way to start the foundation of a newsletter list. In this scenario, the customer incentive is the eBook and, to access the incentive, the visitor willingly offers their participation in your email campaign.

The incentives can be low-to-no cost and have a direct impact on bolstering sign up rates.

3. Develop a solid mobile strategy

how to advertise your business for free

Mobile is becoming more affordable with the use of app makers that allow business owners to build mobile apps without high development costs.

These mobile solutions provide businesses with a powerful marketing channel. Mobile is hyper-effective because marketing messages are coming straight from the source—the brand itself.

Push notifications are a great way to let your customers know what is going on with your business. These messages can be tailored to specific users to deliver a personal message.

But a mobile app gives you the ability to do more than just communicate with your customers. You can track customer loyalty, build a reservation system, allow product ordering, and build customized features for your business.

These features help you reach your customers in a way no other technology can, and have become much easier to implement thanks to some of the best app makers on the market.

Businesses can create an app that tailors to their specific needs without the need of a development team.

4. Network, the old fashioned way

how to advertise your business for free

Your local business community undoubtedly has a number of meetings and events every month. These gatherings present the perfect opportunity to network and expand your reputation as a business owner.

Organizations often forget that aside from being a member of the business community, they are also a member of their local community.

If you have local retail locations, it is even more imperative that you showcase your brand in the local spotlight.

Sponsoring events, participating in town forums and other actions help demonstrate value to the customers in your immediate location. The positive brand reputation you’ll build will expand to include the customers outside of that area as well.

Networking events provide an important chance to promote. You can expand that email newsletter list or get people to try a new product out.

The other potential benefit to attending these meetings is finding business partners. These organizations have similar interests as your business, but don’t share direct competitors. This creates an opportunity to band together and be a part of a multi-business contest or promotion.

As an example, let’s say you own a local bike shop. To help stimulate business you can partner with adventure-focused groups or shops. You can offer discounts to their loyal customers in exchange for sending customers to your shop for equipment. In return, you can promote their business and provide them with employee discounts.

Non-locally, you could find a business partner that is willing to commit to a joint social media contest or something similar.

5. Google (yes, really)

how to advertise your business for free

We think of Google immediately as the premier search engine that it is, but Google offers a lot of other tools, beyond just a new verb and an ability to look up anything on the Internet.

G Suite, Google’s business-focused tools and extensions package offer all of the tech company’s most-popular tools (Gmail, Google Drive, Google+, Calendar, etc.), for business use.

This is an easy way to get your business its own email address, improve collaboration, manage tasks, store data and much more. G Suite does cost some money.

If you are really on a tight budget, Google My Business is a free service that delivers an excellent and deliverable means to supply vital information about your business when potential customers search for you. Google My Business puts your hours, contact information, address, menu (when applicable) and more vital, highly searched information all in one place.

This helps people visiting your area find your business before your competitors’ organizations.

6. Join and engage with existing communities

how to advertise your business for free

The internet is comprised of many unique communities where people meet and exchange ideas.

These communities can be as small and specific as a “book club for women over 50 living in Pensacola, Florida”, to as large and broad as Reddit or Craigslist.

Target niche groups that are relevant to your brand. Reach out to pre-existing communities of people that have demonstrated an interest in what your brand has to offer, rather than trying to attract them one at a time with more conventional means.

Since these people are not visiting your website yet or following your social media pages, it’s a great opportunity to share your blog content, encourage newsletter signups, and showcase the level of expertise and know-how that your brand brings to the table.

Inserting yourself into these communities and conversations puts your brand on a more approachable and human level.

Again, you are providing value, both in your products and the experience you are offering to consumers.

AirBnB did this flawlessly in their early days, with nearly overnight success. Their so-called “growth hack” leveraged the existing groups on Craigslist that were focused on housing and real estate to find prospects all over the world.


Marketing is never free; it always costs something. Often, this is dollars and cents, but it can also be time, manpower and other resources.

If you are marketing on a small financial budget, you may have to tap into a resource you have an abundance of. For instance, blogging requires no dollar investment to do yourself, but it does require a good chunk of time.

All of the above strategies can be completed with little to no dollar investment and promise good returns. This will allow you to grow your business, compete with firms with larger budgets and, over time, expand your shoestring budget to allow for greater investments.