When you are running a business in a world where there are so many channels and ways in which to market your offerings, including Facebook, Instagram, Google, Youtube, email marketing, and trade or consumer shows, just to name some of the common channels, it can be overwhelming to know which channels and tactics to prioritise. Combining a large number of channels to choose from, ever-changing technology, increasing consumer digital savvy-ness and your limited time and budget to invest in marketing, you as a business owner have the challenge to make the right choices and choices that will yield a good return on your investment.
Internet marketing and digital platforms are double-edged swords in that they present challenges and opportunities to market your services and products in cost-effective ways. We share in this post our top recommendations for small businesses to make the most of low-cost marketing tactics. When you are on a small budget and have limited time, consider these seven low-cost marketing ideas.
1. Share Your Customers’ Testimonials
Your customer’s voice is much more influential than yours and much more pervasive online. Word of mouth both offline and online will either secure or lose you your next sale or enquiry. Positive customer testimonials, reviews and social media comments are a massive marketing asset in your business and you can consider your customers as a massive marketing team working for you to spread the word about what you do and how well you do it.
When you share your customers’ testimonials you are leveraging their authentic voice and adding credibility to the content that you are pushing out to your target audiences. When potential customers read testimonials you are supporting them on their user journey through their purchase cycle and decision-making process to make an enquiry; book an experience or service with you, or buy a product from you.
Most online review platforms recognise user reviews as content belonging to the author, therefore it is important to reach out to the reviewer and seek their agreement to publish the review before you post it on your socials or your website.
Great ways to share customer reviews, feedback or testimonials are as posts on Facebook or Instagram. The post format and style should be in keeping with your social media strategy and you might like to use Canva.com to create a post using a template to ensure the look of the post is in keeping with your company brand. As you can see on Tourism Tribe’s Instagram profile you could also create Stories for your testimonials and save them to a Testimonials highlight.
Your website is another important platform on which to share your customers’ testimonials. These should be presented in a quality way and in keeping with your website’s style and they should be placed to support your user’s journey on your website. An approach that works for a lot of businesses is to have some testimonials on their homepage; place testimonials specific to your different services or products on those dedicated services or product pages, and then also have all of your testimonials on a Testimonials webpage.
2. Refer a Friend Vouchers
The cost of acquiring a new customer is always more than the cost of selling to an existing customer who values what you do, therefore it makes sense to nurture loyalty with existing customers and develop win-win relationships that can assist you to achieve your goals and reward your customers.
Providing happy customers with an easy way to refer their friends and family to you is what we’d term low hanging fruit in your marketing. You can take the approach of offering your customer a benefit if the referral they make converts eg a discount or gift, or you can rely on their generosity to simply pass on a discount voucher or freebie to their friend or family member. Either way, you are aiming to create a referral pathway for your customer to use that has a clear call to action for the recipient to take advantage of the referral. Even if the lead doesn’t convert, it’s another opportunity to develop brand loyalty and brand awareness.
What would work for your business? Is it a post-sale email with a voucher included; a “freebie” card handed to your customer; a dedicated campaign that you run to encourage referrals; or bring a friend for free? Whatever the best mechanism for your business, there will be a way for you to make it easy for your ‘fan-customers’ to play a role as a partner to your success and to share the benefits that they enjoy through the customer experience that you deliver to them.
3. Make Your Customers the Stars of Your Videos
You’ve no doubt noticed the phenomenal increase in video online, particularly on your social media channels. Video garners much higher engagement than still images and Instagram particularly has introduced new video formats over recent years and has been encouraging businesses to post more videos through Stories and Reels. Videos by now should be part of your marketing and sales strategy and should definitely be part of your social media schedule.
When you have a customer right in front of your experience your products or services are at their best and who are friendly and engaged, this is the time to ask them if they would mind being the star of your show. An outgoing, friendly customer is the ideal person to film or interview on camera and then use that footage in your social media posts.
Don’t forget the importance of seeking permission, especially where children may be caught on film. Download and adapt a photography and video consent form here.
View this post on Instagram
4. Share Customers’ Photos on Your Socials
Don’t you love the power of the @mention and #hashtag tags on your social channels for notifying you that a ‘fan-customer’ has posted about their positive experience with your business! They’ve shared their love for what you do and how you do it, and now you can share it further with your audiences.
Once again, always seek permission, because they are the author of the photo they have taken. Message them through the social app and ask if you can re-post their image. Then download the image and create your own caption, putting your spin on the image, but remember to @mention the author and thank them for the amazing image. Keep in mind that photographers will rarely allow you to repost their image without paying a fee as this is their business.
Don’t know how to download an Instagram image? Your options are to screenshot and crop it as needed or use a free website like https://igram.io/photo.
View this post on Instagram
5. Host a Media/Industry Famil Event
Do you know what a ‘famil’ is? It’s a term used in the tourism industry, short for ‘familiarisation’. Even though this is a tourism industry approach it’s a relevant way for most businesses to showcase their products, services or premises to people in their industry, other local businesses, potential partners or distributors and journalists or other media specialists, all of whom can be influential in spreading the word about what they do and how well they do it.
If you are a tourism operator, your local industry colleagues are important to invite, especially your local visitor information centre and regional tourism organisation staff.
This is typically a ‘by invitation’ event where you reach out to particular people. To keep the costs down, make it short, but special. Include some good food and drinks, possibly even partner with a local caterer or cafe to keep the costs down and provide them with an opportunity to showcase their business, include a showcase of your business and keep the speeches short.
Think about the call-to-action from the event. Maybe it would be appropriate to provide a voucher for your guests to pass on to friends and family. Certainly, you want to consider these people your trade and media contacts and get their details into your contact database and remember to keep them informed of changes in your business and new campaigns on a regular basis.
Utilise the opportunity to capture some good images and short videos at the event and remember to tag the local businesses in your social posts.
6. Collaborate with Industry Mates on Social Media
One of the best things about social media for businesses is the ability to collaborate with local businesses and partners in your industry. On a business to business basis, your ability to support each other to reach a larger audience is quite significant, yet many businesses tend to take a ‘go-it-alone’ approach and don’t think too much when they are working on social media about who is in their industry or local area, that would also be of interest to their audience.
For people working in the tourism industry, it is a non-negotiable. You must be posting about your destination and the other services and things that visitors can do in the area. When you @mention the other businesses and use your #destination hashtags you are signalling to your industry colleagues that you are a collaborator. You are leading the way in building a stronger local industry by recognising the power of collaboration and you are endorsing their business, bringing credibility to their marketing messages.
You are also triggering access to an increased reach and a new audience, which occurs when your tagged partner comments on or shares your post.
Whatever your business model, it is highly likely that you have the opportunity to acknowledge other businesses in your posts. These could include partners, distributors, suppliers and local businesses.
Some of the opportunities to collaborate on social media include:
- Tagging in captions and images on Facebook and Instagram
- Tagging in Stories and Reels
- Collaborating with other accounts in Reels
- Add a co-host to an Event in Facebook
- Create a hashtag both your audiences can use
7. Set up a Branded Youtube Channel
Consumers are expecting businesses of all sizes to make videos available to support their purchase journey. Online video consumption continues to grow and Biteable.com reports that:
- 68% of marketers say video has a better return on investment than Google Ads
- YouTube has the best ROI for video content, followed by Facebook and Instagram
This means that whether you are creating content to support the top or the middle or the bottom of the funnel, you must be including video. Creating a video to a quality standard that aligns with your brand, takes time, but the good news is that the more you do it, the better and quicker you get at it.
You will find multiple uses for one video eg. you could use it in a blog post, upload it to social media, or use it on your website sales pages, so you need to have a repository for your videos. You also want that valuable video content to be findable by your ideal customers and leverage it for search engine optimisation.
Did you know that Youtube is the world’s second-largest search engine after Google search?
Therefore, it’s a no brainer. Set up a free branded Youtube channel for your business. Upload your videos and ensure you add a good title, description, tags and webpage links to help people find those videos when they use relevant search terms. By doing this you are allowing more people like your ideal customers to find out about your business and you’re giving them content that is helpful to them and engaging!
Our challenge to you…
The seven low cost marketing ideas for small businesses may have got your creative juices running and you’re already setting up your Youtube channel! That’s great but hold on a moment.
Before you execute any marketing you need to have a clear idea of the value you offer to whom. So if you don’t have a documented marketing plan, at a minimum, clarify your unique selling proposition, your ideal target market and customer personas and your marketing objectives.
Then you can hit the ground running with some of the ideas above, give them a try, measure the results and if they work for you and your business, then make them routine. Consistency is king (next to its queen, Content) when it comes to your marketing success!