5 ways to market your business for little to no money

9994794 No matter where I speak, who the audience is or even the topic I am supposed to address, this same question comes up:

How do you market your business if you don’t have a lot of money?

Well, the short answer to that is….you’d better find some resources for marketing or you are in a lot of trouble. But, that doesn’t mean they all have to cost an arm and a leg.

Here are five of my favorites and none of them will break the bank.

Hang out where your potential customers hang out and be helpful.  Do your clients read certain blogs?  Then be there and share your expertise.  Do they all run in local marathons?  Be there, handing out clean, dry socks with your logo on them.  Do they go to industry trade shows?  Be there and host a free Q&A about their biggest problems.   Don’t wait for them to come to you.  Go out and find their watering hole.

Know your perfect customer and only take work from them.  This requires incredible discipline but pays big dividends.  Rather than taking clients for cash flow, ONLY take on those clients that you can delight.  And who delight you by paying you a fair price.

Create a referral network by delivering the first referral.  When you help someone, it is human nature that they want to return the favor.  Why not set the example by making an incredible referral.  Now of course to do that…you need to know who their perfect customer is.  Which means you get to have a very meaningful conversation that’s all about them.  See how the human nature thing is going to work?

Use handwritten thank you notes to show your appreciation.  In today’s high tech world, a personal gesture like a handwritten note means a great deal.  It doesn’t have to be long or fancy.  Just from the heart.  And if you can’t thank a client from the heart, you should fire them before they fire you.

Let them have a taste.  Sampling is one of the most effective marketing tactics around.  There is no substitute for actually experiencing your product or service.  And don’t give them a dumbed down version.  This is your greatest opportunity to earn their trust and their business.  So do it right.

Want more?  Check out Lewis Green’s Marketing for Consultants on a Shoestring post.

17 comments on “5 ways to market your business for little to no money

  1. Karin H. says:

    And keep talking/communicating with your existing prospects and clients.
    Every month or every two to three months. Doesn’t cost an arm and a leg – simple database program can automate it for you – but
    a) keeps your name, your products, your services in their minds
    b) some prospects might not have been ‘ready’ to buy when they first contacted you, they might be ready now

    Don’t automate the personal touch out of it though 😉

    Karin H. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

  2. I agree with all your points and was glad to see sampling on the list. We just started a sampling program with one of our products and it seems to be going well so far.

  3. John Jackson says:

    For small businesses finding money to support marketing activity can be difficult and from many I have spoken to when they have made an investment they have often been disappointed with the results.
    There can be many reasons for this, but I do always stress that businesses need to build their marketing strategy first and then undertake the appropraite marketing activity
    Simply doing a bit of marketing because you think you need to is asking for trouble.
    I’ve jsut written a piece suggesting that small independent retailers should more proactively sell their overall service proposition – for example by putting signs in their windows to tell potential customers the benefits of shopping with them – this could be as simple as a message saying Free Local Delivery.
    This is an easy way to give potential customers an extra reason to choose the local store.

  4. Mark True says:


    Great list. To tie in several of your points, I recommend blogging. It’s moved to the top of my list over the past two years because it:

    1. costs virtually nothing
    2. demonstrates your thinking
    3. helps the marketer clarify its brand,
    4. allows you to refer readers to others and their content (links)and
    5. communicates specific information in a hurry.

    Of course, this only works if your audience is online, but there are other easy tricks to point the online crowd your way, including particiating in other blogs, as you outlined.

    If they’re not online, a paper newsletter – produced with discipline on a regular basis – goes a long way too, but the costs can quickly get out of hand.


  5. Verna says:

    That’s a great list — just to add one:

    One of the ways I’ve recently done some less expensive advertising is to do joint marketing ventures with companies that complement my business–I do personal training and fitness classes so have paired with a lingerie store to offer discounts at the end of a 6-week class when someone may feel more like buying lingerie –the store recommends my services/I send people there for sports bras and lingerie… I also do some graphic design so do a local restaurant’s monthly entertainment calendars (they hand out hundreds every month!) and add my logo and an ad for my services.

  6. Karin,

    That all makes perfect sense. No wonder your business is doing so well. But how do you take it one step further — and get them to become your referral source?


  7. Scott,

    I believe that sampling may be one of the most potent of all marketing tactics available to mankind.

    You are basically turning a prospect into their own referral source by creating the opportunity for them to interact with your product or service.

    What kind of a product/service are you sampling and how are you getting the word out?


  8. Cam,

    Excellent point. And then the question you have to answer is: once I do all of this and generate more revenue, how do I make sure I don’t lose this interaction with the client time.

    Otherwise, success will “take away” the very thing that brought you success.


  9. John,

    So very true. Develop the plan, execute the plan. I think one of the biggest reasons many small business owners say their marketing didn’t work is because they didn’t give it enough time.

    They spend all their money in a couple weeks (or months) and then pull the plug before their “whatever” had time to work. So then they decide it was a lousy idea and eventually stop spending money on marketing all along because they’ve already tried it.



  10. Mark,

    No argument from me on your recommending blogging. I agree with all of your reasons and examples.

    When I said sampling — I believe my blog is my biggest free sample. Come here every few days and get your free marketing/branding snack to chew on.

    So I am right there with you, as usual!


  11. Verna,

    Yes….joint or cross promotions are a very effective way to market your business. IF you pick the right partner.

    As you suggest — it should be a complimentary business. They need to be able to easily and naturally recommend you to their clients and visa versa. If it feels forced — the customers will sense that.

    Sounds like you’ve created an excellent partnership!


  12. Lewis,

    They can’t hire us if they don’t know who we are. Bottom line — people want to do business with people they know. You are exactly right about the power and importance of networking.


  13. Thanks for the tips. Of course the prerequisite is *knowing* your target market…

  14. Matthew,

    Without a doubt!


  15. Nita Lopez says:

    hello Mr. Drew

    My business is called forevernaturalhealing.com I am a natural healing counselor I deal with relationship. for some reason I just put my business on the internet July 3,08 and so for from Google and yahoo I get 200 clicks but no one is buying my service I had one person ask me about but I didn’t hear from her yet. I am not on the first page didn’t have the money for, that so I started selling things on eBay to get extra money for my online business and also I do counseling out of my home. What would be the next step once I get on to the first page when their are more people clicking on my page. Would that guarantee profit for me or I will have to do more.

  16. Hi Nita,

    First, there are no guarantees of profits. Launching a business is risky at best.

    It is also a long term thing, not a quick fix. You haven’t even been in business a month. I know it’s frustrating but you have a long haul ahead of you.

    Do you have a business plan? A marketing plan?

    I’m not a big fan of paid search. Unless you have a lot of money, it’s a pretty tough way to get traffic.

    You can get a brilliant marketing education if you read some of the better marketing blogs. There’s a great list on my blog roll (purple button in the right column).

    I checked out your site. One thing you might also consider is listing your credentials — why are you qualified to offer the counseling? Are you a social worker? Do you have a degree or experience in counseling etc.


  17. mike says:

    hey its an amazing post
    thanks for sharing it with us:)
    i was searching for the post like this and the information you have given up is really good and informative
    thanks or sharing it with us:)

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