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Many small businesses operate on a tight budget, which makes finding the money for quality marketing challenging. As a result of the digital age, we have many ways to market our businesses digitally on a very small budget, which allows us to grow our customer bases and our reputations. [Looking to expand your budget? Check our reviews on the best business loans.]

It is still imperative that when marketing digitally you have a solid strategy to ensure that your small business message reaches the right audience. Among some of the cost-effective: strategies you an employer are

  • Use free social media wisely.
  • Use free social media to give away “free” offers.
  • Publish high-quality content, or recycle old content.
  • Build and maintain your email subscriber list.

It doesn’t need to be expensive to market your business online. However, digital marketing will take some time and effort, so you will need a plan to efficiently run your social media platforms, keep your website up-to-date and consistently communicate with your customers.

When it comes to digital marketing, it is imperative that small business owners have a solid mixture of videos, blogs and online promotions through various social media platforms. According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index, global consumer Internet video traffic currently accounts for 80 percent of all consumer Internet traffic and will account for 82 percent of traffic by 2022.

Social media is an effective, and free, way for small businesses to engage and interact with customers and potential customers. In fact, 77 percent of small businesses in the United States now use social media for marketing, sales, and customer service, according to data aggregated by SCORE, a network of business mentors.  If you’re not in that 77 percent, you should be.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter should not just be used to promote your products. Instead, use these platforms to distribute useful, educational content and videos created by you. Creating and distributing videos can be done in-house. You do not need to hire a professional as long as you have a smartphone. This allows you to distribute your smartphone videos directly to the smartphones of your customers.

Did you know that 94 percent of respondents of a Facebook survey said they have a smartphone on hand while watching television, and viewers are focusing on what is on their television screen only 53 percent of the time? Your target audiences love videos that are related to products and services, and technology has now made video creation and streaming inexpensive and easy.

Not only that, but videos are versatile – you can distribute one video over all of your social media platforms in order to reach the most amount of people possible. The easiest way to do this is to upload your video first to your company’s YouTube channel (if you don’t have one, get one). Then, you can embed that video onto your website and share it on other social media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. Not only that, but you can send your videos via email and target customers directly. Or if you are really social media savvy, you can even go live on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, which help creates a more genuine interaction with your customers.

If you find all of the social media platforms overwhelming, start with Facebook and Instagram and keep those social media platforms relevant and up-to-date. Facebook has the greatest impact on customer’s buying decisions, according to a study by ViSenze, while Instagram has more than 1 billion active monthly users and more than 500 million active daily stories. And, since it’s all about visuals, Instagram is a quick and easy way to communicate, since you don’t have to spend time writing articles or blogs. Instead, just upload a photo or video and you’re done.

You can even take advantage of Instagram live and add links to your website to direct traffic back to your home page. Then, you should move over to LinkedIn and build your business connections, share your blog posts, and even join small business groups. You can always pay to have ads on these websites, but if you take the time to post wisely, you may not have to spend a penny. Social media is all about building relationships through the posting of new, creative, useful and relevant material.

Online contests, coupons and free user-generated content are gold when it comes to engaging audiences in this digital world. Coupons are a fast and easy way to attract new customers and they usually encourage future visits. For example, offering a 20 percent-off discount can be very motivating to someone to click your image and possibly purchase your product. Even a free trial of an inexpensive product or service could entice a customer to visit your small business again.

Usually, if someone has the opportunity to try your product first before buying it, they will want to purchase from you again. Just don’t make the mistake of automatically signing them up for recurring shipments or auto-enrollment. These “free trial” mistakes can be the death of your reputation and could even get you a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

Online contests are another way to entice audiences, and you do not have to have an expensive, elaborate prize in order to get audiences to participate. You can use your social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, to run your contest by asking your followers to use a customized hashtag to enter or even posting a picture of themselves with your product. This type of “user-generated content” has become a marketing favorite among small businesses since it is cheap, fast, and it works. You can even contact another local company and co-sponsor a contest together, which is a great way to tap into their customer base and cross-promote your business.

Publish high-quality content or recycle old content

This is probably the most time-consuming method of digital marketing, but it works. If you have a knack for telling a solid narrative – or have an employee who can do so – writing high-quality content on your blog can be the foundation of all of your marketing endeavors. Every business wants to build more leads, and by having a solid content strategy plan you can build your reputation, your credibility and your customer base.

Providing high-quality content can also boost your rankings on search engines such as Google, and boost your own reputation and credibility within your industry. So, make sure these articles focus on your industry – best practices, how to’s, new products, etc. The key here is to regularly post content and then link those stories to all of your social media platforms. Twitter is perfect for this – tease your article in 280 characters or less and then provide your link. That way, you are not only building your own educated reputation but also driving traffic back to your website.

As discussed earlier, video content is valuable, and instructional videos are perfect in the world of click-throughs. However, not everyone has time to make how-to videos or post articles a few times a week, so you can also recycle old content that you have written or recorded in the past. Reusing old content is a great way to make sure your blogs remain fresh, and you can even update those articles or videos with more recent statistics and research.

If you find you have a knack for the narrative, you can expand your writing capabilities and contribute to other blogs that may be looking for guest-posting opportunities. Usually, every industry has a reputable state association that may be looking for guest writers, or you could find an industry magazine that has a corresponding website.

You can also do some research on podcasts and radio shows in which you could be a guest to further expand your reach. Guest posts and podcasts equal free exposure; they will drive new customers to your website and, again, help boost your search engine rating along with your reputation. Then, you can return the favor and invite guest contributors to write on your company’s blog and continue to build your reputation in your industry.

You can always higher a freelance writer or videographer if blogs and videos are not your strong suit, but remember that freelancers cost money. In the end, it will be cheaper to write these articles or develop these how-to videos yourself. No matter how often you post to your blog, you will need to drive people to read your stories. Again, social media is key here, but another way to entice readers is through informative emails. Many small business owners forget that a solid email list is another key factor in digital marketing.

Build and maintain your email subscriber list

One of the easiest ways to market to your customers is through an email subscriber list. Asking your customers for their email addresses when they visit your website or store is an easy way to build your email list. If you’re not collecting email addresses, you are missing out on a direct method to marketing your goods, services and even your blog posts.

You can also cross-promote by using your social media platforms to send offers or coupons to new customers who sign up for your email services. The majority of people who subscribe to your email list are customers who are already interested in your products, so you need to maintain those relationships by sending them quality information, discounts and new product unveilings.

You can establish and maintain these customer relationships by sending a weekly, or monthly, newsletter, offering promotions to your subscribers. You can also create video content and send it through emails. Just make sure your content is helpful, informative and professional so that you build, not deteriorate, your credibility. Again, if you don’t have time to maintain this list yourself, there are inexpensive services that can do this for you.

Once you establish a solid customer base through your email list, you can use it to launch a customer referral program. Since your email list is filled with customers who already use your products, why not use them to try and connect with their friends and family. If you offer your current customers a discount for forwarding emails or simply referring a coupon code, you are inexpensively building your customer base. By offering your customers a free product or another reward by simply referring you to their friends and family, you will be building your small business’s reputation to an untapped market. Although you can develop the most eye-catching, flashy digital communication to entice customers, word-of-mouth is still one of the most powerful forms of marketing in today’s competitive digital world.

Digital marketing does not have to be expensive, but it does take time to produce high-quality content and make sure your communication is relevant, useful and informative. Above all other things, you need to stay active on social media and make sure the content you provide enhances your reputation and credibility in your industry.

Use these different channels to offer free discounts, run contests, promote content and even encourage your customers to promote your services for you. That way, you can build a digital marketing strategy that successfully promotes your brand at a fraction of traditional marketing costs. As long as your posts are relevant, clear, visually-appealing and have some sort of call to action, you’ll find that digital marketing can help promote your business without breaking the bank.

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