I remember as a kid, if my siblings and I did our chores each week, we would get a five-dollar allowance. That was big bucks for a little Ginger kid. Each week, we would go to Toy City and my mom would set us free in the aisles upon aisles of toys as far as we could see.
My sister would make her way to the art section and grab as many crayons, colored pencils, and paint as her five dollars could buy. You would find me walking slowly up and down the aisles with Lego bricks and G.I. Joe figures. I would look, touch, and imagine what it would be like to take something home.
Then, I would put it back and look at something else. I remember being so excited to go to the store, but I left with nothing each time. Yep. Each time, my young Ginger brain would rationalize that if I saved my five dollars for the next week, then I would have more buying power. And this cycle continued. The funny thing is, as I kept saving, I found that having the cash reserves was more important than any Lego or G.I. Joe. I would be patient and wait until my birthday or Christmas to stock up on the toys that I wanted.
My mom loves telling this story, and it tells a lot about me to this day. And when I think back on all the stages of my life, this lesson of being scrappy has served me well.
Looking back on the last seven years specifically, as I have gotten serious about building my personal brand, this story helps me understand my scrappy approach. My inner kid still does not want to spend money, and that has been so beneficial to my budgeting as I have been growing my personal brand and business.
I was recently asked to be a guest on the #SEMRushChat TweetChat on the topic of small budget digital marketing – big impact with limited resources. I loved this topic and was excited to share my thoughts with the Twitterverse. I figured I would organize what I shared here in an article to help you get scrappy and learn how I have done big things with small digital marketing budgets.
Here are some pro tips that will enlighten any entrepreneur with a budget.
Marketing Tactics on a Budget
Content is easy to create, but it does take time. It is no secret that time is money. However, it’s important to recognize that your own time is also very valuable. If you’re willing to put in your own time, then you’re losing time.
In regards to efficiency, I find batching my content works! For example, I will try to tackle one writing project per week. This allows me to reach realistic goals. The writing project might be for a blog, a TweetChat, or an idea for a new talk or keynote. Whatever your content is, it is always a good idea to space it out.
Marketing is extremely important and predominant, especially now with so many social media platforms. At the end of the day, you are competing for attention with a lot of noise around you. The real problem is that social media algorithms are holding your potential reach hostage. My advice is to create more content because being consistent will break those barriers!
I recently had where the interviewer commented, “Ryan, you are everywhere.” I laughed, and said, “Yes, I create a lot of content.” And that’s the truth. This is how you build a brand. I have built my brand with many pieces of content that live online, which I call digital “brand-crumbs.”
Furthermore, I emphasized the importance of focusing on pillar content that relates to your brand or your company. Content that is random or in too many places online won’t help people get to know you or your company. It will make your brand discombobulated. Stay in your lane!
Small Business, Low Budget
There are plenty of ways small businesses can market on low budgets. Not to be cheeky, but TweetChats are great! I wrote an article on five of my favorite ones. It can serve as a guide to understanding what they are and how they work. From a budgeting perspective, they are also free, and help connect you with people outside of your community!
There are plenty TweetChats out there, not to mention, #SEMRushChat! TweetChats are a great way to generate content, share who you are, reveal your insights, and connect with new people. You can also engage with the audience of the TweetChat host. You can take your answers and turn them into an article like I am doing now. Again, a cheap way to maximize your invested time.
Creating a monthly content calendar is another great idea for small businesses. I know, I know, you’ve heard of it. But have you ever created one and followed it? I’ll bet you haven’t. Honestly, if you want to market on a budget, then create content. A calendar helps you plan and be accountable.
Connecting with and interviewing people is another strategy for tapping into their brand halo. When I first started writing, I made a point of finding and seeking out some of the biggest names in the industry. I began reaching out for interviews and quickly learned that some people will say yes.
Expanding your brand halo can be done simply by interviewing others with an established influence. Collaborating and creating content with these influencers helps you get in front of their followers. This strategy works great for written interviews and podcasts. Then, you can take the interview and syndicate it. And many people that I have met starting with an interview I have kept in touch with, and built relationships with them. Many have become my friends. So think of people who you would love to meet and learn from, and ask if you can interview them.
Every piece of content you create and share helps to build your personal brand. Yes, a way to market your company is to become known as the owner. I think people fundamentally want to do business with people. Be the face of your own brand. And if the domain with a dot com is taken, don’t fret. There are other domain extensions. I really like dot online as a domain extension. If you are sending people to a place “online” then it is super intuitive. I tell people, “If you want to find me online, go to Ryan dot online.”
If you want my sage Ginger advice, then get your own domain based on your name. The only property you own online is your own website. Visit ryan.online/dotonline and search for your domain. If you find one you like, you can use the code GINGER for a big discount!
Remember, your business is tied to you. In fact, I would go so far as to say that you are your website!
So, own that connection and put yourself in front of your business brand. People don’t want to interview your business, they want to interview you. I think building your brand is the ultimate low-budget marketing idea. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
It’s important to establish and keep up with your content goals. Really. When was the last time you published a blog? Published a video? I’ll bet it was a while ago. I ask this question a lot and it is surprising how many people think about creating content but don’t!
Set monthly caps on what you are willing to spend on marketing. I have always found that deciding on my budget and sticking to it is better than just “trying to spend less.” Certain costs, like scheduling software or virtual assistant (VA) services, are invaluable. Find out what you need, or don’t need, and how much it costs.
Examine the ROI of the previous month’s performance. This is true with whatever content strategy you have. For example, look at posts that did well and try to find patterns. Switch things up, too. Like my buddy Jason Fishman says, “test, optimize, scale.”
Find out what’s working and why. Whenever I have an inbound lead or someone reaches out and requests my services, the first thing I ask is, “How did you find me?” This is key because I know I need to stick with that type of content or platform.
If possible, stay away from any paid marketing. Like I mentioned before, establishing your brand is important. My leads are inbound as a result of someone reading something I write or hearing something I say in a video or podcast. It is a long-term game of leaving brand-crumbs for people to find you. It’s cheaper than buying ads and also more rewarding.
Track and measure media placements in a spreadsheet. These give your brand a boost and help you get your message and angle out there.
Expanding Marketing Efforts on a Small Budget
Evaluate your current bandwidth and then see what you can outsource to a VA. It might be a good idea to invest in someone to help you. Having a VA could help you get out of the weeds of your business so that you can manage higher income-generating activities.
Purchase some sort of social media scheduling software. I used Buffer for years, and just made the jump to Lately.ai. Being able to schedule posts in batches saves you time. Once you schedule posts for the month, you can focus on engaging with your audience.
Strengthen your networking skills! Build relationships and then turn them into partnerships. You might even start a friendship. Align with people whose content you enjoy amplifying, they might also return the favor.
When you build relationships, it leads to more shares, likes, comments, and introductions to other great people. Take Peter Goral for example. We connected years ago through Twitter, and have built a strong and supportive relationship that is also a friendship. And as a result, we always support each other online. Establishing and maintaining connections is a no-cost, high-value deal! And when you have more friends who support you, your work gets amplified beyond your own networks.
Don’t be afraid to meet different people. Find a group of people from various industries that are not in competition with each other, and create an engagement group. This is a group of people who share content and as a member of the group, you agree to support each other’s content. Talk about you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours!
In-House Vs. Outside Experts
Become an expert. If you can Google it, you can learn how to do it. This just comes back to time. If you have the time to spend, then I say learn how to do it. That way you understand what goes into it. I always learn software that I buy, then usually train a VA to help run it.
Seeking outside experts is great, especially when it is free content. And there is a lot of free content! Many people, like Gary Vaynerchuk, and me, are famous for giving it all away for free. The reality is that not all people take action. After all, the more you know, the better.
If you are someone who historically does not take the action you need, then hire someone. Why? Because when you pay them the big bucks, then all of a sudden it becomes important! Ha. It ultimately comes down to allocating funds where they are necessary.
Take advantage of free webinars and learn as much as you can. Knowledge is power so attend whenever you have the chance. SEMrush, among others, has great workshops and webinars. I am a believer in learning first, then hiring someone to help. That way, you can train them and understand what they need to do.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Seriously. If you need help with YouTube, reach out to some YouTubers. If you need help with X, then ask someone who seems to be good at X. Maybe you can trade services or barter. Maybe they have content already created to help you. If you need help with your core brand messaging, then book a time with me for a private 3-1-3 session. Problem solved!
The Don’ts of Marketing on a Small Budget
Avoid spending a ton of money on traffic if your website or products aren’t ready to sell. There is plenty of brand awareness that you can do without ad expenses.
Refrain from spending ad money until you lock in your brand. Make sure you are well established first. So many people forget the first step in really defining their brand or their company’s brand. Make sure you have that locked up before you swing too wide.
Don’t just assume the ad you designed will work. Not everything works on the first try. There is a lot of magic in beta testing and tweaking in small batches before going on a bigger spend.
Don’t forget to ask your followers for feedback. If you ask them about a new campaign, or about your ad, or ad copy, they might have an opinion about it! People like being asked for their thoughts. This also helps you to build your own brand. I do this for my products on my StickFigure.Store. I’ll draw ideas, share them on social media and with my friends. The stick figures that people like make their way to become Motivational Mugs™.
Never buy followers. Spending money to artificially inflate your followers is not a good idea. This is true in all aspects of life, not just marketing!
Also, don’t try to come across as business-like all the time. Remember that people want to do business with people. So, don’t hide behind your brand. Be part of it, and be human!
What I’m saying is don’t be afraid to be frugal with your five dollars at the toy store.
To save money, explore the many opportunities for free digital marketing. Use the internet and people as resources to establish you and your brand. Be organized and smart about how you are spending your time and money.
Of course, there are some circumstances where spending money might be necessary. However, be clear about your needs and priorities first.
For more valuable information that can help you navigate your business and budget, follow me on Twitter @RyanFoland! And if you need some one-on-one help to build your brand, and come up with a content strategy to leave brand-crumbs for your customers, then visit ryan.online and book an appointment with me.