Business owners know that success means savings.  But how do you “buy customers” on a small budget?  Read on for some tips on how you can build your brand without breaking the bank.

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Social Media: What We’re Talking About

Social networking sites have transformed communications and media. If you’re reading this, chances are you socialize on Facebook and network on LinkedIn. Graphic designers use Tumblr to keep fans up to date on their latest work. Artisans sell handmade crafts on Etsy. Customers rate companies on an array of sites from Yelp to Angie’s List to Amazon.

But with all these platforms and sharing sites to choose from, which is right for you? Do you want a WordPress blog, or would it be better to share photos on a site like Pinterest? Should you set up a page on Yelp? Should you invest in a professional web or graphic designer, or can you figure it out for yourself?

Value for Money

First, ask yourself some basic questions about what you need. Can you rely on walk-in traffic? Do you want to sell products online? Should you feature photos of your merchandise? Can you create a simple web menu so that customers can understand the services you offer, or a tutorial to walk them through the process?

An artisan bakery will have very different answers than an independent tax preparer. When you plan your online strategy, think of it as a virtual portrait of your business.

Remember, too, that online marketing and web design are skilled work.  You may want to invest in a professional who can make your business shine.  They’ll also be able to give you advice about the best strategy.

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Find Customers the Creative Way

“Get some business cards” might not seem like a new idea, but when was the last time you played around with the latest templates on sites like Vistaprint and Zazzle? If you’ve been using the same design for a few years, you might be ready for an update. Go take a look!

Sites like Rafflecopter can help you set up a contest for merchandise or a gift certificate. If you’ve got a snappy logo, you can design t-shirts, coffee mugs, and tote bags on Café Press and sell them in-store or online. If you want to create a family-friendly atmosphere, you can try an art contest for kids. If you have teenage customers, think about holding a contest for a fun graphic or marketing video. You might find yourself offering a summer job to a talented young designer.

A short survey with a few simple questions can give you valuable market research. Reach out to your customers! If you offer a small thank-you gift for participating, they’ll feel appreciated and you’ll get more feedback.

You can also host a free event or class. This can be as simple as a workshop or meet-and-greet for local store owners. You’ll network with other business owners in your area and you’ll also be able to advertise the event for free on community bulletin boards.

If you’re a bookstore, café, or restaurant, host a reading or open-mic event. You can bring in new customers and turn your business into a popular hangout. Advertise to see if local artists would like to show work on your walls. They get a local “gallery,” and you get beautiful artwork for free every month.

Chances are good that there are local nonprofits in your area. If you have space, consider a small display or collection box, or even a food or toy drive over the holidays. You’ll help people in need and build lasting partnerships with active community members.

Many small businesses depend on word of mouth. Can you offer an incentive like a gift certificate or a free product, so your customers will want to tell their friends?

Don’t Forget to Have Fun

Social media and online networking sites are popular because they allow users to express themselves in new and exciting ways. Think of budget marketing as creative marketing, and have fun building your brand!

If you’re looking for expert advice on effective marketing, we recommend working with a web design firm that can provide you with highly responsive and individualized support. Square 1 Group is here to help you build the best strategy for your business. Feel free to call or email us today.