Six Low-Cost Marketing Ideas You Can Do Yourself (And One You Shouldn't)

There’s an old saying that goes something like, “Make hay while the sun shines.” The gist of this is, of course, when the opportunity presents itself to do something like grow your business, you should probably do it because we all know the sun won’t shine forever. Whether you are a small business owner or a marketing lead in a larger company, 2024 looks like a pretty sunny year for many businesses. The economy looks set to grow, and businesses that put in the extra effort should have a pretty good year. And the good news is that growth doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag. In this edition of Plain Talk, we’ll discuss free, cheap or affordable things you can do to market your business better (and a few that might require extra help).

Time is money

Before we start the list, we want to recognize that the readers here all have full-time jobs. By that, we mean we know you may not be looking for extra do-it-yourself work in the marketing arena, even if the time to grow is now. That’s why our list will include our estimate of time intensiveness for each task – a “time-suck-meter,” if you will – to help you understand which tasks will require a lot of time and which are pretty hands-off.

Content-repurposing –  time-suck-meter rating “very low”

If you have a website or a social media page on LinkedIn, Facebook, X, Instagram or TikTok (depending on your kind of business), there’s a good chance you have content – some articles, videos, images, etc., that talk about your company, brand promise, a new product or service, etc. If this doesn’t sound like you, we’ll talk about that later, but if it does sound like you, we have some good news. For little or no cost, you can (and should) repurpose your existing content across as many different channels as make sense. For example, if you have an interesting piece of content on your website blog page, you may want to consider using it in your email marketing, on LinkedIn or Facebook. That content is an asset, and if it’s a good asset, content repurposing can be a super cheap and easy way to get your message out. In fact, one recent study estimated that as many as 94% of marketers are doing some form of content repurposing as part of their marketing strategy. If that’s not you, maybe it’s time.

User-generated content and reviews –  time-suck-meter rating “low”

Another approach to content is something you’ve probably heard of for years now, “user-generated content” or UGC. Recruiting users to create UGC on their social channels provides you with authentic, credible, and often highly entertaining content that has no production costs. You may want to share, boost and reward users for promoting your product, so it’s not entirely “free,” but it’s also not necessarily labor-intensive either. You can do something as simple as inviting followers and fans to do unboxing or reviews. You can also pay micro and nano influencers for their time to pull together content (this is often very affordable). However, one of the best and most overlooked pieces of UCG is the simple review. Whether on Google, Yelp, Facebook or someplace else, great reviews are a bellwether of authentic trustworthiness. If you have an average Google review score of 4.9 stars and a healthy number of reviews, do NOT keep that a secret. Tell everyone! Put it on your website, share it on social media, shout it from the rooftop! If you aren’t sure you are working your reviews correctly, we have an article on that here.

Control your Google and registry profiles –  time-suck-meter rating “medium-low”

When you see your business, or someone else’s show up in a search like this:

PriceWeber Google Business Profile

… then, you are looking at their Google Business Profile. If you have not officially “claimed” yours, then you are missing out on one of the most powerful free tools on the web. Before we go any further, claim yours. Here’s a link for how to do it. Once you’ve claimed it, there are a bunch of great things you can do to make it rain. You can add features like social media links, messaging about your company, links to your website, operating , and even share some of the repurposed content we discussed above. According to Google, 72% of people say they are more likely to visit a company that has a good Google Business Profile – , 72%. In addition to your Google profile, make sure you also claim and complete your profiles for Yelp and other “high authority” directories. Not sure how you look on directories? Use our free tool. Make sure you enter information like address, phone number, and website (basically everything) identically in each directory, too. This consistency will help you in organic search results. Once you are up and running, make sure that reviews are monitored AND answered. It’s critical that companies respond politely to both good and bad reviews. For good reviews to say thank you and for bad reviews to publicly apologize for their  bad experience and invite them offline to discuss it further because it’s important that people see you being transparent in your interactions (unless this is a social media troll, but that’s a different story). This means a lot to your reputation. Depending on the number of locations and business interactions, you may also want to automate your review management.

Spend time online –  time-suck-meter rating “medium”

If your brand has consumers who are active on a specific online social media channel, whether it’s Instagram, TikTok, Reddit, LinkedIn, or something entirely different, making time to be part of the conversation in an honest, authentic way means you are part of the community. Have a social media handle set up for your company, and regularly participate in conversations. Don’t be heavy-handed. Don’t roll out the hard sell. Just be there and participate. This can be surprisingly easy since you probably already love and appreciate what your brand brings to the table. So just be that person. Take Twitch, for example. If you don’t know it, Twitch is a social channel loaded with Gen Z, Gen Alpha and Millennial gamers who follow, chat, post and otherwise interact in discussions about their favorite games. If this is where your customer lives, then this is a place where you may be welcome to be part of the conversation on one of thousands of Twitch channels. This may require a little outreach to the host, but it could be a very inexpensive way to get your message out in an environment that’s not overcrowded by competitors. You can learn more about how to navigate Twitch here.

Email marketing – time-suck-meter rating “medium”

OK, before you roll your eyes, hear us out. There is an excellent chance you may not be doing email marketing in a way that gets the best results for your company. Here’s why. According to a recent Pew Research study, 72% of millennials prefer to get advertising and promotional messages via email, but another recent study shows that 65% of all emails are completely ignored. See the problem? As a channel, email can be quite affordable. An entry-level MailChimp account is free, and a Constant Contact account with all the bells and whistles is only a few hundred dollars a month. The rest is you. You need a good list of prospective or existing clients. Your website should help build one, but there are other ways to find reliable contacts. More importantly, you need to offer your readers content that is valuable to THEM. What “valuable” looks like will vary significantly in different businesses, but healthy growing brands agree that successful email starts with high-quality, useful content. This is the same kind of content you can repurpose on social media and your website. Ask yourself, “Is this the kind of email I would want to read?” If it’s not, your content may need some attention. But once you get the content right, you have a powerful and affordable tool for generating business.

While there are these and a few other affordable marketing tactics businesses can apply to grow, there are still others where you might be better off letting someone else drive.

Your website – Fifteen years ago, nearly every website built was basically custom and expensive. Then, along came the first web content management systems. Websites were easier to build and somewhat less expensive and, with some training, could be updated by mere mortals. Today, there are builder platforms like Wix, GoDaddy, Squarespace, etc. These self-serve platforms promise you that you can build a beautiful website for almost no money using preloaded web templates. All you need is photos and some copy, and you’re set. This is all technically true. These builders can give a small business a website that does a pretty good job meeting basic requirements. If you are a small startup business that needs a good-looking digital brochure site, these services could be for you. If you need basic e-commerce capabilities, there are some good options too.

However, when it’s time to grow, many small businesses find that the disadvantages of builders can outweigh the advantages. Things like inflexibility, hidden monthly fees, etc., can end up becoming limiting factors for your business. Having a professionally built site offers a few advantages you may not be aware of:

  • Uniqueness –A professionally designed site can be completely unique for your brand.
  • Enhanced function – Most builder service websites have a limited, fixed menu of available functions and limited scalability as you grow, while a professionally built site does not have those limitations. An abundance of plugins and APIs for the most common content management systems means that you have nearly limitless configuration choices for your site.
  • SEO – Every builder service offers basic automated SEO services. This means they offer the same automated service to you as they do to every other business in your market that does what you do. Those services are also typically limited to keywords and technical SEO. Meanwhile, with a professionally built site, you should be getting an organic search strategy that is unique to your business and that considers on-site, off-site and technical SEO. A builder won’t help you with content strategy, for example, but that can be critical to your ability to compete successfully. An SEO professional can also think on their feet and adjust SEO to market conditions, competitor activities, and changes in algorithms.
  • Security – Much like SEO and functionality, builder services tend to work with limited options for site security, while a professionally built site can offer enhanced security functions.

Finding balance

Every business has to find the right balance between what it can do in-house and when to get some outside help. If you need help figuring out where the right balance is for your business, drop us a note or give us a call at  502.499.4209. We’ll be happy to help.

Mike Nickerson, Chief Marketing Officer PriceWeber Marketing, Louisville KY
Mike Nickerson Chief Marketing Officer