Marketing on a Shoestring Budget – 10 Top Tips for Small businesses

| October 12, 2016


It’s often said that “the best things in life are free” and this can also be true in business. Many small businesses feel they simply do not have the budgets or resources for marketing and this activity often falls to the owner manager – just one more thing on a long ‘to do’ list.

Dwayne Stewart, Communications Manager at InterTradeIreland, discusses how to start marketing on a shoestring budget to get your message heard and understood.

So what is the rule of thumb?

Set aside time to dedicate to your marketing plan and strategy in your working week.  Pick the most relevant promotional tools for your business and use them well.  Marketing doesn’t have to cost the earth – there are various tactical channels at your disposal AND many are FREE!

Create truly meaningful information

You and your business are ‘experts’ in what you do so work out why you should be the ‘voice of authority’ in your space.  Start with reviewing the business, analyse what your competitors are offering and plug the gaps.  Create a list of USPs (Unique Selling Points) for your product or service and consider how one of your team may be the ‘go to’ person for that industry.

Then turn these into interesting content, such as; articles; short videos; white papers; product or industry expertise or tips etc. These should be bite-size chunks that your audiences can easily understand and don’t forget to include a call to action.

Manage your online presence

Your website is often the ‘face’ of your business. Make sure it is visually appealing and user friendly. This will have an initial cost attached to it.

However, once up and running, populating your website is free. Ensure that your Blog is either on your website or links to it.   Remember to track visitors through Google Analytics so you know what’s working, what’s not and react accordingly.

Create a Blog

Create a Blog on a free resource like Blogger or Word press. This will allow you to promote your content regularly, start even once a month and build it up to weekly or even daily.

Keep it social

Social Media channels can be great tools particularly Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest if you have a visually appealing product. New platforms such as Facebook Live and Periscope allow for live video streaming, great for events and product launches. Snapchat can be useful to specifically target and engage with younger audiences.

Ensure content is interesting, include plenty of images and videos, keep it short and include links back to your website or blog to boost visitors and awareness.

 Use your team and customers

Employees and customers can be your best ambassadors so let them tell your story in a ‘human interest’ way.  Someone else being positive about your business says a lot more than you ever could.

It could be as simple as using your iPhone or Android device to video a customer testimonial and adding this to your website, blog or social media. Ask your customer to share it too, spreading the message even further.

Network, network, network

Why not start to promote your business at regular monthly networking events across the island? This can be useful for personal selling and word of mouth marketing of your products or services. There is nothing more powerful than face to face contact so remember your business cards, but most importantly – follow up!

Take the stage

Why not look for free business speaking opportunities and agree to events that have a link to the industry you work in? Work on your delivery and make sure you have a professional slide deck prepared, brochures with you on the day and those all important business cards.

Get in the news

Journalists are always hungry to fill column inches with good news stories about local companies, products or services. Read local and national papers and familiarise yourself with appropriate journalists/editors, creating a list to target.

Send them a mini press release on a business success or even use one of your blogs and start to build up media relationships through regular contact. Where possible, include photos as this makes any story more interesting and don’t forget to include contact details for any follow-ups.

Email Marketing

From your website or Blog, you can start to build a database of followers through ‘opt in’ marketing tactics to receive information from your company.

Enter Awards

There is a range of Business Awards out there; from InterTradeIreland Seedcorn Awards and Ulster Bank Business Achiever Awards to CIM Marketing Excellence Awards and EY Entrepreneur of the Year; just to name a few. These are all free to enter and have many categories that are either person specific or industry specific.

Even to be shortlisted can give your business a brand awareness boost. If you win a category, then even better! Maximise this to its full potential through social media, your blog and website and even to the press. Remember those new local journalist friends…?

How can InterTradeIreland help?

  • If you are a micro-business looking to identify cross-border markets and customers to win new business, 100% funding for specialist consultancy support is available through Elevate.
  • The Trade Accelerator Voucher scheme provides small businesses with financial support towards professional advice in relation to cross-border trading and regulation, such as legal, accountancy, marketing and other business services.
  • The FREE Simple Guide to Cross-Border Business  can help business owners with simple and practical advice on all aspects of cross-border trading.

If you would like more details on any of the InterTradeIreland export supports, including eligibility criteria and application details, please contact our Trade Team on 028 3083 4110 (048 from Ireland) or visit


About the Author ()

Some say devastatingly good looking, others simply Matinee Idol, but whichever you prefer, PP Gavin keeps an eye on what appears on the website!

Comments are closed.