How to Market Your Small Business With No Budget

small business tips, how to market with no budgetimage: ambitious piggy bank by artmind

by Lucy Thornton of Perfect Balance Marketing

How big is your marketing budget?  Pretty small?  Non existent?  Mine too.  Big brands like Coca Cola, Virgin and Nike have marketing budgets bigger than the economic output of entire European countries.  Millions and millions (and squillions and trillions) of dollars.

They spend it on TV adverts featuring A-list celebrities, they sponsor musical festivals, they place billboards bigger than my house all over the world – in fact, it’s pretty hard to avoid their brands even if you wanted to.

We can’t compete with that.  But I don’t want to spend my profits doing that anyway.  I’d rather focus my efforts (time and money) on something that’s more likely to get results.  But what works?  Here are some things I find most effective.

small business tips, how to market with no budget
1.  Give stuff away
This often raises an eyebrow – giving stuff away?  Yes.  For free?  Yes.

Not your products, but you can share your knowledge with your customers and give them something of value that costs you nothing.

  • If you sell baby products, offer a checklist of things to take on holiday with a 1 year-old, 2 year-old, etc.  (some of which you sell, of course)
  • Or if you sell wedding stationery, offer a calendar of what to do when – 12 months before right down to 3 weeks before, the week before the big day, etc.)
  • Or if you sell your marketing services to small craft businesses, give away an explosive new book with loads of great ideas that they can use (ahem…)
small business tips, how to market your small business with no budgetimage: green typewriter print by memohelen

2.  Build a list

Your existing customers are already your fans – you’ve overcome the common barriers that stop people buying online:

  • are the products good quality?
  • will you deliver what you promise?
  • is it secure to purchase from you online?

(Overcoming these isn’t easy, so well done).

But do you keep a record of what your customers bought?  Do you make irresistible offers based on their purchasing history?

  • If a customer buys a baby shower gift from you, get in touch with them again at Christmas offering them a ’Baby’s First Christmas’ gift
  • Or if a customer buys fabric from you, include a postcard offering them a coordinating fabric at reduced price if they order within 4 weeks

3.  Make offers
The more offers you make, the more you’ll sell.  Really.  Changing your offer every week or month encourages people to come back to your website to check out your latest deals.  They’re more likely to sign up for updates, which opens the door for you to start building a relationship with them.

Try an ‘Offer of the month’ with 25% off, and then vary the promotional product each month.  Publicise your offers on:

  • your site’s homepage
  • your Facebook page
  • Twitter
  • receipts and invoices
  • emails to previous customers

Try it once and see what happens.  You’ll be surprised (and delighted).

small business tips, how to market your small business with no budget
4.  Get your name out there

Write press releases about:

  • your latest products
  • an event you’re organising (see below)
  • a delighted customer
  • company anniversaries or milestones (eg. 1,000th customer)
  • a hot news story and tie it in to your product
  • lists (7 ways to settle your new baby into a routine, 10 things to ask a designer before ordering wedding stationery, 5 top tips to a flat tummy, etc.)

Check out my previous OMHG post for more great ideas for press releases.  Then send them to the local press, submit them to online directories, post them on your own website/blog, share links to them on social media.  Tell everyone what you’re doing and spread the word of your brilliance!

So are you ready to get results with no money?
This month is all about inspiration on OMHG – are you feeling inspired?  We’ll look at how you can get more customers to love you in February’s post, but if you can‘t wait, download my free ebook ‘41 Fresh Marketing Ideas’ for your business, and go market right now!

What other free things can you do that help you get more customers?  Which of the ideas here work best for your business?  Share in the comments below.

Lucy Thornton helps small craft businesses grow, using effective marketing techniques that build reputation.  Check out her free ebook ‘41 Fresh Marketing Ideas for Your Business’ or grab the RSS feed from her website here.  From her home in Cornwall, England, Lucy helps business start-ups overcome all sorts of tricky marketing challenges.


  1. It sounds silly, but several years ago I started giving away free coloring pages every week. It became Coloring Page Tuesdays – – and now has over 2,000 subscribers with 6,000 people visiting my blog on average daily. Thing is, I’m a children’s book author/illustrator and the coloring pages are for my target audience – teachers, parents, booksellers, librarians, stampers, etc. I never would have guessed my coloring pages would become so big, but you’re absolutely right – give something away for FREE. It’s amazing what can happen! 🙂 e

    • Jessika says:

      Hi Elizabeth thank you for sharing your story and your beautiful illustrations/coloring books! I have your site bookmarked for the future: ) I agree it is amazing how giving a little can result in receiving a lot.

  2. Erica says:

    Thank you so much for this! I am a new Canadian online retailer and all this info has been so helpful to me.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Pop over and take a look around, I’d love to hear what you think of my shop and blog 🙂

  3. Marie says:

    Hi, I have a giveaway once a month on my blog, which has my Etsy and Felt shops on, this definitely helps sales and I gain new visitors, cheers from New Zealand, Marie

  4. Thanks for your comments.

    Marie – giveaways are a great way to get new traffic – just make sure you make the best use of the data that you gather.

    For instance, email all those who enter, thank them. Then send an email to those who don’t win, offering them a special price on the product you offered as a prize.

    Julia – I love the gift tag idea – you could also send a blank gift card or two, with your brand and website on the back, with each order.

    Best of luck with all your marketing, Lucy

  5. Colleen says:

    I was just thinking of running a sale on winter items on my etsy site…you have now convinced me to do it…buy one item get a sweater half price…Thanks for the great advice.

  6. Tabassum says:

    I love all of the fresh ideas posted here. I had doubts about doing giveaways and how to do them without spending tons of money and this post really clarified everything. ¡Saludos de España!

  7. Ioanna P. says:

    Lovely ideas, especially the first one but we’ve all come up against the second before now and most agree that canvassing previous customers is not the done thing unless they have signed up to some kind of mailing list. I’m certain it has something to do with the Data Protection Act and you can only keep their details if they have agreed that you can, just keeping a list of past customer details isn’t allowed.

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