Image of A literal depiction of the saying on a shoestring budget If you’re just starting out in your business, or you suddenly find yourself short on funds, you may need to find ways to market your business on a shoestring budget.

And remember, just because a marketing tactic may be inexpensive to execute doesn’t mean that it’s not effective. In fact, some of the most effective forms of marketing are the least expensive.

Use the Good Old Business Card: You can get inexpensive business cards online from websites like Vistaprint.com, PrintsMadeEasy.com or make them on your own printer with your computer. (Or contact me and I can print your business cards for you.)

One caution: Do not use “free” versions of business cards, like the ones offered by VistaPrint. The reason is that they put a VistaPrint ad on the back of your card and it makes you look cheap. First impressions do count! And sometimes your business card is your first impression. If it looks like you can’t even afford to buy business cards, you may turn off a potential client.

When you go to any event, be sure to leave your business card with the event organizers. When you have any reason to hand out your phone number to anyone, for any reason, even if it’s not totally related to business, give them your business card. You never know when someone will need the services you offer, or when your colleagues, friends, and family will meet up with someone who needs your services. Hand your cards out freely.

Build a Website with a Blog: It’s always a good idea to watch your budget, but there are some areas of your business where you don’t want to scrimp. Using the self-hosted version of WordPress makes having a website with a blog that looks professional really easy.

You can get free themes WordPress themes – although I think you are always better off going with a premium theme which are still inexpensive — buy a domain for about $15 dollars or less, and host your website for as low as $5 dollars a month. Every penny of that investment is worth it.

If you’re technologically deficient and can’t afford to hire someone, consider using a website building program that offers a blog function. You want the blog to be on your website and not separate from your website like a Blogger blog. However you choose to do this, the next step is to write regular, informative, keyword-rich blog posts that you promote via social media.

Use Social Media to Promote Everything: Set up branded social media accounts for your business. But, you don’t have to be on all social media networks. Instead use the knowledge that you have about your audience to choose which social media networks that you should be present on. Make good profiles that represent your brand in a cohesive way.

When you write a blog post, send it to social media. When you take a picture of something, or have a question about something you’re creating, mention it on social media. Use social media to engage your audience in creative ways. You can use social media to get email list signups, promote events, and more – all for free.

Find a Joint Venture Partner for a Project: A JV partnership is not a formal business partnership. It’s when join forces or collaborate between complementary business owners who share an audience but are not in direct competition with you. Finding a project to work on like this can essentially help you both double your audience.

Make the JV partnership a time-limited project that has a definite beginning and ending to start. Determine all the rules and how money will be handled up front and put it all in a contract. Define each aspect of the work that each of you will be responsible for completing. Be clear and stick to the plan and you’ll both come out successful.

Write a Book: If you’re an expert t anything you can write a book about the topic. You can easily independently publish it on Kindle, or promote it as a PDF download document right from your website. You can sell it or give it away for free. It’s up to you. But, a book will create instant credibility in the eyes of your audience as a true expert and your book can easily become your calling card.

If you’re thinking about publishing a book to promote your business, be sure to check out my self-publishing help site: Supported Self Publishing.

Get on the Speaking Circuit: Using your book as a foundation, put the word out that you are ready to give talks locally. Always try to speak to groups where your target audience is present. Once you master your local speaking market, then, for the cost of a ticket, room and board, go to other speaking events.

Once you’re established as the expert in your field and in demand, you can get paid for speaking. So, not only can speaking become a good marketing opportunity, but it can also become a new revenue stream.

Create Buzz: When you really have no money for marketing and promotion, a great way to get the word out is to create a lot of buzz around your business. You can do this in a number of ways.

Create a viral video, write a controversial blog post, or host a contest. For a contest, offer a relevant and amazing prize package and it’ll create buzz. Make sure your prize is related to your business to attract only those people who would be interested in your offer. If you give away something generic like an iPad or a Kindle, or even movie or event tickets, you simply invite everybody and his brother to enter, and that does you no real good in trying to reach just your ideal prospects.

You may also want to volunteer your time during a very public event so you get free visibility and recognition. It’s a great way to get people talking about you and to get free advertising.

Build Relationships through Networking: Choose networking events wisely. You want to network with people who can become clients, or who can send you clients. Since your budget is limited, try to find online or local networking events that you can attend that cost little to nothing to come as a guest.

There are also many mastermind-type groups online that have a fee for joining (like my own Inner Success Circle), but are awesome ways to find clients once you spend the time building relationships and developing trust within the group.

Incentivize Referrals: A really great way to increase your customer base is to ask your current customers to refer you to others. Most of the time satisfied customers will tell others about you, but in some cases they may not because they want to keep you to themselves. This is especially true with service-based businesses. So, a great way to overcome this issue is to give your customers a reason to tell others about you such as a discount coupon, or additional thank you freebies for each paying customer they send your way.

If you sell products, consider starting an affiliate program as a way to get more people to tell others about your products and make more sales without it costing you anything more than a percentage of sales.

Using these marketing ideas when you have little to no money will take mostly time, especially if you need to learn how to use the technology. However, putting into action even a couple of these ideas will help propel your business forward.

Now it’s your turn. What ideas do you have for marketing a business on a shoestring? Please share in the comments section below.

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