10 Creative Advertising Ideas For A Tight Budget


I recently visited a new local shop I’d been eager to visit since finding out about it through a web search. I knew the store had just opened, and I was really impressed with its selection and how helpful the owners, a mother-daughter duo, were. As I was paying for my purchase, the owner asked me how I’d heard of her shop, and I told her I’d found it online. “Really?” she said, “I just don’t think all that online stuff is going to make that much of a difference, but my daughter said we need to put it out there, so she took care of it. I honestly don’t see what the value is.”

Cue brakes screeching.

Right about then, her daughter chimed in. She said something along these lines: “Mom, how many of the people we’ve talked to have said they’ve found us the exact same way? You can’t say it’s not working. It obviously is.”

They asked me a few more questions about where exactly I saw the promotion for the store. As we wrapped up our conversation, the daughter wrapped up my purchase, stuck in a business card and a flyer with information about an upcoming sale and told me to look for them on several social media sites she actively uses.

Neither woman asked me for my opinion, but if she had, I would have echoed exactly what the daughter said. It is imperative for small business to advertise, not only online, but in as many ways as you can afford to.

In fact, you can't afford not to advertise!

Tom Egelhoff says it this way:

“If there is one mistake small town businesses make more often than any other it's, "What ever is left over, we'll use for advertising. Marketing and advertising is an investment, not an expense. I know it sure seems like an expense to me when I'm writing the check, but trust me it's not. Without enough money put aside for advertising your sales can go down and you suddenly have less and less for promotion."

So, if the idea of sinking a chunk of change in to advertising makes you queasy, relax. There are many methods to effectively advertise on a limited budget as well as tools to measure advertising effectiveness. You can spend a reasonable amount with success, and make sure your advertising budget is doing its job well.

10 Low-Cost, Creative Advertising Ideas

  1. Use the internet! I wanted to tell the shopkeeper whom I spoke with that 85 percent of her potential customers use the internet to find local businesses. She was willing to write all of those potential customers off, but she (and you!) can’t afford to miss out on them! It’s not as costly or as complicated as you may think to utilize this powerful resource. Set up online accounts on your local business directories, and encourage your customers to leave reviews, and you've done your business a major service in just a few steps.

  2. Create a website. Your website should (at least) have your phone number and email address, and, if you own a retail shop, the address of your storefront. Ensure potential customers know exactly where they can find you.

  3. Use social media and location-based services. Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and 4Square are all free methods of advertising, and your business doesn’t have to be on every platform. Using just a few of these outlets well can make a difference. In the next three years, more than 179 million people are predicted to use these outlets in North America alone. That’s a lot of potential customers!

  4. Advertise on Google.

  5. Volunteer! Get involved in your community, and position your company in a positive light to those closest to you by showing that you care. You’ll build trust in your brand, you may see that word-of-mouth marketing and referrals increase your business with minimal cash investment. Lead a clean-up day at a local park, or visit a local school and see if there are any ways you can share your time and talents with the students there.

  6. Participate in or donate to local charities. Sponsor a fun run or community event and wear your company T-shirt so attendees can associate you, their friendly neighbor, with the good your business is doing.

  7. Teach a class on business in general or something related to your specific skills. Many community centers, libraries, churches and colleges offer one- or two-session classes that you may be interested in leading. You’ll be able to network with those interested in and involved with your business community, and you’ll be perfectly positioned to share your own successes. You may even learn a few things from your students!

  8. Find out if direct mail is right for you, and if so, use it! According to one IBM study, "selling time can be reduced from 9.3 to 1.3 total hours with direct mail advertising. A Sales and Marketing Executives International Study showed salespeople went from eight orders per 100 cold calls to 38 orders per 100 when direct mail was used." And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

  9. Utilize business cards. They're a small-but-mighty tool you probably already have!

  10. Send out press releases to your local newspaper when your business does something new and innovative or exceptional. Keep your content fresh and your headlines catchy, and your local news outlets may do your advertising for you.

Think of this list as a best-of-the-best list of the hundreds of creative advertising ideas on a tight budget. After you implement these ideas, you’ll want to prove their success. Scrutinize their effectiveness by adding a call tracking number to every ad and piece of collateral you hand out or publicize, and then take that information and invest more in the ways that were successful so you can continue to grow your business. Don’t be afraid to try methods you’re unfamiliar with; they may bring in more leads than you expected!

Now it’s your turn. Which of these methods sound most appealing to you? Let us know about the success you’ve had with low-cost, creative advertising ideas!