This article was originally published in Localogy.
For businesses with limited budgets, success requires making decisions that make the most of each dollar. When it comes to affiliate marketing programs, meeting the dollar requirements outside of co-op or MDF can be tricky, and doing so sometimes requires personal sacrifices. While a 70% subsidy might sound tempting to many marketers who welcome their corporate partner’s help, coming up with your $300 share could mean your son has to skip soccer camp that summer or mean giving up another marketing program you know is successful already. For small businesses, business and personal finances can overlap.
For businesses who only have $500 or less to invest in marketing programs per month, we at BrandMuscle have decided to assemble creative, supplemental efforts that can support your marketing dollars. It might take more elbow grease than simply paying more for a managed service, but here are options to get your agency, dealership, or other local business performing optimally.
Requires: a writer, a web developer, keyword knowledge, and access to website or domain
Whether you’re improving keywords to draw more organic, optimized traffic or you’re writing blogs to appeal to consumers’ interests, website content is an efficient tactic to market your business. There are certain factors to consider before committing time to content marketing: Do you have a talented writer who is affordable to use? Do you have a basic understanding of keywords that will help the business? Can you update the website without professional assistance? For those within brands with rigorous corporate standards around public-facing content, you’d also have to review brand standards and permissions before investing time and resources in content marketing.
If you have the resources required, then the next consideration is how to market your new content. For that, we’ll look to option number two.
Requires: social pages, web content, publishing daily, responding to engagements, time
Although social media rarely has a fixed ROI, we all know the ineffable influence it has on consumers — probably because our iPhones give us screen usage reports with disturbing amounts of personal consumption of social platforms! To tap the power of social media and engage an audience, you need content, including images, curated relevant articles, videos, blogs, and even witty quips. Oh yeah, and you need to build an audience! While captivating an audience may seem easy, there are millions of talented influencers vying for that same limited pool of consumer eyeballs on-screen, so you will have to put effort into building that audience.
For social media novices, we recommend a planned publication schedule with one post a day. There’s more to successful social than that, but for now, it’s a great start. A growing audience will typically snowball from supportive family to neighbors to unconnected locals within six months, all organically.
If you do have a small budget for paid marketing, an organic social media audience is a great foundation for successful paid social ads. This is one way to really supplement those limited, working media dollars!
Requires: A community, determination, a table, good swag, and time
Assuming you’re part of your community with neighbors and, possibly, social or religious clubs, a community of fans is already out there waiting for you to tap into. Talk to everyone you know about upcoming events. Is there an opportunity to host at your business? Is there an opportunity to host a table? Depending on your network, there may be free opportunities at church dances, car washes, spelling bees, D&D games, and local hockey matches. The answer’s always ‘no’ until you ask, so ask!
Requires: A tenacious spirit, snacks, leftover swag, more time
So, people the business, but they don’t love it enough to let the business sponsor little league for free? It’s time to consider in-kind trades as an organic marketing opportunity. If you’re ready to trade, first ask yourself: What do you have to give away? Here are some likely options:
With a solid understanding of the things, you can trade to sponsor events, contact the business’s network again and get savvy about offering exchanges. It’s amazing what one can do with a red paper clip versus an empty hand.
About those professional skills: Remember that you can also trade expertise and time for free conference passes sometimes. Reach out and offer to be a business mentor in exchange for a booth at an existing event, or at least in exchange for a full-access pass. This can grant entrée to network with a wider audience who is, like the business’s community, already there waiting to be tapped.
Requires: goodwill, local nonprofits, items to donate, a few simple calls
While we’ve touched on mentorship for business opportunities and in-kind trades, the alternative is mentoring people in need in exchange for co-sponsored events. Sometimes local charities need help with mock interviews or basic resume-building workshops. By donating time to charity, you can get a website link or social post from a charitable page that has a different, broad audience.
Another way to help those in need and get some organic marketing support is to donate items that the business does not need, whether it’s an old desk or discontinued shears. These items can also be a tax break.
The last charity option that might bolster marketing efforts is adopting a highway mile. Your local team can have the pride of keeping their town clean during downtime, and you can get a branded mile marker for your time and effort. This can also become useful social media or website content. And imagine the captive audience that will continuously drive by the name on the sign over the years!
After reading this list, you might be thinking, “None of those are free! They’re actually going to cost more in hours!” That’s true. Much like traveling to a remote destination, there are cheaper and less efficient ways to get there as well as costly, expeditious options, but consider this: The goal should be to find the right value for the business’s unique needs. BrandMuscle can help you formulate those goals and help you reach them.
Vice President of Performance Marketing, BrandMuscle
Erin Strong is the VP of Performance Marketing at BrandMuscle. She has 15 years of progressive leadership experience with hands-on skills as a copywriter, ad designer, social media and digital advertising SME, creative director, brand strategist, and customer research analyst both on the agency and client-side of strategic development. Erin has industry experience in CPG, telecommunications, automotive, retail, F&B, hospitality, gaming, convenience, manufacturing, and wine, spirits, and beer. She's passionate about finding new audiences, carrying best practices across industries, and developing omnichannel strategies that drive results.