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8 min read

9 budget-friendly marketing strategies


Stretching your marketing budget can be a real challenge, especially when you're a small business or startup without tons of cash to throw at paid ads. But before you go blowing your budget on Google and Facebook ads, wait a second!

There are actually plenty of smart, creative tactics you can use to get the word out about your business and connect with your audience without draining your bank account. In this post, we'll share nine budget-friendly marketing strategies that drive real results for savvy brands through organic reach instead of splurging on ads.

The nine budget-friendly marketing strategies that we'll dive deeper into are:

Guerrilla marketing

Guerrilla marketing lets you dream up unconventional activations that catch people's attention and interact with your brand in memorable ways. These kinds of tactics bring your branding to your audience through fun stunts and experiences right where they already are.

These creative engagements organically lead to sharing and buzz as people snap pictures and videos to spread on social media. That user-generated content offers far more authentic engagement with your brand than any polished ad could hope for. 

Here are some guerrilla marketing ideas to run with:

  • Set up photo booths at local fairs and events decked out in your branding. Make sure to also provide props and share the photos online. This gives people a fun way to interact and share your brand.
  • Get your swag out there by handing out free samples, stickers, t-shirts, or whatever branded item represents you, in areas with lots of foot traffic. Here you can strike up conversations and connections that make a real impact.
  • Stage "stunts" like pop-up concerts or flash mob dance routines that capture attention and entertain crowds. With this, just make sure that your brand name is center stage.

Guerrilla marketing generates memorable brand interactions and organic social engagement at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising. And when done right, people really enjoy it and want to get involved with your brand in the moment rather than avoiding overly sales-y ads.

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Contests and giveaways

Contests and giveaways are time-tested marketing tactics that cost little but provide great brand exposure. Creative contests generate excitement and engagement as participants eagerly share their entries across social media and with their networks. Plus, you gain authentic, organic content to reuse.

Meanwhile, giveaways help you quickly expand your email list as people sign up for a chance to win free stuff. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Social contests encouraging user-generated content like photos, videos, and reviews. After they’ve shared these things, you can reward top entries with prizes and reshare on your own channels. 
  • Offer exclusive discounts or gift cards to select winners to convince people to participate and engage. Who doesn't love prizes?
  • Free sample giveaways in exchange for email sign-ups. Having a limited-time giveaway creates an urgency to act, which prompts more people to sign up as they get FOMO (fear of missing out), which is a clever marketing tactic. 

Hashtag campaigns

Hashtag campaigns are a surefire way to spark social media and user engagement without that big ad spend. Simply come up with a branded hashtag tied to your product, event, or initiative and encourage sharing.

Tracking your hashtag allows you to monitor your audience engagement and jump in to engage people more. Beyond a small investment in community management and prizes, it's a free way to drive major awareness.

When users start posting content featuring your hashtag, it creates a visible trend that others join in on organically. This leads to wide brand exposure beyond just your followers. 

  • Similar to social contests, launch an ongoing hashtag for customers to share photos, experiences, and reviews about your product in use. This generates authentic user content you can repurpose now and over time.
  • Run limited-time hashtag contests around holidays, events, and product launches. Then you can offer prizes for top content featuring your hashtag which strikes up more engagement.
  • During special events and launches, promote your event hashtag on signs, packaging, and social media to maximize visibility and encourage user participation.

Customer loyalty programs

Loyalty and rewards programs are a win-win marketing tactic that incentivizes customers to engage more with your brand. They work by offering points, perks, and freebies in exchange for purchases and participation.

Here are some smart loyalty program ideas:

  • Offer points for every dollar spent or product reviewed that turn into rewards like discounts and free merchandise. With this, make sure that the points are easy to stack up so that your customer feels like they’re actually inching toward the reward. This will encourage more engagement and loyalty to your brand. 
  • Create tiers with special perks, early access, and exclusives for your highest-value customers. Having a “VIP” status is a powerful retention tool.
  • Provide free shipping, birthday gifts, bonus points events, and member-only sales. This is a great way to surprise and delight loyal customers and keep them coming back to your brand for more. Plus, they’ll share these things with their friends and family, increasing the likelihood that more people will become a customer, too. 

Live streaming events

Live streaming is an exciting marketing channel that allows real-time interaction with your audience for free. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram make it easy to go live and build connections through streaming content.

You can host live Q&As, AMAs, workshops, events, and behind-the-scenes footage which bring your brand to life and give followers a sense of exclusivity. 

  • Host live Q&A sessions where followers can get their pressing questions answered in real-time by your team. You can make these a recurring event so they know when to expect another session, hopefully increasing the chance they’ll return if they enjoyed the first one.
  • Share exciting behind-the-scenes footage of things like product launches, events, photoshoots, and office antics that show your brand personality.
  • Run virtual workshops or classes to engage and educate your audience on topics they care about and establish your authority.
  • Partner with influencers in your niche to collaborate on joint live streams and tap into their follower base, too.

User-generated content (UGC)

User-generated content (UGC) from your fans and followers is marketing gold. This authentic, unpaid content comes straight from real customers showcasing their genuine experiences with your brand.

Featuring UGC in your marketing provides you with free, high-quality creative assets while leveraging the built-in distribution and credibility of the creators. Here are some ways to tap into it:

  • Ask loyal customers directly to send images and videos showing them using your products. In exchange, repost their creative UGC.
  • Partner with nano and micro-influencers to collaborate on UGC campaigns where they create branded posts and stories promoting you to their engaged followers.

Sourcing UGC removes the cost and hassle of producing polished marketing assets from scratch. And the authenticity of real user content builds trust and engagement on a budget.

Peer-to-peer marketing

Peer-to-peer and referral marketing leverage your happiest customers to organically promote your brand to their own networks. This is done by providing incentives and resources to share with friends and family. When a trusted referral comes from a familiar source rather than a sales ad, it holds far more weight and drives more conversions.

Think about the following examples:

  • Implement referral programs to incentivize sharing deals with friends and family through rewards.
  • Equip loyal customers with resources and assets to easily share your brand within their networks.
  • Share referral codes customers can send to peers for special sign-up offers and discounts.
  • Use word-of-mouth to drive sales instead of expensive ads by activating customer ambassadorship.

Leaning on satisfied customers as brand evangelists brings authentic word-of-mouth promotion and conversions at little ongoing cost besides the rewards. What more could you want?

Location-based targeting

Geo-targeting allows you to zone in your marketing efforts on users who are physically near your brick-and-mortar locations. While broad campaigns have their place, geo-targeted strategies help drive conversions by reaching customers who can actually visit your store.

When someone is close to your shop, they are primed for conversion. Target them with:

  • Local social and search ads to attract nearby customers browsing in your area to your storefront.
  • Proximity offers that pop up for users within a set radius, enticing them to come take advantage of deals.
  • In-person events like pop-up shops and local fairs to directly engage potential customers where they already are.
  • Partnerships with neighboring businesses to cross-promote through contests and special offers when customers are near multiple locations.

Content marketing

Content marketing enables brands to attract and engage with audiences through valuable, relevant information and storytelling. Unlike interruptive advertising, it pulls visitors in organically through search and sharing rather than having to pay to push messaging out. 

The ability to utilize owned platforms like blogs and amplify reach through partnerships makes content marketing extremely cost-effective compared to paid advertising.

Below, we have put together a list of four ways you can bring in leads to your business through content marketing at a cheaper cost. 

SEO content

  • Focus on quality long-form content optimized for relevant niche and long-tail keywords.
  • Integrate keywords naturally and include related backlinks.
  • Blog regularly with practical, useful information targeted at each stage of the buyer's journey.
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Gated content assets

  • Develop comprehensive assets like ebooks, reports, and templates that provide value and insights.
  • Gate access to these assets behind lead generation forms to capture contact data.
  • Promote gated assets through social media, email, and search ads with tight targeting.

Guest articles

  • Research relevant industry publications and blogs with your target audience.
  • Pitch article ideas providing expert advice and insider tips.
  • Repurpose and expand on pieces from your own blog.
  • Include an author bio and links back to your site.

Content syndication

  • Identify partners, affiliates, and complementary brands to syndicate content.
  • Repurpose existing blog posts and promote syndicated versions across networks.
  • Drive traffic back with links and cross-promotion.
  • Convert audiences through retargeting.

Final thoughts 

The great news is that getting serious marketing results doesn't require shelling out for expensive advertising and campaigns. With a bit of creativity and strategy, there are many highly effective yet budget-friendly tactics brands can leverage.

The key takeaway is to focus your limited resources on building lasting brand experiences, relationships, and community. Meet audiences where they already are both locally and online and activate your fans rather than trying to buy new ones.

Do you have any other tips for marketing on a budget? Let us know in our Slack community

Written by:

Charley Gale

Charley Gale

Charley is the copywriter at Revenue Marketing Alliance. She has a passion for creating new content for the community. She's always open to new ideas, so would love to hear from you!

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9 budget-friendly marketing strategies