How To Market SME Businesses With No Budget
With the economy not looking good for 2016-2017, I’m noticing changing trend in the inquiries I get.
2015 – “Nate, we have plans to expand the business. Help us formulate a plan to dominate the industry!”
Now – “We are a small business. We honestly don’t have much budget. Can you help us?”
Today, there are tons of small businesses in Singapore that need marketing but have no budget. If you’re a small company just starting up, or a sole-proprietor renting a shop space, you’d know the struggles. With no budget, agencies ignore you and all you get are PIC vendors approaching you to buy useless products.
But the good news is marketing doesn’t always cost $10,000. In fact, back in 2007, when I began my own internet marketing adventure, my monthly budget was a mere $300!
Here are 3 things to look at if you’re a small business that needs marketing.
#1 – Government Help
Haha don’t bother.
If you’re a small business owner, I’m sure you might have already discovered this. If you’ve just started, run a 1-man show in a small shop or haven’t really turned a profit yet, grants will be hard to come by. Even if you do get the grants, it seldom results in improved business metrics.
Name me someone you know who actually increased sales by 300% after installing a CRM. Or maybe another business that got 5x better ROI after investing in an agency with advanced advertising systems? How many businesses do you know that experienced tremendous growth after launching their $60,000 mobile app?
None? That’s not surprising. I don’t know any either.
But the grants and aids have indeed been helping businesses in Singapore. The ones I see benefitting most aren’t really the business that use the grants, but the businesses that can sell goods/services that are eligible for the grants!
So advice #1 is this:
Don’t get too caught up in getting grants for services that can “help” your business. Focus on improving your own business and knowledge.
#2 – Personal Time Investment
Study your business model carefully. Are you sure of your key competitive advantage? Are you telling customers what they want to hear, instead of what you want to say? What are your competitors doing? How does the future of your industry look?
All these questions, along with the quality of your product/service should be figured out before you start marketing. Be very careful here. Every business owner tends to believe his/her own product is the best. Don’t let ego cloud your judgement.
With all that figured out, you’d want to try your hand digital marketing. It’s cheaper than hiring any outside help. And on a basic level, it really isn’t as difficult as people think.
But before trying anything, READ.
READ READ READ READ READ!
Ignore the more complex advertising techniques. Start with the basics. There are tons of materials teaching beginner Google AdWords and Facebook Advertising. These 2 will be enough to cover almost anything a small business needs. Ignore everything else like Instagram, LinkedIn, Display Advertising, Media Buys, Remarketing etc. Don’t try to fly before you can walk.
#3 Basic Marketing
Now that you know your key competitive edge, it’s time to tell people about it.
Start a small campaign at: www.google.com.sg/AdWords. Google gives free $75 advertising credit for first-timers. If you get stuck, they also have account specialists to guide you through. They’ve made it as easy as possible for beginners to start.
After that, create an account a Facebook advertising account and do the same through social media (www.facebook.com/Business)
Just set up a small campaign of $100 to $200 on each platform. At the end of both campaigns, evaluate the performance. You don’t need to spend big in digital to know whether something is working. You can find out within a week usually. Use that lightning-quick feedback loop to your advantage.
What you’re aiming to do here is to generate a few extra leads and sales every month. If you have your business model and product value done right, these customers will then return and refer even more future customers.
My typical SEO rate is $800/month. My digital consulting rate starts around $3,000/month. Even if you were to go to agencies instead of private specialists like myself, it’d still cost you a few thousand every month. Think of how much you can save if you simply spent 2 hours a day to study the basics.
You might argue your basic skills won’t get even 10% of the results a private specialist can give. That’s true. However, your issue here is budget, not optimal performance.
Don’t have time to learn or read up? Also not willing to pay anything? Then I’m sorry, but if even the owner himself/herself doesn’t trust the business enough to invest money, then I really don’t see why customers would.
But if you are willing to eat a few less restaurant meals to help your business, send me a message. For a one-time-fee, I’d walk you through your competitive landscape, formulate a growth strategy and set the ad systems and analytics up for you. This is only eligible for small/starting businesses. Although, I won’t be able to help you analyze and growth hack subsequently, this can at least set the marketing direction right and bring a few extra leads every month.
Author BioA leading digital marketer in Singapore, Nate has beaten professional benchmarks for Google SEM by 400%. Previously a Vice-President of Marketing in his corporate career, he's worked with American Express, Yahoo, Starhub, Genting. Trained people at Facebook, Google, Starcom. Approached for strategic insights by IDC. Helped a bank save 98% on marketing. Increased user revenue for Deloitte's fastest growing tech startup in Singapore by 4,400%.
Currently offering free consulting for charities, social causes and start-ups with shoestring budgets. Also works with private clientele at That Web Consultant.