*If I am honest, I am one of those girls whose money burns a hole in their pockets, over one hundred jackets and double the amount of shoes is testament to that.  But when it comes to someone else’s hard earned cash I am the complete opposite, especially when I am given a small budget for a marketing project…

I get asked all the time when I am working with clients of varying size, from small one person businesses to medium/ large sized businesses, “what tips or advice can I give for managing a limited marketing budget?”

Unless you work for a large multi-national company, it is pretty much guaranteed that you will be working within budgetary constraints that put pressure on making sure every penny counts. Here are the top tips that I have learnt and apply to help get the most out of a marketing budget, especially a small one.

  • Treat the money like it is your own (*Do as I say and not as I do – reference paragraph one)

This one may seem obvious but treating your marketing budget as if it was your own personal money provides clarity in the decision making regarding allocating and spending the budget.

What I have always found, is that thinking of a budget like it was my own bank balance, gives greater accountability in what I am spending. It makes me think longer about opportunities and proposals I receive from external people and companies, makes me think harder about what I am getting for the outlay in spend, and makes my negotiation harder and more efficient.

  • Smaller budgets mean you must work harder

Gaining an advantage in marketing either takes time or money. Therefore, If you don’t have the money, you need to invest the time.

There are many ways to invest time in a marketing sense, whether it is by physically ‘walking the walk’ and visiting customers, or by spending more time getting your creative and message right,  even a little budget can go a long way if you put in the graft.

More recently, a really efficient way to invest time is creating online content in order to boost visibility and popularity online.  Take time to create content, post videos and blogs, or even try and build a community through social media. The world is full of examples of people garnering millions of followers by investing time in cultivating a following and growing a community.

  • Be Disruptive, Bold and Unexpected

To this end, try being different, bold and creating content that makes you stand out from the crowd…and spend nothing in the process.

By creating something that can be shared and spread by virtual word of mouth you can gain huge exposure to a whole new audience without having to break the bank. The equivalent coverage through traditional channels (TV, Radio etc) can cost thousands, and even millions of £’s but creating something unique, interesting, funny or even crazy content that stands out can gain you immense popularity and coverage.

There are examples everywhere online, especially on YouTube, of online how-to guides, fashion bloggers, or flashmob dance moves that don’t cost a lot to make but the return could be huge.  In the past, few small companies could create videos that didn’t cost an arm and a leg or without looking cheap but with the advent of HD video on smartphones you can now create online videos that can be uploaded and promoted for free meaning you can spread the word every day…for free!

So, now you’ve created ‘it’,  you then need to get the word out on ‘it’ by making the push through social sites – i.e. Twitter, Tumblr, Stumbleupon, Reddit, Delicious, Digg, Scoop.it, LinkedIn and others (I need a breath after that!) While this can be the most time-consuming activity, in the end it gives you the biggest bang for your limited buck.

Editorials are another way that you can benefit by getting exposure without the advertising costs.  If you have a product that you think a journalist might be interested in trying then give it to them for free in exchange for a potential write up in the newspaper.

Make sure that you have presence everywhere you can for free! There are lots of free tools too that can help you monitor your activities, especially online, like google analytics, SEO rank checkers and free trials of software and services.

So in a nutshell, success for your small business on a small budget today depends more on your marketing and creativity, and looking after the £’s, than the budgets of your competition. Of course there will always be those who can spend millions at the ready, but your creativity, discipline and smart planning will go a long way in boosting your brand, growing your company, maximising your budget and boosting your bottom line.

Next week I am going to look more at cultivating a following and growing a community online.

How to manage a small marketing budget

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