BY COLLEEN PATTERSON

As entrepreneurs, we’ve all been there: tied to a shoestring budget.

If you’re operating with little-to-no marketing budget, you’re likely in the early stages of pinning down your marketing strategy: audience demographics and behaviors, optimal methodology, and messaging. You’ve got a lot going on.

So, let’s start with the marketing channels that you own and the audience that you do have — before upping your spend to initiate paid campaigns that reach new folks.

First, there are your social channels:

Facebook, LinkedIn (assuming you don’t use Premium), Twitter, and Instagram. Note that it is not imperative for your business or brand to have a presence on each of these channels. You’ll only want to focus on the platforms where your audience lives. That’s important. When developing a low budget marketing strategy, we’re focusing our energies on the assets we already own.

There’s your website.  Let’s assume that the upfront costs have been accounted for and that it’s up to you to create content — i.e. blog posts. Lastly, there’s earned content — or any press and online mentions which you’ve acquired for free.

So, once again, here we have your “free media”: social channels, website, and social mentions or free publicity.  How do you make the most of those channels?

MARKETING STRATEGY 1: SHARE YOU KNOWLEDGE WITH YOUR COMMUNITY

Join a Facebook group or an interest group within Muses and start answering questions! Search for topics you know the answer to within Quora.

There’s a catch, though. You’re not allowed to plug your business. There are communities and groups (read: engagement groups) where it’s not only appropriate to shamelessly share a post of your own that deserves some lovin’ — but where that’s the purpose.

In this scenario, be helpful and your community will look into you. “Oh! They had really great advice. Let me check out their Facebook page or Instagram to see what else I can learn.”

You’ve just generated interest in your own work by freely offering up your expertise. That in itself is a form of free marketing.

MARKETING STRATEGY 2: AGAIN, SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE WITH YOUR COMMUNITY

This time however, I’m referring to inbound marketing. Use your website as a resource or community story hub. That is your blog. Write what you know.

Naturally, you’ll use your social channels to cross-promote the content you’ve self-published. Here’s what to do there.

Cite your favorite experts within your articles and give them a shout-out on social. Best case scenario, they appreciate the compliment, enjoy your work, and share your article to their audience.

MARKETING STRATEGY 3: DON’T HOST A PUBLIC GIVEAWAY. GIVEAWAY FREEBIES TO INFLUENCERS.

Here’s the deal. Giveaway contests are great. They are wonderful for helping you to generate impressions at scale as long as you invest in a big enough prize. The rules of the giveaway game usually dictate that the bigger or more expensive your prize, the broader your reach. You can think about it this way: the more expensive, the more newsworthy, the more shareable it becomes. So. If you want your giveaway to be successful, you’ll have to fork up.

Here’s an alternative plan. You can give out free products or services or coupon codes to select influencers to share to their audiences of thousands. Let’s say you tap 10 influencers to create and share posts about 10 brand new convertible tote bags you’ve just gifted them. If each of those influencers inspire two purchases, you’ve essentially cancelled out your marketing spend and made ten sales on an empty budget.

Here’s another point. Influencers are likely to also become customers. If you gift them a bag it may be that they decide to purchase a complimentary wallet. Why not make a purchase? They just received a free bag, didn’t they?

Are you starting to the see the common denominator, here?

Marketing is all about community and relationship-building. The secret to getting the most bang out of your marketing strategy  is to not be “salesy.” Be yourself. Focus on building a brand around engaging stories and useful resources you know your community will take an interest in. Position yourself as a leader, an expert, a resource, a go-to and the rest will naturally follow.

For more tips on how to continually drive traffic to your site that converts, check out these posts:

Colleen Patterson is the content marketing manager for Muses, the only digital growth app focused on building long­-term relationships. She’d love you to get involved.