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5 Inexpensive Marketing Tools and How to Use Them

These tips prove sharing your message doesn’t have to break the bank.

Jennifer Pinto
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Ready to hit the ground running on your digital marketing goals this year? Here are the tools you'll need. (Photo: Pexels)

If you teared up at this Heineken commercial or followed the fine print on a dollop of butter to reveal a secret message from Denny’s, you know as well as anyone that great marketing can be everything. The right branding or a memorable message can help your business grow, boost your sales and bring in new customers. It can also be expensive. 

The Small Business Association recommends that small businesses, namely those with yearly earnings under $5 million, spend about 7-8 percent of their revenue on marketing. For many designers and independent retailers, a scant budget coupled with scads of different ways to spend it can be overwhelming at best. It’s no wonder then why most experts agree that hiring a firm to handle marketing, public relations and advertising offers the best chance at success. Still, according to Wasp Barcode Technologies’ State of Small Business Report, 86 percent of small business owners opt not to look for outside help.

If you count yourself among those who prefer to do-it-yourself, there are some strategies you’ll want to know about. Read on for the top five marketing tools according to for small businesses according to Wasp and tips for taking care of business on the cheap. 

Your company’s website

Your website is your first impression for most customers. If your website loads slowly or is difficult to navigate, you could be unintentionally chasing customers away.

Hiring a consultant to do an audit of your business’s website can run anywhere from $500-$5,000. But why not go straight to the folks you’re trying to reach? Enlist a trusted friend or a willing customer to give you their candid feedback on what it’s like to navigate your site. 

Insiders tip: If you don’t have a website, companies like Squarespace offer easy-to-use templates and will host a site you build yourself for $18 a month. 

Your Customer Email List

One thing Lighting & Decor hears repeatedly from Showroom of the Year finalists is that they keep an email list of preferred customers. At The Lighting House in Shelburne, VE, those on the list are the first to know about sales and the new products, and according to Marketing Manager Zach Blanchard, every blast brings in customers who refer specifically to the email’s content. 

Insider’s tip: Take advantage of industry resources that can help position your showroom as the expert. For example, American Lighting Assn. lighting showroom members receive the organization’s monthly e-newsletter featuring trends and advice to distribute to their preferred customers list.

Your social media accounts

You have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest on lock, but getting a jump on the next big thing will set your business ahead of the curve. Check out Hootsuite's list of 11 social media apps you should be using in 2018 for what's coming down the pipeline. For designers and retailers who are trying to build their brand, the new app Planoly is particularly noteworthy.  

Thanks to the app’s handy grid viewer, users can plan out and look at how a month’s (or more) worth of Instagram posts will work together to communicate a brand.  

Word of mouth

On the laundry list of things that set independent retailers apart from their big-box competitors, customer service is at the top. Look for new ways to go above and beyond customers’ expectations, such calling with an update on delayed merchandise and hand delivering it when it comes in or hosting a private event so your best customers can preview new merchandise.

These types of personal interactions create happy customers who in turn, “may just feel compelled to spread the word about you and your business,” say the small business marketing experts at The Balance

You can also ask these VIPs to leave you a positive review on your Google Business, Facebook or Yelp page. Customers place a lot of value in online reviews, and if your page has more positive reviews than your competitors, you may convince new customers to visit you instead of a competitive showroom.

Print collateral 

Digital messages are great at getting to customers fast, but there’s nothing quite like the feel of paper (good quality paper that is) under your fingertips. Experts argue that well-done print collateral can build and strengthen relationships and leave customers with a lasting good impression. A little splurge on your business cards, letterhead, envelopes and a branded presentation folder will go a long way. 

Insider’s tip: Print collateral means point-of-sale displays and takeaways, too. Patrice Auerbach of Elements Lighting on Long Island, NY, publishes the showroom’s very own shelter magazine (discover how she does it here).


What marketing strategies have been successful for your business? Share with us in the comments below. 


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