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Marketing on a shoestring budget print Print

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You don’t always need a lot of money to market your business effectively if you do the basics right. Check out our effective and low cost tactics to win new customers and keep them coming back.

Marketing on a shoestring budget

Winning new customers

The more you know about your potential customers, the easier it’ll be to convince them to buy from you. So it’s important that your marketing strategy includes research that allows you to come up with profiles of your target customers. 

Track online behaviour

Getting a good idea of the online behaviour of your potential customers means you’ll have a better chance of selling to them.

    • Use Google Analytics to keep track of website traffic, including what people are clicking on. It’s a great way to determine things like your visitors’ geographic location and what devices they are using, as well as which pages are being clicked on and which aren’t. You can also find out how many people are coming from referred sites.
    • Conduct polls and surveys through platforms like Facebook to give you a better idea of what your customers are looking for. One of the most popular tools is Survey Monkey, and it can be easily embedded into your Facebook page. You can easily share your surveys and get your results in an easy-to-use format.

Adjust what you sell, how you approach them and what you say based on your new understanding of your customers. For example, if you’re selling handmade soaps and your customers have indicated they’d like a gift-wrapping option, you can include this as part of the sale.

Obviously, this is most beneficial to online businesses. Businesses that have face to face contact e.g. a plumber or a bricks and mortar flower shop will have a good idea of who their customers are anyway. If you have both an online store and a bricks and mortar store, you may be surprised to learn that your online shoppers have different characteristics than those who come into your shop.

Collect contact information

Your website should have a way of collecting customer contact details such as email addresses. To encourage people to register on your website, offer free downloads/whitepapers, enter competitions, loyalty rewards or even advance notice of specials and clearance deals. 

What’s the point of collecting prospects’ data? You can send enewsletters. This allows you to keep in close touch with your customers in a cost effective way. By sending a regular e-newsletter that offers relevant, useful content to your customers, such as special offers and topical news, you can stay top of mind to your customers and encourage them to buy from you again.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

This is a process to help optimise your website so it’s attractive to search engines. On Google, few people click on a result that is fourth or fifth in the list, and hardly ever do people look at the second page of results. So if you can ensure that your website is one of the top few results when someone does a relevant search on Google, you’re much more likely for that person to visit your website.

See our article Making the most of SEO.

AdWords/Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Another way to improve your ranking with Google is Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising through AdWords. It’s an effective way to drive traffic to your website. You can design an ‘advert’ that appears at the top or the right-hand column of search engine results, when it’s relevant to a search someone enters into Google. You then pay Google an agreed amount each time someone clicks to visit your site. The amount you choose to spend can vary, but the more you're prepared to pay, the more prominent your entry will be.

Look for free advertising

With a dash of imagination and persistence you can get others to promote your business for you. One way is to advertise your business through other businesses and do the same for them.

This is especially popular via social media. If you’ve got other businesses following you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, and you’re following them and are happy to refer your customers to them, you could discuss promoting each other.

Have guarantees and testimonials

These increase your credibility, and are great ways of converting prospects when they’re considering buying from you. For people who are thinking of buying from you, this social proof - knowing that other people have brought from you and recommend you – builds their trust of you and means they’re more likely to become customers themselves. Add to your website quotes from customers, any warranties or ‘lifetime’ guarantees that help reduce potential new customer concerns.

Retaining customers & improving satisfaction

Once you’ve won your customers, you want to keep them coming back. So always be thinking of ways to improve their experience with you, and convincing them that they’re more important to you than they are to your competitors.

Complementary marketing

It’s your basic “would you like fries with that?” approach. If you can offer complementary products or services to your customers at the time of purchase, you’ll improve your sales and your customer experience.

If you don’t have any complementary products or services, you could enter into an alliance with a similar business. For example, if you are a local car repair or WoF shop but don’t sell tyres, you could form an alliance with the tyre business down the road. The idea is that you promote each other's business to your customer databases. This approach benefits both and is very cost-effective.

Build alliances with suppliers

Consider developing alliances with reliable suppliers and hold joint promotions or get them to share the costs of signage or events. Often suppliers have co-op marketing budgets to spend. Or hold an event at your business where the supplier sends an expert to demonstrate a new product or train your customers and prospects in its use.

Promote special events

These can work really well for retail. Think Mother’s Day, Christmas, Easter or school holidays. If you’ve got a well established social media platform, you could use it to promote special offers around these events. 

Encourage word-of-mouth and referral business

Word-of-mouth is one of the most effective and cheapest forms of advertising you can use. So try to get your customers talking about you (in a positive way!) face to face and on social media, and get permission to use their testimonials on your website.


The internet, with all its social media options and SEO initiatives, is a great way to market your business at relatively low cost. Keep your website updated, make sure you’re leveraging the relevant social media channels, and make use of tools that can analyse your website traffic, so you can tailor your marketing accordingly. Ensure you keep your existing customers happy and encourage them to refer others to your business.

Tools & resources

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