How to promote your brand on a tight marketing budget.

A key part of running a business is allocating resources where they’ll be most effective. But too many businesses (and not just small ones), don’t spend nearly as much money promoting their offering as they should.

On the outside, it seems to make sense. After all, why spend your already tight budget on marketing when you could spend it on things that more directly influence sales?  That’s a short-sighted approach.

Marketing affects nearly every aspect of your business. It’s what drives growth and profitability.  Ignoring or minimizing your marketing budget is like building a new car, but then not having enough money to put gas in the tank.

You don’t have to go broke to get big bang for your marketing budget. Here are some low-cost ideas to help you make a big impact without breaking the bank:

Start blogging – Blogs are a great way to improve online visibility.  Address your specific niche with great content that will attract visitors, nurture relationships, and generate leads. Post articles that are valuable to your target audience and they will seek you out.

Collaborate – Find other businesses in a related sphere and cross-promote. Synergistic, non-competitive relationships are a great way to broaden your reach and expand your customer base.

Maximize social media – Facebook, Twitter and Pintrest are great low-cost ways to spread the word about your organization. Join communities, share valuable information (like your blog posts, for example), and offer deals to your followers. Create a distinctive voice and people will love following you.

Brand yourself as an expert – Give speeches to your local chamber of commerce, answer questions on sites like Yahoo! or Quora, and find any way you can to present yourself as a person who knows and understands your particular niche.

Send out coupons – Discount coupons are a great way to attract new customers, encourage return customers and generate goodwill. And they really work. 92% of consumers use coupons.  They’re a powerful tool for nearly any business.

Get great Return on Investment – When you have a limited amount to spend, it’s of utmost importance that you get the greatest ROI possible. Promotional products are a great way to generate significant exposure at a fraction of other forms of marketing. In fact, a recent ASI study found that some items like pens offer a cost per impression that’s less than 1/10 of one cent. That’s a huge value.

When operating of a small marketing budget, you need to maximize the impact of everything you do. But good planning on a shoestring can make spread the word about your business much more effectively than a massive budget that is poorly planned.