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Lynn Morrison, head of business engagement at Opus Energy, offers five top tips for marketing your business on a budget.

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Many SMEs neglect to allocate any spend to marketing as it is seen as ‘non-essential’, but this is a mistake.

With Small Business Saturday coming up, many SMEs will be thinking about how to take their business to the next level over the coming year. Working in a SME – especially one that’s just started up – often means people doing multiple job roles and becoming a jack of all trades. It is incredibly difficult to simultaneously think about hiring the right people, marketing your business and positioning your brand, as the pressing issues of just running the business often take priority. As such marketing is often seen as a bit of a luxury – an afterthought at best, as it’s not considered central to business strategy.

However, this is simply not the case and marketing must become be a key part of helping your business grow. And perhaps more reassuringly, marketing doesn’t actually need to break the bank. Remember, marketing covers both on and offline content, and can help attract the best talent and generate new business, so getting on the front foot early is the best approach.

If you’re in the know, you can find ways to cover the marketing essentials, allowing you to achieve great results without breaking the bank. To get you started, we have outlined our top tips for optimising your marketing, whatever your business size or spend:

  1. Focus on the thing you do best

Let’s face it, marketing tasks like writing and drawing don’t come naturally to everyone, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t do any of your own marketing. Pick and choose what you will do, depending on your strengths. For example, if you like networking, choose key events or networking opportunities to get a chance to mix with new people and talk up your business. Alternatively, if you prefer to write, then think about a direct mail campaign or compelling copy which can be syndicated across websites and blogs. For those things that you can’t do, ask for help or outsource this. You’ll be better served spending a little bit of money to fill in the gaps, than trying and failing to do it all yourself.

  1. Make a plan

A good marketing strategy is directly related to your business goals and objectives, and drives your business marketing plan. Putting the two together, the marketing strategy should outline what it is you want to do, and the marketing plan contains all the details of how you’re going to do it. So, for example, if your objective is to gain broader market reach, the strategy could be to target new audiences (such as the public sector). Your marketing plan could then consist of developing a campaign to reach out to your new specific stakeholders, with tactics to ensure maximum exposure in this area.

Think of all the marketing tools available when you build up your plan, and make sure you include a timeline of goals along with good measurement analytics. The learnings you receive could benefit you in future campaigns and guide future marketing planning.

  1. Efficiency matters

As a SME, you want to be generating a good return on investment (ROI). This is why many traditional media formats won’t make sense for you in your early days. Look to low cost, high return options such as email. It is relatively cheap, and you can also see results quickly. Emails could include newsletters, special offers or invitations to upcoming events. Whatever it is, make sure the content is engaging to your audience, and make sure you measure your ‘open’ and ‘response’ rates and use these to inform your next campaign.

  1. Get online to be omnipresent

Your website is the equivalent to a shop window – it speaks volumes about your business. Therefore, if you want to capture peoples’ imaginations, ensure your website is up to scratch, both in terms of design, SEO and mobile optimisation. Getting a website up and running isn’t as challenging as it used to be, but if you’re not particularly tech-savvy, consider bringing in professionals to help. For example, freelance website designers tend to be more affordable than working with agencies. When you’re setting up your site, be sure to build it (or have it built) on a content management system like WordPress, which will make it easy for you to update it yourself. Regularly updating your website (with blogs for example) is great for SEO, so it’s good to update it as much as possible.

  1. Stick to the plan and follow through

Marketing, no matter how you do it, rarely guarantees overnight success. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to see your plan through before making any major changes. This will give you a good amount of information and data to determine whether or not that marketing strategy was the right one for your business.

In it to win it

While the phrase ‘marketing’ may bring big departments, new hires and sizeable budgets to mind, as you can see, it doesn’t have to incur huge costs. By following these these five tips, you’ll be equipped to get your small business up and running with a consistent, digital-age-friendly, and effective marketing plan.