How to Create a Marketing Budget on a Shoestring

how to create a marketing budget on a shoestring frugal advertising

If you’re like many small businesses, you probably don’t have a large marketing budget.

Don’t worry, though. The great thing about modern marketing is you can accomplish a lot even with a tight budget. There are plenty of ways you can promote your company effectively without breaking the bank.

Here’s a helpful list of tools, tips and tricks to consider as you learn how to create a marketing budget with limited funds.

Content Marketing

Creating high-quality content on your website’s blog or social media is an effective way to compel visitors to make a purchase.

For this to work, though, you need to understand your audience. Your content should focus more on educating readers than selling to them. What do they want to learn? What problems are they likely facing? What information can you provide to help them solve these issues?

And don’t forget the importance of SEO, which drives traffic to your website when done correctly. If this isn’t your strong point, consider hiring a professional that offer search engine optimization services. They’ll likely have various consulting packages for all budgets.

Email Marketing

If you’re a small business with a limited budget, email marketing is one of the more cost-effective ways to reach customers. Not only does it cost little, but you’re able to customize emails to target customers with specific interests.

The ROI for email marketing is incredible. For every $1 spent, businesses can expect a return of $42.

Companies should build a solid email list and find ways to collect email addresses wherever possible – on their website’s landing page, on social media, at in-person events. The larger your email list - of those genuinely interested in your products or services, of course - the higher ROI you’ll see.

Print Media

No matter what you’ve heard, print marketing is not dead. In fact, it has a higher response rate than email marketing, making it a more effective tool for small businesses.

If you’re hoping to target a hyper-local audience, direct mail is the way to go. You can build your marketing campaign around your budget, deciding how many advertisements you can afford to print and mail while targeting individuals most likely to become customers.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing

It doesn’t cost you anything to maintain a trustworthy and solid reputation as a business. This is great news because word of mouth is a powerful – and free – marketing instrument.

If a customer has an enjoyable experience interacting with your business, they’re likely to leave an excellent review, post about you on social media and share your company with their friends. Their praises will drive even more business your way. Word-of-mouth marketing is responsible for an impressive $6 trillion in consumer spending – that’s about 13% of consumer sales.

You might even want to consider setting up a referral program to make it easier for your clients to share your services with their friends. Through these programs, you can offer your current customers discounts and other benefits for inviting friends to check you out.

Traditional Press

An easy, free way to promote your business is by writing a good old-fashioned press release and submitting it to your regional newspapers, radio stations, TV news outlets, blogs and podcasts. Journalists are often on the lookout for interesting stories, and 44% of them consider press releases the most trustworthy source of brand-related information.

Whether you’re announcing a new product, hosting a special event or launching a new project, a well-crafted press release can help drive interest in your company. Whether you have a brick-and-mortar shop or are solely web-based, connecting with your local media outlets can engage.

If you’re trying to reach a broader audience beyond your local community, consider submitting your press release to news distribution services, niche publications in your industry or national news outlets.

Social Media

Targeted social media ads are an effective way to grow your audience. If targeted correctly, you can keep costs low as you’re charged per ad click.

For social media marketing to work, you need to know your audience well. Which social media platform are they most likely to be on? Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? LinkedIn? Something else or a mixture of these?

Then, you need to define your target audience. Who are they? Where do they live? What are their interests? This information will help you create the most effective social media ad.

There are also valuable free tools on social media. You might consider commenting on relevant posts, joining groups with specific interests and writing interesting content on your page. These are cheap and effective tactics to reach new people when you don’t have a large budget.

Reengage Previous Clients

Sometimes, it’s easier to keep customers coming back rather than finding new ones. Businesses should focus a portion of their marketing efforts on customer retention. This can be done through various low-cost ways, such as offering them a free item or discount.

You also need to consider those who have expressed interest in your products in the past, but maybe didn’t make a purchase. How can you remarket to these individuals? A special promotion just for them? A giveaway? You need to find new ways to get them through your door or to your website.


Developing relationships at in-person and virtual networking events can introduce you to potential clients and generate referrals.

There are some costs associated with networking, such as a membership fee for a leads group or buying a cup of coffee or a drink at an event. But the benefits of networking are worth it, as 95% of professionals consider face-to-face communication integral to long-term business success.

Remember: you get what you put into it. If you join a networking group but don’t attend any of the events, that’s a waste of your money. Find a group you enjoy with a schedule that works for you and start connecting.

Reevaluate Your Marketing Needs as You Go

As you learn how to create a marketing budget for your small business, you’ll find what does and doesn’t work for you. It’s important to measure the results of each tactic you try so you can determine which practices are most effective for you.

But with so many free and low-cost tools available to business owners these days, marketing doesn’t need to cost you tons of money. Visit the Marketing section of the Frugal Finance Blog to learn how to create a marketing budget for less money.

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