Small businesses must be careful with their marketing budgets – if they even have such budgets. Marketing funds need to be used purposefully because every dollar counts. Marketing expenses can add up quickly, especially if the small business doesn’t know how to effectively reach potential customers.

A small business putting money and energy toward marketing without a well-researched strategy in place might as well throw its money out the window.

Be in the community

People respond well to small businesses that are active within the community. Take every opportunity to be out and among the community. Whether it’s volunteer restoration, neighborhood clean-up or handing out flyers and samples, make it clear your business is a vibrant member of and for the community.

Focus on keeping your clients

While you want to attract new customers, don’t forget the customers you already have. It’s far easier and less expensive to wow the customers you already have with great customer service than to bring in brand-new customers. Know your customers, know what they like and greet them like old friends when you interact with them.

Be the local authority

Offer yourself as an authority to local media. For example, if you own a small clothing boutique, pitch a piece to your local newscast about next season’s newest styles. You never know when a slow news week stokes interest in your suggestion and results in free marketing for your business. The key is to pitch the idea so it sounds of broad interest, not of self-interest.

Earn good reviews to get noticed

Encourage your best customers to write reviews for your business on Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor and any other social media. People online trust reviews more than they trust any clever advertising you concoct.

When a customer writes a positive online review, the credibility of you business skyrockets. This increases the chances potential customers become actual customers. Internet best practices require companies to state publicly when they reward customers for positive reviews, including gifts or discounts.

It’s better to simply encourage your happiest customers to share their experiences without offering them something free in return.

Partner with other businesses

Limited marketing budgets can be doubled or tripled when small businesses work together. Choose nearby small businesses that don’t compete with yours, if possible.

Some neighborhoods and districts have small business associations that offer great exposure and community engagement for minimal investment. If this type of association exists in your neighborhood, join. If not, talk to your fellow small businesses about banding together.

Google can help you

Google offers myriad resources to small businesses, and most don’t cost anything. Make sure the information Google lists – your location, contact details, hours, etc. – is correct because that’s what potential customers see online.

Google also lets small businesses post photos and updates that show up in Google searches. This gives you even more exposure and makes it look like your business paid for the online spot. For now, Google gives this to small businesses without a fee.

Social media is vital, but not everything

Develop a thought-out, strategic social media plan that includes regular postings to the networks where your customers are. But this shouldn’t be your sole marketing strategy. Sure, your customers likely are active on social media and you should be, too. But don’t put all of your marketing eggs in one basket.

Deliver what you promise

Your marketing can make all the bold claims you want, but if you don’t deliver what you promise, you won’t succeed. Word gets out quickly when a customer is unhappy, so treat every customer interaction as an opportunity to dazzle those people with the ability to make or break your business.