If you’re struggling with the costs and complexity of marketing your business, you’re not alone. Research conducted by Forrester in 2013 suggested that over half of Canadian small businesses still have no website. That’s a shocker, given that an online presence is a modern business “must-have.” If you have the budget to do so, you can simply hire an ad agency to develop a plan and manage all of your marketing. But let’s assume that you’re doing-it-yourself, on a shoestring budget. What can be done? Here are some cheap and cheerful solutions to get your marketing going.

 

Website work-around
If you’re not in a position to build or commission your own website, a popular work-around is to use social networks instead. Platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter cost nothing to use and allow your business to have an online profile, complete with contact information. You can also use these same platforms to connect with your customers and prospects. If you’re stumped on how to set up landing pages or network online, ask a savvy friend for help or search online for tutorials.

Cost-effective creative tools
Did you know that you can get full, up-to-date versions of Microsoft Office applications—such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Publisher and OneNote—for under $20 per month? An Office 365 subscription will set you up with the latest creative and communication tools. Use PowerPoint for polished presentations and Publisher to design materials like flyers, postcards and business cards. Plus, Office 365 offers thousands of free templates online that you can customize easily.

Business-class email
Counting on consumer webmail for your business is risky. It’s “free,” but also often unreliable and unsecure. With an Office 365 Business or Business Premium subscription, Microsoft will host your email in the cloud securely and ensure 99.9% uptime. No fuss, no muss. Plus, you and your staff can share email, calendars, contacts and folders from any device, anywhere. Tip: When you do get your email set-up properly, add a nice email signature, complete with all your business contact details.

Connecting with customers
Do you have a hard time following up with or reaching out to people? Do you spend too much time on the phone or in email handling routine service requests? A customer relationship marketing (CRM) platform like Microsoft Dynamics CRM may be a smart investment. It’s a great way to automate your marketing, sales and customer care, providing your customers with a polished, professional communication experience and allowing you to focus on getting your work done.

Search advertising
Dollar-for-dollar, running your own text ads on search engines is probably the cheapest and best way to drive inquiries to your business. A platform like Bing Ads makes search advertising simple. You can write and manage your own ads. Ads are geo-targeted, so you only pay to reach audiences in the area you designate. There’s no start-up or minimum purchase required. And you only pay for clicks, which means you’ll see exactly where your ad dollars are going.

Remember: marketing really works! In fact, advertising is often why one competitor outpaces another, even when their products, services and prices are very similar. So just getting your name out there is going to help.