Cheap and Effective Advertising for Small Businesses

Woman planning advertising for her small business
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No matter how small your business or its budget, it's essential to spend some money on advertising.

However, most small businesses and startups are lucky to have a few thousand dollars to make a splash, not the ad budget of an Apple or Honda that could feed the Third World. The good news is, there are plenty of ways to advertise effectively without breaking the bank.

What little money you have needs to be spent wisely. Think smarter, and think about how to stretch your spending further. You have to make the most out of the ad dollars you do have, no matter how limited you are. These cost-effective ways to advertise your business give you a variety of options to choose from, especially if you're on an ad budget diet.

There are so many opportunities out there for you to advertise your company that don't cost thousands of dollars. If you're willing to do a little legwork, you'll save money and find the best, inexpensive way to advertise. And all of them can give you a great return on your investment.

Create Podcast Ads

Podcast ads are easy for you to create on your own, and podcast ad time is a very reasonable buy. The costs range considerably depending on the podcast and its audience size, but on the low end, you'll probably pay around $0.18 per thousand listeners. It's more expensive than a radio ad, but it's also a more direct line to an attentive niche audience—and 61% of listeners say they bought something after hearing a podcast ad. If you can find a popular podcast that's related to the types of products and services your company sells, sponsoring that podcast may also be a good option for you to consider. 

Try Remnant Advertising

Think of remnant advertising in the same way as cut-price hotel rooms from a site like Hotwire. You will get a hotel room in the city of your choosing, perhaps even on the date of your choosing, and with the stars you want. But you won't know which hotel you're staying in, how far it is from the airport, or what amenities are around it. With remnant advertising, you're getting a steep discount for whatever slots the outlet happens to have left over. But choose the right outlet, and you're still getting in front of your audience.

Use Your Website to Advertise Your Business

Many business owners think they only need a website if they sell products online. In fact, no matter what type of company you have, you need a website. Potential customers hit the internet looking for companies in their local area. If your competitor's online and you're not, guess who has the advantage.

Build a website that's beneficial to customers, though. You want to make a positive, lasting impression, and a poorly built website is a terrible way to advertise your company.

Post Your Commercials on YouTube

If you do have a TV commercial, get more shelf life out of it without having to pay for more airtime. YouTube is an often-overlooked advertising vehicle. Although it costs money to buy ads on other YouTube videos, it's free to create your own channel (with a Google account). Start a channel and begin posting your commercials on the site—you can promote it on your own website so customers in your area can watch your commercial online.

Create Flyers and Handbills

Creating your own flyer to advertise your business is simple, inexpensive, and it's a great way to generate buzz about your company. It also gives you an informal way to track how many people are coming in just because they saw your flyer. If you want to make yours an effective advertising tool, offer incentives or discounts to people who bring in your flyer.

Advertise on Cable

Before your eyes skip over this section, thinking it's just for those who can afford a TV commercial, keep reading. You can advertise affordably on cable through crawls (the ticker feed on the bottom of news stations), full-screen ads on community channels, and above-program listings on the channel guide station.

Cross-Promote Your Business With Partners

National companies partner every day because it's an excellent ad tool to reach new customers and cut the advertising costs at the same time. But partnering isn't just for corporate giants. Going in with other businesses helps you save advertising money while increasing your exposure to customers.

Produce a Quality Email Newsletter

A newsletter helps you keep in touch with your current customers and tap into a market of potential ones. Your newsletter shouldn't be used only to send ads to your customers, though. Instead, provide your customers with valuable information that makes you the company they remember when they're ready to buy.

Get on the Radio

Don't ignore the radio as a means of communication. Yes, times have changed, and it is not in the same league as it was 40 years ago. But, there are still millions of people out there listening to public radio, and the ad rates are relatively inexpensive and flexible, depending on the market, time, station, etc.

You can have the radio station create the ad for you (which can result in dubious quality ads) or you can hire an agency to do it for you. There's always the option to do it yourself, too, and if you have a family-owned business with a friendly feel, your own voice can be a great selling tool. 

More Options for a Nonprofit

There are plenty of nonprofit and not-for-profit advertising strategies and tactics that you can take advantage of. For a start, you can ask professionals to donate their services for free or for a reduced rate.

There are special services available only to nonprofits, such as Facebook's "Donate Now" button. And the Google Ad Grants program could award you $10,000 a month in free advertising if you qualify. Even if you're not a nonprofit, consider partnering with one to spread the word about your business and the nonprofit's cause at the same time.

Create a Challenge or Break a Record

If you've ever watched a show like Man vs. Food or Bizarre Foods, you will notice that a lot of the places visited by the host have something outrageous going for them. It's eating 50 hot wings in under 30 minutes or devouring a 7-pound burrito in an hour.

A challenge can spread the word about your business for free, but this clever strategy is not just applicable to eateries. If you can get creative, you can apply it to your own business. Think of a way that you could challenge your customers to do something to get their names on a listing or win a prize. It may go viral if it's good enough. 

The Bottom Line

Don't assume that you can't get a big bang out of your small advertising budget. There are always inexpensive ways to get your business in front of its audience.

Article Sources

  1. FitSmallBusiness.com. "Radio Advertising Costs & How to Negotiate Lower Rates 2019." Accessed Jan. 10, 2020.

  2. EGTA. "Podcast Monetisation Strategies & Best Practices." Pages 11–14. Accessed Jan. 10, 2020.

  3. Entrepreneur. "How to Start a YouTube Channel." Accessed Jan. 10, 2020.

  4. Google. "Google Ad Grants: How it Works." Accessed Jan. 10, 2020.