By Eunisse De Leon

Reality check: you don’t need a million dollar marketing budget to get more customers for your business. It’s the 21st century wherein people can find just about anything anywhere anytime in a matter of seconds, and there are so much more potential marketing channels besides the generally expensive traditional media outlets.

Build a Website

The biggest no-brainer for any small business looking to expand its customer reach today and tomorrow is to establish an online presence, and the foundation is an official website.

When people want to know where the best affordable burger joint is in a city, how to lose their gut, what to look for when buying a used car, or for any possible solution to a problem, more than likely they Google it. Having a website makes your business “visible” to the average person no matter where he/she is in the world as long as you have an answer to the question they have.

It also serves as the central hub for all of your digital marketing campaigns, whether it’s providing helpful content, communicating with visitors through a forum or the comments section, or sending out regular newsletters. You can also choose to move your retail business online to your website to give your audience a more convenient way of shopping.

Having a decent starting website won’t cost more than a $1000, which is a price any legitimate business should be able to afford. The ROI in generating new leads from inquiries and customer engagement will more than make up for the initial cost.

Start a Rewards Program

A rewards program is taking the aforementioned idea of running contests on social media to the core of your marketing strategy, and applying it in a number of different ways. Apart from just having a prize to be won for getting the most social signals for a piece of content, you can push for a more direct role from your existing customers to get referrals to your business in return for a reward.

Getting referrals doesn’t have to be done through hard sells, as that alone might not convince prospects to become new customers. Provide discount codes or free trials to your existing customers to share to their target leads to better entice them into doing business with you.

Rewards can also be given to existing customers just for being loyal to your brand for a certain amount of time. A tote bag or imprinted apparel with your business’ logo on it are great ideas for product giveaways. Your customers will find them useful, and the items will also act as marketing materials when you have your brand and contact details on them.

Endorsements from celebrities cost a lot more than using promotional products for awareness. It’s quite impractical especially for startup businesses who can’t afford such grand investment. Promotional products are one of the most cost-efficient advertising tools, trumping traditional channels such as TV and newspapers in cost per impression. They serve the dual purposes of building loyalty with existing customers and reaching out to new prospects.

Engage in Social Media

Your business’ social media accounts are the natural extensions for your website in establishing your online presence. It’s no mystery that billions of people from all over the world have made Facebook and Twitter integral parts of their lives, so it’s important to reach out and get a slice of the proverbial social media pie.

However, you can’t expect to grow your customer base just with promotional posts on these accounts. Users don’t just want you to shove your products down their throats whenever they see your brand on their feeds. It’s fine to share updates on products, but you should be spacing it out with helpful and/or emotionally engaging content.

Social media users want to be part of an active community for the brands they like, and they are more than willing to spread the word about you if you provide that experience while also giving them something of value.

It’s why contests on social media can be very effective. Promise prizes to fans/followers who share your content or their own experiences with your products, and they’ll do the marketing for you. Their family and friends will see your brand, and social proof could very well be influence them to check out what you’re offering, too.

Your customers also expect their questions to be answered on social media, and it’s a delicate balancing act in addressing their concerns properly. Just treat them with respect, answer with honesty, and direct them to the proper channels when their issues require more than just 140 characters or a public discussion to settle.

Setting up accounts on the major platforms is free, and with quality content and contests, you can have your customers doing most of the work for you.

To get the most bang for your marketing buck, leverage the democratizing technologies of the Internet to get your business’ brand out to as many interested people as possible, and foster a genuine mutual relationship with your existing customers to create brand ambassadors.