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Small Business Marketing: How to Market Without a Marketing Budget

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Are you a small business owner without a marketing budget but still want to promote your business? Use one (or all) of these free marketing strategies proven to increase revenue below!

Hey, y'all! Hannah here. I'm back this week with another short read on small business marketing. For those of you who don't know me, I launched my own startup marketing agency in 2022 and specialize in grassroots marketing strategies for local businesses!

This week's hot topic is marketing without a marketing budget; this is a familiar story for most small businesses. We're all aware (and in awe) of the beautiful marketing campaigns used by popular brands; the impressive data metrics, automized processing tools, in-house creatives, etc., and at some point, tried to mirror their massive success and quickly come to the realization that it's not as easy as they make it look. The equation does not add up. The facts are, starting out, we don't have things like proprietary data, data-backed buyer personas, or legacy audiences.

On the flip side, what we do have, are budget-friendly tools that meet us where we are at (like the ones I have compiled below) to help us utilize the resources available and make the most of the situation. One thing I would like to flag is that these methods are NOT quick fixes, but will make a significant impact if you stick with it over time.


Strategy #1: Develop a Content Marketing Strategy

Content marketing is a sustainable growth option that requires little to no cost upfront! Leveraging content marketing can help educate your audience and keep your business relevant while increasing organic search volume over an extended period of time.

While quality content creation can get expensive (photoshoots, graphic designers, email marketing, etc.) there are inexpensive options out there!

When the budget is tight a brand might leverage most of its marketing through

  • Short-form videos (reels, TikTok, Snapchat)

  • User-generated content (reviews, testimonials, customer highlights)

  • Discussion boards (on your website or social media groups)

Note: This does not have a short-term return on investment.

Strategy #2: Seek Out Brand Partnership Opportunities

Brand Partnerships involve partnering with other brands that overlap with your target audience. With a Brand Partnership, you (and the other company) are able to tap into new audiences of potential customers while splitting the cost (if there is any).

A fun brand collaboration to read about is the Uber and Spotify brand partnership which allows Uber passengers with a Spotify Premium account to play their own playlists during their rides.

Strategy #3: Invest In Your Social Media Presence

Social media has continued to be a relevant marketing arm for almost every company. As long as you have a phone and a camera, you can rock social media by honing in on community building, engagement, and storytelling.

Fun fact: Gen Z primarily uses social media to discover new brands and products!

Anyway, don’t assume you have to be everywhere. I advise my clients to choose the top 3 platforms that align with their brand identity. If you are struggling to choose your platforms just think about where you envision your audience.

  • Are you targeting Gen-Z? Then, TikTok should be a priority.

  • Focusing on Millennials? Maybe your top three could be Facebook, Instagram/Threads, and Twitter.

  • Looking for gamers? Try Twitch or Discord.

Strategy #4: Increase Community Engagement

Building a successful brand doesn’t happen without building an engaged community. Depending on which platforms your audience uses the most, you could start with Facebook groups or email lists. Some tips for community building online in 2023:

  • Practice random acts of thank you

  • Provide opportunities for connection

  • Make it easy for your audience to promote you

  • Use social listening

Or if you have a budget to work with, try hosting or sponsoring an event in your community!

Strategy #5: Encourage User-Generated Content

User-generated content is one of the best gifts a brand could ask for because it serves as social proof, is reusable, and requires little effort (or cost) on your end. UGC has many forms, including images, videos, reviews, a testimonial, and features on blogs/podcasts.

Usually, gift cards and company swag do the trick to incentivize your customers to create this content but often times if you simply ask your customers after a positive interaction they are more than happy to help you out (especially if you are a local brand).

If you are interested in going this route check out this article by Adobe:


Marketing without a budget can be challenging, but it's not impossible! Using the tools and resources available to you will make a significant impact over time if you stick with it.

Was this article helpful to you? Let me know in the comments.

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