Running a business can be expensive work. In the early days of a new company, one of the biggest up-front expenses in marketing, and in some niches, that cost never really goes away. All businesses need to spend time and money engaging with their audience online, but it doesn’t have to cost the earth. Below, we’ve put together some cost-cutting ideas to help you remain at the top of your marketing game while increasing your profitability


How to cut down on your marketing costs and increase profitability

Running a business can be expensive work. In the early days of a new company, one of the biggest up-front expenses in marketing, and in some niches, that cost never really goes away. All businesses need to spend time and money engaging with their audience online, but it doesn’t have to cost the earth. Below, we’ve put together some cost-cutting ideas to help you remain at the top of your marketing game while increasing your profitability.


Cut down on paid advertising

For some businesses, the most cost-effective lead generation technique involves paid advertising on Facebook or Google. Pay-per-click ads and social media advertising are two of the most popular methods, and allow you to put your brand in front of potential customers who may never have heard of you before. Remarketing is also effective, allowing you to follow your leads around the web and remind them of the products and services that you offer.

However, paid advertising is expensive. Even if you work with an agency that optimises your adverts and demographics to make your leads dirt cheap, there are still more efficient ways of spending your marketing budget, offering long-term benefits rather than ‘quick click’ wins.

The truth is that paid advertising only offers short-term benefits. As soon as your budget runs out, you’ve got nothing to show for your money, and you’ll need to reinvest if you want to keep driving more traffic and leads to your website. Alternatives, such as SEO, content marketing and social media marketing allow you to build and nurture audiences and drive traffic to your website for free.

Take a step back from your marketing campaign and decide whether these short-term boosts are having a positive impact on your business, or whether you should realign your budget and focus on growing a sustainable business that drives customers the organic way instead.


Find free marketing tools

The digital marketing world is a minefield, and there are a million and one marketing and productivity tools that offer to be the “complete package”. Perhaps the most frustrating thing about these tools is that they’re often delivered through the software-as-a-service model, meaning you have to pay a set fee every month to gain access to the features.

Over time, that can become expensive, especially if you’re relying on several expensive tools to market your business. The good news is that, in the majority of cases, you don’t need to spend a penny; most premium marketing and productivity tools have free alternatives that are as good.

Take Photoshop, for example. The Adobe Creative Cloud Suite costs £50 per month – over the year, that’s £600 down the drain. Free alternatives, like GIMP, Paint.NET and Canva, do just as good a job and don’t come with a monthly subscription cost. These little costs quickly add up to big savings.

Social media scheduling tools are another expensive cost. HootSuite’s Business plan is an eye-watering £400 per month, but Buffer offers a free package that should do the job just fine.

Making these small cuts, and switching to cheaper or free alternatives to common marketing tools and services, can save you big in the long-run. Give your marketing tools an audit, and see where you can cut costs without having to make compromises. You might be surprised.


Fire your marketing executive

As a small business owner, every single penny of your marketing budget needs to be scrutinised. If a tactic isn’t increasing your bottom line, then it needs to go: and that ruthlessness should also be extended to your staff. Depending on the nature of your business and your turnover, you should consider whether an in-house marketing executive is the right decision.

The average marketing executive costs more than £2,000 per month, but marketing activities, like social media management, content writing, email marketing and paid advertising can all be done for less – and done in your free time with a little reading and tutoring. If you’re on a cost-cutting mission and want to increase profitability, then you should determine whether your marketing executive is really delivering a return on investment, or whether they need to go the journey.


Outsource your social media

Social media is a great way to boost your brand presence, find new customers and keep your existing clients in the loop with news on your products and services. But for most small business owners, growing a following and posting relevant content can be hard work – and social media sites are distracting at the best of times. If you want to cut down on the amount of time you spend scheduling new posts, reading tweets and worrying about what to publish next, then you should consider outsourcing your social media management to a company that specialises in it.

Enter 99social: we offer affordable social media management from as little as £99 per month. If you’re struggling to find the time to do your own social media, or you’re simply not a fan, then you can depend on our super affordable service, knowing it won’t put a dent on your bottom line.


Read marketing blogs for advice

It may seem hard to believe at first, but the world’s most successful marketers give most of their knowledge away for free. Marketing bloggers are particularly generous, sharing their tips on growing social media audiences, driving traffic, increasing conversions and boosting profitability – and they don’t charge you a penny for their time or their information.

Bloggers like Copyblogger, HubSpot and the team at AgoraPulse publish valuable content every day, whether it’s tips on how to use social media advertising, or how to write the perfect blog.

Stop paying for marketing coaching, and delete these pesky ebooks from your Kindle. Almost everything you need to be a successful business owner is out there on the internet for free; you’ve just gotta find it first. Subscribe to blogs, follow writers, and read as much as you can.

Forget expensive tools or scary marketing contracts with agencies. By reading, in no time at all, you’ll be a marketing professional, and you’ll be able to promote your business all on your own.


Do it all yourself

Paying for an expert to market your business isn’t cheap. Most small business owners have two options: either they hire a marketing expert in-house, see above, or they outsource their marketing to another company. But there is another option: biting the bullet and doing it all on your own. Sure, you’ll have to find time in your busy schedule, but some marketing tasks, like writing blogs or scheduling social content, really isn’t hard work.

Writing blog posts, for example, just requires some good ideas, a clear structure and some patience. You don’t have to be a writing expert; you just have to write down the things you’re good at, and the rest will come naturally. Your posts might not win awards at first, but in time, you’ll become confident as a writer and push out higher-quality material people will want to read.

For social media, you simply need to sign up for a service such as HootSuite or Buffer and prepare posts in advance. You can set posts to be published at a particular time on different days, for example, to maximise your reach and make sure you’re covering major events like Halloween, Christmas and Easter. Just remember to include lots of images, GIFS and emoji to keep your audience engaged, and use analytics tools to track users who interact with you.


Recycle and reuse content

Marketing experts are forever spouting off about the fact that new, fresh content is the best way to find an audience and keep them engaged. That’s true – but not everything you publish has to be brand new. In fact, reusing and recycling older content is a great way to keep your accounts ticking over, so that you can spend more time creating new content for future use.

It’s highly unlikely that all of your followers have seen every single post you’ve published on Twitter or Facebook, so you should relax and reuse content time and time again – or make subtle tweaks so that your account doesn’t look automated.

If you wrote a blog post six months ago, for example, then you could cut down the post into bite-sized chunks for social media, or turn them into an infographic. There are lots of possibilities – and you could even look at a tool such as Meet Edgar, that automatically reuses the same content over and over again so that you can reach wider audiences with less effort.


Keep it simple, stupid

Some small business owners, through lack of digital marketing experience, think that the more they do online, the better. In some cases, that’s true, but like all businesses, you have limits to your time and budget – so keeping it simple and focusing attention in the right areas is important.

For example, when you’re designing your website, think about how many pages you really need. Smaller websites are much cheaper and quicker to design, develop, and maintain, and it means that you can give each of your pages more focus and attention. Do you really need a separate page for every service you offer, or could you outline some of your most popular ones under one ‘Services’ page? These small sacrifices and savings will all add up in the long-run.

The same can be said for social media. Sure, having a presence on every network is a good idea, but if you’re not getting results from Facebook but you’re smashing Twitter and Instagram, consider closing down your page and focusing on areas where you’re getting the best return.

Oh, and remember to think about your business in relation to these social networks; a solicitors’ firm, for example, probably won’t benefit from a presence on Pinterest, and a small community hub most likely won’t get value from a presence on Reddit or Google+.

This graph shows the market share of each of the leading social networks, including Reddit, Stumbleupon (since shuttered), YouTube, Ycombinator and VKontakte.


Cancel newspaper adverts

Traditional ‘offline’ advertising in newspapers and magazines still have a time and a place, but nine times out of ten, they provide no return on your investment other than brand awareness for a super-small audience. Audit your ROI and determine whether your offline advertising is really providing you value, and consider cancelling your plan to streamline your marketing.

One of the biggest reasons why small business owners advertise in newspapers is to reach a local, concentrated audience – but you can reach these people online much cheaper. Through search engine optimisation (SEO), you can target locals by ranking for keywords related to your niche – so if you own a florist, you could attempt to rank for keywords like ‘florists in Newcastle’.

Social media advertising is also another cost-effective method of reaching local people. Through Facebook Ads, for example, you can choose who should see your adverts, and target people based on their location, age, gender, etc – far more effective than shot-in-the-dark newspaper ads.

Facebook advertising offers the same hyperlocal benefits of newspaper advertising but has additional targeting features that make reaching the right customers easy.


Remember face-to-face networking

If you love socialising over a bacon sandwich or a pint of beer, then this one’s for you. Although digital marketing has made it easier than ever to connect with new people and sell your stuff, the good, old-fashioned techniques like networking events still reign supreme. People love to know who’s behind the mask and ask owners questions before they buy into products and services, and there’s no better way to do that than by attending regular networking events.

Although one in four business owners don’t network at all, the approach is still popular, with local and national events being held virtually every day. Whether it’s a local business group that meets in the pub for a weekly catch-up or a country-wide business exhibition where you meet hundreds of potential customers in the same day, it pays to spread the word and get talking.

The key to finding success at networking events is to be yourself and try not to oversell. People want to have genuine conversations, ask questions and get to know one another, not have a product slapped around their face. Expect nothing but a casual chat, and you’ll likely do well.

Networking is all about face-to-face communication. 72% of people say that they make a first impression on a business contact by their appearance and handshake, so brush up, invest in a good suit and practice your handshake with friends and family if you want to impress.

This networking guide from Tim Ferriss is a great place to start if you’re feeling nervous.


Wrapping up

When it comes to marketing your business online, there are only so many cost-cutting measures you can take before your efforts are no longer effective. But the key to increasing your profit margins while maintaining your marketing presence is to determine the return on investment (ROI) of every marketing activity you’re currently engaged in. Experiment with different techniques and see which work for you – over time, you’ll be able to craft the perfect campaign that helps to seek out new customers, without costing you a penny.

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