This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Microsoft Office. All opinions are 100% mine.

Marketing your business on a budget is easier than it might seem.

Effective customer acquisition requires that you:

  • Understand the per customer ROI you’re getting from each campaign before launch.
  • Making it stupid simple for customers to find you.
  • Creating effective partnerships with other businesses in your area or online space.
  • Offering customers a good reason ($$$) to refer you to their friends and followers.
  • Keeping in touch with your past and current customers via an email or lettermail newsletter.

Sounds simple enough. Right?

New customers Lego
photo credit: Stavos / Flickr

While the competition is jumping on the Adwords bandwagon and taking out expensive banner ads to promote their business, you can spend a little time tweaking the following 5 ideas to infinity for maximum return on as little an investment as possible:

1. Weigh the acquisition costs before choosing an option

This might not sound like much of a strategy, but this advice is for those who tend to throw money willy-nilly at marketing, only to see they spent more to get each customer than they’ll EVER get back. I mean, EVER.

If your sales model is already geared toward maximum revenue via effective up-selling and cross-selling, you can determine the lifetime value of each individual customer using this calculator and associated guide that tells you just how much you should budget to get them in the doors.

2. Make your business as easy to find as possible

I assume you have a website; because if you didn’t have one, let’s just say that you’re losing out way too many opportunities for wooing your customers.  Although it’s not a requirement, it certainly helps you in your endeavor.

Now, having a website doesn’t mean that you’ll get new customers right away.  “Just build it and they will come” just doesn’t work.  Not anymore.  You need to promote your website so that there will be web visitors who will have a look-see at what you’re offering.

There are several things you can do to utilize your website as an important marketing tool for your business:

  • SEO: The idea is to get your website rank high on search engines’ result pages so that people can find your business easier.
  • Social media platforms: Your target market is likely to hangout on social media; that said, your brand needs to be there.
  • Communities and networks: There are industry-related forums and communities online which can help getting leads for your business through your website.  Be useful and get active on such platforms, and you’ll gain trust from other members – and eventually business from them.
  • Offline, you can always use networking events to get your business out there – don’t forget to mention your website when you’ve got a chance.

Business partnership negotiation

3. Partner with other businesses

If you can’t see the value of partnerships with other businesses, even those that are seemingly unrelated to yours, just try it before you knock it! Strategic marketing partnerships add immediate value to any business by reducing acquisition costs via referrals you might not have otherwise gotten without those agreements in place.

With businesses directly related to yours, this is easy to figure out. For example, you own a store that sells bicycles, so you partner with a bicycle repair shop down the road – you’ll refer customers to them, they’ll do the same for you. Easy.

With seemingly unrelated businesses, partnerships are a simple play on trust. Both the bicycle sales shop and the bicycle repair shop could partner with the local gym who has lots of healthy and unhealthy types of people; some of which will surely need your services at some point to buy or fix their ride. The gym benefits because you’re also connected to customers who may need their services.

Here’s a “pro-tip” for you: If both parties waive referral fees and instead put that cost toward a discount the customer can use when they take advantage of a recommendation from either business in the partnership, the value to the customer and the associated trust for the referrer (for kindly giving them a discount code or coupon) can be priceless!

4. Incentivize customer referrals

While another business owner will see the benefit to the suggestion in the last paragraph, customers giving you a referral will want something immediate and tangible in return. And customer referrals carry much more weight with consumers. Much more.

The smart move is to offer discounts on your own products in lieu of cash. To make sure they’re going to put their reward back into the cash registers of your business. However, sometimes a cash payout, coupon for another local business (ie., bringing tips 3 and 4 together for a mutually beneficial referral bonus), concert tickets, movie tickets, etc.

Give them something people want. Switch things up now and again to see what entices the most referrals out of people.

Newsletter on a typewriter
photo credit: Dennis Skley / Flickr

5. Publish a newsletter

Publishing an email or physical newsletter delivered to a customer or potential customer’s home is like putting equal amounts of money into your chequing and savings accounts at the same time. Not only will this increase sales with existing customers and turn subscribers into paying customers, it will also keep your business fresh in the minds of both so they can refer you to people they know!

We’ve all heard about using newsletters to embed links and coupons for your products. That’s nothing new. I recommend you don’t spend all your time trying to peddle costly CTAs to your newsletter subscribers.

In fact, why not send out free information (ie., how to fix/adjust a bike’s derailleur/brakes yourself) and then offer them a coupon for a small inexpensive gift that they can have for free when they come to your store? For instance, an embroidered t-shirt, cool pen, cap, keychain, etc.

Not only are the items suggested cheap-to-make marketing swag; if you’re spending time talking with the leads walking through your door and building trust, they’ll likely buy something of more value when they do finally arrive in store. Strictly online businesses might choose to charge for shipping for free items (at least international shipping) or suck up that cost themselves in anticipation of future sales.

Your next step

Wooing new customers is never easy. Follow the advice above and make sure to come back and let me know in the comments which advice brought in the most (new) customers to your business.

If you ever need more help, I’d like to recommend Office Small Business Academy.  It’s an educational resource – courtesy of Microsoft – in which you can get advice and tools from small business leaders and experts on a range of topics, such as business planning, budgeting, marketing and many more.

Office Small Business Academy - screenshot

Register here

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