A small business owner in Santiago, Chile. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be an effective tool to gain exposure without spending so much. Image Credit: Supplied

Unlike big corporations who can afford to spend billions of money on massive marketing campaigns, small business owners often face tight financing constraints. Buying a billboard space or TV airtime can be quite heavy on the budget, especially for a low-financed startup or a mom and pop store that has just gotten off the ground.

But it doesn’t mean small-time entrepreneurs should not generate exposure for their business. Whether it’s a barber shop, a convenience store or a roadside cafeteria, small businesses have plenty of options to advertise on the cheap or for free. Below are just a few ideas:


Initiate an outreach programme


Word of mouth is still the most effective way to advertise for less. Get the word out fast by networking with people who are active in the blogosphere and social media. “Small businesses should initiate an outreach programme with bloggers and highly influential people on social media. By doing this, you can create brand ambassadors who will be able to push positive news about your brand to their networks,” suggested Warrick Godfrey, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Cobone.com


Organise or join meetups


Godfrey said meetups are a great way to meet and connect with like-minded people and young businesses, and perhaps, you can learn something from them. “In Dubai, the Make Business Hub holds meetups and allows young entrepreneurs to share their stories. I would fully recommend visiting their café on Jumeirah Beach Road (Al Fattan House),” he said.


Build a database


If you already have customers coming into your store, use it as an opportunity to obtain their email address and phone numbers. Once you have their contacts, it would be easy to “re-market” to your customers when you have promotions in the future. “For after-sales care, customers can also let you know how your business can improve.”


Think YouTube


Videos don’t necessarily require a massive production budget and the great thing is you can upload them on YouTube for free. Be creative. Produce something that can go viral and you’ll have people talking about your brand in no time. “Some of the most viral videos online today were recorded with a mobile device or flip cam. You just need a good imagination to get it right,” added Godfrey.


Go for pay per click


Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be an effective tool to gain exposure without spending so much. According to Godfrey, PPC can get the word out to your desired customers, while you keep your ad spending to a minimum. “For small businesses, I would recommend starting with a small daily budget, around $20. Once your campaigns are running, you will be able to easily identify which campaigns, ad groups and keywords are performing best for traffic revenue,” said Godfrey.

Google AdWords is a popular form of PPC advertising. Business owners who sign up for AdWords will get an account where they can view the costs and billing history. They have the option to choose what “type of customer action they would like to pay for”. They can opt for a “cost-per-click rate, frequency of ad display and how many conversations are received,” explained Tarek Abdalla, head of marketing, Gulf & Levant, Google.

“AdWords is a great tool for new and small businesses because it enables them to define what they spend and understand the effectiveness of their advertisements. They don’t need deep pockets to conduct market research and there are no delays or expensive upfront costs — anyone can advertise in the moment at a cost of their choosing,” said Abdalla.

“Once a business decides to utilise AdWords, they can immediately create ad campaigns that are based on the public’s current mood. The ads created are informative, relative and useful to bring users the most satisfaction but also bring advertisers the most success,” he added.


Create a Facebook page


If PPC is quite expensive for you, you can always advertise for free by creating a Facebook page. This proves to be useful for Cobone’s marketing strategy. “We have a Facebook page for every city that we are present. Each month we engage with about 500,000 customers. The only real cost to the business is the resource,” noted Godfrey.