Marketing your business without a budget – here’s how to nail it!

- March 3, 2022 5 MIN READ
Puzzle pieces with the words ‘marketing’ and ‘budget’

As a best-selling author, international speaker and owner of Marketing to Mums, Katrina McCarter is Australia’s number one expert on marketing with no money. She joined host Cec Busby on the Flying Solo podcast to share a few of her marketing secrets for small businesses.

It was a harsh lesson from her first small business that taught Katrina about creative, practical ways to market businesses with no money. After a disastrous print campaign that brought “crickets” to her website, Katrina knew she had to find a better way to get her business noticed.

“I just thought, wow, I may as well have driven down the street with my window rolled down and thrown out $100 bills. It was incredibly ineffective,” Katrina admits.

Katrina McCarter, CEO and founder of Marketing to Mums

Katrina McCarter, marketing expert and founder of Marketing to Mums

The right collab at the right time

Despondent with the lack of success, Katrina reached out to a fellow business owner for support.

“We exchanged our startup stories, and we got talking about the difficulties of marketing and growing a business,” says Katrina. “I asked if she would be interested in running a joint competition, with the mode of entry being to sign up to both of our newsletters? She suggested we try to get a third party involved, so I reached out to Australia’s largest parenting website at the time, and to my surprise, they actually said yes!

“I added 7,500 new members to my database within ten days. And that just completely blew my mind, because all that it cost me was $50 for some graphics and some time spent negotiating and organising the competition.

“To put that into some perspective, if I had done that as a paid advertising activity, it would’ve cost me about $10,000 to gain that many subscribers.”

Replicating success

After the wild success of her first collaborative campaign, Katrina realised that she might replicate similar success for her own business and others.

“From then, I started experimenting with different ways to grow and market your business that didn’t cost anything. That’s something that I’ve stayed true to in the decade or so since I’ve been in business.

“I used that same strategy – collaborating with other organisations that shared the same target audience as me, but not in direct competition with me. Over the next five years, it enabled me to grow a community of 150,000 mums across Australia. I never spent more than $300 a month on marketing activities.”

Listen to Katrina McCarter on the Flying Solo podcast:

Choosing the right people to collab with

Katrina says it’s essential to select the right kind of business to partner with on collaborative campaigns, so she has a set of principles to guide her when choosing her collab partners.

“I look for three principles:

• That there’s the same target audience, but not in direct competition.
• That we have a mutual exchange of value – it needs to feel fair and equal for both parties.
• That there’s shared ethics and values – we do business in the same kind of way.

“Once I understand who might make a good partner for me, I pre-qualify them – I follow them, and I start researching them. I want to know that there are no skeletons in the closet.

“You’ve spent a long time building up your reputation in business. It can really come undone very quickly if you partner with the wrong people. So pre-qualifying a potential partner is vital.”

What are some other ways to market your business with no money?

happy woman leaving positive customer online reviews

1. Testimonials

Katrina says that one of the best ways to market your business with no money is to use written testimonials.

“In a survey of more than 1,800 consumers, we asked them what had the most influence in making a purchase, and they said written testimonials,” Katrina confirms. “If you can source great written testimonials from your customers and amplify those so that they’re easily accessible for people, that is one of the most effective ways to market your business with no money.”

“What’s important when you’re sourcing testimonials is where you direct someone to leave them – because you’ve got so many options. They could write it directly to you in an email, or you could send them to Google, Facebook or LinkedIn to leave a review.

“I think it’s really important for you to think strategically about how new customers discover you. If they discover you on Google, then make sure that you direct them to leave a Google review when you are asking for a testimonial. That builds up your testimonials in the right location.”

2. Exceed customer expectations

“If you’ve got a tiny marketing budget,” says Katrina, “one of the best things you can do is look to exceed the customer’s expectations. Once you’ve exceeded the customer’s expectations, you will then have an army of people going out and talking about you favourably.”

3. Media

You may think that getting some media coverage for your business is out of your realm, but Katrina says it’s wise to think outside the box.

“A great idea is to be a podcast guest. It can be a terrific way to increase awareness about your brand, service offering or product. Find out which podcasts are talking to your ideal audience – can you pitch to that podcast host about being a guest on their show?

“You could also be a media source for specific journalists. Think about which journalists are speaking to your audience and get in contact to start developing a relationship with that journalist – let them know that you can be a source on four or five topics. I’ve got some great relationships with mainstream media who will ring me for comments on particular articles that they might be writing.”

4. Your brand story

Don’t forget your origin story, particularly if you try to appeal to women.

“Women are such a financially attractive market in Australia. Mothers, for instance, are responsible for $132 billion in spending every year. So many people want to get mum’s attention.

“Women connect well with stories. So the most important story a business can share is that origin story, that brand story. It’s more than a ‘who we are and what we do’ – what people want to see and what they connect with is what makes you special. What makes you different?

“People choose you for your differences, not because you’re the same as everyone else. So it’s an opportunity to demonstrate your passion and to highlight those things that make you different and make you special.”

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Now read this: 

3 brilliant small business marketing hacks for a shoestring budget

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