Low-Budget Digital Marketing Ideas for SMEs

Most SMEs are cost-conscious. 

We have to be. We’re good at finding ways to trim budgets while boosting the bottom line and making the money we have go far.

But how do you harness that savvy thinking when it comes to the ever-changing world of digital marketing? 

Thankfully, we’re here to help! 

Read on to find our top tips for rolling out brilliant digital marketing that will reach customers and convert leads without costing you a fortune. So long as you have some time and are willing, you can still achieve great success with digital marketing, even on a shoestring.

CREATE CONTENT 

Give Your Content Some Love

Creating brilliant content around your USP is one of the most powerful things you can do for free to get your brand out there. Remember that old marketing saying – Content is King? Well, it’s as true today as it has ever been. Despite the huge economy around content marketing, 

you don’t need to run ad campaigns or sponsored posts to get traction on social posts, and you just have to be posting the right content.

Here’s the advice we always come back to when helping clients think about what content will work for them:

  • Write content specific to your business goals
  • Ensure your content is written with your audience in mind
  • Set your own writing goals and principles (is your company tone friendly, approachable, formal or educational?)

Your choice of content will depend on what type of business you are, and where you have the greatest successes will be affected by many different factors. For most start-ups and SMEs, LinkedIn is the perfect starting point for sharing content, but most companies can also find great success with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even TikTok.

Create Multi-Purpose Content 

A great ‘cheat’ when it comes to content marketing is to remember that one piece of content can be leveraged in several ways. For example, perhaps you have published a white paper on your blog. Firstly, make sure you share it across your social channels, but then have a think about how you can extrude other content from it – could you make an infographic from the findings? Is there a great quote you could pull out and make into a graphic tile? Free resources such as Canva are great for creating simple graphics that can make your content work harder and go further.

Record Videos

We say it over and over – video is one of the best formats for sharing content online. Facebook alone boasts more than 4 billion video views per day, and all you have to do is look at the success of video platforms to understand that it’s the most effective and digestible way to present content in 2021.

Many startups and SMEs are nervous about producing their own video content, but it doesn’t need to be daunting. Videos do not need to be professionally recorded to be successful – a smartphone can work well to create short, engaging videos that entice customers. Showing the face behind the business is a really effective way to build trust in your company, so don’t shy away from putting yourself out there and heading up some video content.

THINK SEO

Smaller companies are often put off by SEO, and we get it. It can seem like an overwhelming task to optimize your web presence, but it is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase traffic to your site and improve your organic reach.

Keep It Local

An approachable way to tackle SEO is to focus on local SEO. While national SEO is driven by ranking in searches across the country, local SEO prioritises appearing in specific locations, making it more relevant to your base of local customers; plus, it’s free!

Local SEO can be time-consuming. However, the benefits over time can be huge, so it’s well worth investing some time into these SEO must-dos:

  • Add location-based keywords to the titles, headings, and body of your main website pages (think: “Oxford accountant”)
  • Get your company listed in online directories, ensuring your information is identical across platforms.
  • Create content on your blog specific to the neighbourhood you serve. 

Leverage Online Review Sites 

User-generated content is win-win. It’s great because it increases trust and confidence in your brand, and it also requires very little work from you! Oh, and it’s brilliant for SEO.

Encourage reviews on Google or Trustpilot, and (if the feedback is positive) leverage those testimonials by using them on your website and in your digital marketing content. 

Create a free Google My Business Profile

For local businesses especially, a Google Business Profile is one of the most effective free marketing strategies available. Taking advantage of this free listing allows your business to show up on Google Maps, the local section of Google Search, and the right-side Knowledge Panel for branded searches.

GET CREATIVE

Small budgets often require out-of-the-box thinking, so why not consider some of these creative ideas to take your marketing to the next level without splurging your budget?

Produce Your Own Podcast

The popularity of podcasts shows no sign of slowing down, and they can be a great way to connect with your audience. Why not think about reusing content, and record your first podcasts using old blog content? Promote through your social channels and respond to your audience’s needs and interests to create a cost-effective marketing product that your customers enjoy.

Run Webinars

If the last 16 months have taught us anything, it’s that video conferencing is a very powerful tool. Webinars are a free way to promote your business by providing helpful information to a wide potential customer base, no matter their location. In addition, they can be used to boost conversions, improve brand awareness and establish yourself as an expert in your field.

Ensure you promote your webinar through your social media channels ahead of time and send reminder emails to registrants, so they don’t miss it. As a bonus, webinars will help you build your email list. 

Enter Awards

You’ll find that most industries have business awards that you can enter. Some charge, but many are free. If you win or are even shortlisted, you can shout about your accolade on social media, giving your customers even more reasons to trust your company. You also may gain some press coverage if you win, so it’s well worth taking the time to fill out the application form to highlight the work you are most proud of.

Shoestring Digital Marketing

Ultimately, marketing doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. There are hundreds of tactics out there that can be really effective with a small budget, you just need to commit some time and energy, and you’ll soon be seeing results.

for loads more small business marketing tips, click here.

Six tips to help boost your company’s organic Facebook reach

Facebook marketing has evolved immensely since the inception of the company. Organic reach, the number of people who are shown your posts in their feed, is the lowest it has ever been. Considering all the obstacles, here are six tips to help boost your company’s organic reach.

Promoting products and services solely will hurt more than help — have a diverse range of photos

Since users will be more engaged with variety in your page, it’s best to have varied content, including brand story posts, authority building posts, lead nurture posts, and personal posts. Given that Facebook is a social media platform, it needs to be personalised — it’s important also to include team posts and highlight witty and creative posts. 

As tempting as emojis are, stay away from them unless they add meaning to your post. 

Since they are tiny images, emojis weigh down the post and are less likely to reach a bigger crowd. However, when used in moderation (less is more), they can help. Unfortunately, there are so many rules to emojis and how they can easily hurt the algorithm that it’s almost easier to forego them. 

Love is stronger than like (in more ways than one) 

The love reaction is stronger than the like reaction because it weighs more on the algorithm. So, utilizing thought-provoking posts or bright, happy scenarios can produce a “love” reaction versus a like. Spread the love. 

Bypass the algorithm with Facebook Stories 

Stories float above the algorithm since they aren’t a part of the newsfeed. Stories should be easy to understand but engaging. Showing new products or advice about them is a good start, as well as keeping them personal. 

Start a conversation! 

Facebook, at the end of the day, is a community. Starting a conversation on a post that engages users through humour or curiosity—not manipulation into winning a prize. Drawing them in with interesting ideas will inspire people to comment and share. Using a question sticker or a poll can be one easy click for the user while driving engagement at the same time. 

Less is usually more, especially when it comes to posts per day

In fact, engagement actually decreases when you post too often. It’s best to post between 1-3 times per day, depending on your following. If you have an international audience with a range of time zones, stagger your posts per day to reach out to different audiences.

Want to read more social media tips and insights? Click here.

5 Minutes with Kathy Koomson

We sat down (virtually) with Kathy Koomson, Head of Brand and Marketing at Core Talent, to find out more about marketing in the world of recruitment, the changes the industry has seen over the past ten years, and what the future holds.

Hi Kathy, thanks for chatting with Colour Me Social! Tell us about your background before joining Core Talent?

I’ve been in marketing for over 20 years and just been elected as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Before I joined Core Talent, I worked as a Commercial Manager and Head of Product for an English manufacturer – that role gave me an excellent insight into Engineering & Manufacturing. Before that, I was at Bank of America/MBNA for 10 years and held various positions in marketing. During my last role, I was Head of Retail Strategy and managed the Retail Strategy Team, which was financially results-driven and creative.

What prompted you to move into recruitment marketing?

Core Talent asked me to come in on a contract basis and help initially as they wanted a new website. However, the further I got into the business, it became clear that it was an exciting growing business. A new website would not do it justice, so we completely rebranded and repositioned the company with a new logo, colour palette, and imagery. We even developed our values with input from clients, candidates, and employees. I have been with Core Talent for almost five years now. Recruitment Marketing is exciting and fast-paced; you need to be creative to appeal to candidates with job opportunities, informative to clients, and persuasive to potential employees. It’s a very stimulating company to be part of.

How does Core Talent help businesses?

We’re a specialist, engineering & manufacturing, construction, and consultancy business, and now we work globally across the UK, Europe, the USA and China. Our Directors actually transitioned from engineering and purchasing into recruitment, so they worked in the industries we recruit, adding significant value to technical knowledge and ability. We’re not a generalist recruiter – we really understand our clients’ needs.

We have consultants working in very niche markets, and they get to understand the client, the candidates, and the actual market incredibly well, so we’ve got some excellent knowledge. 

We recently developed our consultancy division, Tactical Consultancy. So we offer more than a recruitment service. We can re-engineer recruitment processes, manage a temporary workforce down to the payroll, provide competitor intelligence, support social media activity all support and improve our client’s recruitment processes. So we help clients in a lot of different ways. 

What does your role entail? 

My remit is the internal and external brand. So I’m looking at anything related to communications, branding, our messages, external brand, and internally. I am also responsible for introducing new products and innovation in the business and managing performance and spend on job boards and advertising platforms. As our consultancy division grows, I support clients with their social media and marketing, which is an exciting new angle to my role.

What does an average day as Head of Brand and Marketing look like?

On a typical day for me, I’ll come in and check my emails, and then I develop social media posts. I will also review the current performance of Core Talent and our client’s social media activities. As I manage the website and job boards, I will also analyse performance and ensure the consultants are supported with any queries.

I will also produce collateral, presentations, and pitches for new clients. Or I could be briefing our creative agencies or be speaking to Phil at Colour Me Social about social media activity. I often attend various meetings with consultants or the Directors who’ve got a particular challenge or particular piece of support they need. 

So, it’s pretty well rounded – it’s not just about the marketing. It’s about supporting the business, clients, and candidates using my expertise and experience. 

How would you say recruitment differs from other industries when it comes to marketing?

With recruitment, three key audiences are always at the centre of what we do – candidates, clients and employees/ potential employees.

We moved from a candidate-rich, job-short market to a job-rich, candidate-short market, so we have to work even harder to get exactly the right people for our top jobs.

With clients – it’s about bringing new ones in and supporting the clients we have. For the other audiences, our people, it’s essential to keep them engaged and happy at work. We are on a recruitment drive and always looking for new employees. This could be experienced recruitment consultants, trainees, or graduates – we want to attract those kinds of people into the business, so we need to demonstrate what it’s like to work for us. Everything we do needs to ensure that all of those audiences are considered.

How has the role of marketing within recruitment changed in the last ten years?

Years ago, you could put a job on a job board, and you’d probably more or less fill that job from that advert. But now, it’s about a lot more than that. You can’t just put a job on a job board and think it’s gonna drive people; you have to have an online presence, offer a variety of services and have an extensive network. So it’s critical, now, I think, to have a marketer within a recruitment business to support recruitment activities and the company. So it’s a lot more popular now to find experienced marketers and agencies than ever because recruitment really does need it. 

What marketing trends can you see happening in recruitment?

LinkedIn has become more and more popular for many recruiters; I see a lot of firms invest a lot more in terms of LinkedIn. They’re also changing how they communicate on social platforms – it’s much more creative, whether it’s white papers or explainer videos. This is true of Twitter, as well, but to a lesser degree. So there’s a lot more investment going into social media now than there was before. 

Also, as we see in other industries, a lot more digital technology is coming into the recruitment market that supports consultants and candidates. Video interviews, for example, have been invaluable over the last 15 months. However, I don’t think human contact should or will ever be replaced in the processes, but there will be many more shifts in the next few years with these great new technologies being introduced.

How has Core Talent changed in the Covid-era?

It has been difficult, as it has for everyone. We had to rebuild our workforce and restructure to enhance our offering in the US and Europe. Business areas like international construction and data centre construction continued to perform really well, as mission-critical projects were still ongoing. In contrast, other markets went a lot quieter during the first lockdown. So as a business, we’ve spent the last 12 months really looking at our markets, expanding further in the areas where we see more significant growth, like E-mobility, autonomous vehicles and AI, and dealing with our usual fields of construction and manufacturing.

Finally, what is the best marketing campaign you’ve seen?

There have been so many excellent campaigns I have seen and experienced over the years. I admire the teams who have created the current public health campaigns we have all been exposed to over the last 15 months. They have had to get the information and strategy out to the whole country in a short space of time and ensure that the core message is memorable and easy to follow.

There are also two above-the-line advertising campaigns that I have always loved. The Guinness Surfer/Horses advert and the Dairy Milk Gorilla advert. The mix of cinematography, the characters, the straplines ‘good things come to those who wait’ and ‘a glass and a half full of joy’ set against the musical score all contribute to these adverts being some of the greatest and most memorable of all time.

Here’s Why You Should Be A/B Testing Your Paid Social

Using A/B testing as a marketing strategy is not new. In fact, it was used routinely in the pre-internet era to conduct small tests by direct mail marketers, who would send a tiny fraction of print to their contact lists before committing to the massive cost of printing and mailing a campaign.

Nowadays, the technique is just as important to marketers across the globe who want to refine their content marketing and advertising strategies on the fly. The true beauty of A/B testing in the digital age is its agility – any time you have a hunch, or question-related to your strategy, social testing can be easily implemented, helping support your next steps. 

Whilst there are endless articles online about creating the best social ads, the truth is that the best way to reach your audience will be unique to you. That’s why we’re big advocates for the importance of A/B testing here at Colour Me Social. 

So, we thought we’d compile a guide to starting with A/B testing paid social. Whether you’re trying to secure more clicks and conversions or improve engagement, we’ll show you how to use A/B testing to get great results for paid social ads.

What exactly is A/B testing?

Let’s drill down into the basics.

A/B testing, also known as split testing or conversion optimisation, is the process of running versions of ads that are different from one another in only one aspect. These two versions are then sent to a small percentage of your total audience – half get version A, half get version B. Testing two versions means you can find out which works best – the winning message is determined by success metrics like opens or clicks. Think of it as survival of the fittest. 

It’s a simple concept. However, the countless variations you can build into social ads requires marketers to be very precise. Without precision, you may end up wasting budget and garner no significant insights.

A/B testing can be used to answer key questions about your social ads, helping you identify the strongest messages, the best time of day to post, or the most effective call-to-action.

Getting Started

A/B testing lets the data show you what’s working and what’s not. It’s deeply rooted in your campaign, rather than relying on blanket best practices or other people’s benchmarks. Therefore, before you start running A/B tests, we suggest you get the following five key details down. This work will help you identify the most important areas to focus on when it comes to testing. 

  1. An understanding of the overarching goals of your business
  2. Your current social strategy, including your general goals for each platform
  3. An understanding of your audience for each platform
  4. An overview of your current performance across all channels
  5. Your questions, hunches, feelings and ideas that you want to test

What can you A/B test?

Anything! Well, pretty much. Any variable element of your social media ads can be tested, but let’s take a look at some of the most common elements to test:

Post Text

There are many variations you can try with your headline, post text and description. Just remember the A/B rule – make just one change for each test, otherwise, you won’t know which variation is working. Here are some considerations:

  • Testing a formal approach vs more friendly language is a common A/B test. Think about the tone of voice you use and the words you pick – different phrases and punctuation can hugely impact click rates. 
  • Consider the use of emojis – dependent on your target audience they could be well received or could come across as unprofessional. If your audience is responding well to them, which emojis work best?
  • Other useful tests could include the length of your ad, and the style of the copy itself – which will perform better – a question? A statement? Or perhaps even a statistic?

Layout

Layout variables depend on the platform you are using; some provide a lot of options that are well worth A/B testing. Facebook, for instance, offers multiple ad formats like carousel ads and lead ads. Test these against each other to see which your audience engage with the most. 

Imagery

Photos, graphics, illustrations – we know imagery is important in social ads, but which type will work best for your ad? Does a product image or video perform better? Will GIFs perform better than static images? Will images with brighter colours outperform those with dark colours? There are countless A/B tests you can run with your imagery. 

Audience

This one is a little different – rather than showing variations of your post or ad to similar groups, you show the same advert to different audiences to see which gets a better response.

Test your assumptions, and find out if the persona you imagine matches the results you see when you run ads. Test a sample size by using the filtering characteristics to drill down into your audience, consider:

  • Location
  • Gener
  • Education Level
  • Hobbies
  • Behaviours

How to run an A/B test on social media adverts

Now’s the time to determine which two variants you want to test against each other, and to run your first A/B test.

Step 1: Decide on your goals

Knowing your objective is an essential first step when setting up your campaign. This will help you in planning your budget and in knowing what to test. A vital first step is defining what success means to you. 

Step 2: Choose what to test

Look at your goals and let them guide your decision. Of course, you can (and probably should) run many iteration cycles you can run to find the best ad, so choose your goal with this in mind. For example, if you are optimising for overall impressions, your aim would likely be to get the lowest Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM). The main elements that affect the CPM are the targeted audience and the ad placement, so that is what you would start testing.

Step 3: Set your budget

A/B testing can involve many cycles, so it’s crucial to set your budget at the start of the process. Think about your targets, and make sure you factor in some wiggle room for ads that will underperform.

Step 4: Run your test

Once you’ve completed your test, take the best performing ad and scale up your spending to the full budget allocated towards that campaign. Alternatively, you can test it against another small variation to see if you can improve your results further.

Step 5: Report back

Finally, share what you learn throughout your team to build a library of best practices for your company.

A/B testing is a smart, quantifying process that should be the cornerstone of every social ad campaign. Using trial and error is a failproof method for achieving maximum conversion, and we highly recommend that you build it into your strategy. 

5 Minutes with John Ashton

John Ashton spent his time writing for national newspapers and authoring books before coming up with an idea for a company in 2012 that put his talents to exceptionally good use.

Write Arm is a flexible writing resource for marketers. They provide companies with writers when they need them to create any type of written content – from exquisitely crafted straplines to blogs, scripts and books.

In 2020 he set up The KitchenTable Community, which is a peer-to-peer support community and marketplace for the owners and would-be owners of small creative agencies.

We spoke to John Ashton to find out more about the company, and to get his top tips on brilliant copywriting.

Hi John, thanks for chatting with Colour Me Social! What inspired you to start Write Arm?

I started the company in 2012 – I was thinking at the time, what’s my next career move? I thought about becoming a freelance writer again and I realised I wanted to build something bigger and flexible and more of the moment.

I hadn’t worked in the marketing world before then, so I knew nothing of it. I just took the plunge, with no idea whether it would float or not, but it did – much to my amazement and delight!

We started with just a small handful of writers; more and more have found us along the way, and we go out and find writers too – we’ve got scores of them now!

How do you work with businesses?

We do everything with the written word – broadly it breaks down into two types: on the one hand you’ve got content marketing such as articles, whitepapers, case studies, e-books; the other side is creative copywriting, things like static web copy, brochures and email sequences – anything that has a more overt marketing function than content marketing.

What type of businesses do you work with?

Anything from a small SME to multinational giants – we’ll work with any sizes of business, but we prefer to work with those with a marketing department. We work in numerous sectors; the ones that have been particularly strong for us have been tech, financial services and HR/recruitment.

What’s the motivation for businesses to come to you?

It’s very often the case that they just don’t have the resources internally. We work on an ad hoc basis, we don’t tend to charge retainers, which works for us because the clients don’t need us all the time. They often have people in-house who do some of the writing, but then they just get swamped.

What would you say are the main challenges you see your clients facing when it comes to content and copywriting?

The chief challenge is finding the right person to do the work. There are millions of freelancers out there but actually sourcing them and managing them is the real challenge. We’ve got where we are today by answering that need, by solving that problem.

How has your business changed in the Covid-era?

Well, we’ve always been remote. That’s the beauty of Write Arm. The staff work remotely, as do I, and all the writers work remotely. So we were geared up for it.

At the start COVID, everything went quiet for a week, but then it got very, very busy, and we’ve never been busier. I think it’s largely a legacy of working in tech – so many tech niches are buoyant at the moment, and we’re a beneficiary of that.

What’s your top tip for brilliant copywriting?

Great copywriting has to spell out the benefits of a product or service. Or if it’s not a product or service, then drive the message in a way that appeals to the heart, the head, and do so in as few words as possible.

Finally, what advice would you offer to small business owners to help them tell their story?

Invest in copy – it can make all the difference.