Not every business owner has a budget like Nike or Nintendo to work with, and if you are one of the many that fall into this category you may be necessarily limited when it comes to your marketing your business. Luckily, the online and mobile arenas have provided modern business owners like yourself with all kinds of opportunities to promote your business at little to no cost, although the trade-off may be your time. However, knowing your options is only half the battle. From there you need to pick the platforms and projects that are going to make your money work for you. Here are just a few tips that will help to ensure that anything you spend on marketing in the online arena has a better chance of coming back to you.

  1. Create a brand image. Before you ever begin your marketing venture you need to consider how you want to portray your business. You can start by creating a mission statement that embodies your professional goals and ideals. From there you need to get down to the nitty gritty with details like a logo, a slogan, a color scheme, fonts, and so on. Without these essentials you can’t really present the unified image needed to start a serious marketing campaign, so do the legwork before you pour your limited budget into wasted marketing efforts.
  2. Consider your target market. Knowing who you’re marketing to can make a big difference in the promotional efforts you make. For example, targeting a young and hip demographic means you’ll have to stay on top of what’s trending online so that you can create timely and topical forays into the marketplace. But if you’re looking to nab the attention of a more seasoned group of consumers, you might want to skip the viral videos on YouTube and look into promoting yourself through niche blogging communities or working your way into circles on Google+.
  3. Optimize. As you may or may not know, hiring an SEO firm can cost you a pretty penny. But just because your budget won’t allow for such a spend doesn’t mean you should leave your website and other portals un-optimized. Pick up a copy of ‘SEO for Dummies’, download the rules for Google’s current algorithm (Penguin) and start learning how to make the most of your online outlets.
  4. Budget your time. It can be tempting to create business profiles on every social networking site under the sun – hey, they’re all free! The only problem is that they won’t serve your purposes very well if you fail to devote the time and effort to them required to build up (and retain) a following. So settle for one or two that you think are most aligned with your purposes and dedicate yourself to making them work for you. And keep in mind that emerging platforms could work to your advantage. While Facebook and Twitter certainly boast the most members, growing sited like Google+, Pinterest, and even the new Foursquare could offer you better opportunities to reach a target demographic.
  5. Diversify. By looking around you can likely find a wide variety of options when it comes to online marketing, from cross promotion with related sites to infographic examples with embedded, searchable content and backlinks. While you should try not to spread yourself too thin, it’s important to keep building your marketing efforts and exploring new avenues so as to give your business the most exposure and the best chance for success.