Established businesses have one obvious advantage over younger counterparts: Deep pockets.
Fortunately, what today’s small business lacks in budget can be made up for with strategy and a few carefully chosen tools.
Here are six smart marketing ideas gleaned from my experience running a company that teaches small firms how to compete with big ones.
1. Develop an editorial calendar for all content management.
Most small businesses can’t afford to bring an entire editorial staff on board, but they can still reap the benefits of a regularly updated company blog by using a good editorial calendar tool.
WordPress’ plugin directory offers several free solutions. Editorial calendar software aids collaboration between editors and writers and allows site managers to schedule and automate weeks or months’ worth of posts.
By planning post topics in advance, business owners can source the best writers for the job and choose the optimum time for new content to go out. Strategically timing a post release to coincide with a related industry event can give it that extra dose of relevance it needs to go viral.
2. Automate social media campaigns.
Building a presence on major social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook can be an effective and low-cost way for startups to get a lot of exposure relatively quickly. On the other hand, keeping social media accounts updated is a time-killer. It’s not just the time spent finding content to share: Time wasted logging in and out of different accounts multiple times a day adds up quickly.
Business owners can save hours of time weekly by taking advantage of the same tools enterprises use to manage and automate their social media marketing campaigns. Automation doesn’t have to break the bank: applications like HootSuite offer affordable plans designed for smaller businesses.
Using one of these industry-standard tools, social media managers can quickly and easily update multiple accounts at once, automate post scheduling, track brand or competitor mentions and even find great ideas for content curation — all from within one easy-to-use dashboard. Automatic post scheduling is an especially handy feature for businesses targeting an international audience.
3. Distribute content by building a network of partner sites.
Getting brand mentions on well-established web publications is one of the most potent traffic-building strategies in a startup’s arsenal. As an added benefit, editorial links are the cornerstone of a successful SEO strategy.
Many starter companies simply don’t have the budget to hire a content marketing firm for a grand-scale publishing campaign. But that doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker: the web is full of publications with an endless need for quality content, and these publications are often happy to work with smaller businesses who can provide them with an article free of charge (in exchange for a bio and link, of course).
To harness this powerful marketing strategy, business owners need to be persistent in regularly pitching editors of prospective sites. To see results from this method, companies only need to secure a handful of strong partner sites they can publish to on a regular basis.
4. Seek out joint ventures and partnerships.
Often called JVs (joint ventures) in the online world, partnerships with other business owners are imperative for entrepreneurs looking to take their businesses to the next level. Luckily, there’s a world of opportunity out there for this kind of collaboration.
Small business owners and startups can take advantage of this big-business tactic by making outreach efforts a regular part of their marketing strategy. Potential business partners can be approached via social media channels like Twitter or by emailing webmasters of prospective sites.
Joint ventures are most effective when they’re presented as an exclusive benefit to the customer as opposed to a sales gimmick. For instance, a company might promote a partner product by offering email subscribers a significant, VIP discount via an e-newsletter.
5. Create an affiliate program.
Traditionally called a referral program, a successfully executed affiliate program can effectively multiply a startup’s marketing and branding efforts. Larger companies often use affiliate networks to manage their programs, but the upfront cost to join as an advertiser is typically thousands of dollars.
Smaller businesses can implement an affiliate program at a fraction of this cost with the help of affiliate management software. These programs are designed to make managing affiliates and tracking codes easy.
6. Streamline lead generation and nurturing.
No matter the size of the company, the elements of an online lead capture system remain the same: a well-designed landing page, an incentive for customers to opt in and lead nurturing via an email drip campaign.
Small businesses and startups in today’s digital era can enjoy the benefits of enterprise-level marketing tools designed to streamline these tasks at an affordable cost. Solutions like InfusionSoft offer a complete package for small businesses, from lead capture and email marketing to advanced features like marketing automation and customer relationship management (CRM).
Business owners can take sales funnel optimization a step further by using mobile-responsive software like LeadPages to quickly and easily create high-converting landing pages and even split test.
With a bit of creativity and a handful of affordable software tools, today’s entrepreneur has never had a better shot at getting right up there with the big players.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Robert Sofia is a best-selling author, award winning public speaker, and financial industry thought leader. He has developed marketing strategies for Fortune 500® companies, consulted with over 1,000 companies nationwide, and is the co-founder of Platinum Advisor Strategies – ranked #362 on the INC 5,000 list of America’s fastest growing privately owned companies in 2013, and #10 on the Agency 100 list of the nation’s fastest growing agencies. Connect with @robertsofia on Twitter.