However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t stand a chance to thrive and boost their online presence and awareness; they simply need to organize their priorities better and learn how to make use of some alternative marketing tactics.

Here’s how you can optimize your marketing budget and showcase your small business in the best light online without having to spend big bucks.

Leverage social media

This is one of the best and most affordable methods of promoting your small business and spreading the word. With more than 3 billion social media users around the world, this shouldn’t be an impossible task. The first and most crucial step of this strategy is determining the right channels — that is, the ones your target audience uses. The goal isn’t to reach out to as many people as possible, but to gain exposure among the people who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer.

While making the most of Facebook should be a no-brainer as it’s one of the most popular and versatile social media channels that even B2B companies use, other channels tend to require more research on your part. To get a clearer picture of your options, you can start with a social media demographics research study, which, for example, shows that apart from Facebook, adults in the U.S. mostly use YouTube. Younger demographics (18-24-year-olds) prefer Snapchat (71%), Instagram (71%), and Twitter (45%).

Women are more fond of Instagram and, according to a survey, are more likely than men to use this visually oriented social media platform, with the ratio being 38% vs.26%. Posting relevant content on a regular basis and using the lingo of your audience will make you more appealing and relatable.

Connect with your audience offline

Although social media channels are important for drawing attention to your business, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of personal, one-on-one contact with your audience. Various industry fairs, as well as local community festivals, can do wonders for your promotion and, just like social media, they won’t break the bank.

You can also offer your services pro bono, sponsor a local sports team, or hold fundraisers. Use any of these opportunities to give away some branded products with your logo on to cement your reputation and remind people of your acts of kindness in their community.

Team up with another company

This is an excellent method for expanding your reach and growing your customer base. Namely, you can highly benefit from finding other businesses which offer complementary products and services, and joining forces with them. For example, if you run a coffee shop, a local bakery could be your natural partner. You can include their muffins, tarts, and other baked goods in your establishment, and vice versa. This way you can access a pool of new business opportunities and reach out to prospects interested in your products or services. Another partnership option is offering a local marketing agency your products or services in exchange for their help.

Use geofencing

Geofencing allows you to set up a virtual perimeter around a certain location on a map, and then target potential customers and encourage them to enter it and visit your business. When an authorized device –that is a person who opted-in for geofencing services– enters or exits your predefined area, notifications, messages, or alerts will be triggered, informing them about your business.

Some companies also send coupons and similar incentives to get people to visit them when they’re nearby, while others set up geofences around their competitors’ businesses to spot when potential customers enter their rival’s area. This allows these savvy shop owners to act immediately, grab their attention, and prompt them to visit their business instead. Although this location-based advertising is a bit more expensive, it’s an excellent investment for small, local establishments as it’s extremely interactive.

Networking and building relationships

Establishing connections with the local media is of tremendous importance because this is how you can get some free PR. Try to get in touch with local journalists and reporters and pitch a story about your business to them. Of course, do this when you have an interesting announcement to make, such as that already mentioned sponsorships and other community involvement acts.

Another thing to bear in mind is that instead of sending a mass email to all local papers and TV or radio stations, it’s more effective to craft a personalized message that you’ll send to people who usually cover events from your industry. Once you establish the initial contact, make sure not to lose touch and keep these people posted about the latest news about your business, invite them to your social events, and allow them to bring a plus-one. Although the last idea might seem a bit over the top, people, even if they work in the media, don’t like showing up alone at parties and events, and this little incentive will increase their chances of attending your big promotion.

These 5 tactics are easy to apply and not expensive — meaning that you can put your shoestring marketing budget to a good use and get some great results.

**About the Author: Emma Miller is a digital marketer and blogger from Sydney. After getting a marketing degree, she started working with Australian startups on business and marketing development. Emma writes for many relevant, industry related online publications and does a job of an Executive Editor at Bizzmark blog and a guest lecturer at Melbourne University. Interested in marketing, startups and latest business trends.