Starting a business has its challenges.

One challenge for many small business owners is figuring out how to market your business when you have little to no marketing budget.

No matter what your industry, it’s important that your business has an online presence. More and more your website (or lack thereof) is your first impression to the world. Think about when you “Google” a local dry cleaner to find out where to take your lucky suit. You wouldn’t trust your lucky suit to just any dry cleaner, right?

The cleaner down the road has a website that is so bad it looks like it was designed in Microsoft Paint back in 1995.. ugly colors, no logo, and no helpful information to speak of. The other dry cleaner across town has a nice looking logo, simple navigation, and all the pertinent information you need – along with helpful tips for caring for your garments at home.

Don’t you immediately have a little better feeling about that second dry cleaner?

The Power of First Impressions

I’ll now share with you a phrase that you’ve probably never heard. You may want to write this down…

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

The good news is, making a strong first impression online has never been easier or more affordable.

The fact is, your business is making first impressions to people that you’ve never met right now. Even if you have no website, no social media accounts, etc. – that absence is making an impression when people search for your business.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume that you have a website for your business.

What we are going to focus on how you can market your business more effectively by “looking the part” while using just a little bit of money and/or time.

Does This Really Matter?

No matter where you stand, there is little debate that having an effective online marketing strategy can help grow virtually any business. While there are a lot of pieces to a great marketing strategy – today I’m just going to talk about passing the “eye-test.”

How do you make your business look better quickly and affordably?

Kip Loves Technology

So do I, Kip. So do I..

Like my buddy Kip from Napoleon Dynamite, I love technology.

And one of the great things about technology is that it has made so many free and cheap tools available to help market your business. In fact, there are so many tools that it can be rather overwhelming.

I’ll take a deeper dive into a couple of these tools and share specific ideas of how you can use them to start upgrading your business’ image and marketing materials immediately, if not sooner.

[su_note]TIGHT BUDGET? See our list of $5 graphic design services that we’ve used and had great results![/su_note] Let’s jump in:

Canva

If you are a Pinterest fan, you may have wondered how people create such amazing images to promote their products or their business. Certainly they have a designer on staff or spend a ton of money! Not necCanva - How To Market Your Businessessarily. Canva is a site that lets you create designs for standard formats like a Facebook header, business card, and more. However, you can also enter custom dimensions, which is what I like to do when creating a sharp looking image to accompany my blog post. For instance, the image you see on the left is something I put together for this post. And trust me – I’m not a designer. Best of all – Canva is free to use!  You only pay if you use certain stock images or graphics that have a cost associated – usually $1. However, I’ve found that you can create plenty of great images without paying anything.

Step By Step Process

 

    • I like to find my own free stock images that work for my site. Here is a list of 12 sites that have free, high quality stock photos. Also, Shae Baxter has a helpful list of 65 places to find public domain images here.If you are on a tight budget and need to keep it free – you might have to get creative with the image you use. Most images can be multi-purpose – just change the text.

 

 Here is an example:       Remember my image above about giving clarity to your marketing efforts? Look what else it can do: VISION And… How To Market Your Business - Example 3 I feel like we should have a caption contest for the glasses picture… but you get the idea! Get creative!

  • Once I upload my free stock image of choice to Canva, I take a look at their “Text Holders” and try to find a setup that I like. A lot of this depends on how much text you plan to have. Depending on whether you have 3 words or 10, you might find a different text holder that is going to look better for your purpose. Remember that you can change colors and sizes if needed.
  • If you feel like jazzing it up a little – look for “frames” or “lines” and get a number of options for things to add to your image.
  • Once you’ve got a design you are happy with, simply use the download button and get your image!

      If you’d like to get a business presence on Pinterest, here is a cheat sheet to get you started.

Fiverr

Although it has grown in popularity, I don’t know that I’ve met one person in real, day to day life who has ever heard of Fiverr. Try it. Ask a friend at church or at your kid’s soccer practice if they know what Fiverr is. I think those in the internet marketing community may take it for granted, but Fiverr has a lot to offer you as a small business owner. The idea behind it is simple. You can find people from around the world to do things like graphic design (and almost anything else you can think of) starting at $5. In idea #1 I talked about Canva for DIY image creation. However, if you don’t have the time for it or don’t want to mess with it – try Fiverr!

5 Ways For Small Businesses To Use Fiverr

  • Get a logo. You need a logo. I’m amazed at how many times I go to a local business’ website and see no logo at all, or one that looks like it was created in Microsoft Paint and saved on a floppy disc. I’m telling you, take a look at some of the highly rated designers on Fiverr and you’ll see that they put out some high quality stuff. I can assure you that it’ll look better than what you have saved on the floppy disc. Not sure which gig to go with? Here are 8 that we like.
  • Miscellaneous Graphic Design. If you are blogging for your business, and you should be, then having custom graphics can really make your work stand out from the crowd. Not to mention that a custom feature image really helps when you share the post on social media. You can get great graphics designed for these purposes and more on Fiverr. Maybe you are a florist and you have a husband’s guide to Valentine’s Day flowers, take that guide to the next level with a customized $5 title graphic.
  • Professional Voice-overs. If you are doing an advertisement on local radio, you want it to sound good. Perhaps you have a face for radio, but not the voice – then Fiverr can help. Often you’ll find people with professional experience who will say whatever you want them to for only $5. Here is an example of a gig where you can get 200 words, recorded in studio by a man with an excellent radio voice. Often the seller will have samples available, so find a voice you like and have them read your advertisement for you!
  • Flyers and Paper Ads. Besides graphics for you to use on your website and social media, there are also many talented designers on Fiverr who will design your flyer, brochure, or other paper advertisement. Again, if you are going to spend a few hundred dollars to advertise in a local publication – why not spend $5 more and make it look great? It’ll save you time and money.
  • Holiday Specials. One great thing about a resource like Fiverr is that you can be a mom and pop place, but give the impression that you have a full-time designer. It’s always fun to do promotions around Christmas and other holidays, and Fiverr will be ripe with a bunch of gigs like taking your logo and doing a Christmas makeover to it. What about sharing your logo or business message in the form of Christmas cookies?

The possibilities are nearly endless. But before you waste tons of precious time or money, ask yourself “could I find somebody to do this for $5?” 

[su_note]BONUS: View our list of 8 Fiverr gigs that deliver top notch services for only $5[/su_note]

99Designs

I’ve had a number of logos done for different projects, websites and businesses.

Almost every single time when I have the final product, I find myself wondering if this is the best possible logo for my business. In other words, how do I know if there is something else better out there?

Enter 99Designs.

The concept behind 99Designs is that your design work is opened as a “contest” for their network of expert designers. So based on a prize amount set in advance, all the designers who want a chance to win that money will submit their best design based on your specifications.

The result is that you’ll potentially have hundreds of designs to choose from – rather than just a couple of concepts that you might get working with an individual designer.

How Does It Work?

  1. You pick what you need done. For instance, you can get just a logo or go for a brand identity pack which includes things like business cards and letterhead.
  2. You complete their “brief” which basically describes what you are looking for and gathers details from you.
  3. You choose how much you want to pay. Logo contests start at $299 and go up to about $1,200. The variance is basically how many designs you can expect and the quality level you might expect. If you think about it, a designer is going to put a little more thought and energy into something that could get him $1,200 instead of $300.
  4. You can send feedback as you go and ultimately you pick the winner.
  5. You receive your logo and the full rights to it and live happily ever after.

Click here to learn more about how it works, but 99Designs is really a great option if you want to see tons of options and really don’t have a great brand identity right now.

Final Thoughts

When your customers “Google” you today, what is their first impression?

Are you a company that is “behind the times” with and outdated website, no logo (or a bad logo), and makes it difficult to find the basic information on your business?

Or on the other hand, do you have a website that communicates the information they need in a way that is attractive and professional?

Honestly the difference between those 2 realities may sound daunting and expensive, but it really doesn’t have to be.

Do you have a go-to source for affordable graphic design? Please share your experiences in the comments below: