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Marketing on a Shoestring Budget

In the ever-changing world of marketing one thing remains constant, the high cost of traditional marketing. If you’re a small business, or even a medium to large size business with a small marketing budget, then you need to explore marketing tactics that cost little or no money but have the promise of generating large returns.

It is possible to create effective marketing campaigns on a small budget. The most cost effective techniques can be found in print and online. In particular, affiliate programs, link building campaigns, and post card/landing page campaigns can generate significant returns at little or no cost. Depending on your list and offer, such campaigns can generate a better return than some traditional forms of media.

1. Affiliate Programs

Established affiliate programs like Commission Junction (CJ) charge publishers hundreds, even thousands of dollars to join their publisher network. However, you don’t need to join an established affiliate program to begin affiliate marketing.

Although sites like CJ provide many benefits such as a large pool of potential websites who can display your ads and manage commission payments, the expense may be too large for those on a tight budget. A simple alternative is to start your own affiliate program and market the program through your own website, business cards, and email.

Beginning your own affiliate program is easier than you think. Although it does require some programming knowledge, there are many examples out there you can follow. Additionally, a quick Google search on affiliate programs can produce information on affiliate program software vendors that can help you get up and running in as little as 2 to 3 days for a few hundred dollars.

Once your program is up and running, you can easily advertise it on your web site. Additionally, you should think about other touch points (email signatures, receipts, etc.) where you can communicate your affiliate program and the benefits to others willing to sell your products or services.

2. Link Building Campaigns

Increasing your natural search results is a surefire way to increase web traffic. The more targeted traffic you receive, the more transactions you can potentially create on your site. One of the most effective ways to improve search engine results for your website is to increase the number of in-bound links. To do so, begin a link building campaign.

Simply start your link building campaign by visiting Google and typing in the keyword or keyword phrase that you have optimized your website for. Write down the top 10 URLs that appear in the results list. Now, visit a Google search box and type in the name of the first URL on the list preceded by “link:” For example, “link:”, this will show you how many sites link to that URL (your top competitor’s website) and who they are. Follow the same procedure for the remaining nine websites and enter the information into a spreadsheet.

Once you’ve identified the top competitive sites, and the sites that link to them, you can take a variety of approaches to receive a link from those sites. The simplest way is to visit the sites and contact the site administrator requesting a link. Your message can simply state that you would like a link to your site, providing access to free content or information. You can also proactively place a link for the site you’re contacting on your website’s partner page (or a link page that you create) and note that you have already linked to them and say that you would appreciate a reciprocal link.

The second way to receive a link is to actually call the website, if an 800 number is provided, or send a letter requesting a link. Although time consuming, this could generate some important links for your website.

3. Post Card/Jump Page

Direct marketing experts say that results are 40% dependant on your marketing list, 40% on the offer, and 20% on your creative. This is a good rule to follow when thinking about a direct mail campaign. Post cards provide a good way to reach a targeted audience at a low cost. Even if you are not a designer, it’s relatively simple to create a post card. Search the internet for a provider who can design a post card for you. Be sure to shop around though, pricing varies a great deal among online designers and printers.

An effective way to leverage your post card campaign is to provide an online offer. If you target individuals appropriately and give them a compelling reason to visit your website, then you will generate traffic and transactions. Be sure to capture an individual’s name, address, and/or email once they hit your website and ask for permission to market to them on a going forward basis.

Track your campaigns carefully and continue to experiment with new lists and offers. It’s best to develop your own marketing list with an opt-in on your registration pages or by offering free information – usually in the form of a newsletter. Many sites are now offering RSS feeds, a great way to get information to your registrants in real time.

Making Your Marketing Work

The key to making your marketing work on a shoestring budget is to begin with low cost, effective marketing tactics. Once you’ve begin your marketing campaigns, you can expand your success by trying different things with your audience. Don’t be afraid to experiment, try new tactics – new lists, new offers, new partnership opportunities. Track your results and continue to refine your approach. Follow the suggestions above and before you know it you’ll have more than a shoestring marketing budget to work with!

About the Author: Michael Fleischner is a marketing expert, marketing consultant, and the president of, the Internet’s biggest source of marketing news, marketing information, and free marketing resources. He has more than 12 years of marketing experience and had appeared on The TODAY Show, Bloomberg Radio, and other major media. He can be contacted at Visit or for further details, marketing resources, or more FREE reprint articles.

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