As a solopreneur, there’s a lot you have to do yourself. You’re not just the talent; you’re usually the company’s accounts payable, project manager and entire marketing department. Having to be a whole company—and have a life outside your business—usually means you have a limited budget, both time and money-wise.
When every minute and every dollar count, try these ideas to get the most mileage out of your marketing! As longtime marketers ourselves, we’ve seen what works for solopreneurs, small businesses and those who are just starting out…even when you don’t have a huge budget.
Creative Social Media Strategies
As a solopreneur, social media is probably where you do the bulk of your marketing. Maybe it’s where you do all of your marketing. So how can you turn your social media marketing into engagement and sales without spending a fortune?
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Focus on organic social media content. Sure, you can do paid advertising too—and you can make a lot of sales through it. But when you’re on a tight budget, organic is where you can get the most bang for your (saved!) buck.
Try out these creative strategies to up your organic social media game:
Everybody loves a good meme. It’s easy to repost and share memes, but it’s a little trickier to make a good one.
Source via Nandatama
So how do you make a meme that’s, let’s be honest, not cringe?
There’s no precise formula for memes, but there are a few guidelines that can help you out:
Choose a meme format that’s currently trending. If you saw it all over your feed last week, it’s already old. Memes move at lightning speed, so if there’s a format that’s dominating your feed this week, the time to take part is now.
Make it relevant. As a small business owner this is key. Don’t just make a meme for meme’s sake; find a clever way to make it fit your brand and/or product. Remember, the goal is to resonate with your followers. You know their sense of humour, so give them something that makes them laugh.
Keep it simple. Memes aren’t the place for nuance. They also aren’t the place for large amounts of text or introducing new concepts. Memes are tiny spurts of entertainment, so if you can’t entertain in a few seconds, rethink your meme.
You’ve no-doubt seen memes that miss the mark, so if you decide to make this part of your marketing plan, here are a few tips to help you get likes and shares, rather than confusion and cringe:
Meme about what you know. Memes are a great way to make comical observations about your industry, its culture or a specific product.
Avoid mean-spirited memes and anything that relies on putting down a competitor, product or even perspective in order to make a joke. Instead, choose positive images and memes that involve other forms of humour.
If your customer base is primarily local people, memes about your community can be a hilarious way to connect with them. For example, if you’re in New York City, a fun meme could be an image of Pizza Rat dragging your product up the subway steps.
Feature user-generated content
When it comes to social media content, it doesn’t get any easier than this. If you’ve got people out there using and loving your product or services, leverage that by reposting their praises. Don’t only focus on their posts that praise your product, though. Share and repost user-generated content that’s relevant to your brand in any way, like a video featuring somebody wearing a hat from your boutique.
Host a contest or giveaway
Another way to drive engagement on social media is to host a contest or a giveaway. To put it bluntly, people love free stuff. They also love the opportunity to win free stuff, especially if the cost to potentially win said free stuff is to simply like a post, tag somebody or share a post.
Source via Shawnee Wilborn via Unsplash
A giveaway is a great way to build hype for a new product. Consider teasing a new product, then doing a raffle or giveaway for it on social media. Contests are a fun way to push followers to create content—for example, let’s say you’re an artisan baker. You could run a sandwich contest, where participants show their favourite sandwiches to make using your bread, then have participants vote for the best sandwich. In this scenario, the winner could get a gift certificate to your bakery, free bread or another tangible prize like catered dessert for their next party.
The key to a great contest or giveaway is a prize that’s valuable to participants. Even if you’re a service-based business, you can give away a valuable prize like a free consultation or two free hours of house cleaning.
Participate in social media trends (in a refreshing way)
Similarly to making memes, you can promote your business by participating in social media trends. When we say “social media trends,” we’re referring to things like using trending audio and reel formats. For example, the “green green grass” dance that was all over TikTok at the end of 2022.
However, just like with memes, it’s important that you participate in these trends in a refreshing, brand-relevant way. That’s the way to drive engagement—which increases followers and gets people to buy. So while you might be tempted to do a trending TikTok dance, make it your own by incorporating your brand somehow, like doing the dance in your shop.
DIY Content Creation
Another absolutely free way to market your small business on social media is to showcase you and your work. If you’re a baker, this could be a “bake along with me” video. If you’re a photographer, it could be a reel showing how you set up for a photoshoot or a photo dump of rejected backdrops and shooting locations. This kind of content brings the viewer into your world and gives them an “insider look” at how you operate as a business owner.
Source via Holly Stratton via Unsplash
This type of content can go a bit further than just showcasing you and serve to entertain or inform the viewer. A realtor might make reels that educate viewers about topics like interest rates and red flags in homes they visit. A dog walker could make a funny clip compilation of what they’d imagine each dog breed’s ideal walk looks like. Have fun with this kind of content and don’t make it overly promotional. By virtue of simply being posted to your account, it’s part of your brand. Focus on creating something followers will enjoy, and the engagement will follow.
Local Community Engagement
Invest in your community, because they will invest right back into your business. Generally, this type of strategy works best for brick and mortar businesses and those that otherwise rely on local advertising. However, any brand can benefit from community engagement—and for borderless, online brands, this “community” can extend to online spaces your followers tend to inhabit, like Tumblr or Reddit.
As far as IRL community engagement goes, there are lots of ways to do it. You can collaborate with another small local business, like promoting an event planner and having them promote your floral design studio. You can also make your brand visible at local events, like participating in a food drive, trunk or treat or local festival. Be creative and think about the kinds of customers you want to meet. Sponsoring a youth sports team is a great way to meet parents and families, which can be the perfect way to promote your ice cream shop or tutoring service.
Innovative Guerrilla Marketing
When you’re working on low-cost marketing strategies, remember to have fun with it! If you’re having fun developing your strategy, your passion will shine through the finished product. It doesn’t matter if you’re an amateur marketer or if your creative skills are a bit subpar…when you’re invested in what you’re doing, it’s easy to think outside the box and do something that gets people talking.
Source via Ermaque
Similar to user-generated content, one way you can harness guerilla marketing is to work with influencers. Influencers are social media professionals who promote products and services on their platforms—and this kind of marketing really works. If you follow well-known influencers whose brands make sense with your brand, like mom influencers if you’re a children’s book author, reach out to them to see if you can make a deal. Alternatively, tools like Lionize make it easy to find appropriate influencers and get in touch with them to collaborate.
Another strategy to try is teaching a class in your area of expertise. This can be online or in person, free or paid for attendees. The point is that you’re offering something of value without explicitly expecting sales. Classes and webinars are great for brand awareness and nurturing existing relationships. To teach an in-person class, look for opportunities with your local chamber of commerce, library or community education program.
You can also promote your brand through a pop-up. Pop-ups take lots of different forms, from a table at a vendor fair to a small booth in another shop or a tap takeover at a local bar or restaurant. By hosting a pop-up, you’re getting valuable face-to-face time with people and introducing your product to a wide audience, adding them to your marketing funnel.
Lastly, you can give art installations a try. This is another strategy that highly depends on your brand and your community—a mural for a record store is cool. A mural for an accounting practice needs to be really cool to lead to any traction. If you decide to go this route, determine the kind of art that makes sense for your brand and how you’ll pull it off. Maybe a few painted rocks left around town are a good way to get the word out. Maybe a better choice for promoting your studio space is a Spotify playlist featuring artists who’ve recorded there. Like we said earlier, be creative and lean into something you care about.
Maximize Free Online Tools
Not great at design? Use VistaCreate! Not great at writing snappy captions? Chat GPT!
These tools don’t replace human creativity; they’re a way to push your creativity further. Use free online tools to create organic and paid marketing materials, plus tools like artlist.io. This way, you don’t have to start from scratch…and potentially get lost in that blank screen vortex that makes it so difficult to get started. Take advantage of the templates these tools offer to help you find a look that works for your design and effectively communicates what you’re aiming to say.
Tip box: Remember to customize any template you use! The goal is to make a template your own, so be creative and give it a personalized touch.
Cost-effective Print Marketing
Not all inexpensive marketing strategies are free. Some—generally those that involve tangible products—require a small investment. Keep costs low by shopping for deals and opting for cost-effective print marketing. VistaPrint offers a variety of print products at different price points, so whether you’re on a shoestring budget or something more substantial, you can find banners, cards, flyers, swag and way more that fits your budget.
Source via VistaPrint
Print materials are an important part of just about any business’ marketing strategy because they’re a canvas for branding. Think beyond signs and banners—print products include just about everything you can put your logo onto, from tote bags to stationery to dress shirts to stickers.
Looking for fresh design inspiration? Check out these 2024 marketing trends.
Barter with Other Solopreneurs
This one might not be an ideal fit for all businesses, but for some, it’s a fantastic way to leverage your skills when you’ve got a small budget. Connect with other small businesses who do marketing, like graphic designers, social managers, copywriters and videographers to barter products or services.
The main challenge with this strategy is finding an equivalent value between the products and/or services you’re bartering. How many cookies is a blog post worth? Are two photoshoots equal to a month of social media management?
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To find the answer, enter each negotiation with a clear dollar figure for your product or service. Determine the cost for the other solopreneur’s offer and find a trade that compensates you both appropriately—you might find that a blog post is worth two dozen cookies, or that four hours of dog walking can get you a great-looking video you can use as a template for future reels.
This last point is a super-valuable way you can barter with other solopreneurs. Because you’ll likely be doing a lot of your own marketing, getting tips from a pro can help you elevate your marketing strategies for a very low cost. Just remember to offer something of equal value, whether it’s tips of your own or something more tangible.
Trial and Error is Key for Solopreneurs
As you try out these different marketing ideas, keep a detailed record of your results. Developing your marketing strategies is an ongoing process, so take the time to really understand how your audience, your efforts and when applicable, the algorithms mesh together to create engagement for your business.
As you experiment, focus on one strategy at a time and give it the time and attention it deserves. Trying to do too much at once means you’ll do each thing halfway, which is a disservice to your business. So pick a strategy to start with, give it your all, then once you’ve got data about how it performed, give another strategy a shot.
No matter which of these marketing strategies you try first, well-designed marketing materials are one of your greatest assets. Check out Vistaprint to see all the different materials you can add to your arsenal of amazing marketing assets!