By Brian King

Running a company costs a lot of money, which is especially true for startups and SMEs that sometimes lack a stable source of revenue to finance on-going operation costs. Many startups struggle to find money and time to allocate to marketing activities, despite its crucial ability to create brand awareness, bring in new leads and propel sales. The truth is, neglecting marketing and advertising may end up hurting your company.

There is no need for despair, as in this day and age there are many budget friendly marketing resources available for startups and SMEs with limited resources. Read on to discover 6 transforming yet affordable marketing tactics that you can start using today.

1. Tap into the Sea of Free Marketing Data

Marketing data is crucial in helping you find and understand your target customers. It can help increase ROI, as data can tell you exactly what works and what doesn’t so that you can allocate your time efficiently. Marketing data can be collected both online and offline: from your website, by conducting interviews, surveys, questionnaires or by paying attention to what your customers are saying about your company on social media.

For starters, properly setting up Google Analytics for your website can help identify what kind of content is performing well, and which pages have room for improvement. To gather thoughts from your customers, use one of the many free or affordable solutions available to gather valuable feedback. Google Forms, Survey Monkey and Polljoy are some great tools for conducting surveys and questionnaires.

For feedback, inspiration and ideas from your target audience, leverage community-focused sites like Reddit, Quora, small business forums and Linkedln or Facebook groups. These free platforms are wonderful places to interact with your customers and industry experts, or to gather ideas for email campaigns, link acquisition strategies, social media posts and blog topics.

2. Know Your Customer Personas

Identifying your customer personas help you define your target audience, so you know where to focus your marketing efforts on. You may have a great product, but if you don’t market it to the right people your business is not going to succeed.

To understand your customer type, get started by looking at your customer demographics, such as age, income, education, job characteristics, purchasing frequency and purchasing dollar amounts. This data can be obtained using website insights from Google Analytics (under the Audience report) and from social media analytics tools such as Instagram Insights and Pinterest Analytics.

3. Optimize Your Website to be Mobile Friendly

Everyone needs a website for their business, and this website has to be mobile-friendly. Most people browse the internet on their smartphone, and major search engines such as Google now crawl your mobile site rather than your desktop site. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, your users may not have the best possible experience searching for you or browsing on your site.

Thanks to new technologies, getting your website mobile-ready is easier than ever and you don’t have to be a web developer or a designer to get the job done. Tools like WordPress, Wix and Shopify will help you with the basic website setup using built-in mobile-friendly features.

4. Maximize Your Reach with Social Media

Increase your reach using social media platforms that your customer personas actively use. Creating active business profiles on Fac ebook ,  Twitte r,  Linkedln ,  YouTube,  Snapchat , Google+ or Pinterest will help you build brand awareness and connect with your customers. The best business social media profiles are updated multiple times a day.

There are many free ways to market your business on social media. You can use Canva or BeFunky to create your own graphics, record videos to upload to YouTube, Facebook or IGTV, or stream live video content.

Try to build relationships with your followers by actively responding to their comments and questions and re-sharing content that features your business’ hashtags. You can also interact with your customers by setting up polls, asking questions, or simply tagging people to encourage engagement.

5. Set Up Marketing Automation to Free Up Your Time

Automation solutions streamline your marketing processes and help free up time to focus on other daily tasks, while still effectively nurturing leads and driving revenue. Email marketing is one of the primary areas for marketing automation, and can help small businesses to get their message across to the right people at the right time.

The first thing to do is to segment your list of subscribers by profile or features, such as demographic factors, new or existing customers, subscribers that have never made a purchase, and so on.

Once you have your audience lists ready, we can start drafting emails for each list. Finally, setting up the automated process is made easy by the many tools available, such as Mailchimp, Hubspot, Active Campaign and Get Response.

6. Take Control of Your Branding

Branding starts with the name and logo of your business, and is the most clear-cut way for customers to identify your business. Everything from your logo, to business card, letterhead, website, brochures, products, packaging, signage, and advertisements come together to create your business identity.

Brands are made of ideas and feelings, which gives startups and SMEs an advantage as they are often founder-led or family-owned, who often infuse their personality and values into the business. It is important to spend time and thought into your brand to help your customers remember you by taking control of your branding.

It also helps to have a good designer on hand to make your brand vision come to life. While design has traditionally been viewed as a major cost, platforms like 99designs and Fiverr have changed the landscape and made design (and in the case of Fiverr, animation, writing and programming as well) accessible to small and growing businesses.

These 6 cost-efficient and actionable marketing tactics can help your startup or SME take off. For more detailed information about any of the specific sections above, head over to Compass Offices’ free From Zero to Hero eBook.

Brian King is originally from the UK, now based in Hong Kong, Brian works for Compass Offices as the Marketing Director. With over 20 years of experience working in B2B marketing across USA, Europe and Asia in technology startups, business information and real estate industries, Brian writes on topics including startup marketing, marketing automation and business best practices.

Marketing stock photo by Farizun Amrod Saad/Shutterstock