As the storm of COVID continues to batter most small business, cutting costs is central to the survival strategies of most. In that swathe of cuts, it would be easy to also cut marketing costs and accidentally cut marketing as an activity. Whilst cutting marketing costs may be necessary – cutting marketing activities could lead to a longer-term downturn, miss out on valuable opportunities that you can unearth right now and also stop sowing new seeds for business once the economy comes back to life. Now is the time to seize the opportunity and bring out the inner guerrilla marketer, work with whatever budget you have and find new opportunities to secure the long term future of the business.

Effective marketing doesn’t happen on it’s own, and needs the spending of money or time. For most, that means extra time right now, so here are a few ideas of things you can do for long and short-term growth.

Get your house in order

If you have some down time, take the opportunity to go back and do a review of your marketing fundamentals. Most small businesses don’t anything like this: really define your market, read some reports and predictions,  see what your competitors are doing and do some customer surveys. Get some feedback on your social media, website, marketing materials, even your logo; these sit idle most of the time without much attention, but slowly become less relevant, out of date and effective. Really dig into the statistics of your sales, enquiries, web traffic and other metrics, so you know what is going on and what clicks with your target market (there might be opportunities in your search terms!)


One of the best forms of ongoing marketing are referral networks: they are low cost and sustainable, but do take a long time to develop. Use that time now. Many referral partners are quite open to building relationships, particularly for two-way referrals, and right now lots of businesses are looking for new opportunities. Depending on your business, platforms such as LinkedIn or Instagram can be good for reaching out to other businesses who have similar markets and interests. It can take months and years to build up good relationships, so start planting seeds now. 


Offering engaging content is great for building your profile in all industries, with costs of production and posting quite low. Take the time to create high quality videos, stories, blogs and images – don’t just spew out low grade garbage as it will actually damage your brand. Our feeds are all full of unscripted videos of people standing in messy offices, raving unscripted stories, sitting in cars and not even looking at the camera half the time, so it’s easy to stand out. With many people glued to social media in isolation, , you can build an audience if done properly. Again, this takes time to get results. Further, if you don’t have a database, now is the time to get that set up.

Social media.

The obvious choice for low cost marketing is social media, but the reason I put it towards the end is that your content, strategy and target market need to be understood first. Exactly what works depends on your product or service. I have seen Instagram create big business in design, food and fashion, Facebook successful for travel products and LinkedIn for professional services. It’s not one-size-fits all so plan it out first.


Even if you don’t manage all aspects of your marketing yourself, knowing what to do is invaluable at getting good results. Take the time to learn the inner workings of social media, branding, Google Ads or any other type of marketing you need. Doing it yourself can have great impact and save you a lot of cash.


Some commentators are predicting the death of thousands of small businesses when the current crisis is over; it’s going to be a case of survival of the fittest. Now is the time to swim against the current and find ways to set yourself up for the other side.

Marketing is a long game - a marathon, not a sprint. Building brands, relationships, referral networks and a client base takes years. Even when things are going well, you can’t ever stop marketing, and adage that is especially true right now. Long term, when business starts rebounding, the extra work you do now can open up new markets and have relationships in place that are the foundation for the future. Not every business is going to make it through, but with some tenacity and lateral thinking, you can be there.