As a business owner, it’s easy to fall into the trap of not looking at marketing as a hard line business expense. Which means it can be easy to move money away from marketing efforts when your budgets start feeling the squeeze.

If you find yourself in this situation, your first step should be to get creative with stretching your marketing dollars instead of just scaling them back. Having these tools in your bag helps when you feel tempted to pull back the reins on high-dollar marketing.

  1. Offer coupons or free trials: Coupon postcards that offer a good deal are a tried and true method for finding new customers at a large scale and a small budget. With a postcard campaign, you can even zero in on areas or demographics that fit your business, straight to their mailboxes. It’s minimal work on your part with a huge reach and the potential for a massive return.
  2. Perfect your elevator pitch: The term itself sounds kind of like a cliché, but it’s absolutely necessary. Could you pitch your company and its value proposition to a total stranger in a minute or less? You should be prepared to sell at all times of the day, and having your super-short pitch in your back pocket will help you sell in almost any scenario.
  3. Tap into the community, especially if your business operates at a local level: Think about your local community and how news spreads through it. Sponsoring a local charity event, golf tournament or little league team actually creates a lot of buzz at a local level. Then, think about where your current and potential customers spend time, like coffee shops, community centers or anywhere with a bulletin board, and find opportunities for a leave-behind. Booklets, brochuresflyers, notepads and business cards are our favorite leave-behinds.
  4. Join networking groups, even if you don’t think there’s an immediate payoff. It’s not just a great way to meet other business owners and learn from their experience. It’s also a great way to tap into all the connections of the other members of the group. If other business pros trust you and your work, they’ll refer you to people in their circles.
  5. Find a speaking engagement. Being a business owner alone qualifies you as a thought leader in the community. Look for opportunities to speak or even volunteer with groups that align with your business in some way. Giving a speech gives you authority, which breeds trust. Plus, it’s a free way to get your name out there. If you’re going to give a speech, you’re going to need a well-designed PowerPoint template, too.
  6. Try personal PR: You don’t need a celebrity publicist to go after PR opportunities. With a compelling story pitch (not a sales pitch!) on, you can score some nice publicity in the local paper, business journal or community newsletter.
  7. Ask for referrals: It may seem awkward, but customers who trust your business enough to pay for your product or service will almost always be willing to vouch for you to their inner circles—you just have to ask. For an easier, more hands-off approach, create a custom email template for your business email account and include a button asking for referrals on Google and Facebook. It really works!