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How to efficiently market your small business for $0

In addition to our webinar, we created a step by step guide that breaks down how to market your small business with no extra cash and just a few hours a week.
Written by Julia Zasso

Small business owners are busy folks; they are often wearing 10 different hats, and they don’t have time to devote themselves to an elaborate marketing strategy or the cash to purchase a system that will do the heavy lifting for them. However, marketing your small business is really important if you want to have control over your growth. It helps you stay front of mind with current customers and engage potential customers, driving people further down your funnel.

At Less Annoying CRM, we get it; we built our marketing strategy from the ground up, too. We started by using free tools, and our marketing team is mostly composed of CRM coaches who work on marketing for just one day a week. For example, I run our newsletter, social media, and content production, and I only focus on these projects about 20% of the time. Given that we know what it’s like to wear a lot of hats, and we also want to make the most of our marketing time, we thought we would share our top 5 tips for efficiently marketing your business without spending extra money. This is a companion piece to a webinar on the same subject; feel free to watch and use this article as a step by step guide!

1. Compile your audience data.

Taking stock of LACRM’s audience data gave me so many insights as to who we were talking to and what kind of content they wanted from us. It also helped me create targeted email lists so that I could better engage my audience moving forward. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Find all of your contacts. Aggregate all of your audience data. Pull together leads, customers, social media contacts, subscribers, and anyone else you are talking to. You can export spreadsheets of data from systems you already use by following the directions on our Importing page in the CRM.
  2. Import or add them to the CRM. Store all of your audience data in one place so that you have a single system to look at when finding info about your audience and creating marketing lists. You can import all of your data using our Importing tool, and you can always ask LACRM for help!
  3. Group them in the proper categories. Segment your audience based on key pieces of information like location, interests, whether they are a customer or not, which newsletters they are subscribed to, etc. At LACRM, we have two main groups of people that we contact: current customers and potential customers. We segment our newsletters based on these two groups. You can group your contacts in bulk upon import or from the Find a Contact page.

Groups in LACRM

You can create groups in LACRM under your Manage Groups page. 

Total time spent: several minutes per spreadsheet

Need help? Contact LACRM support! We can import your spreadsheets and show you how to group them.

2. Put your social media on autopilot.

If you’re not willing to spend money, social media probably isn’t worth your focus with marketing right now. Social media platforms want to capture the wealth you create by making you pay for ads; they don’t want you to generate leads for free. Plus, you can’t take your social media followers with you in the same way that you can with email lists or contacts in a CRM. Since social isn’t our ideal platform, we just want to make our company look alive and engaged on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and the like. Here’s how we do that:

  1. Set up a Buffer account. We use Buffer to schedule and analyze our posts on social media. Buffer has a great free tier, and I’d definitely recommend checking it out if you need a scheduling tool. Check out Buffer’s website here.
  2. Schedule your posts. Scheduling is great because it limits the amount of time you have to focus on social each day. If you schedule your posts in advance, all you have to worry about is checking your notifications and engaging with your followers. I schedule posts out months in advance so I don’t have to worry about constantly coming up with new posts.
  3. Create a task to remind you to reschedule. If you scheduled your posts out for two weeks, schedule a task in the CRM to recheck Buffer in two weeks. Buffer will also email you when your queues are empty. You can reschedule posts that did well in addition to posting new content.

Scheduling a post in Buffer

You can schedule posts in Buffer for multiple sites at once, such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. 

Total time spent: 30 minutes setting up your account and scheduling posts out for a week or two.

Need help? Buffer has a great blog with social media how-tos, free email courses, and even webinars. This is what I read when I need social media advice.

3. Take advantage of email marketing.

While social media isn’t the best tool to focus on when you don’t want to spend time or money, I’m going to make a case for email marketing. Email marketing is worth focusing on for a few reasons: you have direct access to someone’s inbox (something most of us check every day), you can take your list with you wherever you go, and it’s still your most effective conversion tool. Here’s how you can invest in email marketing without too much time or money:

  1. Sync your groups with lists in MailChimp. You already built different segments back in step 1, Compile your audience data. Now you can sync those groups with lists in MailChimp so that you can easily email your audiences in bulk. This tutorial covers how to get that sync set up.
  2. Compose a targeted email. Since it’s near the holidays, you can email folks about products they are interested in, pop up shops in their area, or new deals and discounts — it just depends on how you’ve segmented your audience and what kinds of content they might be interested in. If you need help coming up with an email marketing strategy, check out our webinar on email marketing with MailChimp!
  3. Schedule a task to check in on your email stats. Create a task in the CRM to check on the stats from your email a few days after you send it. Check to see which audiences are opening and engaging with your emails, and write down a couple of ideas you have to improve your campaigns. I’ll explain how to test those ideas in step 5.

Link your LACRM groups with lists in MailChimp

You'll want to sync one LACRM group with one list in MailChimp; lists and groups don't have to have the same name to sync!

Total time spent: 1 hour; syncing takes just a few seconds, but creating your campaign will take longer. You can save time by using premade templates; since I started using templates and planning out my content in advance, it only takes me 15-30 minutes to put each email together.

Need help? Contact LACRM customer support for syncing help, and check out our email marketing webinar on Youtube for strategies and advice!

4. Make content that will help pull people down your funnel.

In order to make the most effective content you can, we recommend learning about your content funnel, otherwise known as TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU. That stands for top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, and bottom of the funnel, and it explains what kinds of content your leads need at different stages in the funnel. If you’re not sure what that means or what kinds of content your leads will need, check out this quick explanation of your content funnel. Once you understand what your funnel looks like, let’s start to build it from the bottom up:

  1. Come up with 10 BOFU content ideas. Bottom of the funnel — this is where you convince leads that your product is the best solution to their problems. Think of questions leads often ask in initial conversations: why are you better than the other guys? How long does it take to get set up with your product/services? What perks do they get? Use these questions to create engaging pieces of content, such as a blog post, newsletter topic, infographic, ebook, white paper, case study, etc.
  2. Schedule time to write or find BOFU content. Now that you have your ideas written down, get cracking! I write about one blog post a week, and it takes me a couple of hours per post. I prefer writing in big chunks of time, but you might prefer spending 30 minutes day and chipping away at a post. If you’re not a talented writer, it’s also OK to find content that fills this need and curate it for your audience.
  3. Schedule a task to look at Google Analytics once a month. Once you get in the habit of pushing content out more regularly, be sure to check in on your blog stats every month! It can help you keep tabs on what content is doing well, in addition to what pages are struggling. This post covers how to use Google Analytics to track your blog traffic.

LACRM's content funnel

Here's a snapshot of LACRM's content funnel!

Total time spent: 2-3 hours, depending on how long it takes you to come up with content ideas and put pen to paper. Since your writing and analyzing time is built into your schedule, it’s important to stick to it and not double book yourself with meetings or other work.

Need help? If you’re having trouble coming up with BOFU ideas, talk to your customers. Make a habit of keeping track of the questions customers have, and use them for future blog posts. Check out this post about building feedback-gathering into your business so that you always have content ideas!

5. Test your strategy

Testing your marketing strategy is the only way to know if what you are doing is working. Since we’re focusing on email marketing at the moment, let’s talk about how to test your email marketing strategy (although this kind of testing can be applied to just about every aspect of your business):

  1. Take stock of your email marketing data. Remember that data we looked at back in step 3, Take advantage of email marketing? We want to look at our open rates, click through rates, and see which lists/groups are engaging most.
  2. Come up with 5 potential hypotheses (or borrow some common ones from the internet). Now that you’ve had a chance to examine the data, what do you want to improve? Are your open rates low? Maybe your subject lines need improvement. Are people opening but not clicking through? Maybe you need a better call to action (CTA). This post covers 5 ways you can improve your email marketing; we’ll cover how to test that in the next step.
  3. Schedule your A/B tests out for the next few months. A/B testing is when we take two versions of something (version A and B) and compare them to each other using a key performance metric. So if we take the subject line example from the previous step, you might want to send out a campaign where subject line A is in the format you usually use, and subject line B is something punchier (or it uses emojis, action words, the name of the recipient, etc). Then, you see which subject line type gets more opens after several campaigns. Schedule out your A/B tests so that you always have a new test to move onto. If you need help figuring out A/B testing with MailChimp, check out this post.

MailChimp A/B testing variables

MailChimp lets you A/B test subject lines, from name, campaign content, and send time. 

Total time spent: 1-2 hours. Analyzing your data and learning about A/B testing will take the most amount of time; once everything is scheduled, you just have to make sure you stick to running the A/B tests!

Need help? Feel free to email me at [email protected]! I’d be happy to share some A/B testing advice. Plus, MailChimp has tons of articles and tutorials on using their program for A/B testing.


Have questions, comments, or want to talk email marketing strategies with me? Shoot me an email at [email protected] or tweet at me @Julia_Zasso.

Posted on Jan 1, 2018
Filed under Small Business Tips
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