The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) suggests setting your marketing budget at between 2% and 10% of sales, depending on business size and whether your company is established in the marketplace or a startup. However, it is possible to market your business on less than $1,000.00 per year and even a responsible move to do so. Whether you’re at the helm of a startup, a small business owner, or in charge of marketing at a larger company, thriving in this still uncertain economy often requires a rethinking of marketing tactics. Reigning in the budget may be the best way to move forward.

Traditional avenues such as direct marketing (leaflets, brochures, and catalogs mailed, emailed or otherwise distributed directly to consumers), telemarketing,  television and radio commercials, infomercials, and trade shows are costly and, in a downturned economy, not always effective. However, one traditional avenue that continues to prove beneficial in its rate of return, and costs little to no monetary investment, is advertising via word-of-mouth.

New School Word-of-Mouth

Yelp, Citysearch, Angie’s List, and even YouTube offer opportunities for new clients or customers to find information about your business quickly and easily through product and service reviews. Additionally, established clients or customers feel more connected to the success of your business by simply having the opportunity to provide the reviews.

Entrepreneur.com provides several articles on how to maximize social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as well as pay-per-click search engine advertising such as Google AdWords. Updating your website, linking with others, writing a blog, creating an online comic, and launching an iTunes playlist are also effective ways for increasing your online presence, which translates to online advertising driving more business your way.

Old School Word-of-Mouth

Respecting what your target market wants, knowing your competition, and sculpting brand building efforts to reflect niche specialties are well worth the research time invested in order to excel at each. Building relationships with potential customers, face-to-face, has also, once again, become a skill worth cultivating.

Miller Farm, in a time when traditional farming practices do not make farmers rich, has grown to almost 2 million dollars in annual sales in less than four years strictly through word-of-mouth advertising. CorpNet.com, a document filing service, has helped entrepreneurs on a tight budget get their businesses off the ground by embracing both a strong web presence and old-fashioned, relationship-based customer service.

In short, combining new school internet with old-school relationships adds up to word-of-mouth marketing worth so much more than the $1,000.00 per year you might spend.