18 low-cost marketing ideas for small businesses

For small businesses, marketing is important but also can feel out of budget.

About one in five small businesses doesn’t use digital marketing, while about one in 10 doesn’t invest in any kind of marketing.

But this doesn’t have to be your small business.

About 47 percent of businesses spend less than $10,000 on digital marketing per year.

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to make an impact with potential customers and brand yourself online.

The following are 18 low-cost marketing ideas for small businesses that you can try without breaking the bank.

Embrace social media for low-cost marketing

Social media is an excellent way to:

  • Express your brand’s identity
  • Create trusting relationships with your audience
  • Build up your online community
  • Establish yourself as an expert in your industry and/or community

All of these benefits can ultimately help you grow your small business. 

While all the major social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and so on) are free to create business accounts on and use, it’s worthwhile to analyze where your time and focus is best spent.

In other words, consider where your target audience is and what resources you have in your favor. If you’re not ready for a full YouTube video channel yet, for example, start with occasional live videos on your Facebook page to get your feet wet.

See our guide to help you decide where to start on social media.

Remember that once you choose where to start, you can use your social media to:

  • Promote any blog posts that can drive traffic to your website
  • Engage with your audience (such as responding to any direct messages or comments)
  • Request feedback, helping your customers feel heard and cared about
  • And more!

Just be consistent and active on any profiles/pages you’re managing.

Smaller but other low-cost tactics you can embrace specifically on social media include:

  • Tagging people (such as loyal customers) and other brands, which can help grow your organic reach on any platform
  • Using hashtags, which are particularly helpful on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok

Create your Google My Business account

If you’re a business with a fixed location that needs to appeal to local customers, a Google My Business account is critical to create and optimize.

It’s essentially a free online listing that helps your business appear on Google Maps, which is the local section of Google Search. You’ll also appear in the right-side knowledge panel for any branded searches, where an internet user is searching for you specifically.

To optimize your profile, be sure to verify your ownership of it first. (This is done through your Google My Business account.) Then, confirm that all contact information is correct. You also can upload photos, post an offer and encourage customers to review your business on Google.

Explore local SEO

Speaking of Google My Business, it’s important to pay extra attention to your local search engine optimization (SEO). Focusing on ways you can rank higher in local search queries in your target area is both low-cost and high-impact if done right.

You can start by:

  • Getting listed in online directories
  • Adding location-based keywords throughout your website and content

See our 11 tips for boosting your local SEO.

Commit to email marketing

While email marketing can be dismissed by some, it’s wise to embrace it. Why? To start, the return on investment is high. See 48 statistics that show the value of email marketing.

Email is a great, inexpensive way to maintain relationships with your existing customers. It also can enable you to build trust with potential customers to the point that they will convert and purchase from your business.

Of course, it all starts with building up your email contact list whether you have a website or not. See our 12 strategies to capture more leads on your website or our six ways you can capture email leads without a website.

Then, once you have contact to send emails to, consider constructing a strong email onboarding sequence. Keep in mind that there are 10 parts in the anatomy of a marketing email that make it successful. Plus, email automation can help you engage with customers and leads at exactly the right times. If you’re considering “cold emailing,” check out our 11 tips to increase your open rate.

To dive deeper into email marketing, check out these eight recommended online courses.

(While not a traditional component of email marketing, keep in mind the opportunity to optimize all employee email signatures. Links that can be used include social media accounts, calendar meeting requests and so on.)

Focus on content marketing

Content marketing is all about attracting website traffic and social media engagement through the valuable content that you create.

While it’s always possible to hire others to create content for you, whatever you can do yourself will save you expenses on your budget.

Starting a blog is a great (and common) way to get the content wheel turning for your brand. Video content also is highly engaging. And repurposing your existing evergreen content is a great way to save on both time and money.

Remember that premium content, such as webinars or ebooks, can also directly help with lead generation.

Of course, the key to success is how you plan and promote your content. See our seven tips to level up your content marketing, and consider using a content calendar to stay organized. And if you are struggling with the creation, check out our guide on beating marketing writer’s block.

Get visual with infographics

Data lends itself to valuable content for your audience. While about 74 percent of marketing content contained a visual element in 2019, infographics specifically can increase website traffic by up to 12 percent.

Of course, hiring a designer to create infographics for you to publish and share can be costly. Fortunately, there are several low-cost and free graphic design tools that you can use to create your own for low-cost marketing.

If you don’t have any of your own data to use in an infographic, there are several open, public sources you can pull from, including:

Just make sure to credit the source of any data you use.

Claim available ad credits for low-cost marketing

Facebook, Google, Yelp and other digital advertising platforms occasionally offer free promo credits to encourage businesses to advertise with them. Whether it’s a discount or a free amount of advertising, it’s important to pay attention to these offers so that you can take advantage.

Read any fine print associated with available offers, and review our guide on the difference between cost-per-click and cost-per-impression advertising. Plus, check out our six tips to maximize your social media advertising budget so that you can maximize whatever amount of money to do decide to spend (or get the most out of the advertising credits offered).

Apply for relevant business awards

Business awards don’t just happen. Whether it’s in your community or nationwide, there traditionally is an application and/or nomination process.

Either way, it’s worthwhile to engage in the award process because winning an award is low-cost marketing at its core, but you also can include a mention or badge on your website that acts as social proof of your authority and trustworthiness.

Awards can be industry-wise or community “best of.”

See more options to build up your social proof that can help drive sales, plus social proof tools that can help.

Get creative with guerilla marketing

Guerilla marketing is all about creativity over money. There is no limit to what you can do with guerilla marketing. Whether it’s sidewalk chalk promoting your business around the block from your location or placing stickers all over town simply to catch people’s eye.

It doesn’t take much, money-wise, but the important part is to be as creative as possible to get attention for your brand for this low-cost marketing tactic.

Partner up with other businesses

Just because you own a small business doesn’t mean that you’re alone. There’s strength in numbers.

Partnering with other businesses is about building mutually beneficial relationships, whether it’s for a special event, placing business cards in each other’s locations or something more. This can expose your brand to an entirely new audience and vice versa.

Make sure to research the business you’re considering partnering with, determine how you can best work together and clarify the expectations between the two of you for this form of low-cost marketing.

Encourage employees to be brand ambassadors

Another form of social proof, word-of-mouth advertising is both affordable and effective. Brand ambassadors are individuals who care about your brand and promote it personally to those they know. 

Employees, who have a natural interest in the success of your business, are great candidates for this form of low-cost marketing. An example of a brand ambassador campaign is an invite-only “friends and family” sale that your employees can promote among their social networks.

If you want to go a step further than encouraging your employees to be brand ambassadors, consider exploring influencer marketing. You’ll definitely want a plan that can keep overall expenses to a minimum, though.

Set up a referral program for low-cost marketing

Again, word of mouth is powerful. You can support this tactic by setting up a referral program for your existing customers.

About 77 percent of consumers are more likely to buy a new product if their friends or family recommend it.

Of course, you can decide the parameters of your program, whether it’s a free product, discount or something else to reward customers for referring others to your business. Make sure that your system has a way of tracking and even automating the referral rewards as much as possible.

Host classes or events

While hosting a class or event could easily break your budget, it’s also possible to keep the cost under control. Focus on your expertise and strength (as well as the needs of your target audience), consider whether there is a registration fee or not tied to the class or event and then promote, promote, promote to get the benefits of this low-cost marketing tactic.

Fortunately, you can share the event on social media in a number of different ways, including creating a Facebook event and/or building an entire “countdown” campaign to generate excitement. While low-tech, clear and eye-catching fliers can be effective when placed in areas that are well seen by your target audience.

Start small, and with each class or event, you can pivot and improve each time.

Create a contest or giveaway

Everyone appreciates winning a prize. The important part about hosting any giveaway or content is to determine what is appealing enough as a prize that will draw engagement and attention in this low-cost marketing method.

Your prize doesn’t have to be very expensive, and ideally, it should be a bit of a wash on your budget. Depending on the user, even some branded swag could be enough. Just think through it because every brand is different, and what would appeal to your target audience can vary.

The goal is typically lead generation, brand awareness or both, so think through the type of contest/giveaway that can help you achieve your goal. For example, you could host a business card drawing using a fishbowl in your business or post a social media style contest. It all depends on what works for your brand and resources.

Then, be sure to include relevant terms and conditions for your giveaway that satisfy local legal requirements tied to operating a contest or giveaway in your state or country.

Consider affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is about creating additional revenue streams for your small business, where an affiliate (you and/or your small business) earns a commission for marketing another’s products.

More than 80 percent of brands have affiliate programs, so there are a lot of opportunities out there. 

And affiliate marketing is especially low-risk (and a great method of low-cost marketing). Either you’re successful and generate a commission or you’re not. There is no upfront cost (outside of your time and effort spent marketing the affiliate offer). As long as you find the right fit for your own brand and audience, there is a real potential for achieving additional revenue.

Dive deeper with our affiliate marketing tips that can help you get started.

Tout your expertise

Whether you’re speaking at an event, appearing on a panel or guest writing for publications and/or blogs, seeking opportunities to get your name (and the name of your business) out there through appearances elsewhere both in-person and online can expose your brand to new audiences.

You also can answer questions on platforms like Quora, joining HARO or being active on online forums that are relevant to your industry.

Sharing your expertise is a form of low-cost marketing.

See our 10 tips to build your personal brand and grow your business as a result.

Offer free trials, samples or other types of coupons

It might sound counterproductive to give a service or product away, but free trials or samples are a great way to help convert potential customers in this method of low-cost marketing.

It falls into the category of “try before you buy.”

Of course, there also are platforms like Groupon that you can explore as well if it makes sense for your brand. You’re essentially being paid for leads that are then up to you to convert.

Start your own podcast

While an initial investment in equipment might be needed, starting and maintaining your own podcast is more about time than money.

Perhaps you already have an idea of the type of podcast you want to create and are ready to jump in, but beware: It’s estimated that there are at least 1.75 million shows already (and they’re definitely not all delivering on the invested time and resources). 

Learn more about how to start your first podcast.

For more tips overall, check out our Digital Marketing 101 Guide for Beginners.

As you’re exploring low-cost marketing methods, consider leveling up your digital marketing with DailyStory and our 21-day free trial. Features include automating various marketing tasks, dynamic audience segmentation and more. Schedule your free demo with us today.

18 of the best fitness affiliate programs to boost your income

The benefits of fitness are vast, but beyond the health improvements, fitness professionals can earn additional income through fitness affiliate programs.

Affiliate marketing is the process where an affiliate (you and/or your fitness business) earns a commission for marketing another’s products or services. In other words, you promote, and when others buy it, you get paid a percentage of each sale.

The health and fitness industry is worth an estimated $3.7 trillion. It’s an evergreen industry that is always in demand because people are always looking to feel and/or look better, so the opportunities are big.

See our four tips to become a successful fitness affiliate marketer.

However, finding the best affiliate programs among the thousands that exist can be difficult. While many have the potential to make you money, most will be a waste of time.

The following are 18 of the best fitness affiliate programs for you to consider (with some brands you’ve likely already heard of). Remember that the true key to a successful program is that it matches your personal brand and what your following wants or needs.

ACE Fitness

ACE Fitness is one of the most trusted names in the health and fitness certification industry. The organization has an Impact Fitness Affiliate Program, where you can place ad banners and text links on your website, in your social media posts and elsewhere.

When your visitors click on the web banners and text links, they will be directed to ACE’s website, where they can learn more about our exercise and health certification programs, and purchase both study materials and an exam sitting. 

Upon purchase, you receive an 8 percent commission.

Bowflex

Bowflex is a well-known brand in the home fitness equipment market, with everything from Trainers to Climbers.

What makes the Bowflex Affiliate Program unique is that it runs through a top affiliate management platform, called Impact Radius. All of your performance (traffic, sales, commissions, etc.) is tracked and displayed in real-time. The program also is fully managed, which means you’ll always have a dedicated resource to help you troubleshoot any issues.

The commission starts at 3 percent but will increase as you sell.

PaleoPlan

Nutrition is a big part of getting and staying fit. PaleoPlan focuses on the paleo diet with weekly meal plans and shopping lists, hundreds of recipes and bodyweight workouts that customers can do from home.

The company’s fitness affiliate program offers quality cookbooks and wellness-products that you can share with your audience. 

You’ll make a 75 percent front-end commission on all sales when you promote their guided health challenges, and physical or digital products.

Lululemon

Popular for its yoga and other athletic apparel, Lululemon is a popular brand in many fitness circles. They produce high-quality leggings, crop tops, tees, sports bras and yoga accessories. 

By signing up for their affiliate program, you’ll earn 7% commission on sales of yoga and fitness apparel, as well as early access to our products and events.

Fitbit

Fitbit is well-known for its fitness trackers, but did you know about its affiliate program? The company offers sleek and stylish wristbands that are an ideal fit for many fitness affiliate marketers.

You’ll only earn a 3 percent commission, but Fitbit’s high-converting website may balance out that lower percentage with more sale conversions.

ProForm

Offering a unique way of selling fitness equipment, ProForm offers a three-year training subscription that includes the customer’s choice of free equipment and access to thousands of studio and destination workouts. 

After those three years, the equipment is the customer’s to keep.

As an affiliate, you can earn between 8 percent and 11 percent commission.

Titan Fitness

Titan Fitness specializes in gym and fitness equipment, and its fitness affiliate program comes with a dedicated program manager. You also frequently receive updates, promotions and banners to make it easy to create promotional content for publishing and sharing.

Titan Fitness also offers free products to its affiliates in exchange for a review, as well as exclusive coupons that you can pass along to your followers to help encourage them to convert.

You’ll get 5 percent commission on all sales and paid by the 15th of every month.

Aaptiv

The fitness app, Aaptiv, has more than a thousand trainer-led, music-driven workouts for every fitness level, which has the potential to widely appeal to everyone in your following. 

The company offers advertising tools and custom banners to help you in your content promotion. Its affiliate program features three payout tiers:

  • $15 per sale for up to 100 sales per month
  • $20 per sale for between 101 and 500 sales per month
  • $25 per sale for at least 501 sales per month

Evolve Fit Wear

What’s a workout regime without the right clothing and accessories? Evolve Fit Wear sells more than 50 brands of workout clothing, such as Teeki, Onzie, Spiritual Gangster, Ultracor, Goldsheep, Beyond Yoga, Hardtail and more. About 85 percent of their business is women’s workout clothing, 10 percent is yoga mats and accessories, and 5 percent is men’s clothing.

Evolve’s overall marketing is considered “inclusive” rather than “exclusive,” focusing on balance, body positivity and a healthy attitude toward fitness. 

The company has a large number of international customers since they can buy all brands on one website with one shipping fee. 

Partnering with Evolve as a fitness affiliate marketer gets you up to a 10 percent commission on all sales that you help generate. 

GNC

GNC is a global brand that has an extensive selection of nutrition supplements that could appeal to your audience.

The company sees its affiliate program as an opportunity for you to build your own “online nutrition store.” 

By signing up, you’ll receive a 5 percent commission on all sales.

International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)

ISSA also is a world leader in fitness education, delivering comprehensive, cognitive and practical distance education for fitness professionals, grounded in industry research, using both traditional and innovative modalities. 

ISSA now offers 24 fitness certifications and has certified over 400,000 trainers in 174 countries.

You’ll earn at least 7.5 percent commission on every sale.

TRX

Known for its popular suspension training products, TRX could be a great fit for personal trainers and fitness bloggers. For example, you can create videos that highlight various TRX exercises that people can do anywhere.

By signing up for its affiliate program, you’ll earn a 5 percent commission on orders that average $200.

Reebok

Another popular athletic brand, Reebok creates sports and lifestyle products, also partnering with both CrossFit and the NHL. 

Reebok’s affiliate program offers monthly newsletter updates on promotions, contests and sales opportunities and a dedicated affiliate management team.

You’ll receive a 7 percent commission on all sales, where the average order size is $100.

The Vitamin Shoppe

Another leading retailer of vitamins and supplements is The Vitamin Shoppe. Their mission is to inspire, nourish and help customers thrive every day.

By joining their program as an affiliate, you’ll earn up to a 10 percent commission on all sales.

Miracle Noodle

Miracle Noodle offers a line of food products consistent with the health goals of their customers, making healthy eating easy and delicious. All of Miracle Noodle’s products are non-GMO, vegan and grain free with an ever-expanding option of organic options as well. 

Its affiliate marketing program is two-tier, which means that you can earn commission on your sub-affiliate sales. You’ll receive customized banners and coupons to help your convert your following, and Miracle Noodle features a dedicated affiliate support team.

By signing up, you’ll earn between 10 percent and 20 percent commission on all sales.

LifeSpan Fitness

Selling fitness equipment not just for the home or gym but also for the workplace makes LifeSpan Fitness unique. Think treadmill desks, standing desks and bike desks.

In addition, all LifeSpan equipment comes with a dedicated app that enables customers to track their workout statistics.

Their fitness affiliate program also uses one of the best platforms, Impact Radius.

By signing up, you can earn a 6 percent tiered commission on every sale, which increases based on performance. High-ticket items range from $99 to $2,500 or more.

Keyto

Keyto is a breath sensor for ketosis as part of a larger keto weight loss plan that’s supported with its premium app. In addition to the sensor, Keyto offers keto recipes, personalized meal plans, a food guide and access to in-app groups.

Each person you refer to purchase Keyto receives 10 percent off their purchase when they use your discount code. You then receive a 10 percent payout of their basket size before shipping and taxes.

Life Fitness

Providing fitness equipment to both health clubs and athletic facilities, Life Fitness also features home exercise equipment. The products they offer are related to:

  • Cardio, such as treadmills
  • Group training
  • Strength training
  • Accessories
  • Digital, such as the Halo fitness cloud

If you have a fitness or health-related blog, it’s easy to get approved into this fitness affiliate program. You’ll earn an 8 percent commission, where the average order totals more than $3,000.

In conclusion

Of course, these are only 18 of the best fitness affiliate programs out there. Be sure to keep looking until you find the best fit both product- and/or service-wise that meshes well with your own online brand and makes sense monetarily.

It will make a difference in the long run.

While you’re exploring passive income opportunities through fitness affiliate marketing, consider DailyStory. Our digital marketing platform integrates with MindBody and Rhinofit to better serve fitness studios and gyms and offers such features as SMS text message marketing, email marketing, automation, dynamic audience segmentation and more. Schedule your free demo with us today.

4 tips to become a fitness affiliate marketer

As a fitness professional, you likely are well aware that there are only so many hours in the day.

Hours to train clients, hours to plan for those sessions and so on. This finite capacity of time restricts your ability to grow your income through training sessions and classes alone.

That’s why earning passive income by becoming a fitness affiliate marketer has become increasingly popular among those in the fitness industry.

Affiliate marketing is the process where an affiliate (you and/or your fitness business) earns a commission for marketing another’s products or services. In other words, you promote, and when others buy it, you get paid a percentage of each sale. In the fitness industry, the possibilities for affiliate partnerships are vast.

Affiliate marketing spending in the U.S. is expected to reach $8.2 billion by 2022, more than triple what it was 10 years earlier.

Benefits include earning passive income with little risk. (Passive income is revenue you earn without actively working.) If a fitness affiliate marketing program doesn’t work out, you can move on and find a new one. Find out more about affiliate marketing with our guide

The following are four tips to help you become a fitness affiliate marketer (and earn extra income passively).

Determine what your following needs, wants

This is critical. You can promote a fitness affiliate partnership all you want, but if it doesn’t fit or make sense for your audience, it’s not going to go very far.

Also important to keep in mind, there are a ton of fitness affiliate marketing programs out there, so you can afford to be picky. You definitely don’t have to pick the first one you find.

Think about the characteristics and demographics of your following as a starting point: age, gender, interests, challenges, goals, etc.

As you begin to look through the programs out there, ask yourself: “Will my following really want to buy this?”

In affiliate marketing, you get paid when you generate sales, so if your audience isn’t interested from the beginning, what’s the point?

Consider your expertise and who you’re reaching online. What complements your fitness brand and could be of benefit to your following?

There are extra bonus points for going with products and/or services that you use and approve of personally. That authenticity will go that much further with your audience.

Remember that what you want to offer should be quality and something you approve of. You’ll find plenty of junk out there when researching affiliate marketing programs. Make sure you’re going with something that won’t ultimately ruin your online credibility or reputation.

Become a fitness affiliate with your chosen program

Once you’ve done the research and settled on the perfect-for-you fitness affiliate marketing program, it’s time to sign up.

Each program has different registration processes, so it wouldn’t hurt to have a top three programs that you’d consider applying for, just in case.

More likely than not, there will be an online application form. After submission, you’ll have to wait for the program to accept you as an affiliate. This typically will take up to a day or two.

If, for any reason, your application is not accepted, you’ll already have your back-up choices to try.

Time to promote

Once you’re an approved affiliate, you can begin to promote the related products and/or services. This includes the sharing of your affiliate link, which is provided by the program to track any sales you generate so that you can get compensated.

But be careful here. It’s not as simple as it sounds.

There are a few considerations you should make when it comes to strategy. The first is straight-forward: Go multi-channel. This includes (but is not limited to): 

  • Emailing your client list
  • Creating posts across your social media accounts (such as Facebook or Instagram posts, tweets, YouTube videos, Pinterest pins and so on)
  • Talking to your clients in-person
  • Publishing a blog article (or articles)

The second consideration is a bit more nuanced, but it goes back to the point where you should be authentic. You want to promote products or services that you can personally vouch for, of course. But you also should factor in this authenticity when you’re actually promoting for your fitness affiliate program.

In other words, the more salesy you are, the less successful you’ll likely be. Strategize some angles for your promotion. Some ideas include (but are not limited to):

  • An unboxing of the affiliate product
  • Daily review updates of you using the product/service for the first time
  • Hosted Q&A where you answer questions about your experience with the product/service
  • How you use the product/service in your regular daily life

Measure, analysis and pivot as needed

If you’re committed to growing a strong passive income stream, then you’ll have to do more than simply post (even if you are executing a planned strategy behind the content and promotion).

Measure the performance of your posts on whatever social media platforms you’re using, watch whatever analytics are available from your fitness affiliate marketing program and monitor your overall audience growth and demographics as well. 

To stay relevant and effective not just with your affiliate promotion but your overall content as well, you must be aware of your metrics. 

If something doesn’t perform well, dig into the possible reasons why. If something performs exceedingly well, you’ll want to dig into the reasons why there as well.

This will help you adjust and pivot as needed according to the objective data, not just whims of what you feel might perform better.

And in the long run, monitoring your performance will help you decide on a bigger level which fitness affiliate programs are worth your effort and which are not.

While you’re exploring passive income opportunities through fitness affiliate marketing, consider DailyStory. Our digital marketing platform integrates with MindBody and Rhinofit to better serve fitness studios and gyms and offers such features as SMS text message marketing, email marketing, automation, dynamic audience segmentation and more. Schedule your free demo with us today.