How to Market Your Retail Business on a Small Budget


How to Market Your Retail Business on a Small Budget

As a small business owner, promoting and marketing your shop is either one of your favorite tasks or one you absolutely dread. I know for many, it’s in the absolute dread category – it can feel time consuming, costly, unproductive, and leave you feeling a bit icky if you’re uncomfortable promoting + talking about yourself and  your business.

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Today we’re talking about how to market your retail business on a small budget and 15 (non-icky) ideas to get you started.

If you’ve been around this site for awhile, you hopefully know that I’m all about providing value and building relationships with your customers in creative ways. No quick sells or clock countdown trickery to get customers to buy from you.

That style just isn’t for me and I immediately feel a little panicky when sold to that way (just ask my dad – yes my dad, don’t judge – at how awful I was at buying my first used car. I could not RUN AWAY fast enough from all their talking) so you’ll never see those techniques recommended here. Although maybe I should take a cue from J.Biebs and Never Say Never…. (what is wrong with me…)

Oh, and if that kind of “selling” sounds good to you, get on the list here for more secrets of a buyer!

How to Market Your Business on a Small Budget

This is part 2 of 6 of the Retail 101 Beginner Series

Part 1: One Simple Product Strategy to Help You Get Started

Part 2: How to Market your Retail Business on a Small Budget

Part 3: Retail Math 101 (ya know, how to make money)

Part 4: Customer Service Tips to Treat Yo’ Customer

Part 5: Why Your Online Shop Needs a Blog (plus 12 ideas to get started)

Part 6: 21 Strategies to Grow Your Business in 90 Days

How to Market your Retail Business on a Small Budget

1. Create short product videos

Provide styling tips or how-to’s for your most popular items, or favorites if you’re just starting out! Upload to YouTube and on your site, share on social media and Pinterest and be sure to include relevant keywords in the title, description and available tags.

This would also be a great place to use Instagram Stories (you can swipe the exact 3-part framework my private clients use to effortlessly boost sales in less than an hour a day here).

According to research, customers who view a video are 1.8x more likely to purchase than non-viewers and retailers have seen as much as a 40% increase in sales as a result of incorporating videos.

2. Host an in-person or online workshop

Take product videos a step further by engaging your customers and asking them to follow along by taking notes or actively participating! Share the workshop goals ahead of time so they can prep or pick up needed supplies.

3. Create helpful guides that address common issues your customers may face

Focus on creating valuable content that solves their needs, rather than hard pitching a specific product; such as “10 Basics Every Closet Needs” or “5 Decor Items that Spruce Up Your Space Under $25”.  Check out these tips on How to Use Buying Guides to Increase Sales

Share these guides on Pinterest – users love to use that platform to find specific solutions to questions they have or to help them plan for purchases. You can read my exact daily Pinterest strategy here.

You could also put together a “commonly asked questions” highlight in your Instagram Stories so you have a 24/7 sales team working for you as new followers find your brand.

4. Connect with other local small business owners

Your goal here is to create a network of referrers from different industries that all serve a similar customer to you so you all can cross promote each other, while providing a very valuable experience to your customers. Trade promotional flyers, Instagram shout outs, guest posts on your blogs, etc.

Focus on creating authentic relationships with business owners you genuinely respect – remember, if your name is attached to the referral, that customers perception will also reflect back on you.

>>> Check out this post on how to make networking easy and stress free.       

5. Take partnerships a step further and collaborate on a specific promotion or product

One idea I love is to host a “Sip + Shop” with your local coffee shop: they’d hand out flyers or a discount code for your shop with each purchase and they’d “earn” a discount or free coffee by making a purchase at your shop. Get creative – anything goes, just be sure it provides mutual benefit to both parties! (And get your ideas into writing! Nothing fancy – just ensure you’re each accountable and doing your part)

6. Claim your business page on Yelp

According to a Nielsen study, 82% of users visiting Yelp had intent to make a purchase from a local business. This provides you another space for customers to research, share photos, and provide feedback; plus it feels like more neutral territory than your actual shop so you may receive some more honest feedback (code word for “constructive”) which can help you identify customer pain points to improve your business.

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7. Use Instagram to cross promote a designer or brand you carry in your shop

Showcase a product vignette, tag them in the image, write a meaningful and interesting caption sharing why you carry their product or what you love about their new collection.

Bonus: Do research on their Instagram page and try to create an image that complements their aesthetic, while still staying true to your own brand. They may repost on their Instagram, Twitter or blog on their own, or ask if they’d be interested in doing an image swap or cross-promotion where you highlight them as your vendor and they show off your shop to their followers.

>>> Related Posts: How to Create a Cohesive Instagram Feed and Instagram Marketing Mistakes you Might be Making (+ How to Fix Them)

>>> Get my best Instagram tips for business here

8. Create a blog post highlighting a vendor, designer or brand you carry

Similar to above, but you can share more information in a longer form post. Pick an angle to discuss: does the founder have a unique backstory, what does their brand represent, why do you love their brand? Make them look damn good and they’ll be proud and more likely to share your post, since that helps them with their businessWin-Win!

>>> Related Post:  Why Your Online Shop Needs a Blog (and 12 Ideas to Get Started)

9. Start an “As Seen In” section for your site

If you’ve been mentioned by other bloggers or publications, collect links of those reviews and good vibes to create a fun page to show off a bit! Thank those that have written about your shop and let them know you shared their post on a round up page, which they just might be inclined to share with their followers – they promote you, you in turn promote them, and then they return with another mention that benefits both them + you! (Plus it gives those bloggers or sites valuable backlinks which they’ll be happy about!)


10. Network with bloggers and pitch them a promotional idea

A few ideas:

  • Sponsored Post – you’ll pay a set fee for their work on creating the post and advertising for your business. Many bloggers have media kits which show partnership opportunities and rates
  • Host a Product Giveaway – you’ll provide the product and they promote on their blog + social media networks
  • Product Review – you’d send them free product to review and share with their audience (may also be paid advertising depending on their following and individual goals)
  • Ad Space on Blog – you’d buy “ad space”, typically seen on their sidebars or header placement. You may need to provide the image or they may have set standards
  • Social Media Promotion – they’d develop and promote a campaign for your shop on their social media channels
  • Interview Opportunities – research bloggers or media outlets that fit your brand or story

>>> Related Posts: How to Successfully Partner with a Blogger / Setting Guidelines for Marketing Promotions with Bloggers

11. Use your Twitter header image to promote your brand

Don’t let this space go to waste! It’s a free billboard to announce anything going on in your business or connect with your customer. I shared 8 ideas here.

12. Send an email to personal contacts, friends or family that may be interested in your shop

Include a small welcome discount for them and encourage them to share with anyone that may be interested in their circle. Since these are close friends or acquaintances, share a short story about why you started your shop or your mission, relate your brand to their lifestyle or just include some personal well wishing and check in with them before making a short mention of a particular item or brand you think they’d love.

13. Offer a few 30-min design or styling consultations for free

This is a great way to interact with your customers on a super personal level, engage them with your brand, and most importantly – be a kind and helpful resource. Focus more on solving their problems and concerns then hard selling your product. If its a natural fit, go for it; otherwise take it as an opportunity to show another side of your brand and you’ll be that much more memorable and create a valuable customer relationship, rather than pushing this ONE specific belt will save their life forever!

14. Send handwritten thank you’s to returning or first time customers

Thank them for supporting your business and show your appreciation by throwing in a small thank-you freebie, small gift card to a coffee shop or discount for a future purchase. One personal note – I love love the idea of giving a small something that doesn’t relate or pimp your own business.

While I know a lot of loyal customers would obviously be more than happy to receive a discount from a future purchase, that thank you (for me) feels more self serving than genuine. EVEN THOUGH YES I KNOW LOYAL HAPPY CUSTOMERS WILL LOVE IT. I just sometimes think there’s a better vehicle than a “thank you” to give your customers that same discount, maybe do a loyal customer appreciation discount day instead and save the thank you’s for genuine gratitude with no expectation of receiving anything in return.

15. Create a campaign that gives back

Instead of offering the discount directly to your customers, share that you’ll be contributing x % of an event’s proceeds to a local charity or provide a discount that splits between the customer + charity, such as 20% giveback: 10% back to customers and 10% to charity. Share the story of the charity you’re supporting prior to the event or campaign time period and then after the offer, share the results with your customers and thank them for their support! Share the story and results online, on social media, with local media outlets and the charity – you may see some appreciation and recognition sent back your way.

Did you find something useful here? Let me know if you want to brainstorm some ideas specific to your business! And if you liked this post, please do me a favor and share on PinterestTwitter, or Facebook!

Click here to pin or use below tweets or pick your favorite idea to share:

[bctt tweet=”How to Market Your Shop on a Budget: Offer a Free 30min Design or Styling Consultation via @theshopfiles” via=”no”]

[bctt tweet=”Little To No Marketing Budget? Check out these 15 Promotional Ideas for a Small Budget! via @theshopfiles” via=”no”]

Image via Rekita Nicole – check out her site here




    • Thanks Sarah, I’m glad you found them useful! Videos are something I know I need to start dabbling in…have you tried Periscope yet? I’ve only checked in to watch, never to host one myself so far.

  • This was fantastic to read. I am in the process of starting my own online boutique and this was extremely helpful for me. I would love to speak to you and get some additional advice.

    Thank you for this!

    • Hi Christy, thank you so much! That’s awesome you’re opening a shop, what products are you planning to carry?! That’s always the fun part 🙂

  • Really helpful tips made me see things more clearly now that there’s a lot more to do in order to advertise your business.. I love idea of CREATE A CAMPAIGN THAT GIVES BACK especially working with local charities.Thanks for sharing ..Pined

  • OMG! I have been using many of these tips, but there are a few more that I could incorporate into our promotional strategy, so thanks for that.

    Here’s another way that ties into what you’ve already mentioned and that we’ve used: a promotional “goodie bag” that includes a little chocolate candy, our branded sticker, refrigerator magnet, and is tied with a lovely bow that has our business card on the front and a QR code on the back (that takes those that receive it to a specific landing page). We hype it up on Instragram BEFORE an event, telling folks that only a few selected folks will get one and to be on the lookout to “get lucky.” We only pass out about 15, but the people who get it feel special and it gets them curious to scan it with their cell phones (right on the spot). I love finding unique ways to pitch and these are some REALLY good ones. Thanks.

  • Thank you for sharing. This was a great article and it surely helped in understanding how to manage a business on a small budget as I have started a business of my own.

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