When a business pinches pennies, the marketing budget is often the first thing to go. But unfortunately, for many business owners, it's more important to continue to pay employees and utilities than it is to try to attract new customers.

Eliminating your marketing is a mistake that can cost you in the long run – and there's no need to do it. Instead, here are seven ways to continue to market even though you have a smaller budget.

#1: Make Cold Calls

There's no way to attract new customers or clients without having a "first touch" that introduces them to your brand and lets them know what you can do for them. That's where cold calling can be effective.

Some companies pay for cold calling services, but you can do the same in-house if you're willing. For the best results, do as much preliminary screening as possible and prepare a cold calling script for callers. It's also a good idea to think about what time of day people will be most receptive to hearing from you.

#2: Start (or Optimize) Your Referral Program 

Referral marketing is one of the least expensive and most effective ways to get new clients for your business. A referral can come from an existing customer or another referral source, such as a professional colleague or local business owner.

You'll have the best luck with referrals if you incentivize people to refer their friends, family, or customers to you. One idea might be to offer rewards where people get a free product or service if they refer a specified number of people. Alternatively, you could offer a points system that allows customers to "level up" to unlock special rewards and perks.

Remember that, with any referral program, you'll need to make the rules clear ahead of time. For example, will you offer rewards for a lead or only for a paying customer? If you provide a service, does a new client need to stay with you for a specified time before the referee gets the rewards? Make sure that all participants understand the rules.

#3: Get Involved Locally 

The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded people of the importance of supporting local businesses in their communities. You can gain goodwill and increase brand awareness by participating in community events.

In-person events might still be rare, but you can get involved in local charities and other events held virtually. If events are in the process of being planned, you can step in at the planning stage and offer advice and support. Either way, you'll benefit from having your business in front of the local people who are most likely to be your customers.

#4: Create Useful Content

One of the best things about content marketing is that it doesn't need to cost an arm and a leg. You can write blog posts, create graphics, and even film videos without exceeding your budget.

The key to not spending a lot is to focus on how your content will serve your target audience. For example, a video demonstrating various ways to use your product will be immediately helpful. People who view it won't need to connect any dots to understand how it has helped them.

Remember that you can place your content on your website and use it with your email list and social media. Cross-posting is free, and it's always practical because the people who follow you on Twitter may not follow you on Facebook – or vice versa.

#5: Take Advantage of Free Social Media Features  

While you can certainly spend a lot of money on social media marketing, you don't need to do so to get results. Let's start with the obvious. You can share the content you create with your followers at no cost. You can also choose to promote your most important pieces of content.

Other free options include creating a poll for your followers and running a social media contest. People love to get something free, and a game is an effective way to get your content in front of new people without paying for it.

If you decide to go the contest route, incorporate Likes and shares into your contest rules. One common tactic is to give your followers one entry for Liking your post, one for commenting, and a third for sharing. You could even provide additional entries to people who share your content on multiple platforms. Track everything meticulously and articulate the rules to eliminate misunderstandings.

#6: Partner with Other Businesses 

With many small businesses struggling, it is essential for business owners to help each other out whenever possible. One way to do that is by joining forces with a complementary company and creating a cross-marketing campaign that benefits both of you.

For example, you could cross-promotion with a local real estate agent or car dealership if you own an insurance agency. If you own a furniture store, you could partner up with a store that sells gardening supplies and market your products to new homeowners.

If you choose this option, the most important thing is to choose a marketing partner whose products or services will appeal to your customers. There might be a remote chance that the same person who bought a motorcycle helmet from you will want to plan a wedding, but the crossover is likely to be minimal – so stay focused.

#7: Look for Ways to Highlight Your Business 

Trust badges, certificates, and awards are everywhere online. If an award committee accepts nominations for prizes, you may want to ask someone to nominate your business for the award.

The benefit of winning an award is that it allows you to promote and raise your business's visibility without dipping into your marketing budget. In addition, you may get a nice badge or trophy symbol to display on your site, and you may even get some free promotion from the organization providing the award.

It's not challenging to market your business with a tiny budget. All you need is some creativity and time.