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There are two issues that are constant for almost every small business in the nation. The first is the need to build a solid brand so you can be viable going up against established businesses. The second is a relative lack of funds. If this sounds like a death knell for small businesses everywhere, there is good news as well. There are many ways that small businesses can get the most bang for every buck spent on marketing. Here are the five top ways to stretch your marketing budget.

Ask your customers. Advice is free, and many of your current customers will be more than happy to give you a little. Ask your current customers why they choose you and what part of your brand really resonates with them. Chances are, many people feel the same way, which will allow you to focus more on that one feature of your brand. If you have an active email list, send out a short questionnaire. It’s free, and even a few responses can be invaluable sources of guidance.

Stick to your brand. Think about how you shop for yourself. There are certain things you would wear, and certain things you would never put on. Ditto for your house, car, and just about everything in your life. These decisions are part of your brand, and if you strayed from them it would change people’s perception of you. The same goes for your small business, so don’t do anything that diverts from your core brand.

Focus on qualitative results. This means that you should focus your marketing money and energy in areas where you can calculate success or failure. For example, if you send out flyers, add a coupon. Few people in this economy will turn down even a modest savings, so this will help you tabulate how many new customers and profits were brought in by this one marketing scheme. If you have no way of telling whether a given marketing technique is working, drop it altogether and focus on areas where you can see results.

Network. You should be telling everyone you know about your new small business. Don’t be shy! Not only will these people be more likely to turn to you the next time they need a product or service that you are selling, they will also be more likely to tell others about you. Word of mouth marketing is free and extremely effective. You can also use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to market yourself. Put yourself out there in as many free venues as you can comfortably manage, and watch your customer flow increase.

Work with professionals. Many small business owners overestimate how much a professional marketing consultant costs, and underestimate the effect that they can have on your success. A professional marketing consultant has helped a lot of people just like you and probably has a very good idea of which marketing strategies will be most effective. This can save you from wasting valuable money on dead end branding strategies. Most business owners who have hired marketing professionals feel that they saved far more than they spent in consultancy fees.

Mash Bonigala

Mash B. is the Founder & Creative Director of Logo Design Works. Since 1998, Mash has helped thousands of businesses express their brand messages through creative and award winning logo designs.