I can't stress enough the importance of a website. Phone books are essentially extinct. If you're relying on a phone book for customers to find you, you're going to be waiting a long time. Although websites can get pretty expensive, when you're first starting out or your budget is small, you can find website services for under $100 a year. Many of these sites are simple to use so you can easily create your own website.
You can learn the basics to SEO with many affordable and free services to help you optimize your website. If you aren't the best of writer, there are other resources that will help you edit your website's content to rid it of typos and blatant grammar errors. If your budget allows it, look for a freelance web designer to create a site for you.
Business cards can be quite costly as well, but there are many places you can order business cards for very little money. For example, Vista Print often has deals where you can purchase 250 business cards for $10.00. Look for services like this to ensure you always have business cards handy.
Social media isn't going away, and if you're not utilizing it, you're hurting your success. Even with little experience, you can still maximize the potential of social media as long as you stay active. Don't try to overdo it and use all of the social media outlets. If you're concerned about your ranking, at the very least, create a Google+ account. If you're a localized business create a Google Local page. To take it to the next level, you can create a Facebook and Twitter account. If your business sells products or has many visuals, consider creating a Pinterest account. For B2B businesses, you'll want to utilize LinkedIn. As it can be very time consuming to stay on top of all the social media accounts, consider using Hootsuite, which allows you to schedule posts and view all of your social media account's activity in one place.
Blogging is a great way to keep visitors coming back to your site as you provide them with information they find interesting. Blogging is a simple way to engage customers and adds a personal relationship to your website. Many small business owners don't utilize blogging because they don't have the budget to hire a writer. Although it's a good idea to hire a professional writer, you don't need one if you can't afford it. You can do the blogging yourself and run the content through online services to clean it up.
If your budget does allow it, consider hiring a professional. Despite common misconception, you can have a professional handle your website and marketing much cheaper than many business owners believe. If you only have a small budget, avoid hiring large marketing firms. Yes, they may sound good because they cover everything; however, it will cost you an arm and a leg. Instead, look for freelancers, who have the exact same skills as large firms, but charge much less. With freelancers, you'll have a more personalized experience as you essentially aren't a number on a project board. Freelances will have more time to spend working with you and work harder to strive for you satisfaction.
Don't let financial costs hold you back from taking your business to the next level. There are many forms of low cost online marketing for small businesses that you can use to your benefit.