Marketing for SMB’s: USD $200 Marketing Annual Budget

I can’t afford marketing — this is something I hear a lot.

If you’re an established SMB,  startup owner or a person contemplating opening a business but think you can’t afford marketing, this guide is for you!

I’ve written an article about marketing misconceptions, where I note the total cost to operate this website, which is under USD $500 annually and includes an all-in-one marketing and sales automation tool (and a CRM) I use.

Too expensive?

If you make the time and have the patience, you can market your business for under USD $200 annually.

I’ve also noted a more involved option if you want to eliminate annual fees for hosting a website by paying a one time fee to create a server. While this is a little ambitious, there are plenty of YouTube videos online that illustrate this can be done.

1. How to Make Your Website With Little Money Using a Hosting Service Provider (Dedicated Server or Shared Server)

2. Make Your Own Web Server (If Don’t Want to Pay Hosting Fees)

3. Build Your Website

4. Free Downloadable Open Source Marketing Tool

5. Content Marketing

6. Plan Accordingly and Do The Work

1.How to Make Your Website With Little Money Using a Hosting Service Provider (Dedicated Server or Shared Server)

Website Hosting Service

You can use a website builder and hosting service like Squarespace or Wix, but self-hosting using WordPress is the less expensive route.

How much you can save using WordPress?

Here’s what I pay for Squarespace (personal plan) and my domain name:

USD $144.00 annually

Operating cost for self-hosting a website using a shared hosting service:

USD $7.95 per month * 12 months:

USD $95.40 annually

Cost for annual domain name renewal:

USD $10 - USD $15 annually

Cost for hosting your website and domain name (assuming you’re paying $15 for your domain name yearly):  

USD $114.40 annually

That’s close to USD $30 in savings when self-hosting. There are a variety of self-hosting services and plans available, so your cost will vary.

If I was I was to build a website from start to finish using WordPress (which I may do at a later time to illustrate the process), I’d compare the cost of the few plans and see what each plans offers (for example: SSL security, how much RAM and storage I’d have access to, etc.) and go from there.

The aforementioned is worth mentioning because some hosting companies advertise plans as low a USD $1, but charge you for a lot of necessities I’ve mentioned.

Website Hosting for a Nonprofit

If you’re a nonprofit, you can obtain free access to a shared self-hosting plan. While this can save some money, you can’t avoid paying for your domain name annually.

I’ve done some research on whether it’s possible to purchase a domain without having to renew it annually. I found that the longest you can own a domain name for without having to renew it is 10 years.

2. Make Your Own Web Server (If Don’t Want to Pay Hosting Fees)

While I haven’t tried this myself (yet), you can build your own web server using an old desktop or laptop by repurposing it into a server.

How to Turn Your Old Computer into a Web Server Video

How to Download WordPress to Your Web Server Video

You can also use a single board computer like the a Raspberry Pi or an Orange Pi:

How to build a headless web server with a Orange Pi Zero video

How you can build a LAMP web server with WordPress using the Rasberry Pi video

(Add an image for each with the appropriate image text)

Caveat for Building Your Own Server

If you’re planning to build your own server, you should research what the system requirements are (like RAM and disk space) for WordPress, WordPress plugins and all the other (free and open source) applications you’re planning to use (for example, Mautic).

Planning ahead will ensure you build a server that has the capabilities to run all of your applications as well as within budget.

3. Build a Brand, Don’t Just Build a Website

Before you start building your website, take the time to create a brand. I’ve outlined an example of a branding exercise below.

Why Should I Focus on Branding? What about Picking a Website Theme?

Who cares about branding? Whether you’d like to admit it or not, subconsciously speaking, people do respond to branding.

Branding can help build trust with your visitors as you don’t want to come off as a fly-by-night company. I will cover this in more detail in another article, but you can start by creating a mood board using this guide.

While I haven’t used the aforementioned guide, I worked with a UX Designer/Designer and communicated my plans for this website. such as the professional goals I want to accomplish as well as the tone I wanted to convey.

What Font I used for this Website

The UX Designer picked the Proxima Nova font.

The Proxima Nova font looks professional, modern and has personality. Image courtesy of    Google   . No copyright infringement is intended.

The Proxima Nova font looks professional, modern and has personality. Image courtesy of Google. No copyright infringement is intended.

What Colors I used for this Website

We went with the colors black and white to convey a professional and modern feel to the website.

Why is a Mood Board Important?

In Brand Seduction, Daryl Weber notes on how many brands tend to neglect the tone during their brand creation process. Reflecting on personal work experiences, I’ve also seen this first-hand when working with different companies.

The words your company uses and how it articulates its message is just as important as your logo, font types and colors you use — and the mood board helps with this process.  

You can create a digital document with photos and words that you want to represent the brand.

When creating the website, I didn’t officially create a mood board (I don’t advise this). I did created this one later on as I knew it would help with the progression of the website and my brand. Here are some screenshots of the mood board I’ve created:

Buyer Personas

In addition to the mood board, buyer personas assist you with the process of figuring out your brand’s tone and, more importantly, how you communicate with each of your target customers (you might not be communicating to each of your customer types in the same manner).

I recommend HubSpot’s buyer persona template, as it’s one of the most detailed persona templates I’ve seen so far.

Building The Website

Picking your theme should be much easier once you’ve created a mood board. Below are a few free WordPress themes you can use.

Free WordPress Themes

More Free WordPress Themes

There are a lot of great WordPress walkthroughs on the Internet. Below are a few detailed walkthroughs on how to build your WordPress website.

Here’s a video on how to build a WordPress website

Here’s a detailed write up on how to build a WordPress website

4. Free Downloadable Open Source Marketing Tool

Mautic is a an open source marketing automation tool, which can be purchased on a subscription basis or downloaded to a self-hosted server for free.

If you’re using a shared hosting server, the download instructions will be different.

The Mautic community is extremely helpful.  I’ve used the free version of Mautic (back when their hosted version had a free plan; it had a limit of 250 contacts.) and received help from other Mautic users on the Slack platform.  

I’ve also found the Mautic forums and YouTube tutorials to be helpful as well.

Product Features

- Marketing automation

- Contact management

- Email marketing

- Custom landing pages

- Lead generation forms and popups

- Reporting

- Lead scoring

- Segmentation

- Dynamic content

Marketing automation should be part of your strategy, especially if you have a small marketing budget.

That said, your primary focus should be on creating quality content and sharing said content on various platforms — this is the key to growing your audience.

Your goal should be to convert your website visitors into subscribers by “nurturing” leads with useful content and move them down your marketing funnel. You can do this by using email, creating additional blog posts and creating useful gated content your personas find useful.

5. Content Marketing

Why Should You Do Content Marketing?

Content marketing is essentially a long-term strategy that involves creating content for your target audience(s) that is relevant to them. With that said, content should also be published on a consistent basis.

Your content marketing plan can include a blog, YouTube channel and podcast. Depending on your business, you might only use one of the aforementioned channels. For example, YouTube content creators might not necessarily have a blog, but they can repost their videos or video transcriptions on their website (depending on the YouTuber, I’ve seen this under their “blog” section).  

Don’t to forget to share your content on various social media channels like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. Depending on your business model, you might not use all of the aforementioned channels, but a great way to see where your audience is, would be to try all of these channels initially.

Free and Open Source Tools for Content Creation

If you’re creating blog articles, videos, podcasts, ebooks, and templates, these are free tools you can use to provide value to your potential target audience.

If you don’t have access to Microsoft Office to keep your business organized or to create marketing assets, you can use Libreoffice (equivalent to Microsoft office).

If you don’t want to pay a monthly subscription to obtain access to Adobe Creative Suite you can download Gimp (equivalent to Photoshop), InkScape (equivalent to Illustrator) and Scribus (equivalent to InDesign), all of which are free and open source tools.

If you’re creating video content you can use Blender, a free 3D modeling, animation and video editing tool.

If you’re creating a podcast, you can use Audacity, a free and open source digital audio editor and recording application.

6. Plan Accordingly and Do The Work

In creating this insights blog for this website, I know first-hand how much work it takes to plan and create content. I spend anywhere from two days to a week to create 1 written article.

On a good week, I could probably create anywhere between one to three articles.

While you might think that’s a lot of time to spend on an article, I’ve reached out to HubSpot’s customer service team when I was working with an organization that was using HubSpot to verify the average time it takes for their customers to create content.  

My assumptions were confirmed. They mentioned that these times were accurate and that their customers (companies) usually had teams of people to create said content.

I’ve seen many companies try to avoid creating content by using Demand Generation tactics, using AdWords, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram ads to offer webinars, ebooks and other marketing assets. I think demand generation is a great tactic to increase the number of leads in your marketing funnel, as this does provide value for your target audience and can speed up your sales process — but it comes at a price.

Not having funds for this tactic has a major advantage, as I can personally vouch that many of these companies lack in their content marketing department (blog, YouTube and podcasts). Since writing this post, I have viewed hundreds (if not close to over a thousand) websites when job searching and saw the lack of content marketing on company websites.

How does this benefit you?

These companies are missing out on valuable SEO and an opportunity to be thought leaders in their respective field.

Original and delicious content takes time to create. Put in the work when others aren’t willing to.


Nothing happens overnight. You have to be willing to put in the time to create an effective marketing strategy and execute on those strategies.

One of my articles that ranked on the first page of    Bing    (specifically in the #3 spot)

One of my articles that ranked on the first page of Bing (specifically in the #3 spot)

After all, if I can create content that ranks well, so can you.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section!  If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it with someone you think might find the content useful.

Also, let me know if you see any errors or outdated information!

Interested in learning more branding and marketing insights?