Beating the System: How Small Businesses Get Ahead of the Budget Dilemma


Jennifer Mesenbrink famously said "If you build it, you may still need AdWords" which in many ways is a testament to the power of paid media in today's marketing landscape. Even for massive corporations, It's become almost impossible to push organic content without careful thought and some virality to kick-off the process - meaning a greater gap between the haves and the have-nots when it comes to initial budget and the end result. 

With this in mind, how do small businesses get ahead of the curve and manage to compete in a landscape that runs on budget they don't always have? As someone who's in the constant process of business and brand growth, I took a minute to jot down some of my thoughts on the subject, in the hopes that it can help open dialogue for business-owners who are at an earlier stage of their career cycle.

Getting down to budget-savvy business…

  1. Bigger communities mean wider reach: It goes without saying, but the bigger your social communities, the more likely it is that your content will reach a wider audience. However, what doesn’t go without saying is that this can also have an impact on your credibility online, meaning other benefits outside of simply having people see your content.

    Aside from the time cost, building communities organically doesn’t have to be a nightmare and can be achieved by setting aside half an hour a day. Invite your contacts to like your pages, incentivise subscription and follows with digital rewards and lock your accounts as a means of gate-ing access to high-quality content. As your business grows, you can grow your support team and start investing more in paid advertising. But, in the initial stages, this is enough to start building on.

  2. Jump on user-centric platforms. It’s widely argued that Instagram is dying and while some people aren’t happy about the insinuation, there is some merit to it. The bombardment of advertising and the same reformatted contents from big brands and influencers, is starting to create a gap between what people enjoy in their everyday lives and what they can’t seem to curate out of their timelines.

 row of people holding phones.

While a lot of people shunned it at first, TikTok has emerged as one of the most popular social platforms in the world during the pandemic, with the quickest rise and a considerably growing market. It’s quickly become known for having a powerful algorithm and for making the average Joe or Joanna famous, even if it’s just for a minute. No longer do you need to have hundreds of thousands of followers to be in the limelight. Now, one relevant, wholesome or entertaining tiktok can make you a household name within the hour.

There’s a lesson in here for brands who are just starting out or want to reinvigorate their social strategies. Get involved in a way that isn’t too contrived, start partnering with your users and create fun and engaging content for your shot at the limelight.

This will take half the budget of trying to go viral on Instagram with equal or greater payoff. Support users in meaningful ways and share and duet their content and you could be making as many sales as some of the most famous TikTok entrepreneurs

Man in striped blazer with sunglasses, looking through a magnifying glass.


  1. Invest in search. I want to be very clear, that I’m not shunning the paid media landscape in any way shape or form. It makes sense that companies own aspects of the web and to rent real estate means making a payment.

    However, there must be room for supporting disciplines to help drive visibility for brands that aren’t quite at the million-dollar mark or able to allocate enormous amounts of budget to their everyday campaigns. One of the best ways you can do this, as a growing brand, is to invest time and energy into improving content and search.

    Even putting the basics in place can help brands start to be more visible online, so something as simple as a well-researched keyword strategy could be your first answer. When Digital Grind was first starting out, we went through a learning curve of understanding search engines and using them to our advantage without compromising on the human element of our content and marketing.

    Today, this is second nature to us and will continue to form a large part of our digital strategy as we work with some of the biggest brands and organizations in the business. Getting these fundamentals right means greater visibility and credibility at every stage of the business cycle. So if you haven’t already, get back to basics and secure your foundations.

    From there, it’s all about a balance between creating quality content to themes, building your link systems and catering to site inclusivity with basic steps like using alt tags and captions on images. The more accessible you make your content, the more likely it is to appear in the SERPs, and consumers will favour your brand above others as a bonus.

    As you continue to regularly update your site with high-quality content, to theme, and drive traffic in interesting and unique ways, you can use paid strategies to enhance what you’re already doing, without breaking the bank. 


All told, up-and-coming businesses, startups and SMEs need a fighting chance to stay visible without having to promote every piece of content. By integrating simple but effective changes into existing strategies, they can start to work smart and not expensively - with paid resources serving as a bonus in the medium-to-long term. The more we invest in empowering SMEs and startups, the more larger corporations and franchises benefit too, from sector growth and healthy competition to destabilising monopolies and gaining better qualified service providers - who essentially power our biggest and most impactful campaigns. 

Author: Brandon Busuttil, MD, Digital Grind

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