Getting your brand in front of customers on a small restaurant budget can be a challenge. However, by thinking strategically and putting your resources in the right place, a small budget can go a long way. Here are some tips to help you develop a killer marketing plan on a smaller budget.

Start Early

Before you open your doors, get your name out there by holding a job fair. Posting an advertisement on Craigslist is a good start, but you can also take advantage of bulletin boards at community spaces, grocery stores, and other high-traffic areas. Shoot for clever wording and catchy enticements that grab the attention of potential employees and help create buzz around your new establishment.

Get Involved

Getting involved with your community is a strategic move when it comes to building brand recognition. When prospective guests see your restaurant represented at, say, a high school fundraiser, a road race that supports a local cause, or just a community spirit event, the marketing payoff is huge. Not only does this give you the opportunity to spread the word about your new establishment, but you can pass out menus, coupons, or even small freebies. For instance, why not give out bottled water with your restaurant's logo on the label? Not only will prospective customers appreciate the gesture, but this can open up a dialog. If your budget doesn't allow for handouts, simply passing out fliers and sparking a conversation with potential guests can go a long way.

Use Social Media

If you're opening a new restaurant, chances are that you've already thought about taking advantage of social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. But instead of just making your presence known, use these platforms to move the needle and drive sales. For instance, you could entice your followers by offering a discount to first-time diners. You can also encourage your followers to help you spread the word about your new restaurant by offering a discount if they share your posts. With the right approach, the benefits of having a presence on social media can go way beyond having a collection of cool food photos.

Try a Guerrilla Tactic

Using a guerrilla marketing tactic can help make your product familiar to potential customers. For instance, offer to provide lunch for a local office building and then prepare a tray, box, or platter of your kitchen's best. Put it in the hands of a decision maker such as an administrative assistant, a building manager, or event planner. Share your goods with no obligation, but let them know that if they enjoy it, you'd appreciate them coming in or keeping you in mind for their next event. Chances are good that your new restaurant will see a big return on these small gestures.

Do Your Homework

Limit your face-to-face marketing tactics to customers who fall under your target demographic and who live in close proximity to your establishment. Make the most of the freebies you offer by knowing a bit about your audience and targeting the right diners. After all, taking a box of pulled-pork sliders to a holistic yoga center may not be the best move.

A little creative thinking can help you make the most of a small restaurant budget. Start with these tips, and remember that with the right moves, good planning, and solid execution, the marketing dollars you invest will come back to you over and over again.