10 Steps to Successful Low Budget Marketing
1) Identify the Desired Outcome of Your Marketing Plan
You can’t accomplish marketing goals that you have yet to set. So, sit down and set small, realistic goals that you hope to achieve through an increased marketing effort (i.e. acquire 2 new accounts in the next 6 months, increasing sales by 15%, get in a local newspaper in the next 6 months).
Next, decide who your target audience is and how you want them to view your company. This may be in the form of an overall mission statement. Writing this out will help to determine your company identity as well as shape your overall marketing strategy and Customer definition.
2) Improve Your Customer Relations
The easiest way to improve your marketing effort is to cultivate your relationships with your existing customers. The ability to provide superior customer relations is also the biggest advantage small businesses have over bigger companies or corporations. Just think of it this way- every happy satisfied customer will at the very least, tell one person about there experience (i.e. there wife, best friend, husband, colleague). But every dissatisfied person will tell a couple people. Let’s face it, it is human nature to complain about difficult or less than satisfying situations. That one bad review spoken directly from one person to the other can be very damaging as we usually give primary sources higher ranking in our minds than we do secondary information (i.e. advertising, newspaper articles).
So how do you go about improving your Customer relations in order to spread good reviews of your company and minimize negative feedback? Even if you are already providing adequate customer service, there is always more you can do to cultivate person relationships with your clients or customer. Start with your biggest accounts (top 20% of your revenue, or most loyal customers) and make more of an effort to develop personal relationships with them. This can be as simple as being more friendly and getting to know more about them and their life, family, and hobbies. It is also a good idea to acknowledge birthdays, anniversaries, and professional and personal successes when appropriate. People are much more likely to recommend your services to others when they have a personal tie to you.
3) Maximize Positive Public Relations
Positive public relations can be a powerful marketing tool. When done correctly, it is believable, establishes your identity in the community, gives your company credibility, and most importantly –it is memorable.
When working on a restricted budget, utilize journalism, business and communication students enrolled in local colleges who will be eager to serve as freelance writers for your press releases and media kits. They will appreciate the opportunity to get real world experience and will bring creativity to your marketing plan.
To create a successful PR plan, your ideas must be newsworthy and unique. An ad disguised as a story will rarely make it out of the newsroom. You must offer something of interest to the typical reader in your target area. Introduce a new product or service, an upcoming event, or explain how your company relates to current business trends.
Once you receive your first positive PR, do not waste it. Put it to work for you as long as possible. Mail reprints to your customers or frame and display a copy of the article in your shop.
4) Get a Marketing Partner
A mutually beneficial marketing partnership will optimize limited marketing dollars and expand your potential customer reach. In order for the relationship to be a success, both companies should share a common market, offer non-competing products or services, have shared values and comparable resources.
It is important to consider a partnership that makes the most sense for both parties involved. For example, a flower shop and a glassware provider could form a successful marketing partnership. The flower shop could offer a line of vases in their store and as an option for deliveries. The flower shop could provide the flower arrangements to make the glassware look it’s best at the point of purchase in the glassware shop.
Once you find a marketing partner, explore all the possible promotional material you can afford by splitting the cost. For example, hang flyers promoting each other in your stores; put each other’s flyers into shopping bags; combine mailing lists and send out joint promotion postcards or e-mail messages; co-sponsor an event; print promotional messages on each other’s sales receipts; or share the cost of an advertisement in a local publication.
5) Take Advantage of Sponsorships
Sponsoring an event or cause is a great way to give back to the community and create a positive association for your brand in the minds of your target audience.
Events usually have different levels of sponsorship as far as donation amount, allowing you to contribute whatever your budget allows.
Remember that sponsorship can also come in the form of donation of services, gift certificates, or discounts through coupons or other special offers.
6) Approach Networking Differently
While networking is widely viewed as a great way to scope out new business, many people have the wrong idea about how to go about it. Instead of handing out all the business cards you possibly can, you should focus on collecting as many business cards as you can. Do more listening than talking and ask open-ended questions so that your new connection will see that you are trying to get to know them and not just tell them what you can do for them. Make sure to perfect your “what you do for a living” speech so that it is concise, yet intriguing. This way people will not feel as though you are giving them a sales pitch but will be genuinely interested in the services you offer.
7) Never Underestimate the Power of the Internet
One of the biggest mistakes companies make is to assume that their Customers are not very Internet savvy. Nowadays most people use the Internet everyday in some form. Whether it is email, social networking sites like Facebook, weather forecasts, downloading music or videos, checking the time of a sports game, or for reading local and national news, our culture has begun to revolve around this new form of media.
Email marketing has become increasingly successful when approached in the right way. Giving your customer the option to opt-in to being included in your email list and then offering them something of value–such as an exclusive coupon only for members of your email club–is the best way to approach email marketing.
A company website has become essential to any successful marketing plan. It has gotten to the point where it is abnormal or even a deal-breaker for a company not to have a web presence. A large portion of the public searches for most services they need using the Internet. You are missing out on a lot of new customers if you don’t have a website that offers information and at least basic location and contact info to potential customers. Furthermore, many consumers have started to make there decisions about which company to choose based solely on their website. Bottom line, if you are serious about growing your business, you need a functioning website consistent to your brand identity to field new customers and support current customers, or they will most likely go with a competitor who does.
Social media has exploded in the last five years. While these communities keep expanding by the thousands, companies are racing to tap into this channel to potential customers that allows you to pinpoint your exact target market in a way never conceived of before. While this narrow targeting seems very appealing, social media advertising is also very tricky. Most users view social media like Facebook, Myspace, and blogs as an enjoyable escape from the daily grind where they can connect with friends and gather information they are interested in. For this reason, ads can be seen as annoying, especially since the original versions of sites like Facebook had very minimal ad space.
8) Don’t Rule out Guerrilla Marketing
When most people think of guerrilla marketing they think of big brands with huge budgets marketing in crowded urban cities. For example, this Frontline flea and tick spray guerrilla marketing campaign.
However, the essence of true guerrilla marketing is actually the underdog using a minimal budget to deliver a creative and impactful campaign against larger competitors. When creating a guerilla marketing campaign focus on the location of your campaign and the surroundings in your community that can be used as elements of your campaign. For example, this guerrilla marketing stunt for a children’s rock climbing class is an example of a low budget campaign.
The only cost in this campaign would be the chalk and possibly hiring a semi-capable artist to execute the design. The ad has an impact on the viewer that encompasses the guerrilla marketing concept—it is memorable. The desired response should be–possibly a chuckle, and “wow that is very creative.” Hopefully your viewer will be intrigued enough to seek out information about your company. But at the least, they will definitely remember their interaction with the ad.
9) Bring in new Customers with coupons and offers
Whether it is by manually putting up flyers around town or being included in some sort of local coupon book or website, coupons will drive in new customers. People love saving money and will form a positive association with your company when they feel they have gotten a good deal. However, this can definitely backfire if the offer is misleading or overly restrictive.
So, be straightforward with the offer and collect all the coupons as they are turned in so that you can monitor the response, and you will be sure to see new customers.
10) Get Listed in Traditional and Free Online Local Business Listing
Even with great promotional materials, if you are hard to contact or locate a good marketing plan can be defective. Make sure you are listed in all the local directories and that your yellow pages information is correct and current. Take advantage of free online business listings like merchantcircle.com. These local online listings are growing in popularity and will drive traffic to your website and location.
Luke Abbotts Blog-Guerrilla Marketing
International Association of Business Communicators
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Public Relations Society of America
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Lynn Fey "Marketing ideas on a shoestring budget: marketing efforts don’t have to break the bank. These six ideas will keep your name out there and customers coming through the door – business corner"