How do you get noticed if you have no money?
Imagine a business with expenses rising, the turnover static or falling. The entrepreneur realises that the business simply has to find new customers, but there is little or no money available for marketing. What should the business do next? In desperation maybe the entrepreneur has thought of doing something like:
Sadly the outcome is likely to be a poorer and sad entrepreneur. One time advertising may bring a few enquiries occasionally but is almost always a waste of money. The post is probably collected by a messenger who will discard the flyer, and a prettier web site will not bring more enquiries if nobody visits the site.
A smarter way is for the entrepreneur to realise that if he has limited funds, he needs to reach the people likely to buy from him as efficiently as possible; he cannot afford to market to people who will never be his customers. It is amazing that this simple piece of logic is so often ignored. The very first step is to identify who his most likely customers are, and then to figure out the best way he can communicate a marketing message to them. For most businesses in this situation this will be a highly focused message, getting to the right people with as little as possible waste. Sometimes this may be as simple as forming an alliance with a non competitive supplier to the target market. This would apply to photographers, event managers, courier companies and many more – maybe almost every business. To make this work the alliance must benefit both parties. The allies could agree to introduce each other to their customers, share exhibition or other marketing costs or offer bundled products.
Fish where the fish are
A key to success in focused marketing is to use the right channels of communication. What media does your target audience use for information gathering? Facebook may be appropriate for young and switched on adults, but not for everybody. Where would the target audience be found? Places of worship? Gyms? Sports events? Rotary clubs? Airports? Upmarket restaurants? Bookstores? Some of these, like airline magazines or billboards at soccer games will be too expensive for many entrepreneurs, but a sponsorship of a school team or talks to clubs may be very effective. Banner advertising like Google Adwords is highly selective in targeting potential customers, and offers pay-per-click with fixed budgets.
Low cost promotions
Depending on the target market the best option can even be a zero cost activity. A great blog that attracts and inspires many with its ideas and information will tempt people to do business with you. Interesting case studies of users of your products can be distributed over the internet or on paper to carefully chosen potential customers. E-mails to consenting individuals need time and care to create and manage the mail list, but cost little. Really good signage, which is inviting, humorous or challenging at or near your place of business can attract curious prospects. Community service by you and your staff can attract the attention and goodwill of community minded businesses and individuals.
Free education is another possibility in the right market. New photographers, house hunters, antique furniture buyers, collectors and others can be attracted by providing lectures, guides, courses or help line services. Barter is an ancient and effective cost saver – you print some cool brochures for me and I’ll fix your car and we each pay only for the materials.
The internet is an incredible marketing tool, and allows a business to gain fiercely loyal customers that will never visit the physical premises or meet any of the staff.
Just think of the implications of that statement for a moment. And yet many companies have web site that are sterile, unknown, boring and out of date. Too few business owners know how many people visit their site, or how they discovered it, and yet the tools for managing website visibility to search engines and directories are freely available. Not using them is a bit like the proverbial advertising in the dark. Facebook, YouTube and the rest of the social media sites are free and have produced many startling successes. If you don’t know how to start go learn. There are many helpful websites, blogs, books and guides.
The key marketing method
The most important marketing promotion has nothing to do with any of this. It is to generate goodwill by great service, friendly and attentive interactions with
customers, open and fair trade practices, speedy resolution of complaints, quality products and services, faultless documentation, never missing promises without
advance warning and generally being a business that people will appreciate doing business with. This generates word of mouth, the most affective and powerful advertising bar none. And here is a challenge: If you had the goodwill of all your customers, who all enthused about your company, and expressed satisfaction in all their dealings, would you need to find inexpensive marketing ideas?
So perhaps the starting point is to take a hard look at what people will say about you – then ensure that all of these qualities are a way of life for your business and its entire staff.
©copyright Ed Hatton. All rights reserved. You may republish this article or extracts from it provided you acknowledge me as the author and acknowledge my copyright.