This article was written by Ed Hatton, the Start Up Coach for Entrepreneur Magazine (South African edition), as the My Mentor column published in November 2013 and is posted here by their kind permission
You have to tell potential customers what you offer – even with no money
It is almost a caricature. A new business is launched. The entrepreneur has used all the available funds to perfect products. There is no marketing and consequently no customers and all the technologically wonderful products remain unsold. The world does not beat a path to the door of the person who has the better mousetrap; it continues to buy whatever it has done in the past.
The message is clear – you have to tell people who could buy from you that you exist and why they should consider you. You can do this with little or no money for marketing promotions, but there are some rules.
The first one is to realise that with limited funds you needs to reach the people likely to buy from you as efficiently as possible; you cannot afford to market to people who will never be your customers. It is amazing that this simple piece of logic is so often ignored. Identify who your most likely customers are, and then to figure out the best way to get a marketing message to them with as little wastage as possible.
The right media
Another rule is that you have to use the right media. It does not make sense to advertise wedding dresses by flyers in business post boxes. Instead you must be on the internet – unless you can afford to be at bridal exhibitions or to advertise in specialist magazines. Find out which information sources are used by your target market and then use the most cost effective ones. A useful cost saver is to form an alliance with a non-competitive supplier to the target market. The allies agree to share exhibition or other marketing costs, but they also introduce each other to their customers.
Barter is an ancient and honourable way of saving cost – you print my brochure and I will plan your conference for example. Community service by you and your staff can attract the attention and goodwill of community minded businesses and individuals and it is free.
The internet is an incredible marketing tool as well as being a business opportunity in its own right. It allows tiny businesses to promote their products and services to millions of potential buyers. It has seen the development of cottage industries to global giants in astonishingly short times. Few businesses can afford not having an internet presence, or only a boring, out of date and difficult to find website. There are tools for managing website visibility to search engines and directories, and many are free. Hire the right web designer who understands things like calls to action, site design optimisation and search engine visibility. You need to know many people visit their site, where they are from and how they discovered it, to capitalise on successes.
Facebook, LinkedIn YouTube and the rest of the social media sites are free and have produced many startling successes. If you don’t know how to use them, and cannot afford to hire expert skills then spend the time to learn. There are many helpful websites, blogs, books, guides and courses.
Banner advertising like Adwords is highly selective in targeting potential customers, and offers pay-per-click with fixed budgets. An interesting blog will encourage prospects to see you as an expert. E-mail or SMS campaigns to consenting individuals need time and care to create and manage the mail list, but cost little. Learn the rules of consent marketing and e-mail structure and apply them to avoid wastage or being listed as a spammer.
Creative marketing with little or no money is really worthwhile, but it is hard work, there are very few short cuts. Do the homework, avoid wasting money, plan, budget and execute your campaigns well. This is a very high priority. Making improvements to your products can come later.
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