Marketing on a budget

Every day, people have great ideas for new business ventures, but are often deterred by a lack of funding. Some people are able to press forward regardless, but then find themselves puzzled about how to promote their brand with little to no money for marketing efforts. I thought I’d share some ideas for people to realize that even though having a bigger budget – or a budget period – for marketing can help tremendously, don’t feel helpless if you don’t have the resources that others have. Here are a few low-cost or free suggestions to get a marketing campaign underway.

Social media
This is a big one. There is so much opportunity to promote your brand online for free. Don’t feel like you HAVE to buy Facebook and Twitter ads. You can do just as an effective job getting exposure out of these sites by just using their free capabilities. The thing to remember is that your content has to be compelling! Use your brain and think both in and outside of the box to come up with simple, creative ideas to develop appealing content. If fitting, it would also be a good idea to start a blog. If you have a website, house the blog within the website; however, if you can’t afford to get one developed yet, then you can start one for free online. Pushing out content through different media can get exposure for your company. Consider all of the social media platforms available to you (YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Instagram, StumbleUpon, etc) and take advantage of all of those that are appropriate for your brand. Do this in a thoughtful, strategic way and you can get your brand some needed attention. There are also a bunch of free tools to help you manage your campaigns, like HootSuite.

Provide internship opportunities
Providing students with internships is a great way to get great talent and assistance for your marketing needs. I’d especially suggest seeking out interns for graphic design and content creation, since they would be generating great work for their portfolios. Be sure to let them know up front that the opportunity does not offer payment. However, if you can offer payment, that would make the deal even sweeter and it would make it easier to find an intern. If you can’t afford payment, then any other incentive (free products/services, great networking opportunities, trips, etc) that you can offer would help a lot. I also think that you should offer a letter of recommendation at the close of the internship.

Network, network, network
Networking is a great tool for small biz owners. Establishing lines of communication with individuals/companies that complement your business can set you up for a great “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” opportunity. Networking is also a great way to come into contact with individuals who may serve as great resources for you. You’d be amaze by how much you can learn by simply following someone on Twitter or through connecting on LinkedIn. Any opportunity that you can find to attend an event that is related to your business, go. These provide more opportunity for networking. Can’t afford business cards? No problem. Make sure you phone is fully charged and ready to go, and if someone should ask for a business card, you can tell a harmless white lie and say, “I just gave out last one and my batch hasn’t arrived yet. Do you mind if I just get your information?”

If you provide a product or service that you create yourself, then you can create a press kit for a fairly reasonable price. Type up a press release and make whatever it is that you offer and put it together in the most creative and cost-effective way possible. Deliver it, if possible, yourself to the individuals whom you’d like to have it and follow up with them via email to make sure they got it and to thank them for taking the time to look at it.

It costs you nothing to ask for someone’s contact information at an event. Keep track of every contact that you get. I suggest creating a massive, organized spreadsheet so that you can create a database of contact information. It also costs you nothing to type up a press release and send it out. If you can’t afford a email marketing service, then this is a simple way to do it yourself. If your contacts are organized digitally, then all you have to do is pull in all of the email addresses you have stored (they should all be in one column) and BCC the individuals and send out your press releases. While a service provider would be able to provide you with data such as bounce rates, clicks, etc. you can gauge how successful the email was by recording the number of hits your blog or website had before and after the email was sent out.

Brand ambassadors
By brand ambassadors, I mean well-connected individuals who can spread the word about your business by word-of-mouth. If it’s in your budget, you can do something so simple as to go get a few T-shirts made with your company’s name, slogan and an eye-catching tagline. Give them to your brand ambassadors and ask them to wear them whenever they might be in a place where your target audience can be found (a gym or fitness class, the grocery store, at a casual bar in a part of town where the patrons are members of your target audience, etc.). Make sure the brand ambassadors are actually supporting you and are into your business so that they can be sincere when telling people about it.

Viral marketing
There have been plenty of videos to hit the internet that spread like wildfire. If you can come up with a tasteful, creative way to call attention to your brand through an attention-grabbing video, this could be a fun and exciting way to get the word out about your brand.

In closing, I’d like to share a campaign by Leo Burnett that I thought was brilliant that used viral, social media, flyers and want ads – all cost-effective methods- to ignite a campaign that helped to save a public library and in turn, won the agency great recognition.

Book Burning Party – Troy Library from Leo Burnett Detroit on Vimeo.

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