Until you’ve got money to burn, it makes sense to stick with marketing techniques with a track record of a good return on investment. That’s what we detail below.
But first, how not to do it. Have you seen the cautionary tale masquerading as a Pepsi commercial where Kendall Jenner ditches a photo shoot to join a protest and then brings harmony with a can of carbonated sugar water? Pepsi took an expensive risk and failed miserably. The commercial was pulled in a day. “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout,” read a statement from Pepsi. Introducing Nick Lowe and his beautifully poignant song “Peace, Love and Understanding” to new generations would have been cheaper, more effective and safer from a marketing perspective, don’t you think?
Pepsi can soothe its insulted consumer base with another blitz of the glitz it usually does so well. Owners of small and medium-sized businesses don’t always have good money to throw after bad to correct pricey marketing mistakes, so money-sensible marketing is critical.
Cost-effective Marketing Strategies
Here are four low/no-cost marketing tools that have proven effective for hundreds of years, minimum. That constitutes a track record.
1. Promoting Word of Mouth
While certainly an ancient technique, the documented history of word of mouth (WOM) marketing dates to “teleconferenced peer influence groups” in the 1970s in which physicians talked in organized group discussions about pharmaceuticals they found in their practice to be effective. The result was the giving of unpaid endorsements.
On a larger scale and more recently, Apple developed the strategy of “leaking” information about products under development, and the information got everyone talking and anticipating the product launch.
Tech marketer Blake Brysha offers three steps to effective WOM marketing:
- Develop the right message, often called your unique selling proposition (USP), as discussed in this post.
- Be where your customers are, and social media must be a strong part of your WOM marketing mix. According to Brysha, social media, “is where you’re best equipped to add (not ‘ad’) to the conversation. Do so by providing engaging content (new products, deals, etc.), service to those who need support, and experiences (contests, games, etc.) that your audience will value.”
- Empower your advocates by thanking and rewarding customers who talk up your company in a good way. Developing an influencer or first-adopters group with first looks and great prices on new products, rewards for their referrals and ways for them to give preferred feedback that gets more response than usual will maintain the loyalty of advocates and make them ambassadors of your brand.
If you’re social media-savvy, this effort takes time, but little or no cost. If you’d prefer a professional to handle your social media marketing, affordable packages can be found with a quick search.
2. Use Promotional Products
Building awareness in the marketplace and boosting brand recognition are essential components of marketing. These can be done with low-cost promotional products that are:
- Customized for your audience
- Great complements to a business card
Everyone enjoys a freebie, and once in the hands of a consumer, the promotional product will produce a connection with your company every time it is used. Flash drives and pens, per this data-rich report, are currently considered the most useful promotional products.
3. Cross Promote with Non-competitors
This can be as simple as a bookshop installing a cork board where others can pin their business cards. It can also be as intricate as Google glasses being installed in Loxottica eyewear or Gap and The Global Fund partnering on Product Red. Be creative; form a discussion group with business owners in your local or online sphere, and percolate ways to promote together that strengthens the marketing for both companies and/or brands.
4. Cold Calling
Few enjoy making cold calls to businesses and individuals, but those who excel at this proven marketing strategy often grow wealthy doing it. All you need is time and thick skin. If you want to invest in it, do so by purchasing and reading classics like “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and “How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling.” Buying both and reading them through twice initially and taking notes to review and then rereading each book once per year minimum will be the best investment of $20 you ever make in yourself and your business…but only if you put their demonstrated wisdom into practice.
Money is Not the (Total) Answer
Throwing money at marketing isn’t magic. You can get marketing traction using very little of it. When you do spend money, buy proven tools like promotional items your target audience will appreciate and social media expertise that can separate you from the competitors. And those two books…read those books!
Word of mouth referrals are the optimal option, bar none, but you have to earn them.