Ten low cost marketing and PR tactics that work

Tested Low Cost Marketing

Every small business owner faces the realization at some time in her history that she has more time than resources to market her business.

Not everyone can afford $5,000 a month for television advertising spot placement or $3,000 for a single-page ad in either their local lifestyle magazine or daily newspaper. So, what’s a cash-strapped, time-rich business owner to do? Our answer, use low cost marketing tactics that have worked for other business owners.

We asked small business owners to share their low cost marketing and public relations tactics that have been successful. We’ve selected these examples which include some time-tested tactics and some new-fangled ways to help promote and grow your business.

Social Media, Blogging and Online

    1. Jacqui Trotta, owner of a jewelry company based in Boston, relates how her company used Twitter to get attention. Jacqui said, “We use social media for branding and to generate sales. We held a ‘Twitter Trivia Treasure Hunt’ in which we dropped several clues on Twitter. Our followers sent in their responses and we did a random drawing and gave away gift certificates and a pearl necklace. Many of these people are now our followers and tend to shop when we offer promotions on our Twitter page.” Trotta says, “The winner of the necklace happened to be a blogger and did a write-up on the pearls on her blog. It went full-circle as being a Twitter success.”
    2. Michael Kaiser-Nyman, CEO & Founder, Impact Dialing, shared a time-tested tactic that works for him, “I get most of my publicity through guest blogging. I write interesting articles for other people’s blogs, and in return they provide links to my site.” In fact this has been so successful for Michael that he’s now retained the services of a professional writer to help him sustain this tactic.
    3. Ian Edwards of Arcadia NYC says the brand has earned awareness and inclusion by “developing content around our core issues.” “We’ve built our social media network with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and a blog. We have put a small budget toward Facebook ads that have, so far, expanded our followers by 30 percent.”

Bonuses, Samples and Special Offers

All customers like “free,” that’s why food products makers offer tastes of their products. In the restaurant business, when you do a promotion, the goal is to get your restaurant’s food in the mouths of prospective guests. The same tactic is used by business owners in other industries.

  1. Izzy Goodman, CEO of Complete Computer Services employs a tactic that is as old as business itself—the bonus. Goodman relates, “After a number of wasted campaigns, we now spend no money on advertising or pay-per-click. Instead, all our marketing budget is spent on our customers. The results have paid off.” Goodman’s offers fall into the category I call, “with six, you get eggroll,” allowing users who purchase in quantity to gain additional product for free. He may just be the master of this tactic as he tells us, he offers bonuses that include: “A) Referral bonus: Referrals from another customer earn both you and that customer a free cartridge. B) Repeat customer bonus: a returning customer who buys ten or more cartridges gets a free one. C) Double-and-free: We sell ink cartridges by the pack. Each time you double, you get a free cartridge. D) Non credit card discount: If you save us the credit card fee, we pass it back to you. Pay via PayPal, bank account, check or money order, get a free cartridge. E) Secret discount: Subscribers to our monthly newsletter get a secret discount code which reduces the price even further.”
  2. Lara White, Founder of Photomint puts a spin on free. She tells us what works for her, “I run a photography studio, and one of the things we have done that has been extremely successful to market our services inexpensively is to submit our photos for editorial features in local, national and international publications where our potential clients might see them. We do this about 1/2 dozen times per year and the only cost involved is packaging and time. From these efforts, we have secured coverage in food magazines in France, a wedding magazine in China, a British cake magazine and many other places in both print and online. We have been able to book many new clients based on this, ‘free publicity’ which exposes our work to a much wider audience and builds huge credibility.” So, publications get great content, without having to pay for it, and White gets earned media. This may work for some publications, just check to see if they accept non-solicited work for their publications.

Old-Fashioned Ideas Still Work

While there are many new ways to connect online, there are just as many ideas that are not new, and which are activities that have worked well for generations. While some may be helped along by new technology, the ideas themselves are ones generations of business owners before us will recognize.

  1. Kathy Paauw a business coach at Paauw Enterprises, Inc., tells us that she uses SendOutCards to regularly keep in touch with her prospects and her clients. She uses the service to organize and send pre-scheduled birthday cards to customers and “keeping in touch” messages to prospective customers.
  2. Sabina Les owner of a fashion accessories brand based in New York, NY, sends pitches to publications to gain earned media. She says, “My most successful PR tactics were writing short and the point emails, providing nice images within emails, pitching to magazine editors individually once a month.”
  3. Ian Edwards of Arcadia NYC also builds relationships with organizations whose causes fit the brand. They “have built strategic alliances with groups like the NY Fair Trade Coalition, hosting a very successful event to support fair trade fashion and accessories at our store in March.”

New Ideas Whose Time Has Come

Trends and new technology support these ideas that in essence aren’t’ new, but which rely on new tech to help them succeed.

  1. Felecia Scott of Wild Beauty has used the “pop up shop” trend to gain visibility in Los Angeles. Scott whose beauty products are based on family secrets, made her own chalkboard, and goes on location to sell her beauty remedies, not unlike people did more than a century ago.
  2. Alex Schiff, CEO and Co-founder Fetchnotes uses HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to gain inclusion in publications and online media outlets. Alex notes, “Best of all, the campaign just took my own time, so I didn’t have to outlay any cash on it.”

So, there you have it, ten low cost ways to promote your business—from actual business owners. You have no more excuses or lack of ideas to grow your business.

What other ways have you used that have not cost your business much more than your time and energy?

Are you confusing marketing with promotions?


Confused about the difference between marketing and promotions?

While talking with a prospective customer, I learned that he struggles in a difficult marketing ecosphere. He works for a small family-owned company. What is his struggle? He must implement marketing for the firm’s services however, there is no clear agreement between the owners on marketing strategy and priorities.

As he told the story to me, on an almost weekly basis, he gets a new directive from one of the owners that countermands the previous week’s orders from the other owner. Many of us have worked with companies like this. The problem is (besides owners who don’t agree on marketing priorities) is the expectation that marketing will “pay off” tomorrow.

Many people are confused. They don’t know the difference between marketing and promotions.

A company’s marketing is a strategic approach that directs all their activities based on a set of priorities that have been built around explicit goals. Promotions are short term campaigns that fit within marketing plans and help reach goals.

Marketing plans help focus a series of activities or tactics. Promotions are a tactic.

As an example, I’m a homebuilding company whose homes are small entry-level, bungalows designed to appeal to first-time home-buyers. So, my marketing is then based on a series of strategic decisions to build a product that is appealing to these buyers. My homes incorporate all the features that my buyers desire, and I place advertising or achieve earned media in outlets where that buyer directs their attention. My strategies may include monthly promotions designed to call attention to the features of my houses or catch the attention of my prospective customers.

Marketing is based on a positioning statement and is supported by a plan that by months, or quarters, works to achieve the interest of the buyer or customer.

When you change directions weekly, you confuse the customer, you upset your marketing strategies and fail to achieve your goals.

You should tweak your marketing’s direction and focus to get even higher performance, but avoid disrupting it on a regular basis with an entirely new strategy.

photo credit: flickr user db photographs

5 Tips to Gain Earned Media for Your Company

Earned media includes newspaper, radio and TV

What small business owner doesn’t want publicity for their company? In the public relations world, we call it earned media and it’s not always as hard as you may think to gain.

Here are 5 tips that can help put you on the track to gain recognition for your company’s services:

  1. Have a compelling story—No, just because your doors are open, but something that television news audiences want to see, or newspaper’s readers want to read.
  2. Make the News—Do something interesting. Activities that are beneficial and not at all sales oriented are often highlighted in the media. Holding an informational event where nothing is sold is a great way to earned media. As an example, homebuilders, realtors and bankers can work with local home buyer education not-for-profit or legal aid office to host seminars to teach what it takes to be prepared to buy a home.
  3. Get to know who reports or writes on topics about your business—News journalists (and I include bloggers in this group) are people too. Read their stories, watch their reporting and when you see, read or hear something that is worth commending, do so. Genuinely. No fake cultivation. Who doesn’t like to receive a letter congratulating them on a job well done?
  4. Become recognized as a source—Offer your professional experience in response to journalists’ queries. Provided your responses are timely, on-topic, relevant, and concise, you will be referenced.
  5. Seek opportunities to volunteer—Being a volunteer in a leadership position with a non-profit organization brings many opportunities to be in the public eye. Select your activities based on your preferred causes, do what you say you’re going to do and step-up.

Photo credit: flickr user bradleygee