It's a dilemma that most small businesses and startups face: You must market and advertise, but you're strapped for cash. Fortunately, ideas, energy and imagination can make up for meager marketing budgets. Whether you're an established company or a nascent business, the marketing formula is the same. You'll need to start with:
- The right message
- To the right audience
- At the right time
Maximize Internet marketing opportunitiesThe web has opened up a world of low-cost marketing opportunities, from email and e-newsletters to blogs and podcasts. Also, consider search engine marketing and programs, which charge on a pay-per-click basis.
Seek publicitySend out press releases and look for "hooks" to get your company covered in print or on TV or radio. Also, make the most of trade showsby speaking on industry panels to position yourself as an expert in your field. (Speakers and panelists at trade shows often receive free registration.)
Adopt Guerrilla Marketing techniquesGuerilla Marketing is described as "a proven method of achieving profits with minimum money." After 14 million books in 41 languages, Jay Conrad Levinson's low-cost tactics are still going strong. Some of his tried and true tips include writing a column for your local paper, sending "off-season" cards (instead of holiday cards), and even slipping your business cards into relevant books at the bookstore or library.
Harness the power of Word of Mouth marketingWord of mouth, or buzz marketing, has been generating buzz of its own as a powerful and inexpensive marketing discipline. Create your own customer evangelists and let them spread the good word.
Consider low-cost, "do-it-yourself" media optionsBefore you invest in an elaborate direct mail campaign, consider sending less expensive mail such as postcards or birthday cards to clients. Piggybacking on existing community promotions such as participating in town days, and developing loyalty or frequent-buyer programs are other "frugal" methods.
- In a world of spam and impersonal emails, try sending personal, hand-written notes.
- Find a related but non-competitive partner and join forces to share marketing efforts.
- Do "grassroots" marketing research by talking to your customers one-on-one.
- Join newsgroups and online discussion groups to position yourself as an expert.