So you’ve started your business, you need to market it, but you realise that you have no money put aside for this purpose.Is this the beginning of the end for your business? Not at all, according to various experts in the field. Some actually suggest that having less money makes for better marketing, than “throwing money around in random acts of marketing” (Lock, 2009). The secret is to be focused, remain strategic and always consistent. There are a number of ways of doing this, without spending large amounts of money.
1. Research, research, then research some more
Good research should form the basis of any business venture. Too many entrepreneurs rush to pursue a business venture without having any idea whether their product/service/target market is needed and relevant. Market research should begin in ideation stage of a business, and carry on past the acceleration and exit stages. Take the time to find out who your target market are, what they want, and how they prefer to be communicated with (Atagana, 2013; Treyger, 2015).
2. Solidify your brand
Regardless of how much, or little money you have to spend on marketing, it is worthless if you are not 110% certain of what it is you are marketing. You need to have a solid idea of what your company is, why it exists and what you plan to accomplish (Glowski, 2013). You can do this by being yourself, presenting a consistent image, and figuring what makes you different from your competition. Consistency is key in this regard. It is a red flag to customers if a business is regularly changing their branding and imagery. Ask yourself (Business Partners Ltd, nd.):
- What are our key products and services?
- What are the benefits of these to existing and potential customers?
- Are our products or services unique in any way?
- Is our location unique in any way?
- Are our times of business different to those offered by our competitors?
- Do we offer any special technological competencies?
- Do we offer any specific lifestyle benefits and/or conveniences to our customers?
- Do we offer any unique innovations?
- What are our strengths and weaknesses?
3. Pick your target and marketing outlet(s)
The more potential customers you want to reach, the more it is probably going to cost you. It is therefore imperative that you start with a clear idea in mind of who your target market it. Not only will it lower your costs, but it will also allow you to be more specific in your message (Glowski, 2013). The more target groups you want to reach, the more you will have to adjust your message, and this could potentially cause customers to view your brand as inconsistent, as discussed above.
Once you have narrowed down your target market, you will obviously then need to determine what the best outlets or channels for this target market are. If you are promoting computer literacy classes to the elderly, you will obviously not advertise in online blogs, but would rather consider newspapers and other forms of printed media. If you are marketing to teenagers, you should probably consider marketing through Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
4. Focus on content and a call to action
The smaller your budget, the less you can afford to take content generation lightly. Think before you write, plan what message you want to portray, and please do a spelling and grammar check! Nothing says sloppiness and unprofessionalism like a poorly constructed and misspelt sentence. If your branding requires intentional misspelling (called sensational spelling), like “Toys R Us” or “Weet-Bix”, then be sure the remainder of your message is correctly spelt.
When sharing content, ensure it is interesting to the reader, and not blatant advertising. Generate thought leadership that engages your audience and address their needs, and when they comment on or share your piece, be sure to recognise this and respond (Glowski, 2013; Kabbage, nd.). This will build relationships and expand your network. Speaking of networking…
5. Build relationships
According to Scott Cundill, founder of communications company, Majestic3.com, the formation of relationships will go a long way in networking and informal marketing. “If you have no money, then you must get out there yourself and build a reputation. Never hard sell at these presentations, deliver good content and you will build a following. Capture the contact details of every single person that you meet and use Google Docs to manage the information." (Kgosiemang, 2015). He suggests hosting an informal lunch with existing and potential customers and using this opportunity to talk about your brand in an informal setting.
Once initial relationships have been formed, utilise the basic principles of customer relationship management (CRM) to ensure these networks are maintained. A well maintained relationship will more likely yield positive word-of-mouth reviews, generating further interest in your business (Roos, 2015).
6. Listen and Observe
Once you have put your content in the public domain, listen and observe to monitor what is happening, and use this feedback to your advantage. Use Tweetdeck, Hootsuite or other social media management tools to monitor who is talking about your company, and observe what is being said (Glowski, 2013). Are people raving about your product/service or not? This constant feedback from social media will allow you to adjust your strategies and content accordingly.
7. Attend trade shows and local events
Trade shows and local events are excellent marketing opportunities because you have access to large numbers of people with common interests, in a short space of time. Although setting up a stand at a good trade show does cost money, it is invaluable exposure for your business. The amount of customers you will attract will likely ultimately generate profit that exceeds the cost of attending the event in the first place. Ensure you have sufficient business cards and brochures and spend the time getting them designed to present a professional image.
8. Don’t give up
You are likely not going to be instantaneously successful, generating leads from every channel pursued. This is normal and should not be cause for discouragement. Marketing is about constant refinement, innovation and evaluation. If something doesn’t work, take a step back and assess every aspect of the campaign (Glowski, 2013). If necessary, ask a trusted friend or colleague for input, as one tends to develop blinkers after a while.
Small businesses: you do not need large quantities of money to market your product/service. What you do need is constant research, determination, innovation, and an openness to both positive and negative feedback. Be smart and focussed in your approach, keep your spell-checker on at all times, and build relationships, investing in people who invest in your business.
Atagana, M., 2013. Startup marketing: 7 ways to sell your startup with no budget. Accessed from: http://ventureburn.com/2013/04/startup-marketing-7-ways-to-sell-your-startup-with-no-budget/
Business Partners Ltd., nd. Simple rules for marketing your business. Accessed from:http://southafrica.smetoolkit.org/sa/en/content/en/2613/Simple-rules-for-marketing-your-business
Glowski, A., 2013. No money? No problem! The ultimate guide to marketing on a limited budget. http://technori.com/2013/02/3163-no-money-no-problem-your-guide-to-marketing-on-a-limited-budget/
Kabbage., nd. 6 Ways to Market Your Small Business, Without Spending Money. Accessed from: https://www.kabbage.com/blog/6_Ways_to_Market_Your_Small_Business_Without_Spending_Money
Kgosiemang, R., 2015. Here is how to spend your marketing budget (of any size) in 2016. Accessed from:http://www.smesouthafrica.co.za/16195/Here-is-how-to-spend-your-marketing-budget-in-2016/?platform=hootsuite
Lock, A., 2009. 7 Killer methods for marketing without money. Accessed from: http://mikenation.net/files/marketing_without_money.pdf
Roos, W., 2015. Campaign management for start-up businesses. Accessed from: https://mva.microsoft.com/en-US/training-courses/crm-fundamentals-for-sme-s-14456?l=wRzB5milB_805192797
Treyger, V., 2015. 6 Ways to Market Your Small Business for Less Than $100. Accessed from:http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/244527