4 Tips for Marketing on Shoestring Budget

When times get tough, as they are today, many companies begin cutting back. Sometimes they let employees go and stop there. Other times, they eliminate their marketing. “A bad move,” said communications pro Stacy Cornay. “The public has to be reminded about who you are and what you’re selling . . . Instead of cutting back on marketing, be more aggressive.”

Public relations professional John Shors wrote, “When companies cease touting themselves via the media, opportunities are created for their competitors to step into the spotlight . . .”

Staying in front of your customers and prospects is vital — even in a recession.

I started my business in 1989, when times were also tough. The reason I went out on my own was because people were getting laid off at all the agencies I approached. I was caught in the Colorado recession and repeatedly heard, “Sorry, we’re not hiring. We’re laying people off right now, but if you start a business as a freelancer, we’ll retain your services.”

So I took this as a “sign from above” — it was my opportunity to grab the bull by the horns and start my own business. The Write Direction was born on January 1, 1989.

Despite lean economic times, I was able to break ground . . . make an impact . . . find clients . . . establish a successful business. It happened because of a concerted effort to market myself and keep marketing.

Don’t give up the ship. You can do the same without breaking the bank. Pick up the phone, write a trade article, fax the press about an accomplishment, send out an e-mail, etc.

During uncertain times, when people are not spending, marketers should consider investing further in their marketing instead of waiting for a change in market conditions. This tactic is supported by the following findings revealed by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) – reported in a commissioned study “Advertising in a Recession” by Bernard Ryan Jr.

1. The Buchen Advertising study tracked sales after the 1949, 54, 58 and 61 recessions. It found that sales & profits dropped off at companies that cut back on advertising. And, the findings also revealed that sales lagged after the recession for those companies that cut back during the recession.

2. The 1970 and 1979 studies by ABP/Meldrum & Fewsmith substantiated the Buchen study. It reported that higher sales and net income were achieved by those companies that maintained their advertising than those that cut it altogether.

3. Following the 1981-82 recession, McGraw-Hill Research’s Laboratory of Advertising Performance reported that “business-to-business firms that maintained or increased their advertising expenditures during the 1981-82 recession averaged significantly higher sales growth both during the recession and for the following 3 years than those which eliminated or decreased advertising.

“It might even be tempting to “ride it out” – to do nothing until things turn around. This passive approach yields passive results. Nothing will happen while you’re waiting and when things do turn around, the business will go to the people who’ve been doing something all along. The people who will get the lion’s share of the business – both now and in the future – are the ones who work to build relationships,” said Michael Beck, ClientMonkey.com

Yes, it’s frightening to dip into your budget to keep on spending when the economy is slow, but to stay ahead of your competition, it should be a priority for your company. And, it can be done, without spending $2 million dollars for a Super Bowl commercial

What’s Your Marketing Plan of Attack?

When you’re on a shoestring budget, there are several creative effective ways to market yourself effectively. Here are just four ways to help you get started. These are part of a plan that I follow and offer to small businesses when presenting my marketing seminars to them.

1. Send out an e-mail.
One of e-mail’s competitive advantages is its “….ability to help you protect your most valuable asset in a down economy: loyal customers” said John Rizzi, President & CEO, e-Dialog

E-mail has reached almost universal penetration, with 97% of consumers and 94% of marketers using the channel (Study published by Forrester Research,” Email Marketing Comes of Age.”).

Contact those people you have a relationship with or who have opted-in to your e-mail list. It doesn’t have to be a sales pitch – probably better if it’s not. Just provide some helpful information that is relevant to them such as a monthly or quarterly newsletter. You’ll find many marketers on Facebook & Twitter tout the benefits of newsletters as a marketing tool. Read my post about tips for writing great newsletters to your customers and prospects

2. Join professional organizations. However, don’t just pay your membership dues and walk away. Many people join organizations, sit back and wait for business to come their way. Clients don’t automatically knock on your door just because you’ve become a member of the local Chamber of Commerce.

I found when I volunteered to serve on a committee (i.e. public relations, entertainment, programming, event planning, etc.) or sat on the Board of Directors that fellow colleagues discovered more about who I was, what my business was about and what my capabilities were. Then, many times, they referred me to others just based on their knowledge of me, not necessarily because they had worked with me on a writing project. This is a great opportunity to increase your network of contacts while being given the chance to share your expertise.

3. Offer to speak in public. “The best way to market yourself is to give yourself to the market. Expose yourself to your prospects,” wrote marketing professional Jeffrey Gitomer.

Call your local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, business associations, etc. Many of these groups hold monthly membership meetings where a professional comes in and speaks on a specific topic of interest. When I lived in Boulder, CO I presented at what the Chamber of Commerce called “Brown Bags,” speaking on topics such as: “AIDA: A Formula for Successful Copywriting,” “Surefire Steps for Writing Effective Print Promotions,” and more. I presented a workshop about marketing in turbulent times to the Kauai North Shore Business Council and later, was asked to present tips from this article to the Rotary Club of Kauai.

Sharing what you know increases your credibility regarding your area of expertise. And, appearing at meetings like these puts you among a circle of business people who may eventually need your services.

3a. Invite clients, colleagues and prospects to your speaking engagement. Here’s a great opportunity to build client relationships and encourage enhanced relationships with prospects without using a hard-sell approach.

By hearing you speak, they get the chance to learn more about you without feeling the pressure of a sales pitch. While you’re sharing your professional knowledge in a relaxed, non-threatening environment – without the fear of losing a sale – they’re observing your expertise, confidence and poise.

4. Write articles for business or trade publications. This helps increase your exposure, getting your name out to a broader audience while conveying your knowledge about a specific subject. Not to mention, it enhances your professional reputation. Many publications will also include your photo and phone number so that readers may contact you. Then, after your article has been published, send copies to your clients, colleagues & prospects!

Maintain a Presence in the Marketplace

The list of cost-effective ways to market your self goes on. From sending out press releases to local and trade publications to teaching a class or workshop about your area of expertise.

Just don’t let people forget who you are . . . where you are . . . how you can be reached. Do what you can to maintain a presence. Stay in touch with your customers, be it via phone, “snail,” or e-mail. Ask them what they want and need during this time. And remember, if potential customers are out there looking for your product or service and your name is visible, when your competition’s is not, your marketing efforts will invite them to call you.

Have you tried any of these tips lately? Have one or two you’d like to add? Share them in the comments section below because I’d love to hear from you.