Whether you’re a start-up with no marketing budget, or you’ve found yourself with somewhere near-zero budget following a substantial tightening to the purse strings, post-COVID, it doesn’t mean marketing needs to be off the cards. Whilst having a decent budget can certainly help and often means getting outcomes quicker, there is a silver lining to having no or very limited budget. It often means a spark in creativity and a more hands-on approach, ensuring you really understand your customer and more importantly, align your proposition to meet their needs.
So, what can you do to market your business with little to no budget?
We all know the saying it’s all about who you know, not what you know and whilst this isn’t necessarily 100% true, there is quite a lot of truth in it. Those who know you and your business are likely to be connected to others who would be interested in your proposition. Furthermore, these people are likely to do you a favour or two and make some introductions if you ask. Right now, everyone is more willing than ever before to help each other out. You only have to look on LinkedIn to see the numerous offers of help ranging from introductions and sharing of CVs to free suit dry cleaning. Take advantage of people’s willingness to help and see if you can read a wider network.
Forget about using social media just to keep in touch with friends and to snoop on people, social media is one of THE best ways of extending your reach and often for very little or no budget. Time instead is your form of currency and by investing your time into building up a strong profile on LinkedIn, proactively sharing insightful content and commenting and sharing on relevant content. This will enable you to build yourself a strong social media profile, which in time is very likely to bring new business opportunities your way. As a communications agency, we’re always wanting to share the great work we have done. By doing so, we’ve found ourselves in the fortunate position where prospects and clients see what we’re busy doing and want to experience the benefits of great creative for themselves. Inspiring others is a great way to open the doors to new business.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to do a reccy on what awards are open to you to enter both: geographically and those which are perhaps more niche and very industry specific. A lot of award entries are free, the better ones which are more genuine definitely seem to be, and it’s a great way to contemplate what is really great about your business, whilst also giving you a bit of an ego boost – especially if you are shortlisted as a finalist. Shout about the fact you’ve entered and been shortlisted, this is a great achievement worth celebrating and helps you stand out from your competitors and provide a tangible difference to those looking for some support from your industry.
Depending on your niche, influencers can play a very important role in marketing for very little outlay. Think carefully about your customer base, are there people within it that would love to feel the love back from your business? By engaging with their social posts and actively resharing relevant content, favouriting tweets and liking their comments, this will massively help strengthen their engagement with you and likely mean they return the favour, engaging at a deeper level and essentially becoming ambassadors of your product or service.
In a similar vein to building up key influencers, use your time to collaborate with local businesses where there is clear synergy. Don’t be put off that some local businesses appear to do similar work or offer a similar product to you. Look for the differentiators and collaborate with them to share insights and advice to help each other, whilst also clearly defining your differences to ensure there is mutual benefit to supporting each other’s reach outs. For those businesses where there is no concern over similar offerings, look at ways to build a partnership. For example, painters and plasterers often collaborate as one can recommend the other’s services which often come hand in hand and vice-versa. In shops you have opportunities to up-sell, for example, a coffee shop may have collaborated with a local supplier of pastries that they had heard a lot of love for, by selling the pastries, meant an uplift in coffee being purchased too.
Cold calling and prospective emails and messages on social platforms are far from dead. We all know it is time-intensive but the good news is if you’re the one getting this task underway, you can really easily target your audience through LinkedIn searches. Whilst the level of non-engagement is high, those who do want to find out more are usually at a stage in their buying cycle where they have a specific interest or need for your product/service, so you’re on for a good opportunity. The key to this is patience and pacing yourself, it can be soul-destroying if you’re not hard as nails to take the continual knock-backs, but also be organised in your reach outs. Think carefully about who you want to go after and who is most likely to stop and give you some time to demonstrate why they need you and/or your product or service in their lives. You’re going to need to do a lot of these to get any sort of return on investment so be savvy with who you target and be organised in your approach.
Being brilliant at what you do is what sells, so make sure you’re finding opportunities to get your voice heard. This doesn’t mean try and find opportunities to just talk about what you have to offer in terms of product or service, instead find opportunities to demonstrate you’re an expert in your field; where you can build trust and credibility. This is what people buy into, not products or services. If you can gain their trust, then you’re halfway there.
In a similar vein to number 7, promoting yourself and your business as one which is willing to share insights and aid others can be incredibly strong. Consider hosting webinars or when restrictions allow, face to face events, that are either free or a nominal cost. Both of these require a lot of effort upfront and investment of time, but it’s a great way to target key prospects and to start to build a relationship with them. Remember to always expect only circa 50% that sign up to attend but don’t stop there, those who have signed up are still warm leads so make sure you’re following up with some marketing aimed at them, as well as using the event to market to the prospects who have attended.
There’s definitely a theme building here if you don’t have marketing budgets. The key to managing to successfully market yourself comes down to offering something to your audience for nothing. It is very rare people buy into a new product or service without experiencing something about it. For example, Nespresso had a brilliant deal earlier this month where you could get one of their coffee machines for free if you bought enough of their coffee pods. A great offer but that alone still wasn’t enough to convert me into a sale. What actually pushed me over the edge to commit to buying 200 pods to get a new machine was some of their content on their social channels. I was inspired by their recipes to make delicious iced lattes at home, I was inspired to set up my own Nespresso coffee station like others they shared from user-generated content and I bought into the fact that Nespresso would better my life. The offer was good but it was their content that they had created and shared that made me make the decision to commit to a purchase. Don’t forget you can reuse, rework and refresh older content too – this is more time savvy and works equally well!
Finally, don’t forget those who are already ambassadors of your service or product. Your happy customers are the best marketing tool you’ve got, so give them the opportunity to help you. Whether it’s using your social channels to encourage them to share user generate content or it’s requesting testimonials and reviews from them, customers are more often than not very happy to share positive experiences with their friends, family and others more widely. Word of mouth should also not be underestimated. Consider every opportunity you have to interact with your customer and find those ‘golden moments’ to ask them or provide them with an opportunity to speak positively about their experiences.
So, what are you waiting for? There are so many opportunities to be marketing yourself even if you’ve had your budget reduced, slashed or it’s yet to ever have existed. And if you’re after more insights then read the rest of our Budget Cuts series of blogs.
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