Finding the cheaper alternative when marketing your small business
The Clear Thought mantra is to out-think, rather than out-spend, your competition. But, it can be tough as a small business to work out how to put together a high quality marketing activity plan on a modest budget.
It is possible!
For every high cost technique, there is a low cost alternative. It usually means an investment of time rather than money, but it is possible. To give you a few examples here’s a run down of some common bank-busting marketing activities, and their low cost alternative.
The low-cost alternatives to advertising your small business
For many people advertising and marketing seem to be interchangeable words. Putting aside my irritation at this over-simplification, if we look at the purpose of advertising you can start to see what other activities could meet the same criteria. So, advertising like Google Adwords, Magazine Ads, TV ads, or banners on websites, are about generating awareness and drawing people into finding out more about your company. It’s very nature means that you’re trying to contact people for whom you do not have contact details. So, here are some other ways to do just that.
Blogging: Having a well written blog on your website that includes effective use of words that people regularly use to search for products and services in your market is an excellent way of getting found online. Even better than advertising in many ways because people are delivered to a highly relevant article on the subject that they’ve been searching.
Social media marketing: If you take the time to invest in high quality content that people will find useful and relevant, then you have great material for making use of social media marketing. You put the details out there, and if it’s good, people will pass it on, and pass it on – getting your message out to a greater number of people.
Directory listings: A very simple technique that’s often overlooked. Many directories, like BT Tradespace and FreeIndex, are absolutely free and allow you to list your business and link to your website. There’s often a directory listing included in memberships of organisations like Chamber of Commerce – make sure you’re details are there, complete and up to date.
Search Engine Optimisation: In addition to your blog, taking some time to craft your website copy and content so that is more easily found online can pay dividends.
Video marketing: Setting up a YouTube or SlideShare space is absolutely free. And, with a little elbow grease with PowerPoint, a voice recorder or a decent video camera, you can create entirely usable video tutorials, case studies, etc. Naturally, with a bit more cash to splash you can get more creative and more polished – but don’t rule video out if your budget is tight.
The low-cost alternative to small business public relations
Like advertising, Public Relations is about getting your message out to a wide audience. Typically, the aim is to get your business coverage in print or online press that people who buy your stuff read. The critical thing here is source credibility. It can be more credible, and reach a wider audience, if you’re featured by a third party rather than only on your own site. PR experts have existing connections with journalists and can craft a press release or media contribution that is most likely to get you the best coverage. But, there are things you can do yourself.
Article marketing: If you’ve spent time creating blog articles, you can re-use these as syndicated content. Taking care not to duplicate too much content, you can submit articles to sites like articlebase or submityourarticle.com which makes it available on their site, and for syndication by others – which means that other people can publish your work on their site with a link back to yours.
Guest blogging: Another way of getting your stuff seen in a wider context, and by eyes that might not find you another way, is to approach complementary (non-competitive) businesses who target the same market as you and offer guest articles for their website.
Groups & forums: A simple and powerful way of putting your best stuff in front of people who matter is to get involved in online groups and forums. Linkedin is a great starting point, where there thousands of groups where like-minded professionals post discussions, jobs and articles of interest. Asking great questions and providing intelligent answers can really get you noticed. Indeed, we’re secured over £170k in revenue through leads that initiated in Linkedin.
The low-cost alternative to exhibiting at trade shows
Sales people for trade shows can be very persuasive. And, the idea of having a load of primed buyers all in room in one day can be pretty tempting. But, with exhibitor fees, stand costs, literature, give-aways, etc. the costs can really add up. There are some other ways of achieving a similar outcome.
Being a smart delegate: Just because you don’t have a stand does not mean that you can’t make the most of a delegate ticket. Why not set up an Eventbrite booking system, offer half-hour coaching / consultation sessions over coffee at the event. You can promote this through your website and social media meaning that you make the most of the lunch breaks, etc. Be sure to mug up on your networking skills so that you’re actively working the room, rather than just passively attending.
Speaking: It is sometimes possible to secure a speaking slot at an event without exhibiting. These are increasingly sold as part of sponsorship packages, but if you’re really good or can offer to share the stage with a client to talk through a case study these can still be achieved.
Blogging & social media marketing: If there’s an event in your market, you can captialise on it with social media in a number of ways. A powerful technique is to write up reviews on the various talks and seminars – put them out on social media with the event hashtag and they’re often passed on by the event organsiers.
The low-cost alternative to hosting your own events
Hosting an event of your own with food, wine and a captive audience can be an excellent way of demonstrating your credentials. Seminars are a great marketing technique, particularly with a guest speaker. But, venue costs, refreshments, invitations, etc. all add up. Some alternatives are:
Webinars and Teleseminars: Live events that people attend remotely either online or by phone. You often get more people for these precisely because they don’t need to leave their desks. The downside is that you miss that personal touch. But, these are definitely a lower cost option that most businesses could try.
Web or Podcasts: These are pre-recorded versions of the above, or re-use of the above as a recording to get some extra value. Perfect for overcoming those diary issues, as people access them whenever suits them.
Roundtables: A cheaper alternative to a seminar event is a smaller and more intimate roundtable discussion. You only need about 10 people, a nice lunch venue and a great topic and you can often create a really powerful business event.
These are just a few examples. But, if you get your thinking cap on and roll up your sleeves, there really is no reason that your budget should hold you back from excellent marketing for your small business. And, as these activities pay off, you can re-invest by upgrading to the higher cost versions as appropriate.
No doubt, you’ll all have your own examples of how to out-think, rather than out-spend, the competition – we’d love to hear about them.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:
- Blog: One piece of content, 20 ways to use it
- Blog: Content marketing – tips and definitions
- Video tutorial: How social media supports every step of a sale
Clear Thought Consulting works with small businesses, equipping them with the marketing strategies, suppliers, skills and set-up that they need to become bigger businesses. We do this by planning and delivering 12-month marketing transformation programmes – supporting a small business through a step-by-step process to making marketing pay. We firmly believe that when you can’t out-spend your competition, you have to out-think them.
Published on 6 May 2011