Low Cost Marketing Ideas – Part 2
1. Market to decision influencers
While getting to the decision maker may be the most intelligent sales approach, it’s not always the best marketing strategy. Sometimes, the shortest (and least expensive) path to a new customer is through a decision influencer – a person who has direct access to, and influence over, the decision maker. For example:
- Market to gatekeepers to get appointments with decision makers
- Market to subordinates of decision makers to develop internal champions
- Market to peers to get referrals
- Market to other vendors to get referrals or create strategic alliances
- Market to spouses of decision makers
It’s cheap. It’s easy. And when done incorrectly, it can completely backfire on you. However, when you have an existing relationship with a client or prospect, faxing can be a great way to share up-to-the-minute offers and information. Some effective uses of faxes include:
- Top candidates faxes
- News alerts
- Special event invitations
- Weekly bulletins
Whether in written or verbal form, surveys offer a powerful way to develop new sales opportunities. Popular uses of surveys include:
- Customer satisfaction audits: Identify ways to improve your products and services and pinpoint problems before they occur.
- New product evaluations: Test the marketability of new concepts.
- Industry trend surveys: Gather statistical data that will help you become a greater expert on your clients’ industry.
- Industry challenges surveys: Determine areas where your clients will need your help in the future.
- Salary surveys: Collect data that your clients and prospects will value and want to receive from you once you’ve collected it.
- Instant Polls: Quick one-question surveys to share perceptions or develop a better understanding of specific issues.
4. Create an “idea virus”
An Idea Virus is a marketing message that spreads from one person to another without your intervention. Some idea viruses are entertaining while others reward people for sharing. They may be based on humor, contain intriguing information, or in some other way engage the recipient. Examples include:
- Refer a friend options on email newsletters
- Online contests
- All those jokes and photos your friends forward to you
Every business wants greater name recognition. To increase awareness without breaking the bank, consider these ideas:
- Donate your services to high profile organizations and media events
- Create or sponsor community events
- Partner with high profile organizations to be their service provider
- Barter your services for air time with local TV and radio stations
- Donate your services to a local celebrity
Education can be an excellent way to develop new sales leads, deepen relationships with existing clients and close more business. Here are a few creative ways to use seminars in your marketing mix:
- Lunch-n-learn: do an onsite seminar on a topic that your client will value, for example offer how, to interview sessions to hiring managers or small business owners
- Customer appreciation events: bring in a well-known expert on a subject that would be of interest to your clients
- Offer to teach a workshop for your chamber of commerce or rotary club
7. Change your name
Do you have a “me too” name that screams “we’re a commodity?” If so, consider a change. A name change can be a great, low cost way to market. It gives you an excuse to contact every client and prospect. It allows you to re-position yourself in the market. And it can provide an effective way to get free press.
8. Use testimonials
Nearly every business owner recognizes the importance of collecting testimonials, but few actively use them in their marketing. For starters, you need to collect testimonials that support your positioning message. Instead of having a client say “ABC Company provides great service” try to get a message that shows the value of what you do. For example, “ABC Company helped me lower turnover by 40%” or “On a cost per hire basis, ABC Company was the least expensive firm we ever used.”
Once you’ve collected the testimonials, here’s how to use them:
- In e-mails – use testimonials to enhance your e-mail communications. If you have a strong case study that goes with the testimonial, the case study could be the entire e-mail.
- In direct mail – whether it’s a sales letter to a prospect or just a follow-up to a client, including a testimonial can be a great way to build credibility and cross-sell services.
- On fax cover sheets
- On your web site
- In your promotional materials
- As part of your on-hold message
- In educational materials you create
- In trade show displays and handouts
9. Think beyond promotion
When most people think of marketing, they limit their thinking to promotional activities. But there are three other components of your marketing strategy that should also be considered. They are your product, your pricing and your distribution methods. To get started thinking beyond promotion, ask yourself these questions:
- Product: What is your product? How could you change your product definition to increase its value, open new markets or eliminate sales barriers? For example, financial consultants charge more than financial staffing firms, yet both provide similar services. And project management firms sell solutions based on staffing services without having to work through HR.
- Pricing: Could you boost sales by changing your pricing model or offering more attractive financing terms?
- Distribution: How else (and where else) could you distribute or deliver your service? Can you expand into new geographic markets, provide your services remotely or go offshore?
10. Sell the results your clients need, not the services you offer
Sure, you’ve heard this one before, but do your sales reps sell the bottom line value of staffing? Do they find solutions for people experiencing business challenges, or do they sell staffing services hoping someone will have a need?
11. Upgrade your web site
How does your web site position you? As an expert? As a leader? As a high quality firm? Or as someone who’s nephew threw together a web site on a budget. While a web site upgrade may not be low cost, it can be one of the best investments you can make to build credibility and enhance your company’s image. And when combined with valuable content and an e-mail newsletter, your web site can become a cornerstone of a low cost marketing campaign.
Most colleges can provide low-cost or no cost interns to your company. Some schools can even provide MBA-level students for specific consulting projects. Of course, without planning you may get what you pay for with interns. Here are a few examples of projects that are ideally suited to using interns:
- Market research – conduct surveys, gather industry data for you
- Competitive studies – do analyses of your top competitors
- Develop prospect lists – research target companies and develop profiles
- Web site development – some schools can provide talented techs at low cost
13. Take advantage of communications you’ve already paid for
Every document you send to a client,, prospect or candidate is an opportunity for marketing. Consider adding your promotional message to:
- Fax cover sheets
- Email footers
14. Be controversial
Jerry Springer gets marketing. Eminem gets marketing. Love ’em or hate ’em, we all know these people. Why? Because they understand the value of controversy.
In short, controversy works. It attracts attention. It captures our interest. And it sells! While you don’t have to be as obnoxious as a Jerry Springer guest or as crude as Eminem, you can find ways to be controversial. Look at the unwritten rules in your industry and ask yourself “how could we break them?”
The hard part about controversy is that it takes guts to do. You can’t be controversial and not offend some people. But if you can find a way to connect with your target market, controversy can be a gold mine… just ask the publishers of the “For Dummies” series of books who realized that How-to books could make fun of our lack of self-confidence.
How often do you speak in front groups of potential decision makers? Speaking is a powerful tool for building credibility. It’s also a great way to develop leads…while getting paid to do your own marketing! Actors do this all the time to promote their movies. Authors promote their books. Do you?
To become a speaker, start by determining what you know that others would value. Then outline the topics on which you could give a presentation. With your list in hand, approach organizations that might be interested in your topics. At first, you’ll probably have to speak for free. But once you’ve developed a track record, you can start generating revenue from your marketing. And if you’re really good, you might even find a new career!
16. Improve your service process
Companies often overlook one of the most critical aspects of their marketing, and that’s their service process. Making improvements that increase quality, improving consistency, and enhancing your customer’s experience can be among the best marketing investments you can make.
As a start, look at the characteristics of your service that your customers like least. Then figure out how to eliminate those negatives. Next, look at the areas of your service that are most valued and find ways to further enhance your customers’ experience. You goal is to create a defined, repeatable process that consistently delivers the greatest experience that your customer is willing to pay for.
Ideas are easy. Implementation is tough. The challenge to low cost marketing isn’t coming up with ideas. The real challenge is creating a process to ensure that you’re marketing on a consistent basis. Our recommendation:
1. Put together a strategy
- Define your product.
- Define your target customer.
- Determine your positioning message.
- Figure out how you will get your message to your prospects.
2. Plan your tactics
- Select the tactics that fit your goals and budget.
- Develop a repeatable process for marketing.
- Create a marketing calendar.
3. Get help
- Assign ownership to every tactic.
- Bring in outside help where needed to ensure you look great, communicate effectively, and implement consistently.