NO-COST MARKETING: Three Ideas that Work
Marketing – a necessary component of every business that often becomes a huge expense with seemingly negligible results. Staffing companies spend outrageous amounts on marketing materials that many times never get read or worse, become obsolete before they are even used.
Websites are expensive to create and maintain. Professionally produced videos can be cost prohibitive. The monthly expense for “buying” your way to the top of Google search results for “staffing agencies in [insert city]” will bust most staffing firms’ marketing budgets in no time. As a business owner/manager, you must choose the marketing methods that will best utilize whatever limited budget is available. Why not augment your choices with additional marketing at little or no cost?
The following article offers five marketing ideas with action and implementation plans. These ideas will cost you virtually nothing to execute and provide ways to produce effective marketing that can increase your revenues and profits.
Learn marketing ideas that you can initiate to enhance your company’s position in your market and spotlight positive elements of the services you provide. And these ideas can be implemented at virtually no cost.
Five practical ideas to supplement your marketing now:
Idea #1: Create a Marketing Plan
Idea #2: Build and Make the Most of your Reputation
Idea #3: Publicity and Public Relations
Also included in the Forms section are a “Sample Marketing Plan” and a template you can use for news releases.
Idea #1 – Create a Marketing Plan
This marketing idea takes no investment dollars at all, and will provide guidance throughout the year, yet it’s an idea that is missing from most small-to-mid-sized staffing companies. Why? Perhaps it’s because many business owners are intimidated by the subject of marketing. Perhaps it’s because so many staffing companies market “by the seat of their pants,” initiating marketing campaigns as they come upon ideas that are intriguing, while never creating a written plan. That method can be very costly.
A good marketing plan serves as a written map – showing the goal and how to attain that goal. It should be brief and it should have focus. Without focus, marketing is a waste of money. The following are the steps you will need to create a simple, effective marketing plan:
- State the purpose of your marketing (e.g., to build a larger base of clients with whom you have a growing relationship).
- Briefly state how your purpose will be achieved (e.g., by creating regular contact with new and existing clients that demonstrates your value).
- Define your target audience.
- Describe the marketing methods you have chosen to use. Make this list as complete as possible (e.g., postings on three job boards, PPC advertising, specific give-aways, blogging, direct mail program sent bi-monthly, sponsorship of a local charity event, referral bonus program, etc.).
- Identify your company’s niche in your market.
- State your “USP” (Unique Selling Proposition) so it can be a focus throughout your marketing.
- Express your marketing budget as a percent of your projected gross sales.
This plan should be no longer than one page-brief and focused. Without a written plan for marketing, you will either spend too much, experience disappointing results or both. Make an investment in your time, allocate your dollars with a planned purpose, and reap the results.
Idea #2 – Reputation
Reputations are a whole lot easier to destroy than to build. It can take a long time to build a reputation you are proud of, but very little time to destroy it. One way to damage your reputation is by not recognizing that the customer (candidate or client) is always right – even when you know they are dead wrong. Training your staff in handling customer complaints so that the matter is amicably settled goes a long way in enhancing your company’s reputation.
Poor service will assuredly damage your reputation. If you can’t fill an order in the time required or with an appropriate temporary, you’re better off suggesting an alternative solution to your customer. “Live to fight another day” and your reputation won’t suffer. A poor fill or an order that languishes with no call to the customer can cause your reputation to diminish.
Also, if your marketing materials in any way convey exaggeration or worse yet, dishonesty, your reputation will be hurt. You must be the company that your marketing claims you are. Negative word-of-mouth spreads faster than wildfire – especially online. If a person has a bad experience with your company, an average of 22 others will hear about it. And social media and review sites only amplify those numbers. In fact, 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, and research shows that people trust those reviews. Be careful! Your reputation is a precious asset. It will drive customers to you or away from you.
The following are eight action steps to help you build a positive reputation:
- Advertise once in a regional edition of a respected national magazine. After that, you can make reprints and use those reprints for a long time. The result provides substantial credibility which can only help your reputation.
- Use consistent advertising with the same media because it can inspire confidence in prospects and build your reputation.
- Show respect for your customers’ time through the efficient handling of their orders and through the flexible solutions you offer to their staffing challenges. Your professionalism enhances your reputation.
- Write a “Staffing Insights” column for your local newspaper, industry association or chamber newsletter, demonstrating your expertise and strengthening your reputation.
- Instill customer care and client satisfaction as the number one concern of your organization. From top to bottom and bottom to top, everyone in your company must believe the customer is #1.
- Actively solicit feedback from your clients and candidates. If you get great feedback, ask if you can share it publicly.
- Monitor your review sites. Visit platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Glassdoor to find out what customers are saying about you. Read all the reviews – even the ones that sting – to identify potential problems. Focus on identifying patterns or themes to the complaints disgruntled clients post.
- Work on improving the issues you can. Take a look at the patterns you identified to see what you can fix. While it’s impossible to please every customer every time, implementing one or two small changes could make a big positive impact on future reviews – and your reputation.
Idea #3 – Publicity and Public Relations
It’s not what you know but who you know – and how you become known – that makes this marketing idea so effective at virtually no cost.
This idea involves, once again, an investment of your time, energy and imagination but without the more costly investment of money. To attract publicity, you need to have news that is of interest to readers or viewers of the media you approach. It’s important that you become personally acquainted with the media people in charge of selecting the stories that will be covered. The closer your contact, the more coverage you’ll likely receive. These people could include managing editors, feature editors or business editors interested in staffing and the many ramifications of employment in your area.
You will need to uncover the names of these people and arrange to meet them. Perhaps through other business acquaintances, through organizations that they belong to or even by frequenting “happy hour” places where they hang out. Your responsibility is to meet them and to get to know them on a first-name basis. Then provide news that will really interest their readers (e.g., offering free monthly seminars on the “do’s and don’ts” of interviewing in today’s market, or offering a new service of interest to local businesses that is not currently available in your area). Send out press releases to your contacts and follow up with a phone call to be certain your story gets the proper attention.
Public relations is publicity that can have wonderful and occasionally not so wonderful attributes. On the good side, PR gives you loads of credibility and it doesn’t cost a dime. On the bad side, you cannot repeat PR and you have no control over what is said.
To generate your own PR, we suggest the following:
- Do or create something “newsy” for the media. They want news worth reporting as much as you want free exposure.
- Provide your news, a press release, a fact sheet, and digital assets (i.e., your logo and a photo to illustrate your story) to the appropriate people at the appropriate media offices.
Again, follow up with phone calls. Be persistent. If a news story is generated, share it with clients and prospects. Frame a copy for your reception area where the maximum number of people will see it. PR is a great marketing tool for building credibility, but keep in mind, in this world, if you’ve developed the contacts, only then will you get the coverage.
9 More Budget-Friendly Marketing Activities
- Ask for referrals.
- Grow your social media base.
- Expand your networks on LinkedIn.
- Solicit recommendations and testimonials.
- Apply for business awards.
- Host a webinar to showcase your expertise.
- Update and expand your social media profiles.
- Respond to every inquiry – whether it comes in through email, voicemail, social media or mail.
- Start a blog.
As I have listed these no-cost marketing ideas, I have attempted to include implementation steps with each action plan to keep this issue from becoming too lengthy. I would however, like to re-iterate a couple of implementation steps that pertain to all these ideas. They are, in fact, essential to every successful marketing initiative.
- Take time to create a plan for every marketing idea. Express every plan in writing.
- Get buy-in from your staff. Without their cooperation and enthusiasm, any marketing idea will falter and ultimately fail.
- Create a schedule so that everyone responsible knows the action steps to take and the dates for implementation.
- Recognize that marketing takes persistence. You must “touch” your customer multiple times to experience a return on your investment. Good relationships take time to build.
- Strong relationships require constant nurturing. These no-cost marketing ideas should help you without increasing your expenses.
Sample Marketing Plan
Purpose: To increase our prospect database by 30% in the next 12 months and to convert 15% of those prospects to customers using follow-up sales activities.
Plan: To research and qualify a minimum of ten new prospects every week. To uncover a minimum of one new buying influence in each of our top 75 customers and to place those new contacts into a scheduled marketing program for future sales follow-up.
Target Audience: Owners, managers, and department heads in companies currently employing 35 or more employees in non-production jobs.
Marketing Methods: Telemarketing using marketing interns to collect company names as prospects and to call for contact detail; a weekly digital advertisement and job board campaign to attract high-end office administrative candidates; PPC advertising that emphasizes our specialty; mailing and emailing marketing program sent to new prospects every five weeks; second program for current customers; in-house creation of e-newsletter for temporaries and career candidates to be sent monthly; sponsorship of chamber’s winter job fair; “temp-of-the-month” program; quarterly open houses with door prizes.
Company Niche: Placement of high-end administrative support personnel in temp and direct hire positions in small to mid-sized companies.
Unique Selling Proposition: XYZ Staffing is the only administrative support staffing service offering a “no time limit” guarantee on temporary help and a six month replacement guarantee on direct hire.
Budget for Marketing: 10% of projected gross margin.
Outline for a News Release
Created By: AUTHOR’S NAME
Purpose: (Expansion, new service, strategic alliance, award, new hire, promotion, etc.)
Timing/Date for this release:
Person to contact for more details:
- Headline: (What is the theme or purpose? Why will someone want to read it? What is your “angle?” Be brief and make your headline catchy.)
- Key points for your news release:
- What is the meaning behind those key points (why are you doing this?)
- Any “quotes” from customers, users, or 3rd parties that support your news:
- List the priority of the information you want to convey (critical information must appear first):
- If 3rd party is involved, provide their company name, location, etc. and a brief description (as they want it) portrayed in the release as well as a contact name if they wish it included:
- Be sure to submit your proposed news release to any third parties involved for approval on your copy (especially contacts and/or direct quotes):
- Provide company “boiler plate” information at the end of any news release.