Henry Ford once said, “Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.” When you have been in business for over a quarter-century, you have heard every possible way for prospects and customers to say – “I don’t have the budget,” or “I can’t afford that.” Heck, anyone who has ever started a business has said, “I don’t have the budget.” Or “I can’t afford that.” And everyone who has said it believes it.
The thing is, it is impossible to meet your goals or grow or even maintain your business if you don’t get the word out. Getting the word out – which requires both marketing and advertising – costs something. It will either cost money, time, or allocating employee’s productivity toward getting the word out – one could argue the latter costs time, money, and productivity. But, no matter how you cut it, even if you don’t hire a marketing firm, a social media specialist, a content creator, or even an uber-attractive marketing consultant, like me, your business will pay the price one way or another to get the word out.
There is an episode dedicated to the difference between marketing and advertising at Totally Hyped dot com. To sum it up for the purpose of this episode, let’s simply say that Marketing is the understanding of your marketplace – who your customers are, what they want, who your competition is, and where they are positioned. Marketing shows how you can fit into the marketplace – product/service, placement (where will people find it?), how your product, service, or information should be priced, and finally, how should you promote your product, service, or information – and that understanding ends in a plan or strategy on how you should present your business in that marketplace.
Again, I am over-simplifying, but advertising is using that information to promote your business. Everyone calls advertising marketing, and marketing rarely gets done by today’s standards. However, I can assure you that if you have no budget, your social media efforts, your word-of-mouth efforts – well, any effort you make toward promoting your business – will be less effective than if you had an unshakable understanding of your market and how your business should fit into it.
When advertising is done properly, you have a lot of experimenting and testing to do. That basically means, for the best results, you can do the market research upfront, or it will just take more time and more experimentation until you find the magic formula… either way, if you want the best results, you’re going to pay for this understanding with money, time or productivity.
Another thing I want to note here is that one company’s no budget can be wildly different from another company. Not having $50k of budget but having $20k is different than a business owner saying, “If I spend $100, I will lose my home.” Neither company can afford to promote their business the way they want, but one literally has no budget. Believe it or not, both are very similar challenges. The primary difference is the speed at which they will be able to achieve results.
Most marketing companies will shy away from either scenario, but I love this challenge and would gladly work with either company. We would simply work out details on how I can get paid when the company achieves the results.
So to recap before we jump in:
- There is no way to improve your business without promoting it
- Promoting your business is the advertising part of marketing and advertising
- Marketing is the plan that comes from understanding your company’s marketplace
- You must gain an understanding of your marketplace to be successful in promoting your business
- You will pay for that understanding before you start or as part of the process
- The challenge between not enough budget and no budget – is primarily in the time it takes to achieve results
Alright, enough of the setup. Let’s get into the meat of this episode.
There is this huge misnomer in today’s marketing industry. Over the last decade or so, there started a debate between two made-up terms that are quite misleading—inbound and outbound marketing. Inbound marketing is a technique where content is set up to build awareness and attract prospects when they are looking. The tactics used here are social media posts, SEO, Content Marketing, PPC, and such.
Outbound marketing is pushing your message out to where prospects might be, such as Trade Shows, cold calling, TV, Radio, or print.
Here’s why this debate is bullshit – inbound and outbound are advertising tactics that can be used in executing a marketing plan. The marketing plan should determine which tactics would be most effective, given businesses’ goals. The best marketing plans do not care about inbound versus outbound and may contain tactics that fall into both categories.
I can assure you that if you are a company that does business at a brick and mortar with local customers, I can outperform any social media campaign with someone dancing around in a gorilla suit outside your business. Great signage for local businesses can have the same impact.
I was working with a nationwide auto repair company—one of the locations put up a digital sign outside the shop that was on a busy intersection. I recommended running a message to “get a Free Oil Change for the next 10 minutes” a few times per week and let local media know a shop is giving away free oil changes – all you have to do is pay attention to the sign.
In short, to pit inbound marketing against outbound marketing is a complete misunderstanding of marketing. If marketers throw that BS at you, one quick way to save money is to fire or not hire them. But if you’re marketing in-house or marketing on your own – just know that your specific situation/marketplace, your specific goals determine the right tactic, not a marketer’s specialties or list of services.
The goal of marketing on a shoestring is to get results whether you don’t have enough marketing budget or you have no marketing budget.
Here are some advertising tactics that can be free, how to use them, and the pros and cons
If you have time, you are in a good place for marketing on a shoestring. You can set up foundational assets that will make promoting your business less expensive, no matter how much budget you have and no matter how aggressive you want to get. Here are the assets every business should have:
Online and offline businesses must-haves
- Easy to navigate and easy to maintain/add content website
- An organic email marketing list
- Networking capabilities – online or in-person
- Appropriate means of communication – phone, email, text, Zoom, for example
Physical location businesses must-haves
- Good signage
- Clean aesthetic offices, showroom, dining area etc.
- Good location
With the items above, almost any business can thrive in 3-6 months. As you build this foundation, it will pay bigger and bigger dividends with less and less effort. With the right plan, you’ll be working each step of the funnel
If your business is a local business with a physical location, fast turnaround is do-able. If you’re an online-only business, fast turn around is tougher.
Conversely, getting consistent results over time is more sustainable for online businesses than it is for the quicker tactics that a local, brick-and-mortar business can take advantage of.
If you’re in dire need of promoting your business to generate business – like yesterday, let’s start by remembering the life lesson haste makes waste. Like everything in life, if you need to take a shortcut, your options are limited. Of course, I cannot know each listener’s sales cycle, nor can I know what marketing assets you have, but let’s look at an easy example and make just a few assumptions.
First, I will assume you have a list of people that have done business before, and that list has email addresses or phone numbers.
I will also assume your product, service, or information is ready to sell.
Finally, I will assume our conversion is a lead, not a completed sale. Either your sale is completed online without human interaction, or salespeople are handling the closing process. Basically, I will get you good leads, but it is either on your salespeople or your store’s user interface to close the deals.
In this example of 100% free marketing – strike that – advertising, we’re going to increase sales, increase our reach and provide value to our existing customers in a manner that will drive sales immediately.
First, we’ll write a script that we can either use on a call or in an email. Include:
- Personalization: use their name and any reference throughout
- The story of what you’re selling and why
- The story of why it benefits them
- Call to action – Save now, Buy now
- Ask for referrals and incentivize. I like giving away things I would give away anyway or give away something of fair value for the lead.
Wait… what!? Send an email, make a phone call – what about social media? This isn’t marketing. This is a sales call.
This is exactly what marketing is! You can do the exact same thing on social media if you have the right audience.
I was once a guest speaker in a marketing class at a local university. The school partnered with one of the country’s largest supply company’s who leveraged the marketing department for a project or two each year. The company’s pallet recycling business was looking to increase market share. I asked what they were planning to do. They thought they would do some social media outreach and digital ads in trade magazines.
I asked if they had considered reaching out to the world’s largest Amazon distribution plant that just opened about an hour away. Call the facility manager and ask what they do with their pallets. The look on their faces was like – we don’t call people. We’re marketers.
Sales departments usually do cold calling. However, cold calling is a somewhat old marketing – strike that – advertising technique. If you think it doesn’t work, explain all the spam and scam calls you get on your cell phone. It has a negative vibe to it, but you can be sure it works, or no one would do it.
Plus, the caller had credibility from the company and from the university.
Just like you will have credibility with past customers.
If your goal is to sell stuff fast, this will work. I promise. If your goal is to feel awesome that you use social media, you don’t need my help. You can just keep reading all the over-hyped marketing BS and do that.
In the next episode of marketing on a shoestring we will look at building the best foundation for super efficiency and savings.