Creative Ideas For Smaller Budgets

While marketing topics are seemingly endless, I wanted to hear what topics were top of mind for small business owners so I posted a link on Peter Shankman’s Help a Reporter Out (HARO).  I have received numerous responses and a common theme – especially in today’s economic climate – is how do I market my business without a marketing budget?

Social sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube etc can certainly help.  Email marketing is also a great tool. Word-of-Mouth is incredibly powerful.  And we’ll discuss those in more detail in future posts.

In the mean time to market yourself in a way that doesn’t require much money you have to be creative and take advantage of your resources.

When I worked with a poker chip company the best point of difference was the chips themselves.  They were actual clay chips not the composite ones.  You could tell the difference the minute felt the chip in your hands.  The client didn’t have a huge marketing budget, but they did have an endless supply of chips.  

The solution:  We printed a unique URL (so we could track the success of this program) on stickers which we then adhered to the back of the poker chips.  We then would leave single chips in bars, casinos,poker tournaments, retail stores where other chips were sold – pretty much anywhere our target audience frequented.  

The result:  We generated almost $900,000 in revenue from a program that cost less than $100.

Another idea is finding someone like Jason Sadler who offers “the top part” of his wardrobe to promote your business.  Sadler of I Wear Your Shirt sells himself to advertisers and his rate increases a dollar a day.  If you want him to wear your shirt on January 1, it will cost you $1.  January 2, it will cost $2, etc.  He then posts photos on Flickr, provides status updates on Facebook and Twitter and even posts videos and podcasts on YouTube.  All you do is choose your day and send him a shirt.

Contests are another great ways to generate awareness.

A few years ago, an Atlanta furniture store hosted the ugliest couch contest where the winner received a new couch.  The new couch cost them nothing, but the PR it garnered was incredible.

Threadless builds awareness by having monthly t-shirt design contests and then turning the winning design into t-shirts they sell on the site.

Another idea is advertise where there aren’t currently ads.  

Remember when you got your first Starbucks with that cardboard “collar” around it and how it quickly became an ad venue?    Who would have thought that individuals would wrap their cars to become rolling billboards?    And ads in a bar’s restroom?   When people first looked to these as ad tactics, they were very inexpensive and people noticed.

We will certainly visit this topic throughout the year, but the key to working with small or non-existent budgets is being creative.  Anyone can market with large budgets, but being able to make small budgets work demonstrates the ability to market smarter.

If you have other ideas please post them here so that everyone can learn from your experience.


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