The Frugal Marketer: Marketing on a Shoestring Budget

With a little creativity, marketing does not have to be costly.

Most small business owners don’t have the resources to launch expensive advertising campaigns to promote their business. Especially if you’re up against big name brands whose ads are all over TV and almost every magazine print ad imaginable. You simply can’t fight fire with fire.

How should small business owners compete, then? Simple. With a little creativity and a lot of resourcefulness, small companies can promote their business even on a shoestring budget.

If you don’t want to spend huge resources on advertising, here are some inexpensive ideas you can use to your advantage:

1.  Develop a promotion kit and use it to its full potential.

Your stationery, envelope, receipt, email, and every other piece of document you use during the regular course of business can be effective promotional tools, if used properly.

So develop a promotional kit that contains your complete contact information, tagline, and a short introduction that explains what your business is all about. This is not only inexpensive, but it is also practical since you already use them for business.

You can even get creative and print the names and phone numbers of your top three customers as references at the back of your promotional materials to build your credibility. Just don’t forget to get their permission beforehand.

2.       Write articles and press releases

Writing is an effective but often under-utilized form of free advertising. By sending out well-written articles to trade magazines, your local newspaper and online media, you are not only promoting your business to those who might see them, you are also developing your reputation as an industry expert.

3.    Exchange your products or services for advertising.

Instead of paying cash for your advertising, why not look for alternative media outfits who will accept your products or services in lieu of payment.

For example, offer local store owners a discount on your services in exchange for some poster space in their store windows. Or, if you own a car wash, give some taxi drivers a free wash every so often in exchange for ads on their taxi roofs.

While this may require some negotiation skills on your part, you can always find a way to reach a fair compromise to help you get the exposure you need.

4.  Celebrate your very own holiday.

Celebrating a holiday made especially for your products or services can generate public interest that can catapult your business in front of local or even national media. Take Shel Horowitz’s International Frugal Fun Day, for example. It paved the way for national media exposure for his book on frugal living and established him as an expert in the topic.

So conceptualize a holiday that can be linked to your business and celebrate it. The key is to find a reason to celebrate. Just don’t forget to promote your holiday to build publicity.

5.   Get your customers to promote your business.Perhaps the best and most cost-effective way to promote your business is by word of mouth. The problem, however, is that most business owners approach this passively, hoping that their customers will promote their products out of goodwill.

Don’t wait for your customers to promote your business. Instead, take a hands-on approach and ask for their referrals. Offer them incentives, such as discounts or freebies after sending a specified number of referrals your way.

Just don’t forget that even with lucrative referral programs, your customers will not promote you if they are not satisfied with your products or service.

6.    Don’t get caught during the holiday rush.

Most small business owners send greeting cards during the holidays to remind customers of their business. While this is essentially a good idea, it is easy for your holiday greetings to get lost in the clutter of greeting cards, leading to wasted dollars.

Instead of sending your greetings during regular holidays, look for other occasions when you will have less competition in your customer’s mailbox. Birthdays, for example, are a good alternative. They are also more personal.

So update your database and identify other occasions when it is appropriate to send your mailing. Just remember to get your customer’s permission to send them mail during these more personal occasions.

The Bottomline

Marketing does not have to be too costly. All you need is a little creativity to find different ways to stretch your advertising dollars effectively. In the end, it all depends on how efficiently you use available resources to make sure that the money you decide to spend on marketing your business will not go to waste.


©Copyright, 2006, John P. Hayes, Ph.D. See my site at Hayes Worldwide.


Profile picture for user John Hayes