Marketing without Money by Mark Cadbury

In these times of economic distress, many businesses are being forced to make cuts to their budgets and marketing is often one of the first to ‘feel the knife’ .

Whilst I would never recommend to my clients that they cut back on their marketing budget in a recession – there are so many great deals available in the media now and others are cutting back so they will have a bigger ‘share of voice’ for their money, I am aware that others may be forced to cut back heavily on their marketing budget. Even if you have to do this, it does not mean that you also need to cut back on your marketing activities. Marketing is paramount in these times of economic distress and those businesses that keep marketing will be amongst the first and fittest to emerge when the recession draws to an end.

How then can you keep your marketing efforts alive despite a dwindling fund or add additional marketing strategies without spending any more money?

There are many marketing initiatives available that are free of cost or have a minimal cash outlay with a relatively high return that small businesses can effectively employ to remain competitive.

Here are nine such techniques that can help you survive and thrive through the present tough times.

1. Networking – Networking with local business groups, local ‘service’ groups such as Round Table, Lions, Rotary etc, or even at your children’s school or your church etc. can be a great marketing technique that costs, at worst, a little and very often does not cost a thing.

2. Referral policy – Ask your existing customers to recommend you to a friend and, if necessary, give them some form of reward (high perceived value to them, low cost to you) for doing this.

3. Targeted Direct Mail – A carefully written letter sent to a targeted list and then followed up to increase response rate can work wonders for your business.

4. “A” Board – An “A” board in front of your premises costs very little, but depending on where you are, can be seen by hundreds if not thousands of potential customers a day.

5. Improved Signage – Improve your signage to cover the services you offer and make it more eye catching. Ensure it can be seen from all directions.

6. Marketing Collateral – Leaflets promoting all your services sent out with invoices or direct to your customer base is a cost-effective marketing technique – the stamp and envelope are already paid for – all you need to do is pay for the leaflet.

7. Email Newsletters – While it can cost a bit to set up a template, email newsletters come with only a small cost to use as long as you have the time to write the content yourself. Obviously, there is no postage associated and these can be free to send.

8. Free Poster Sites – If you run vehicles and don’t use them to promote your business, you are neglecting a free poster site.

9. Internet/Online Marketing: There are a plethora of free/low cost options available online, such as blogs, social media, membership communities like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. where you can market your products and services. YouTube can be used effectively to demonstrate your product and with the help of social media tools, these videos can reach a newer, wider audience.

It is important to remember that axing your marketing budget does not mean that you also minimize your marketing initiatives. The biggest mistake businesses make during a recession is to cut down on their marketing activities. Using these free, low cost marketing techniques will help your company stay afloat during these tumultuous times.