Marketing on a Shoestring

Marketing on a Limited Budget


Marketing promotion can be broken into “Above the Line” (television, radio, newspapers & billboard), “Below the Line” (direct mail, PR, customer service, direct selling, telemarketing, trade-shows) and “Through the Line” (website, ad words, search engine optimization, banner ads). The “Line” is a concept rather than a financial amount etc.

While Above the Line advertising can reach a very large number of people it can be untargeted and very expensive for many companies. A well-planned & executed marketing plan through the right channels can deliver both short and long-term benefits to a business. This guide explores how to review and your current marketing spend, and suggests methods to promote your business on a limited marketing budget.

The sections covered are:

  • Review and evaluate your current marketing spend
  • Set clear marketing goals
  • How to attract, win and keep your customers
  • Encourage referrals from existing clients
  • Find new customers
  • Team-up with related businesses (complimentary business’s)
  • Public relations on a budget
  • Use technology to reach your customers

Review and evaluate your current marketing spend

Companies must regularly review their marketing spend and its effectiveness to prove its benefit to the business. This can be done by looking at numerous factors, two are described below:

Last year's figures

Last years spend and sales figures show current performance versus previous year. This gives an insight into market and customer spending trends over time. It is important to watch for peaks & troughs and what caused them such as a previously successful campaign.

Changes in the market

Part of strategic marketing involves monitoring market & competitor changes as this may impact the company’s performance. Marketers should look at these factors to understand how their industry has changed: Buyers, Suppliers, Competitors, Complimentary businesses, Substitutes and New Entrants.

Set clear marketing goals

Setting clear marketing goals will help your business focus on what you want to achieve and act as a 'roadmap'. Objectives could include:

  • Increasing your customer base
  • Developing your brand identity
  • Using greener packaging
  • Distributing your products online

Market research will help you to form a strategy to achieve your objectives. Setting SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) will help you focus you research & marketing efforts even more.

How to attract, win and keep your customers

To maximise your marketing spend, you must satisfy current customers, attract new customers and encourage past customers to begin buying again. There are many ways to do this, one way is to identify your Unique Selling Point (USP) and use it to you advantage. For example, do you have a distribution method competitors lack or are you the only one of your competitors with an online presence?

There are many ways to communicate with customers, such as:

  • Talk to your customers and focus on their needs and wants
  • Be specific, honest and clear about what you can offer
  • Keep in touch - send email updates or newsletters
  • Get to know your competitors and what they are offering

There are many ways to creatively sell to customers, such as:

  • Encourage customers to 'buy now' by offering lower prices for immediate purchases
  • Use coupons or e-vouchers that are easy and cheap to design & distribute
  • Reward customers with loyalty schemes
  • Ensure your staff are motivated & aware of your customers’ needs and your products & services.

Encourage referrals from existing clients

According to current trust barometers, customers trust each other less than messages from companies. Referrals, testimonials & recommendations from satisfied customers are a great way of getting new customers.

Find new customers

It is important to attract new customers; here are some ways to do it:

  • Let potential new customers know who you are and what you offer
  • Make your first impressions positive
  • Position yourself as a leader next to your competition by offering better quality products, superior service, convenience or a wider product range.

Cooperate with related businesses

You can attract new customers through cooperation with a business related to, but not in direct competition with you. For example a plastering company and local decorators or a women’s fashion boutique with a maternity wear store. Only choose a reputable company to cooperate with.

Public relations on a budget

Public relations are designed to raise awareness of your brand, company or product. When executed well, it can be a cheaper and more effective alternative to advertising.

Some cost-effective ways to promote your business are:

  • Join relevant professional or social groups and attend networking sessions
  • Issue a press release to local or regional newspapers
  • Take part in business competitions to win awards
  • Promote yourself as an expert to local media, write an article or start a blog.
  • Volunteer to speak at meetings or seminars related to your field.
  • Relaunch your website, shop or product/service
  • Include your brand imagery on the side of you delivery/sales fleet
  • Get involved in charity, host an event on your premises & invite the media
  • Get involved with the community & fundraising - try fundraising or offer your product or service as a competition prize

Use technology to reach your customers

When used correctly, technology & online channels can be a low cost & effective method of marketing:

Email marketing

If you have an email database, e-newsletters are cheap/free method. If your database contains demographic data such as customer’s age, address, buying habits etc, you can tailor your messaging to them.

Text marketing

Targeting customers via mobile phone SMS messages can be an inexpensive marketing tool when used appropriately.

Social networking

Many businesses are already promoting themselves for free using social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. With a well-developed page, videos, competitions and content, this can really draw in a lot of attention.

Internet blogs

If you're an expert in your field you can highlight this by offering advice or opinions on an Internet blog. Blogs also tend to get high rankings from Internet search engines, making it easier for potential customers to find out information about your business online.

by Robert Farrell