One of life's many ironies is that you need a solid marketing budget when economic times require you (and everyone else) to tighten the purse strings. To be effective, marketing requires the right mix of reach and frequency - or to put it in layman's terms, a series of ads in the right mix of media (print, radio, TV, web-based, social media, etc.) supported by direct marketing (mailers, brochures, email campaigns) and public relations. Traditional marketing/promotional campaigns can be expensive. However, challenging times can be a great catalyst for innovative thinking. Here are a few tactics to reach potential clients without spending a lot, though most do require some investment of your time.
- Think highly targeted. It makes no sense to conduct campaigns with a wide sweep - finding qualified leads this way just costs too much. Determine who might be your most likely customers and think of the most direct way to reach them when they might be in a buying mood. For example, if you run an agency providing temporary staff to businesses, review local papers, professional organizations' news and e-letters and trade journals to find out if neighboring companies have hired or promoted senior HR/personnel executives. Your tactics here might include a card of congratulations followed up with information on your services and a brief phone call to introduce yourself and your firm. If you offer catering services, review the local announcements of engagements and pending marriages, send congratulations along with a tempting list of menu options and an invitation to a tasting party you host for brides and grooms.
- Look for community events or expos where you can showcase your products and meet prospective clients without spending a lot of money. For example, an upcoming health fair might present a chiropractor or physical therapist with the chance to provide complimentary treatment demos to inform potential new clients about innovative treatments for sports injuries or repetitive stress injuries. The event offers the chance to compile a targeted mailing list (email and mail) and the means to send offers to interested parties.
- Community relations can be an effective way to get your name out to potential customers. If you provide personal services - whether it be hair styling or debt counseling - consider celebrating your firm's anniversary by donating services to certain respected institutions (like a halfway house or a shelter for victims of domestic violence) to support their clients' new beginnings. In return, your firm gets appropriate recognition in the institutions' newsletters, web-based communications and annual reports that reach neighborhood leaders. If the institution seeks press coverage, it's even better. However, to keep the tone of philanthropy apart from commercialism, it is best if the beneficiary (or another third party) contacts the media. Have a concise fact sheet about your business prepared and in the hands of the institution's director for inclusion with their press materials.
- Of course, no list of ideas would be complete without reference to Twitter or other social media. Don't be afraid to encourage followers on Twitter or Facebook so that you can send out updates, money-saving offers or tantalizing tips to current and potential fans. Use your web presence and your business cards to encourage them to follow you.