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Marketing on a budget
Many business owners put off beginning to market their business until sales increase. While this may make perfect sense to an accountant, it is more often than not a poor choice for a business owner to make because until something is done to increase the sales they will usually stay where they are or decrease.
It can often be difficult for established companies to set aside the time and financial resources necessary to effectively market their company, and it can seem impossible for a fairly new company. You can solve half of this equation almost immediately by hiring a professional marketing company. Now you just need to figure out where to find the financial resources to complete the other half of the equation. This can be accomplished with a little bit of research. There are many reputable marketing companies out there that will be willing to work with a company that may have limited financial resources but under the circumstances you will need to be realistic with your expectations.
Most marketing companies probably won't be willing to offer you extended billing terms. They have to cover themselves financially and if you are unable to make the investment now they may feel that you will be unable to pay them in the future. You may have to work with them for a while before they will be willing to offer you any sort of extended billing terms. Don't take it personally - you don't expect to walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of groceries and then pay next week. Until your marketing company is comfortable with the situation you shouldn't expect any different. If you don't have the resources available to invest in your marketing then you may want to consider taking out a personal loan from your bank or using credit cards.
Some of the marketing companies that you approach may be willing to reduce the price of their services to help you get started. If this option is available to you, it can make a significant difference in what you can accomplish with a particular sum of money. There are some things to consider in this scenario. If you are paying reduced rates you should expect that the marketing company may not be able or willing to meet with you and take your calls at times that are convenient to you. By offering lower rates they may need to fit you in when they are able to. Most will also not offer extended billing terms for clients that are already getting reduced rates.
If you've gone through all of the marketing companies but have been unable to find one that you felt comfortable with and would work with your situation, then you may be forced (at least temporarily) to handle it yourself. This is still a workable situation - you'll just have to be creative and put a little more time into it. Below are some tips to stretch your marketing dollars.
1. Produce a co-op brochure or direct mail piece. You can collaborate with other companies related to your business but in non-competing niches. For example, if you own a restaurant that specializes in authentic Mexican cuisine, you could find a grocery store that specializes in Mexican foods and produce a brochure or direct mail piece with them. This would cut your cost in half and allow you to expand your exposure, you would both benefit from a similar clientele, and you could both immediately benefit from each other's existing customers.
2. Offer to volunteer your services in exchange for recognition. If you owned a catering company you could offer to cater a networking event in exchange for them mentioning your company in their handouts. You now have the opportunity to market your company to all of the attendees of the event.
3. Offer to do a Q & A session to the public on a local talk radio channel. They usually discuss various subjects throughout the course of their radio program and many companies have used this to their advantage. A mortgage broker using this method of marketing would quickly be established as a local expert and would remain in their prospects minds since they would hear them at least once each week.
4. Offer a contest to create a buzz about your business. A great contest for a car dealership would be to offer contestants the compete to win a car by simply putting there hand on a part of the car and not allowing them to move it. As the contestants become fatigued they will move their hand from the car, becoming disqualified. The last person remaining wins the car. Many car dealerships have used (and continue to use) this method with much success because people will usually jump at the chance to win a car and it's the sort of thing people talk about.
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