7 Tips for Marketing Your Business on a Shoestring

Whether you’re the Chief Marketing Officer of a global multinational, a volunteer helping raise awareness for a local charity or running your own small business, we’ve all seen the power and reach of smart marketing done well. We all wish we’d come up with the Old Spice ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ campaign or been the first to post a video of our office doing the Harlem Shake.

The reality is that customers’ expectations of companies are changing. It’s less about being talked at and more about being part of the conversation. This shift has been a great leveller for small businesses, it’s enabled the Davids of this world to compete with Goliath, but it’s also forced Goliath to start to think more like a small business. Effective marketing is a key to the success for anyone, despite the size and nature of the business.

We all love the passion, drive and creative problem solving that comes from smaller entrepreneurial businesses – so what can be learnt from this type of marketing?

It’s a question made much more interesting by the economic climate. Where marketing budgets have been squeezed businesses have to think smarter. We regularly see great examples from savvy brands leading the way with more creative and budget-effective solutions for the marketing strategy. With that in mind here is a roundup of The Nurture Network’s favourite marketing-on-a-shoestring examples:

Marketing Tip 1. Get to grips with marketing collaboration
Loads of entrepreneurial businesses join forces to do marketing together. Why? Because collaboration can be one of the most effective and cost-efficient activities to grow a business. They promote each other, feature in each other’s marketing communications – creating mutually valuable exchanges.

The key to making this work is about finding a business with similar customers and values. Sites like BrandGathering make this easy – sign up to the online community and you can search for other businesses to collaborate with.

Marketing Tip 2. Use your brand to tell a story
Some of the most loved brands on the planet started out with little or no marketing budget. Think Innocent or Ella’s Kitchen. They pumped all their energy into developing a magnetic brand that shines – one that Adam Morgan in ‘Eating Big Fish’ would call a ‘Lighthouse Identity’.

My advice is that by creating a brand with an identifiable personality and story, you can succeed in building a loyal following – the kind that sticks with that brand, even when cheaper copy-cats appear. This is a win-win marketing strategy. A following that spreads the word for you – negating the need to spend lots of money on marketing because the brand love is spreading anyway.

Marketing Tip 3. Content is king but it doesn’t need to cost you a king’s ransom!
This is a slightly contradictory example but it makes a point; only a few years ago you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing a Red Bull ‘Gives You Wings’ advert. Now, Red Bull has become the master of content marketing. Their support of extreme sports has found them a new and engaged audience but has also generated an endless supply of high-quality content their community is desperate to talk about. Yes of course they pump millions into this strategy…so how can this approach be replicated on a shoestring?

Relatively easily is the answer. Social media offers just one channel to share fun Instagram photos, video clips from your smartphone or interesting facts. This type of creative content is one of the most valuable marketing tips. Think more widely about other brands, organisations or publishers and their need for content. Is there an opportunity for you to spread your brand message by contributing and collaborating?

Marketing Tip 4. Use every opportunity to spread your message
As a business you get chances every day to connect with your customers, but are you taking full advantage? This may sound obvious but I reckon 50% of you haven’t done it yet! Clever businesses implementing clever marketing use every asset they have to spread the message – bags, vans, themselves…. Lacking in the usual £2million budget needed to buy effective outdoor media. Sofa.com wrapped every van they had (and needed for operational reasons) with humorous adverts – bringing a smile to the face of potential consumers that read them.

Business stationery suppliers Moo have revolutionised how a B2B business can use compelling branding. Their friendly brand talks you through their simple online ordering process making the whole experience a breeze – every email comes from their endearing ‘Little Moo print robot’. It is a simple business necessity, but their emails leave an impression. As a start, think about what your email signature or LinkedIn profile says about you.

Marketing Tip 5. Make your customer service personal
To win against bigger brands or simply to stand out from the crowd you need to be outstanding – and one of the key areas where you can gain a competitive advantage is customer service. The most successful businesses are nimble, and in tune with their customers’ needs. When something goes wrong, it’s the core business team that usually deals with it, making the solution personal and customer-focused.

Younger, smaller brands intrinsically understand that creating a great brand is about creating a great customer experience at every point in the customer journey.

Marketing Tip 6. Engage with customers – don’t shout at them
There’s a time and place for targeted communications, but static direct mail-outs to bought lists and cold calls are a thing of the nineties and risk doing more damage than good. Rather than shouting at strangers, talk to loyal followers.

Why do start-ups have a better grasp of this? Because their marketing strategy is based on it from the start. Assuming that they started life in the last 5-10 years, they naturally use Facebook and Twitter as a way to talk, listen and engage with customers. Look at Will King and King of Shaves – a CEO who talks with his customers every single day and exploits every opportunity for viral videos and cheeky marketing.

Marketing Tip 7. Never miss a chance to generate your next sale
Nothing beats word of mouth when it comes to encouraging new people to try your brand: 92 percent of people trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of marketing when making a purchase decision, and according to Nielsen’s latest study  this is up nearly 20 percent since 2007.

If a product or service is being bought you have the opportunity to encourage repeat purchase there and then, and incentivise that customer to tell others. Healthy snacks company Graze does a great job with their effective marketing of this – with every box delivered including unique codes to give customers’ friends a free box in reward for £1 off your next box – simple and effective. Take every opportunity to incentivise your existing clients to share your message and reward their loyalty. Keep them engaged and coming back for more.