Many business owners would give their left arm to have the same brand recognition as Oprah, Microsoft, McDonald's, Starbucks or Amazon.com. But you don't need the marketing budgets of these behemoths to promote your company and get your piece of the pie. A creative approach to self-promotion will put you face to face with your prospects and, properly executed, can help you become a well-known name.
The first step is to focus your marketing efforts - otherwise known as target marketing. A topic that has nearly been discussed to death, target marketing is essential for just about every company, no matter how large or small. You don't see advertisements for Oprah's show on ESPN because that's not her target market. And while a household name like McDonald's appeals to almost everyone, their advertising efforts tend to be targeted toward specific marketing trends. Their latest marketing campaign is focused on the youth market that, these days, have much more of their own money to spend than the youth market of yesteryear.
If you are faced with a limited marketing budget, you must be creative and persistent in your efforts. Here are a few ideas that are alternatives to the more traditional, higher-priced marketing approaches that will get your company some exposure and won't break your budget.
We're all familiar with print, radio and television advertising. And as the innovations of cable and the Internet have become more prominent in our lives, infomercials, banner ads and other Internet advertising avenues have been added to the mix. However, if you really want to connect with your target market, getting out and meeting them through networking is probably the best way to do it.
Joining professional organizations such as your local chamber of commerce or civic organizations such as your area Rotary club will put you in touch with the movers and shakers of your community. These people are likely to become colleagues that you can learn from as you watch them grow professionally and you watch your company grow as well. And while they may be able to connect you with potential clients and opportunities, you should approach these relationships prepared to give without motive. If you join these organizations with a "what's in it for me?" attitude, you will likely be spotted as such and left out in the cold.
Partnerships and Sponsorships:
Another great way to not only get your name in front of your prospects, but also learn more about them, is through partnerships and sponsorships.
When a community is unfamiliar with your company or organization, one of the easiest ways to build trust is through a partnership with a more established and successful company. But keep in mind you're going to need to be offering a product or service that is so useful to their customer base that your partner is willing to risk their reputation by endorsing you. If you don't partner with a well-established firm, at least partner with a non-competitor that offers services similar to yours. If you sell shoes, and your partner company sells mortgages, that won't make sense to the customer and will raise their suspicion of you.
Supporting community and civic organizations through sponsorship is another way to reach your audience. Your efforts can range from the local little league baseball team to a fundraiser for any sort of worthy cause. From the local chapter of the American Heart Association to an organization that raises money for any needy population in the area - abused women and children, the homeless, the mentally ill, disaster victims, etc. - this is a two-for-one opportunity for your company. A chance for you to satisfy your civic conscience by getting involved with that organization that you've always wanted to volunteer with, and you get exposure for your company at the same time.
A Trade Show on the Cheap:
Trade shows are the ultimate in target and network marketing. But when you begin to calculate the cost of you trade show display, the fees for attending the show, the cost of travel to the show, hotel accommodations and the cost of someone to run the booth, you may be ready to scratch this marketing tool off of your list.
But trade show attendance is crucial to building brand recognition and getting ideas from colleagues and competitors. One area where you can curb your trade show attendance is in the price of the trade show display. But be careful - your exhibit will say a lot about you and your company; you want to save money, but not at the expense of quality. Most companies offer low-cost trade show display options, such as table top displays. They are easily transported and assembled, and typically range between four and eight feet in size. While the more elaborate custom trade show displays can cost several thousands of dollars, you can purchase the table top versions for only a few hundred dollars.
Above and Beyond Customer Service:
Before you roll your eyes, because we've all heard the speech about providing outstanding customer service, keep in mind that these days excellent customer service is an experience that is few and far between. Everyone talks about it, but nobody's doing it. So, why don't you be one of the few who actually walk the talk? Ask for customer feedback - and actually act on the feedback you're given. Do something extra for the customers who do a lot of business with you. Recognize and thank your customers during the holiday season. Look for other opportunities to extend beyond the customer's expectations, because going the extra mile is an investment in your company's future success.
Economical marketing can be easily achieved - it just requires some innovation and concentrated effort. Start with these ideas and others are sure to come forth - and then you can expand your budget to include more traditional marketing if you want.