No-to-Low Budget Bootcamp Pt1

Bootcamp is probably not the best term for this post. One, I haven’t had a lot of time to post lately and today is no different. Two, I’m hardly one to espouse advice on what does and does not work as far as marketing goes. My successes have been well tempered and often failures, but I think many of the ideas are still valid, worth sharing and may help you come up with variations or improvements.

Shotgun Marketing

First off, there is no magic marketing bullet. You are not going to start on Twitter today and be overrun with customers tomorrow. A flyer drop this week does not mean you’ll be swamped next week. If you’re a small business and just starting with low or no cost marketing, you have to focus on the long tail. You should and will try many different avenues, techniques and tactics to attract attention and drive customers to your door. Do NOT sink all of your budget or time into one single avenue. If it does not work, you are fucked and have no means of trying something else.

The goal of shotgun marketing is to spend time and money on several avenues without spending too much time or money on any single avenue. Instead of one magic bullet, you’re firing hundreds of pellets in the direction of the target and seeing what hits. For each avenue, you are able to see what works and what doesn’t and adjust your focus to spend resources on the paths that work and stop with the things that don’t. This does not mean you’ll never experiment again with things that didn’t work this time around. If anything, you have a little more knowledge and can execute better the next time, but with some skepticism.

With that being said, some things are not readily measured (yet) and may not appear to be doing much for a while. Twitter may not show any direct result for ages, or ever, but without being there, you’re missing out on the conversation altogether. It’s not a direct marketing type of thing, so you don’t see direct ties to the bottom line.

WOM

If you have a great product or provide a great service (or cheaper, or faster, pick two of the three as the old axiom says), and consistently deliver what you promise, it stands to reason that in good time, you will attain a solid level of Word-of-Mouth advertising.  Keep in mind this works both ways though. Piss a customer off and they’ll tell everyone they know.

Social Media

Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and a slough of others. There are many ways to utilize these services in ways that can benefit your business and many ways to get ignored forever online. I’m not going to give a full breakdown on how to best utilize any of these networks as there are plenty of others that have written about them far better than I ever could. The biggest thing to keep in mind? You would never walk into a cocktail party and introduce yourself with the line, “Today only! Super deal on widgets and widget installations! Tell all your friends!”. Just because you’re online, doesn’t give you the right to act like a douche canoe. Build relationships, respond to criticisms and contribute to the conversation. The internet is not a free, flyer delivery system, so don’t treat it like one.

If you’re lucky, your customers are talking about you online and you have the opportunity to take part in the conversation, but only if you are there to hear them.

For some good reads on using social media, check out Unmarketing by Scott Stratten, The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuck and Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.

Networking

Chamber of Commerce, Toastmasters, local business associations, online industry meetups, industry conferences, the grocery store. Get out there and meet others, and just like social media, you’re there to build relationships, not sell.

Doorknocking

I don’t necessarily mean you should go door to door and sell stuff, but rather, think of businesses that compliment yours and ways you could work together for mutual benefit. If you sell kitchen cabinets, then find someone that sells tiles, someone that does kitchen renovations, home builders and the like, and go knock on their door. Ask to see some of their work so you can recommend them to your clients that ask. Ask them to keep you in mind when their clients ask about cabinets.

An amazing number of people will let their business fail before doing this. It’s uncomfortable, and can seem socially awkward. But again, it is about building relationships, not selling. If you’re driving business to someone else, in most cases they will try to reciprocate and if you work together, both businesses can benefit greatly.

Leaving it there for now…

There’s a lot more I could write on this, and will at some point, but I’m out of time for now. I’m not even proofing this before posting. I’ll add more later and revise this one if need be.

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