PR on a shoestring

Contributor - Dee Blick

A woman holds up a sign saying support local business

Are you shying away from marketing because you don't have a big promotional budget? Marketing can be done on a shoestring budget and small steps can bring big rewards, as Dee Blick of the Marketing Gym reveals

Marketing your business is not all about spending money. What you need is creative ideas and a can-do approach in order to promote your business - not loads of cash.

Get out of your comfort zone

Push out from your comfort zone and market your business in ways that you have shied away from. Shrinking violets will not grab the spotlight and attract the attention of potential customers. So, if you find yourself saying, "I don't do early-morning networking because I'm not a morning person," or "You won't get me speaking in front of an audience", replace these statements with "This year, I'm going to give it a good try."

When the BBC initially approached me to film a television programme, my first reaction was to say "No way" - the idea of being filmed over three-and-a-half days filled me with dread! However, when I really thought about the benefits that television exposure could bring to my business, I knew that my answer had to be "Yes" and I forced myself to leave my comfort zone.

Dedicate time to marketing

Give yourself time to market your business. The general principle behind small business marketing is that rather than spending huge sums of money, you invest your time, passion and energy instead. If you can spend one day a month on marketing, you'll be off to a good start. This could initially mean doing your marketing in the evenings or at the weekends. Don't shy away from this - grab your diary and book in those marketing slots now.

Use social media marketing. Setting up a Facebook or Twitter profile is free and it is time, not money, is what will eventually bring results. Spending a few minutes each day allows you to engage with customers and influencers world-wide, build an online personality and reputation and let people know about your business, products and services.

Be creative with your marketing

Invest in a flipchart pad and some colourful pens and write down every marketing idea you come up with. Your list could include a wide range of free or low-cost marketing methods - publicity stunts, sponsorship opportunities, social media marketing. Okay, you're not going to commit to all of them, but when you allow yourself time to think creatively you will be amazed at the ideas that crop up. Step back from the day-to-day running of the business and allow your creative juices to flow. Without a shadow of a doubt, some of your best ideas will come in these moments.

Be consistent and tenacious

Marketing your business should not be like turning a tap on and off. In both good times and challenging times you need to market your business and to continue communicating to existing and potential customers. Don't dip in and out of marketing activities - results will come in thick and fast if you commit to marketing for the long haul.

Work out the return on investment of your marketing

Don't part with a penny on any marketing activity until you've done your sums. When you are offered an opportunity to market your business, whether through advertising, e-marketing, direct mail or networking, perform a very simple exercise. Write down how much the activity is going to cost you, and how much business you will need to bring in to make it pay for itself. If the figures staring back at you are pie-in-the-sky, then passing on the opportunity is the sensible answer.

In my experience, the biggest marketing mistake a small business owner can make is to commit to marketing activities that on the face of it look fantastic, but which offer little real potential to achieve a cost-effective return. Do those sums before you say yes!

Double-check the demand

Before you start to market your products or services to your target audience, ask yourself the following question: "What is the real need that I am satisfying, and has that need changed in the current economic climate?" Always remember that people buy from you because they have a need for what you offer. Don't overlook the fact that these needs may have changed in the current economic climate. By asking yourself this question, you can go on to develop meaningful, relevant and powerful messages that will grab attention.

Written by Dee Blick of the Marketing Gym.

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