Advertising is big business -- and it gets bigger every year. Global advertising spendhas exceeded half a trillion dollarsannually since 2016, and brands are projected to spend more than $560 billion in 2019.
In an increasingly global economy where competition is fierce and consumer loyalty is fleeting, creating demand is a top priority for most brands. But if you’re a small business with a limited marketing budget, how are you supposed to get the attention of consumers or take market share from competitors with deeper pockets?
As it turns out, there are plenty of ways to do that. Successful marketing can certainly be amplified by a big budget, but it doesn’t depend on one. The truth is that good marketing always contains one key element that entrepreneurs tend to have in abundance and many big brands wish they had more of creativity.
Compensate With Creativity
Reaching the right consumers is critical if your budget is limited. “Small brands with big ideas can do little to no advertising, relying instead on creative below-the-line tactics (like influencer marketing, experiential events, seeding products, and others), to break into the market,” says Mary Lee Sachs, co-founder, and CEO of Brandpie, a brand, and creative consultancy. “This way, when an entrepreneur spots a need in society for a new product, he or she doesn’t need millions of dollars to get the idea off the ground and into the right consumers’ hands.”
While category leaders typically develop campaigns aimed at reaching as many people as possible, small businesses and startups should focus on reaching highly targeted niche audiences. Grassroots marketing efforts on social media can allow you to insert your brand into relevant conversations organically, but social media isn’t your only outlet.
Use the following three tactics to drive awareness and build credibility with potential customers without putting your business in a financial sinkhole.
1. Bring the buzz to you.
In-person events bring people together and create opportunities for memorable interactions with customers. There are many different types of event marketing, but in general, you want to use events as a way to deliver value to audiences. This could be in the form of entertainment or education, and the latter is especially valuable if your product is hard to understand.
Docker, which offers a software platform that lets developers create and run apps on different operating systems, knew that its product wasn’t all that fun to talk about or easy for customers to grasp. So in 2017, at its annual at DockerCon developer conference, it unveiled a unique product demo called Docker Dash. Docker Dash gave attendees a video-game style simulation of the product and made them “players,” challenging them to create an app together and solve a variety of fun puzzles. The event created a buzz that continued long after attendees went home. While Docker likely has a nice chunk of change in its marketing budget, the company’s gamification approach is in reach of marketing departments with fewer financial resources.
2. Don’t go it alone.
There are probably brands in other industries that you respect and admire. Why not tell them? Chances are, you could help them -- and they could help you, too. Joint marketing allows partner companies to increase their visibility, ward off competition, and reduce overall marketing costs. No doubt that’s why it’s a tactic used by some of the world’s most successful brands.
You can even partner with your customers to create a referral program that incentivizes positive word-of-mouth marketing. Back in 2006, Google wanted to spread the word about G Suite, its newly released suite of productivity and collaboration tools. Customers willing to help were paid $15 in cash for each new user that signed up through their referral links. You don’t need the resources of Google to pull that off, though. For instance, the Morning Brew newsletter offers readers gifts such as a free beer glass in exchange for getting a few friends to sign up.
3. Get your name in the press.
For companies looking to gain traction or build credibility before a funding round, PR is an essential component of marketing. A good PR initiative will help you define your brand and build relationships that can benefit you far into the future. Think your brand would benefit from some positive coverage in national magazines and major online publications? On HARO (an acronym for “Help A Reporter Out”), brands can register for free and respond to relevant media queries.
For instance, JobRack founder Neil Napier and his team have used HARO to build exposure by submitting pitches to journalists who send out calls for sources on a particular topic. When signing up for HARO, you can select different topic areas that make the most sense for your industry. While you’ll need to devote some time to monitor reporter inquiries that show up in your inbox and fostering relationships with reporters who have contacted you previously, this approach is otherwise free for you. By taking full advantage of HARO, you can boost your marketing reach without significantly increasing your spend.
Marketing on a limited budget isn’t impossible. With a little creativity and a focus on the tactics above, any business can go from unknown to unstoppable. And when that happens, your budget problem disappears.