Two terms are becoming more and more familiar to small business owners these days: “grassroots marketing” and “guerilla marketing.” Although different in concept, both utilize limited resources in creative and unconventional ways to market a company’s products or services. Even in good economic times, small businesses often do not have the resources to compete with the advertising and marketing efforts of their larger competitors, so grassroots and guerilla marketing become a necessity rather than a conscious choice.
You can’t do better than free, so consider your no cost options first. Word of mouth is certainly an important ingredient in a recipe for marketing success, and it costs you nothing. The concept has been around for centuries, but in today’s technology-saturated market, word of mouth has far greater potential. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and other social networking sites offer endless marketing opportunities limited only by your imagination. Using your circle of influence to tout your marketing message should be a no-brainer. With a bit of luck, your campaign may go viral and propel your business into an overnight success.
Chances are you will need to let go of a little cash, but before doing so, give serious thought to return on investment (ROI). What will increase your lunch business the most – hiring a sign spinner to work the corner from 11:00 to 1:00 each day or taking out a quarter page ad in the Sunday paper? Generally speaking, it is better to spend $500 to reach 100 people who are truly good prospects for your products and services than to reach 1000 people who may or may not be. Sending a direct mail coupon to 50,000 homes in Miami may be good if you own a breakfast diner, but not so great if you own a tattoo and piercing parlor. When cash resources are limited, you need to be sure every dollar you spend reaches a true prospect.
The exchange of “in kind” products and services can be a small business owner’s best friend. Don’t have the cash for that full color brochure? How about exchanging your accounting services with the local printer? This type of exchange can be made for the rental of office space to spa services and everything in between. Remember that story about the California teenager who started with an old cell phone and kept trading up until he scored himself a Porsche? Now that’s creative bartering, and it can be an invaluable tool in making a small marketing budget go a long way.
Just because you have little to no marketing budget doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be marketing. Get creative and be bold. You may just be surprised by the results.