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Affordable marketing techniques that pack a punch

We see global brands like Nike with full-page magazine ads and highly produced TV commercials that don’t sell a specific product. These ads where the runner talks about spirit and competition but never mentions the shoes.

These adverts are just there to get the name or brand out there.

We assume this is the best example of modern marketing and try to follow in their footsteps when marketing our own businesses.

Unfortunately, spending a fortune getting our name out there when no-one knows what our name means as yet, is an easy way to spend lots of money without getting any return in sales.

These brand-building exercises are useful to a global brand that can’t market all of its products. These are also the only marketing tools available to these companies because they need to market on a global scale. The more affordable and more tactical options are not available to them.

Fortunately, smaller businesses can take a far more tactical approach and get a whole lot more return than the big brands can for every dollar they spend in marketing.

Smaller businesses have far more options available to them and are usually closer to their market.

These tools will help you get the most return on your marketing spend. 

1. Speak their language

You need to understand which is the most likely group of people to buy your products.

While it’s true that anyone can be a customer, it’s also true that targeting vegetarians with your new beef patty is going to be an uphill battle. There might be some lady might who would buy it for her husband, but what are the odds of that compared to targeting those that walk into a speciality barbeque store.

Your target market also speaks a specific language, whether it’s because of their age, location or a different mother tongue.

Your brand also speaks a certain language. Try and reach out to your target market in a language they find familiar but be careful not to lose your brand in the process.

Certain brands have an aspirational effect. You want your suits to reflect a specific mature image even if you are targeting young people that just entered the job market. They want to aspire to a mature brand even if they speak in a more youthful way.

Don’t try to be hip just to sell a few more suits and alienate your current customer base in the process.

2. Create a loyalty program

Big brands love loyalty programs to collect loads of data on their customers. It was previously only available to large companies but it is now affordable to buy and off the shelf system for a smaller business.

Even a simple one that merely gives our customers back a percentage of all their purchases in vouchers will entice them to shop more often. Think about it – if you have points on our card for ten bucks, you are more likely to go back to the store to redeem those points and will inevitably end up buying for another 100 bucks.

You’ll then leave the store with another five bucks worth of points which will cause you to return to the store in a never-ending cycle.

People also love collecting points, which is another easy way to get them to remain loyal.

You’ll also be able to collect basic information about them like their mobile phone numbers or email addresses, which you can use to send them specials cheaply. After all, the most likely customer of your store is one who has bought from you before.

3. Local sponsorships

Sponsoring a local team can be an incredibly affordable way to get your brand into a local market. This is doing what the big brands do on a local level.

Most local sports teams really struggle to make ends meet. Paying for trips to away teams and equipment usually becomes a huge burden.

You can sponsor the local junior soccer team where most people will know your business in town. This will create an incredible amount of goodwill with the locals that support their home team. Parents will even support your store just because you supported there child’s soccer team.

It is usually not expensive to provide a local school team with a sports kit. This will go a long way to helping them and not cost you all that much.

4. Samples & tests

There is a psychological reciprocity that happens when we take something from someone that makes us feel as if we owe them something. This happens even when it’s a free sample of deli meat or a test drive of that new car.

This connection between customers is also much stronger when it comes to smaller businesses as we don’t feel as though we owe big business anything.  It’s also challenging for large companies to manage samples and tests without being exploited but relatively simple for smaller businesses.

Once we tasted or tried something, we also feel as if we owned it even if it was only for a few moments. We have crossed the boundary from not having something to having something.

Going back to not having it feels like we lost something even though we never owned it in the first place. Our brains tell us that we gave something up and we are willing to pay to get it back.

5. Guerilla marketing

This is a concept of using unconventional methods to create a buzz or interest in your product that far outweighs the cost.

In 2010 Universal Studios created massive footprints on a Santa Monica beach to give the impression that King Kong came through this way. People took pictures of the giant prints, and a massive buzz was created on social media when the photos were shared with millions.

Flash mobs where a group of people spontaneously break out into dance are another form of guerrilla marketing.

You could hire a couple of students to create a flash mob in the mall or even the parking lot while wearing your company’s t-shirts. You will create far more buzz than you paid for as people all over town share the pictures and videos.

It’s a lot more difficult for large companies to do such things without official permission, but small businesses can get away with a lot more. At worst the local cops will tell you to disperse. 

Experiment then double down

With all of these marketing techniques, the end goal is to increase profitability. A lot of money is wasted by small businesses trying to create brand awareness that they can’t show leads to an improved bottom line.

It very tricky for global brands to understand what marketing spend led to what sales. Smaller businesses are closer to their clients and can figure it out a lot faster.

They can even simply ask the customers as they walk in as to how they found out about your store.

You’ll usually find that different marketing techniques work better to bring in new customers and other methods work better to get your current customer base to buy more.

It will be more expensive to acquire new customers, but it pays off in the long run as you grow your customer base. Getting a balance between your marketing methods will help keep a healthy equilibrium.

In the end, you need to double down on what works and toss the rest out. Just make sure that your assumptions a right.