Friday, December 22, 2006

Manage your own website content

Zero Budget Marketers need to be online. But your online content needs to be dynamic, updating regularly so that your news/stories/case studies/products are always up to date.

If you don't have a website that allows you to change your own content, it can be very expensive to keep content up-to-date. Most web designers charge $80+ an hour - and very little takes less than a few hours to do.

Thus, it's not just recommended, it's essential that you have this capability if you're on a zero budget.

Today, rather than take my word for it, read this article which sums up the WHY of a content management system very nicely. (Evolt, where it's published, is an online community for web developers, so it's written from that perspective, but is still very easy to read and quite comprehensive).

In Oz, I've used a few inexpensive content management systems that I recommend to clients: (about $400 a year), (around $2k set up plus $150 a month) and (about $800 a year). There are literally hundreds more, these are just the Australian based ones that I've used and have been happy with, especially as the latter two include email marketing systems.

PS. Let me know if you've come across any other goodies!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Why hasn't someone thought of this before?

You know the cheapest and easiest way to market a product or service? Come up with one that people think is so clever, but so simple to understand, that people say to you: Why hasn't someone thought of this before?

Too often businesses come up with something they know how to do, rather than something the market wants and needs. As a marketing consultant, when this happens, you know you've got a long, tough road ahead. Sometimes you can still make it fly - but the job is a LOT harder.

I was reminded of the beauty of a simple idea when I met the co-founder of Club Deck. You most probably haven't heard of them, but they have thousands of customers - little and big. They produce sports cards for everyone - clubs, teams and players. You no longer than to be a world series baseball player or AFL footy legend to have your own card.

The two founders came up with the idea at a barbeque, fleshed out the concept, went out to see if they could sell it - and two meetings later ( you don't get more "Zero budget" than attending a couple of meetings) they found they could quit their corporate jobs and head out on their own full time. Why? Because the first two big sports centres they visited said....Why hasn't someone thought of this before?

So next time you're cooking up a new business idea, product or service, looks for the simple and clever opportunities that could be staring you in the face. Marketing and selling is then the EASY part.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

If a picture tells a thousand words, you can't afford not to use them!

Human beings are visual creatures. We love a photo (especially of ourselves, but let's move on!) and images in your promotional items can really add to the professionalism and appeal of your materials.

These days it doesn't even need to hurt your budget to use lots of pics in your web, email and print comms due to a fab site called If you have yet to visit this wonder, they have over a million royalty free images, which you can buy in low res for US$1 - I don't really need to say much else, as it doesn't get much more zero budget than that!

Tap into your inner writer

Instead of hoping for some PR coverage, why not go out and create your own media stories.

Most trade mags survive on unpaid contributors. So if you can string a sentence together, have something decent to say and are willing to share your insights, I'd say: what are you waiting for?!

How to actually make it happen? Work out what mags are getting into the hands of your prospective customers - and look at their content. Come up with an idea that would suit their readers and then make a brief pitch to the editor. They'll let you know if they're interested in the story - then all you need to do is write it.

Depending on what and where you're submitting, the same (or slightly modified) story may work across multiple sources. For example, a web based article listing will likely have a different audience than a print mag - so neither will be too concerned if you're article appears on both.

If you decide to go this route, I'd suggest having 4-5 article ideas up your sleeve - as once you've been published once, you should aim to repeat the act every 2-3 months. It costs you nothing but your time and energy - but does wonders for your reputation and awareness.

Use the festive season to reconnect and do a little good

Ok, we all know Christmas is about too much of everything - eating, drinking, spending and marketing.

So throw your hands up and give into it. I'm talking about the using the humble christmas card for a little bit of good will...and a little bit of marketing.

Step 1: Order some christmas cards from your preferred charity. This year ours came from The Prostate Cancer Foundation or check out the Combined Charities Christmas Shop.

Step 2: Set aside half a day to actually write a personal message on them - just a signature isn't enough.

Step 3: Buy some stamps and actually send them BEFORE xmas.

Do not go the electronic card route - yes, yes, less trees involved and all that jazz, but we all know you're doing it cause it's cheaper and faster.

Staying in business is about tending relationships. This little exercise will cost you all of about $50 and may give your contacts that nice little feeling everyone gets when they feel remembered and valued.

Go on, start writing today!

ps. And if you want to go all out, why dont you donate a reasonable sum of money "on behalf of your clients" to a charity too. Big ticks to our friends at Storyboard Multimedia who did this.

Ethics for profit

I heard an interested speech last night at the Monash University Student Marketing Awards. It was from Clive Hamilton, Australia Institute Director, on the need for young marketers to remember their ethics as they went out into the workforce.

He had a go at several public marketers about their ethics - and had a dig at Brandchild author Martin Lindstrom, who was quoted as saying that in marketing to "tweens", good ethics is good business. Dr Hamilton suggested that Lindstrom had the wrong end of the stick and had lost the ethical plot - but let's face it, if you're in business, profitability and longevity are key goals. So I'm all for ethics in business, but the fact it's also good for business these days can't be a bad thing.

You see, being ethical, focusing on the "triple bottom line", having a focus on sustainability - these are all attractive to the market. So you can do the RIGHT thing, but also benefit from it.

In marketing your business, is there something you can change - or start talking about - that improves your corporate citizenship performance and thus improves the market's perception of you? Doing the right thing could be that point of difference you've been looking for! Just ask The Body Shop.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Be your own PR person

Whilst a good PR person is gold, if you don't have the budget to pay for these services, don't think you can't generate some of your own PR.
I got an email from a gal on our Networx database asking about the Zero Budget Marketing CD we have and we got into a bit of an email chat about how to market her business, Sassi Sam. She's passionate about her products, but on a tight budget.
She'd sent out a media release - but I stressed the importance of following up, even if it's one journo at a time. She took on the challenge - and a few calls later, got this piece in a Sydney paper over the weekend! A result in a week - and it didn't cost her a cent.
So if you've got a great product or service or story, don't be afraid to get on the phone and pitch a story idea to an editor or journo. If you're onto a good thing, I guarantee you'll see some results if you show the initiative.
ps. And if you need a great handbag hanger, you now know where to get one!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Engage your friends!

If you're wanting to start a business, or needing some marketing inspiration, don't forget to tap into that vital resource....friends!

You may be surprised what insight, ideas or inspiration they can provide - all for the cost of a glass of wine.

AskBronny is a great little fashion advice site that has kicked off by relying on friends to provide everything from design, to articles to bloggers (like mine on dressing "Buxom Babes" like myself!). This will eventually morph into a viable web advertising businesses model, and will be able to pay some contributors - but it already looks amazing and professional all because "Bronny" has tapped into her friend's passion for fashion.

So next time you're lamenting over lack of budget, start cruising your personal address book!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

How should my email newsletter look?

Sending an email newsletter to your own opt-in database is an essential sales and relationship tool for ANY business. But what should this newsletter look like?

To cut your design costs, you should check out what other people are doing for some inspiration and best practice. I came across this great blog on email newsletter design at Campaign Monitor. It links to tonnes of great examples - and takes the time to explain why they link them.

Excellent for some "visual" inspiration. As for content, that's a whole other post!

Look for free listings on the web

I was reading an article about the extremely cute and clever Australian business Babybuds (those flowers are actually little singlets and jumpsuits!). As with all new businesses, they had little money to spend on marketing in the beginning, so they focussed on zero budget marketing ideas. One of these was looking for online communities or information websites where they could get a free listing.

Whilst there's a plethora of baby and kid information sites, there's also more than 100 million sites on the web. So start looking for ones that might provide a free listing for your business!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

All hail word of mouth...but give it time and deliver outstandingly

Without doubt, the one lesson I've learnt as a marketer, is that the BEST marketing tool of all is sometimes the most elusive - postitive word of mouth.

It takes an excellent product or service, passionate customers - and time.

The St Jerome's Laneway Festival is a beautiful case-study in word of mouth and buzz. Originally started as a one off party for a bar (St Jeromes) the owner - Jerome of course - knew that all he had to do was create something great...and be prepared to wait. Three years later, you've got a national festival, sponsors knocking at your door and still an event that people rave about.

Moral of today's story - it won't happen overnight, but be committed to both doing it well and letting it grow - and it WILL happen.

Good ideas don't need to blow your budget

I love a clever little 3-dimesional marketing piece. This one got me because it would be really cheap to do, esp if you've only got a small quantity of people to mail.

The concept has a long breadstick which when you pull it out, is "stamped" with a message proclaiming "Our new oven makes this look like a dinner roll". Clever, huh?

So what's your cost on this. Rubber stamp, paper, bread, your time to deliver. Say a couple of days and a few hundred dollars. Not bad for a big impact.

Of course, the tricky bit is the idea! So get cracking...

Aust Post cant compete on personalised communication

Sent to my work address this week was a cute little mailer from Australia Post. On the outside it said "To: Kimberly From: Santa" as part of the design. And it was a sales piece from Aussie Post crowing about the ability to personalise design...for as little as $1.40 each.

And I had to think - gee, that's actually expensive. You mail the 6,000 people on my dbase for example and it would cost you $8,400 - and that's BEFORE you design anything.

Compare this to the cost of a personalised html email. To email 6,000 people it costs me $60. $8,400 versus $60. Sorry, Aussie Post, just no contest. Even if I did have the dosh, I'd rather spend it on email. I could use telemarketing to build a list AND send it for the same budget...and then keep sending...

So the moral of the story is: get working on building your opt-in email database!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

So this MySpace thing...

Righto, so you can't afford a website? Why not get a MySpace page happening!

Now I'm not on MySpace - but I keep hearing about it so much, I thought I should give it a cruise. And I find it's a great mish-mash of a personal website, personal blog, music sharing, social networking, advertising, interaction, etc. And pretty customisable, peopled by tres cool people. I even found two people's sites I knew within a few I find that very impressive, especially since I'm not that cool!

So if you're a groovy young brand, or hip freelancer, that wants to interact, be a touch edgy, then make your first foray into MySpace. It's TOTALLY zero budget and you're bound to earn some cool points...

What I learned from a hairdresser...

...ok, a hairdresser with 35 years in the business and a chain of 18-odd successful salons!

Vouchers - one of my favourite, yet underutilised, retail marketing tools - are even better that I thought.

You see, I was running a "Zero Budget Marketing" seminar for Wella. And I said that the crew at Loyalty Magic had confirmed for me what I'd always suspected - that when you get given a gift voucher, you spend on average 5-8 times the value of the voucher.

And this is where the hairdresser of my story says - try 10-20 times. You seen, his chain is SuperCuts. They hand out $10 "cheques" that people can bring in to cash in on a haircut/colour/style/etc.

He said people regularly brought these in and spent close to $200 - and this was a COMMON occurence.

So for all those who doubt the value of giving away a little something for nothing, I offer this story. $10 to get $200 - and a guaranteed sale, not $10 that MIGHT bring you $200.

Retailers - go give away more gift vouchers!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

10% off is music to a girl's ears

It amazes me the pavlovian dog response that hits me when I see the word "sale". Even if I'm not in the market for anything at all, I'm compelled to find out more, check out what bargain I might miss out on. Yes it's theoretically better to reward than discount - but it does get people shopping.

This little email ad from Red Balloon Days was a case in point. It's not a clothing label, nor is it even a consumer brand. It's a (mostly corporate) experiences and gift brand. So my first instinct would be to say don't use a retail marketing tool like discounting. Yet it got me to click...and I hardly think I'm the only one that will.

So perhaps taking a marketing hint from a completely different industry and trialling it isn't such a bad idea. Except for your reduced margin, using a cheap tool like email and limiting the time of the offer (eg. 24 hours) is a pretty cheap way to test an inexpensive little marketing tool.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Take the "bland" test (and get more specific)

If you are creating a piece of marketing material, I think you need to subject it to the "bland" test. If your headline or copy is so generic, it could work for another business (or even a competitor) - ditch it. Go back to the drawing board and make it specific enough that it's actually got a real connection with your business.

And don't just take my word for it.

Roy Morgan presented a paper in Prague at the 12th Worldwide Readership Research Symposium (try saying that quickly and three times in a row!).

At any rate, they showed the difference in Return on Investment on the two ads below.

The first headline says: When they change the way they make people, we'll change the way we make bread.

The second headline says: We've put fibre in Roman Meal for 75 years because people need fibre from day one.

Which do you think worked best?

In terms of persuasion performance, if the second ad returns $100,000, the ad on the
right returns $258,000. The second ad basically kicks butt over the first (and it helps that the headline actually matches the pic)

Being compelling is very cheap - but very hard!

You know, if you have a compelling enough marketing message and offer, it doesn't take much to have a big impact. So back on a bit of a recurring theme, but perhaps it's time to take a bit of a risk and put something out in the marketing that makes it hard for people not to want more.

I decided to check out futurist Faith Popcorn's site when doing some research and I think her extremely simple site - breaking many rules as it has no real information - starts with a hugely compelling message: if you could know everything about tomorrow, what would you do differently today?

Get's you thinking, doesn't it. It then just goes to a screen that says "Let's Talk" and provides her contact details. And if you were in the target market that could afford her services, I'm sure you would pick up the phone.

One simple question but you know immediately why you should call. I was impressed. How can you make your message this compelling?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Like a great SME (small business) marketing guide (for nicks)?

This is a totally zero budget post - a free marketing guide for small business I came across that's a great overview for non-marketers.

The Australian Information Industry Association has put together an SME marketing guide. Whilst it's a tech association, the vast majority of the info in the guide applies to all sorts of small business.

It also has a bunch of great case studies in it. Best of all, it's free. So download it today and build your marketing knowledge for nicks!

(And by the way - what a great way to build a database - giving away valuable free information - and idea for another post!)

Can't afford expensive database software? How's $30 a month sound?

I believe it's essential to have a customer & prospect database these days, in ANY type of business.

And it truly scares me how few businesses have one.

Outlook & excel really aren't enough, access can be clunky and decent CRM (customer relationship management) systems usually start at well over the $1,000 a seat.

When looking for a local email marketing provider for a client, I came across Vision6. They provide email and sms services. But they will also host your database. And you can add all the fields you want in this database, give people access to update their own details if you want, search it and access it from anywhere AND build lists to market to based on criteria. It even has some handy auto email functions.

So it occured to me, this is also a great zero budget database solution. For under 1000 records it's $30 a month - you can't get much cheaper than that!

I'm sure there's other providers out there offering something similar. So why not use this as an inexpensive, centrally accessible database tool - with the bonus that you can then use it on a fee per use option if you decide to use for email marketing.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sorry + fix = Customer Loyalty

Continuing a thought from the previous post, as a business are you prepared to go further and admit when you're wrong?

TRUE customer loyalty to a brand or business is often built when a company gets something wrong - then admits it and bends over backwards to fix it.

You see, we've come to expect good service and for things to work. So when they do work, no-one notices (just think about your average IT guy or girl). Yet when something goes wrong, you ALWAYS notice. And there's a real moment of truth for a company in how it deals with that.

Many companies fail dismally. Just check out Not Good Enough to hear some stories that will curl your toes. Yet think about the last time someone went out of their way to fix up a mistake made...and how many people you told. We often only notice GOOD service when it's correcting (or contrasting) to BAD service.

In the 1990's I worked for a major telco that made a major bungle. We accidentally "churned" a bunch of people to our service without their written permission. A whole bunch of them. Panic stations ensued when the tech guys told us what had happened...and that to churn them BACK without their consent would be mistake number 2.

So we made a tough call - we decided to send a letter to these people and admit our error and ask what they wanted us to do. Of the thousands of letters we sent out, have a guess how many people opted to churn back? All? Half? A quarter?

Actually, about a hundred. Well under 5%. And we had a bunch of calls from people gushing about how nice it was to see some honesty in business and that as a result of admitting that mistake, they'd decided we were the company for them.

So for a zero budget idea to build massive brand loyalty, make sure you deal with customer issues, complaints and problems in a timely manner - and go out of your way to fix them if you can. You'll then start to achieve marketing nirvana - customers as advocates.

Be brave - admit when you're wrong (or something's wrong with you)

Imagine the board meeting, years and years ago, when someone pitches this positioning line to Avis management:"Avis is only no.2 in rent-a-cars".

I mean, now we know it's a great marketing success story. But imagine the bravery of taking a negative, admitting it...and then turning it into a positive.

Imagine an accountant that says: The bill might hurt...but your business will feel so much better

Or a food that says: We might taste terrible, but we're ridiculously good for you (spirulina anyone?)

Or a bank that admits: Yes we have fees...but we have the service to match

I'm not a copywriter, but you get the idea. You see, brands like Joy (the most expensive perfume in the world) and Listerine (a taste you hate twice a day) took a negative, were honest and then spun a positive. Yes, these are big brands that had the advertising might to make sure we knew about them, but even for a small budget business, this type of positioning statement gets massive cut through.

But are you big enough to admit a negative?

Don't be afraid to sex it up!

Ok, whilst I may have just been wanting an excuse to use this pic of some of the Italian Rugby players (my only World Cup mania indulgence, I promise), if you're going for big impact on small budget, don't be afraid to get a little saucy, cheeky or naughty!

You see, as much as we'd all like to take the high road, the reality is the low road is crowded with the easily titilated and amused.

A year or so ago we had some movie tickets to give away (to The Secretary, famous for it's "spanking" scene) in return for people completing a online survey. Instead of using an email subject line of "Complete our online survey for free double pass" I went with "Fancy a little sadomasochism and romance?". We had DOUBLE the usual email open rate to this database - almost 60%!

Forget being sleazy or sexist - but take a risk and appeal to people's naughty side. We all have one...why else do you think something like Sexpo keeps selling out year after year...

By sexing it up I'm not only talking about sex - but making something more sexy. There is so much utter drudge produced in marketing materials that something with a bit of sparkle and shimmer will catch your prospects eye so much better. Name an event "Selling Cool" instead of "Youth marketing". Send a chocolate telephone instead of leaving another unanswered message. Use some funky graphics instead of staid corporate stock shots. Have some bloody fun with your marketing!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

How to keep the ideas flowing (for free)

The greatest thing about the web has to be the masses of great information you can access - for free.

I subscribe to several great newsletters and updates and I get great ideas from these all the time. So don't get too insular about you're day-to-day job. Make sure you allocate half an hour each day to checking out what other's are up to.

My real faves at the moment:

For some DM hints:

For some copywriting ideas:

Let me know if you have any that should be added to the list!

It's also great to get some more fun mails to see what clever and groovy people are doing. Check out:

Image courtesty of:

Back to the future (repeat, repeat, repeat)

Looking for a great idea? It's time to go back (to the future)!

I was reminded of this great idea reading one of Geoffrey McDonald Bowll's "Guerilla Guide" articles in Marketing.

So what am I talking about? Repeating what you've done that has worked in the past. Sometimes we feel like we always need to come up with new ideas. But something that's worked previously has some real benefits: It's already tested and you'll already know what to expect.

After seven years of running events for marketers, I KNOW certain topics will work well. So as much as I might not need to see the presentation again, a new generation of marketers and attendees will.

Similarly, you can look for inspiration in PAST places you've worked. Cast your mind back? What worked there that you can apply to your current business?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Have a descriptive business of product name.

You know what really amazes me - how many businesses have names which don't instantly state what they do. If you have minimal (or no) money to spend on marketing, the best possible course of action is to ensure your name says what you do.

I've recently become the proud (and weary) owner of a puppy - and I came across this great little Aussie invention: The Pet Loo. And the company name of the producer - Pup-Pee Solutions.

I love it - you know what they do without them having to say a word more!

So if you have one of those generic names - you know XYZ consulting - considering changing your business name to something more meaningful. If that's out of the quesion, can you add a descriptive word to the name - XYZ tax consulting. Businesses often resist this as they are concerned it will make prospects consider them too narrowly - but I'd argue it's better to be known for something, than not known at all!

Monday, May 22, 2006

$1 customer aquisition lesson...

The scary thing about spending any money on marketing materials is that there's no cost differential between something that's successful and unsuccessful. The website to the left would cost the same to product (for the graphic design, copywriting, hosting etc) whether it attracted new customers or not. So if you ARE going to spend money, make sure you do something special to make it WORK.

In this case, UTS have used the tried and true method that is still VASTLY underutilised by most marketers. They've GIVEN AWAY their product. You sign up and get a $5 credit to trial it. So it probably COSTS them as little as a $1 - and they've got all your details, they've got you to learn how to use the product.

$1 per cost of acquisition - for a service that's about $60 a year when you convert. So one conversion covers the cost of your next 59 customers....You can't get more zero budget than that!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Email is your friend - but get it right! (pt 1)

Email marketing is the friend of zero budget marketers. It's fast, effective - and extremely inexpensive once you've built up your opt in list.

But you need to keep working on it, even more so now that anti-spam filters are getting more prevalent. It's just too frustrating to have your email blocked by someone who's actually requested it.

So make the effort to run your email through a SPAM checking service, like It will let you know the "spam score" of your email and a few quick changes can be the difference between your mail getting through or it hitting the virtual bin!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Buy customers for your database for $2 each from ebay!

Building a customer database is so critical to any type of business, yet businesses don't show a lot of creativity in how to build those databases. Building a database of people who've bought from you, even more critical.

Australian business, Entertainment House, is one of the top sellers of DVDs and CDs on ebay. It only costs them a few dollars per sale - yet once people have bought from them, they become an Entertainment House customer and not just an ebay customer. Entertainment House can then legitimately market to those customer's who've opted in to hear more for them.

So they've made a sale, added a customer to their database - all for a few dollars, which they make back in profit from the sale. A perfect zero budget marketing technique.

Could you sell anything on ebay? Even if you're a service, you'd be surprised what you can do. Take the guy selling half price "paintball" sessions. Once people get there, they usually play more, they make additional margin and they've overcome the biggest hurdle most businesses face - getting them to buy the first time. Go on, get a bit creative...

Give your service away for free (well some of it!)

Australian carsharing company Flo CarShare took a risk that paid off when marketing their service. They had a lot of people on their database who were "interested" - but who hadn't coughed up the $50 to join as a member and complete all the paperwork (to then get access to the cars at an hourly rental). Yet once people were members, they always rented one of the cars in the first month.

So at the request of one of the directors, they ran a short term promotion where they waived this initial $50 fee - and got FOUR times their normal membership conversion. So the barrier to purchase was removed and they had a big jump in their members, who are far more likely to rent the cars.

So what is a new, eager to buy customer worth to you. What might you "forgoe" in order to gain a long term benefit?

Getting others to pay for your marketing materials

Getting others to cover your promotional costs is something I always tell people to do - and they always look at me like I'm a little crazy. But I've found a great example of this done by a Sydney promotions agency, DKM.

They've produced this little 16 page magazine, with several articles that offer real value but still tout the "promotional products" message. They've then arranged to have it distributed with Marketing and B&T - and sold off advertising space over about 9 pages to help fund the entire thing.

Very clever, great reach - and according to Niche Media who did the production and design - it's got the attention of other marketers, who've been calling Niche to ask how the whole thing came together.

Who could you be working with to help offset (or totally fund) the cost of your promotions?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Better use existing resources

When thinking about how to successfully market a business, don't always assume you'll need to do something new and expensive. Do a check of existing resources you have - for example, your database, your office or storefront, your staff.

How might you utilise these resources to build your business?

I just love this window of a burger shop (BBNT) in Melbourne's King St - it's engaging, it "positions" the business and it makes you smile. Good to know if I ever become a "guru", "mistress" or "courier" I can get my lunch here!

What is being "underutilised" in your business that a wee bit of ingenuity, humour - and maybe sign writing - can get some mileage out of?