Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Don't forget the simple things

Successful marketing is rarely about a single silver bullet. Instead, it's about many, many little things that joined together, deliver results for a business.

So this post is about a little thing. Your email signature. If your business is anything like mine, you can send and receive around 100 emails a day. Even if you only send 10 emails a day, each one is an opportunity to share a little information about yourself and your business (AND as a bonus it makes it a lot easier for the recipient to get in touch with you in the future).

Now if you're tempted to think that no-one reads an email signature, I'm able to recount from very recent experience that this is definitely not the case. I added a sentence to the bottom of my (already relatively long) email signature about the launch of my new book. And I immediately got back a tonne of questions and congratulations about it. I really didn't think anyone would pay that much attention. But about a third of the people I emailed that week commented on it - which means more probably read it.

So if you've got something new or exciting happening, pop it onto the bottom of your daily emails. It's totally zero budget - and I know you'll be surprised at the response.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Providing experience to get free to cheap design and copy

Great design and copy writing can make a small brand look BIG and PROFESSIONAL -which we all know are key factors in attracting customers. I'm constantly amazed by how many shabby websites I come across and my instant thought is " this business isn't to be taken seriously".

But great design & copy has to cost a lot - doesn't it? Well, no.

If you have the world's tightest budget, why not consider getting a promising student designer or writer to work for you? You can contact Universities like RMIT (who run advertising and design courses) for a referral. Or independent outfits like The Australian School of Copywriting, who need 'real life' projects to give their students the experience they need. I recently referred a friend starting out a new venture (Little Fry) to The Australian School of Copywriting. Just going in to brief the budding writers gave the Little Fry team a good chance to articulate (and even form) their marketing vision. They then received several different writing perspectives for their brand, which has not only given them material to use immediately, but some fresh ideas for the future.

So if you have the time to dedicate, and are prepared to give as well as get, you can get some top notch design and copy for little or no cost. And as your business grows, and your student's talent grows, it could be the beginning of a long a mutually profitable relationship for both of you!

Design consistency is not only good for your brand it's good for your budget

Marketers love consistency - that's why all the big brands have thick design manuals covering the rules of how their brand can be used, in what colours and related colour palettes and even how much white space should be around a logo.
Just because you're a smaller brand doesn't mean you should be lax about ensuring all elements of your look and feel aren't consistent. Apart from making you look like a professional outfit, it also has the added benefit of being cost-effective in the long term. Why? Well, when you have a clear idea and guidelines on what font, colours and style to use, it will take a designer less time to create new work for you. And that translates to lower cost.
Also, some strong design elements have the advantage of being useful for multiple purposes, which I've been reminded of recently. I partnered with a talented designer and illustrator on Dont Drink and Dial...and other secrets of female friendship (my first book, being published by Penguin and on sale this week) and we've been able to use variations on the illustrations she's created for everything from a stationery line to icons on our website.

So get committed to consistency for all the right reasons: professionalism, aesthetics and cost control.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ok, if you're really, really poor here's an idea for you

So I've been coming across a website a lot lately when hunting for stuff online. It's called Gumtree and it's essentially a free community noticeboard, where you can place free ads for just about anything. Their SEO (that's "search engine optimisation" which is how high up you appear in something like google) must be top notch, as it seems like every other search I conduct online for just about anything gives me one of these listings in the top ten!

So check out Melbourne Gumtree (and their 60 other cities) if you're looking for a totally, utterly, truly zero budget marketing tool to drive sales and possibly traffic to your own website. If it costs you nothing, is there any harm in trying it out?!

What they have to say about their service:
"Gumtree.com was started in March 2000 as a local London classified ads and community site, designed to connect people who were either planning to move, or had just arrived in the city, and needed help getting started with accommodation, employment and meeting new people.
We've grown a lot since then through word of mouth and we're proud to say that Gumtree is loved by its rapidly growing community. We now cover 60 cities across 6 countries - the UK, Ireland, Poland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. "

Viral isn't dead if the offer is good enough

"Viral" marketing was a bit of a buzz word over the past few years that seems to have gone out of fashion in 07 - but the concept of viral is exciting because it's the ultimate zero budget concept. That is, you send out something (a promotion, an offer, news of a sale, a movie/joke/story) to a set group and then people pass it on for you. And it continues to spread...like a virus. So your original message to 100 people could end up reaching 10,000 people.
A good viral campaign isnt easy to come up with. The original (and future) recipients have to think it's exicting enough to pass on, such that their friends or colleagues wont be annoyed to receive it. So a really compelling offer - or a very funny message - is what's needed.
I just received a great offer passed on by a friend - and it was so good I wondered if it was real. So after a long investigation (well, actually, after clicking on a couple of links) I confirmed that Krispy Kreme WERE in fact giving away a half dozen donuts on the day after the election.
They've even tied in database building element, some topical marketing by linking it to the federal election, a cause related element by asking for a gold coin donation to the Salvos and some amusing creative. This little promo really ticks all my boxes! (They've also got some safety nets built in - see the preferred store and the "up to 6 donuts" to help them cover their tushies).
So Krispy Kreme have done it again - for the cost of some clever creative and I'm assuming several thousand donuts - they'll be gaining both a customer database and store traffic, at what I'm sure will be a very low cost per unit.
If I had a zero budget gold star, I'd slap it on them right now!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Knowing your customer makes for easy copy writing

I was trawling the net the other day looking for a company that does decking and fencing as I'm planning a spot of "back yard renovation". This being my first home, I dont really know much about what I'm looking for - and I imagine the majority of people who are investigating online are in the same boat. And yet most of the sites I came across were AWFUL. Some had obviously had a lot of cash spent on them (eg. Bluescope Steel's site) but they were all tremendously unhelpful. No "general" information about their product, lousy pictures and no advice.

And then I came across a little gem. The Outdoor Timber Company. It's not the world's most stylish site, but it spoke to people like me immediately. No chest beating and waffling words. The page on decking started with: "Decking timbers can be divided into three main groups" - and went on to explain the world of decking to me - and ultimately why these are the people to buy it from.

You can tell this site hasn't been written by a copy writer either. It's been written by someone that's passionate about what they do - and they make you feel rather passionate by the end too.

So the zero budget marketing thought for the day is to visual a customer interaction...

Do you know what questions your customer usually opens with? Of course you do.

Answer these questions up front and people will assume that you know your stuff - and you'll save yourself a tonne of time answering the same queries over and over.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Given it away for free lately?

Yes, it's an anathema to many business people, but the fact remains: giving something away for free can be the best way to attract future customers.

I saw this again in action at a recent regional tourism marketing conference I was speaking at.

There was a relatively new massage/health spa in the area and they were at the conference giving massages at breaks to attendees. The two owners were there in branded outfits. They covered all the accomodation owners and, importantly, the MC for the day, Lawrence Mooney from Postcards. So they took the opportunity to let important prospectiver referers "sample" their service free of charge - which will translate to referrals and perhaps even a spot on tv should Postcards ever cover the region. Plus they got to attend the conference, network and learn from the various presenters. What a smart zero budget marketing tip put into action!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It's all in the application!

Last night I was speaking on networking skills at an event for mentors and mentees (otherwise known as heros) from a great program run by the City of Glen Eira and City of Kingston.
One of the ladies in the program came up to me after the event to tell me she'd seen me speak a few months previously on Zero Budget Marketing. And I was very excited to hear she's applied some of the simple ideas she'd come up with from my talk- to great result apparently. Her business is a specialist painting business (http://www.tuscantrellis.com.au/) . She'd successfully used a promotion of a family ticket to the Guggenheim Collection as a means of getting people to update their database details. So for $50 she heard back from people who she'd been chasing previously with no result!
She'd also remembered the tip about marketing to people you'd worked with before - and when she got back in touch with past customers, found she got four jobs straight away - apparently enough work to make her wonder how they'd get it all done. And all for the cost of a few phone calls!
It was a great reminder that no matter what time we spend learning and listening - nothing happens unless we put things into action! So the zero budget additional tip for the day is "get moving"!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Brains over brawn gets me every time

The site coolhunter.com.au recently published a story about a launch that is a reminder that a really great idea doesn't need to cost a bundle to implement.
It could even cost as little as a few coloured packs of post-it notes.
"Hot on the heels of this fad, gaming giant Nintendo have promoted their latest baby Wii in Italy with this interesting wall display created by a series of posted notes. The post it notes make a nice 3D representation of a 2D pixel. "
Gee, that's a clever idea...I'm sure the agency charged a bundle for it, but what's to stop you coming up with your own version of this gem? Go on, get creative!

If anything but free is too expensive...

I was advising a landscape designer the other day - a one-man band, country based - who would like a website but was finding the prospect of putting one together as a big job.

I asked who might use the site, and it was really only people who had been referred to him, so it was a place he wanted to showcase his work.

Like most of us, he didn't have a big budget handy to pay someone to do the site. And though I recommended a number of great third-party providers than would be quite cheap - under $1k for the whole lot, content management, hosting and even a custom design - it still sounded like a lot to him.

So I thought a great place to start was with something like this - a blog. Blogging has gone far beyond the concept of an Internet diary and has moved into the realm of a great potential - and search engine friendly - business tool.
You can bit some great design templates through the various blog sites out there. We found a lovely, semi-abstract plant one for him. You can use free add ons, like zookoda, to allow people to subscribe to your blog or conduct email marketing. You can upload pictures of your jobs and tell the stories about how they're created. You can add your business profile and your contact details. You can even buy a cheap .com of your own (TPP Internet will sell you one for two years for around $70) and automatically re-route it to your blog's domain, so it gives the appearance of a stand alone site.

So if your actual level of investment available to build a website is ZERO, give a blog a go!

Selective advertising + targeting = low cost lead generation

Sometimes a little bit of regular advertising may be just what a business needs to keep awareness up or leads flowing in. But advertising is too expensive, isn't it?

Well, not always. I was recently reminded of this when buying 10 spots on Melbourne's Triple RRR -for around $500, including the ad's production. Now 10 spots over a month isn't much - but if the audience is targted enough, this won't necessarily matter. These ads, over 3 months, have continued to bring in 3-4 customers a month for my client - which covers more than the aquisition cost - plus it has the benefit of spreading awareness among others who may join in the future.

Another option I've used with success before was a small print advertisement in one of Melbourne's gay/lesbian papers. It was for a small laser hair removal studio. Now the first thing most people think of when thinking hair removal is girls. But we didn't have the budget for advertising in female glossies. So it came down to thinking about who else is looks conscious and living around South Yarra? The small and inexpensive weekly ads - again including production - generated MOST of their business from then on.

So if you've got a targeted product or service, there may be a relatively inexpensive media vehicle out there that YOU may not consume, but that your target audience does.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

All hail the public library!

I was out speaking about Zero Budget Marketing the other night at the Glen Eira Women in Business network and a very smart lady in the audience pointed out a great "zero budget" tip that we too often forget - visit the library. Whether it's your local library, the State Library or - for ridiculous amounts of great information - a University Library.

I have recently gone back to University part-time and my student log-in gives me access to thousands of journals and business publications online. So much so, that I actually think if you regularly needed to do a lot of research, it would be a lot cheaper to maintain a part-time student status than subscribe to various publications. I'm talking access to anything from business press to scientific journals.

So next time you're plotting a new venture, or researching your competitors, wanting to learn a new skill or looking for ideas, don't forget the humble library!

ps. My local library in North Melbourne has great seminar rooms upstairs that you can rent for a huge $7.20 for THREE hours. So if you're looking to run a prospecting event or something similar, your local library may be good for more than just the books!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

When you're time poor, zero budget gets tougher!

Yes, I've been rather remiss in blogging on zero budget marketing ideas because I've been working 12 hour days finalising speakers and marketing Networx's first conference: www.evolveconference.com. evolve 07 is a marketing trends and issues conference for which I got a tad enthusiastic and planned 8 of the 10 sessions as panels - so great for the audience, hell for the organiser (aka me) as it means I needed 24 people for one day! It's due to all happen on Thursday 14 June in Melbourne, so I'm in serious marketing mode and serious slack mode in my blogging!

I HAVE employed some zero budget principles, in the way of tapping into my personal favourite - CONTRA. I needed theming and entertainment for the post-conference drinks and was able to "swap" these with suppliers for conference tickets and an exhibition space. Same goes for promotion via Marketing magazine and some of my design.

I am still going to be spending some money on Google AdWords - although having set up a host of keywords, I don't know that enough people actually search for phrases like Marketing Conference. Stay posted for an update - and come along if you're in the mood for a jam-packed day of insights and clever people from companies like Cirque du Soleil, Sportsgirl, AMEX, Trading Post, Mind Share, M&C Saatchi and loads more!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A little inspiration from Greenpeace - spread that word

Charity and not-for-profit marketers are extremely familiar with the "zero budget" phenomenon. That's why there's some great inspiration to be found in seeing what charities will come up with next.
As a Greenpeace monthly supporter, I just received this clever initiative via email. They're inviting their supporters to get a free, 2 day public speaking course and then "volunteer" in the community to visit schools, community groups, etc and talk about the work of Greenpeace.
Why is this so smart? So many reasons.
1. Talk about a great way to get your supporters involved - especially those more conservative types who wont be volunteering for a trip on one of their ships anytime soon.
2. Get your supporters (or "customers") MORE passionate about your work by teaching them more about it.
3. Get 30-100 (not sure how many they're recuiting) spokespeople for nothing but the cost of a training course, which they may have got pretty cheap to start with.
4. Hit thousands more people with the Greenpeace message than would be possible without this unpaid army of enthusiastic speakers - and in a way that's far more engaging than any other: people talking to people.
5. Tapping into the zeitgeist. Finally green issues are firmly on everyone's agenda and Greenpeace aren't missing the chance to get to people when they're finally paying some attention.
Is there any inspiration in "for profits" in this. Of course. If you are selling a product or service that people are passionate about, why not bestow people the honour of becoming an "evangelist" for you. I'm not suggesting there's a huge public speaking market, but there is a "refer a friend on steriods" opportunity here.
So good on you, Greenpeace. Great cause and very clever marketing.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Great free market research tool

I'm probably way behind the 8-ball on this one, but I've just come across another great free service from Google - www.google.com/alerts.

Basically, you can plug in your brand name or industry sector or competitor's name and request an "as it happens" (or daily, or weekly) alert. Google trawls the web, news, blogs, etc.

So instead of wondering if people are talking about you - you'll know.

And it's free -no subscription fee, unlike most media monitoring - so you can afford it on that zero budget!

Business to Business Marketing Inspiration

In running my marketing events, I'm often prompted by people to ensure I don't focus too much on B2C marketing and ensure I give some airplay to B2B marketing. Whilst many of the same rules apply, there are some "tried and true" business marketing rules you can't escape, like the need for more personal selling and relationships. Innovative marketing then becomes more about how good your lead generation and then sales team are.
Anyway, I came across a great blog that listed FIFTY B2B marketing blogs. So if you need some inspiration, follow that yellow brick road.

Are you sick to death of boring copy?

With an estimated quarter of a million words in the English language, why is it that certain words are so overused in marketing copy. I have had a serious bee in my bonnet about the HUGE overuse of the word "solution". And thank goodness I'm not the only one.

When you're on a tight budget, every word written for your marketing should count. So how do you make your copy sound better? A few thoughts...
  • Detective-fiction writer Elmore Leonard says, “If it sounds like writing, re-write it.” So write as you speak in business letters. Really, who says "don't hesitate to contact me" in real life? Apart from the whole double-negative thing, just skip to saying "give me a call".
  • Don't write long, unwieldy sentences. Short and sharp is easier for people to read.
  • Use lots of headings. People are busy, make it simply for them to scan and decide what they want to read.
  • Use emotive words where possible to conjour up images.
  • Don't you find that when you see a question written, you can't help but answer it mentally? Did you just answer that question? Ok, I'll stop now. In summary - start copy with questions to engage people with your writing. It works.

And if you're finding yourself lacking in writing inspiration, visit my friends www.thesaurus.com and www.dictionary.com.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Co-registration - or how to build more than one dbase at once

I was having coffee the other day with a smart fellow who runs www.nationwidenetworking.com.au in Melbourne. He introduced me to an idea that had me thinking "fantastic" at the same time as "why haven't I thought of it before?!".

The idea is co-registration. That is, when someone is in "opt-in" mode and signing up for your website, when they've finished give them the option to check a box to sign up for one or two other related business newsletters at the same time (potentially with an incentive). This gives you the chance to either (a) charge for names you're collecting for someone else OR (b) do a reciprocal deal with another business that builds both of your databases at the same time.

And the "cost" for this great database building technique? Well, after a bit of tech time, pretty much zero.

See how smart this little "two for one" deal is? Who could you be working collectively with to get that database growing?

Mass customisations - for a teeny price

Ok, my new fave place to shop online is www.threadless.com. Introduced to me by my 22 year old assistant (when did I get so old?) this site is a fantastic example of "zero budget" going big business - as in US$20 million turnover big business.

For those who haven't been there, they have tonnes of wanna be designers submit designs for the threadless community to vote on - adding a bizarre MASS to CUSTOMISATION. They print the "winning" designs, and pay the winners a flat fee of $2,000. This gives the designers some cash and cred - and gives the brand the license to print thousands of tees for a fraction of what it would take to pay for each design as a commission. Plus, the variety is amazing - you're tapping into your customers to design and decide what they're going to buy - so you've got literally THOUSANDS of people in your creative team. But you're not paying for them...see the genius here?

So next time you are faced with a tight product development or marketing budget, have a think about how else you can generate content, designs, creative, etc? The web means you've got a real opportunity to have your market generate your content for you...for pretty much nothing!
ps. Plus, this is a good present shopping option - I bought 11 for people for xmas for $10 each...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Australian Media Contacts - Access a listing for nicks!

We all like the idea of some PR, free media being just the ticket for most zero budget marketeers. But the hard part can be working out who to contact, which journo, which section and then how to reach them.

You can do a little bit of research yourself - for example, if you see an article about your area, you know that journalist could be a good starting point. But the reality is you're probably too busy running a business to be a good media consumer all day, every day.

In here comes the Margaret Gees Media Guide - a regularly updated list of Oz media contacts. You can get your own online subscription for about $400. Or you can apparently tap into your local library and get it for free - also online so conveniently from your desk - according to the Publicity Queen blog. Now if only I'd seen this handy little entry before forking out my $400!!