Saturday, November 01, 2008

Hmmm, when coke goes with no advertising, you know something is up

I was moderating a panel discussion at a marketing conference yesterday (evolve08 run by Networx Brisbane) and one of the panellists was from Coca-Cola, the global drinks giant. You may or may not know they have a host of brands in their stable, including things like Mount Franklin water and Mother energy drink.
Now Coke is a big believer in advertising, as anyone who's over the age of five can probably attest. A couple of years back they spent a reputed $18 million in Oz alone to launch the Coke Zero brand.
Now I've been saying for a long time that good marketing does not equal spending big bucks on advertising. Sometimes it equals spending no dollars on advertising. And who would have thought the people at Coke would agree.
But they do. When they launched Vitamin water in, they decided against spending marketing budget on advertising. In fact, their major marketing tactic was getting this product into the hands of influential people. And it's apparently working for them, as they've sold four times what they expected to sell in their last year, according to a rep.
Now I'm sure they spent a tonne of cash in other ways - they've got a spiffy website (which seems to have some flash bugs alas), probably the largest distribution penetration in the world and probably many a smart agency that advised them. But still, I'm sure this launch cost nowhere near the 18 million they spent on launching a mere brand extension, let alone a whole new product.
So really this is a bit of a "take heart" message. When one of the world's biggest consumer product companies decides there might be another way to go, it's a reminder that launching a brand doesn't require the world's deepest pockets.
As another one of the speakers (Jack Perlinski, Brand Strategist, DAIS) said yesterday "some of the best creative campaigns are born from having no budget".
Ah, couldn't have said it better myself!

Monday, September 22, 2008

A little letter & being willing to ask

I've been working a few days a week this year with a small charity. So small that when I asked at the interview "what's my marketing budget" they said "what marketing budget?". So I'm getting a chance to flex my "total and utter zero" budget muscles.

And in a very, very competitive market. There are 19,000 charities in Australia - and an estimated 680,000 other "not for profit" organisations out there. That's a LOT of organisations hitting up a very small population.

One little campaign I've run this year - providing a 1500% return on investment - reminded me the power of ASKING for things - be it a sale, a donation or a favour.

A little background...

This charity (Western Chances) attracts most of its funds from Foundations and business donations. But it had never written to the people in these businesses and foundation AS people, as individuals.

So I thought, what can it hurt? After all, I tell people in business they can get more blood out of a stone when it comes to selling a product or service, so why not when it comes to selling "feeling good" by donating to a charity?

We didn't have a large database to start with and then the list was whittled down further, as some people just weren't appropriate to hit up again.

I ended up with a very short list of just 250 people.

I did a bit of an estimate and thought I'd probably be able to raise around $1,000. Not earth shattering, but every little bit counts.

As I didn't have any cash, I couldn't do anything fancy with design or brochures. I had to write a good old-fashion letter.

And I didn't re-invent the wheel. I used a great letter writing guide provided to us (free) by Our Community to work out the structure. I included a specific appeal we were working towards and a true story from one of our beneficiaries in the letter.

Then I laid out in Word a one page donation form, with some specific amounts people could donate and what it would translate into. And I'm no graphics whiz, I just made sure it allowed for everything I needed to capture information and make it easy for them to donate.

Then I had the issue of postage. So I continue on the "if you don't ask, you don't get" trail and made a phone call request to a larger corporate supporter, which landed us a committment to send the mail-out for us. So the "real" cost to the charity was about a day of my time, 500 sheets of paper and 250 envelopes. Let's say an even $500.

So the letters were mailed and I thought...let's see how we go. If I can double the investment, it will be a good result.

So how did we go?

Well, we ended up making awhopping $7,500 from those 250 letters. More than 7.5 times what we expected to make and 15 times what its cost was - a 1500% return on investment.

And if it had bombed? Well, we were only out $500.

And an interesting thing happened. It wasn't a lot of small donations - it was around 15 larger ones. So the same list will be worth targeting in another 6 months, as I only need another 15 generous people - 6% of the list - to donate and possibly hit a similar target.

So I've said it before, and I'll say it again. If you don't ask, you don't get!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I love this super cheap tool - so many forms, so little time!

I get so excited by what you can find on the web these days. I'm doing some work for a charity at the moment and I wanted to build an online event registration form that compiled a database and also sent the event registrant a confirmation email. We have a great IT company that does a lot of work free for the charity, but they'd have to spend some additional IT time on this and they were going to have to charge us $600. Now this isn't a lot of money, but when you're a charity, it's enough! So I went to good ole Google for an investigate and found a tool that I love so much I can't stop telling people about it. is a completely idiot proof form builder. It's FREE if you only want 100 entries a month, which was all I needed, but even the version you have to pay for is only $24 a month for up to 3,000 entries AND it manages payments.

This tool has so many uses: as a database/sign up form, as an event registration, as a survey tool, as a means of taking payments.

It only took me about 30 minutes to customise a form in the colours I wanted, upload a logo and start collecting responses. Seriously.

I think I'm in love. Check it out at

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Turning a weakness into a strength

Last week I spoke to some (very fit) business owners at Filex - a big national health a fitness conference. I loved a story I heard from one business owner, who started his personal training business five years ago. He didn't have much cash when they started so he couldn't afford to buy the equipment - the impressive bells and whistles - that other trainers had. So he made a smart call. He decided to position his business on having no equipment. He put on the spin that "it's just the trainer and you, getting back to basics". And six years later, it's still their busines philosophy, despite having 6 full time staff and the budget to buy the equipment if he wanted it.

Is there something your "zero budget" may be preventing you from having that YOU could turn into a key point of difference? This is a great lesson to really focus on what you DO have, not what you DON'T have!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

How about a completely free website?

This post is getting back into the totally, no holds barred, got no cash at all, zero budget marketing zone.

When organising a charity race day recently, I set myself the challenge of setting up a website completely free of charge, including integrating payment for the tickets.

The answer came in the form of (don't tell Blogger) -Wordpress. I had the idea courtesy of the clever and lovely Australian mook (mag/book) DumboFeather - which, when I visited their site, found had the feel of some blogs I'd seen. So I checked out Wordpress and found that they have the ability to create a blog with pages and other "widgets" - meaning you can essentially set up a proper and dynamic website free of charge. You can even have your own URL (instead of a if you cough up about $100.

So then for the payments part. For this I went to Paypal. I set up an account, again for free, with payment only when you take funds (it's around 2.4% plus 30c a charge). I created a "buy it now" button, got some code (which I couldn't work out how to put on the blog) but I also got a URL link that you could put in an email. I used this link to literally link the words "buy a ticket" to this URL and hey presto, I was able to sell tickets.

Now if I wanted to get into building a database, I could have integrated something like zookoda and I'd be off!

And if you think all this sounds too tricky, remember I'm a marketer, not a techie. I managed to set up the site and the paypal option in a couple of hours. If I can do it, you can do it.

Have you checked out the library lately? Cheap event space for rent

I was looking for some inexpensive space to host an event recently and I was reminded that you don't need to pay a fortune in hire & catering fees to stage a professional seminar. If you're in Melbourne, you may only need to go as far as your local library!

The City of Melbourne has two great public library spaces - the Melbourne City Library, which has gorgeous windows, AV facilities, a cheap catering deal with a local cafe - and has a room that can fit up to 70 people! And that's before I even get onto the East Melbourne and North Melbourne Libraries.

So don't forget to check out your local library - it can save you money on more than the latest business books if you're planning an event and new business seminar!

Something you need to keep doing over and over

I doubt there's a business out there who's main source of business over time isn't referral and word of mouth. Yet how often do we ask and encourage our customers to spread the word about us.

I was prompted again to think about this issue when I got this lovely looking promotion from Trendwatching. These are people who not only know the value of referral, they've invested marketing dollars in making it happen. They've spent time and money on both setting up a promotion (design and tech) and incentivising it (with the MacBook - which they probably had to pay for as Apple is quite precious, but perhaps they did a contra, making it far more "zero budget").

And here's the thing. If this promotion gets them the right number of referrals, it will still pay for itself, many times over. And this is a B2B offer, which I love. Because there's no reason business to business marketing cant be creative and fun and a little bit "consumer".

So go put a note in your diary for the times over the next 6 months when you're going to systematically ask your existing customers to refer other customers. Don't leave it to them to think about it- they've got better things to do!

Why saying sorry is a great marketing tactic

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I'm a huge fan of US t-shirt biz Threadless - and now it's for more than their shirts and business model.

They had server issues during a sale - and instead of saying to their customers "too bad, so sad", they've created a marketing opportunity & made themselves look good in the process.

Here's what they said:

"Earlier this week, during your most crucial purchasing moments of our Spring Cleaning sale, we experienced some serious down-time. The frustration that many of you experienced while trying to make purchases is unacceptable and we promise to never ever let this happen again forever ever.

To allow you to make the most of the sale, our friends at Rackspace (the folks that host Threadless) are sponsoring five thousand $5 coupons on orders of $50 or more. The first five thousand people to use the coupon code 'spring08' during the Spring Cleaning sale will receive $5 off their order on top of the already discounted sale price. Time to go on a shopping spree!!!!

In addition to the $5 coupons and to make up for lost time, we are extending the Spring Cleaning sale until 11:59:59 CST on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008! The new shirts to be released on Monday will also be on sale!If you are interested in all the geeky details of what went wrong, please join Harper Reed, our CTO, in a live discussion of your questions and concerns..."

So first them empathised - great customer services. Then they told you what happened (and made sure you knew it wasn't all them), then they've made a supplier cover their mistake AND offered their customers a special in the mean time, then they've extended their sale and then they've even gone a step further and allowed for full interaction by setting up a discussion with the IT department.

And how did it go down? Well, you can see for yourself, as this was a blog post. The vast majority of the comments went like this: "You guys are so nice. Not like them other nasty corporations." and " wow, yes.i already ordered 3 times,but i will definitely order again monday."

So next time something in your business goes wrong, don't aim for a cover us and don't ignore your customers. Work out how you can make them feel you've listened, acted - and then keep them buying more and talking about you to everyone they know.