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.