A few weeks ago I was featured in a video for the American Small Business Institute here in Austin, Texas. During this interview, I had an amazing opportunity to speak with the vice chancellor of the Wizard Academy, Daniel Whittington, about marketing on a small budget. This is incredibly important for small business and startups who may believe there are no marketing options out there for the budget they have. Trust me, there are options for every business, and I cover quite a few of them in this interview…
Now I am here with Sarah Klenke, who did an American Small Business Institute video recently that you saw, and it was great. We are going to do this one a little bit differently. She had a great idea, and I want to do more of an interview-discussion style conversation about it. So Sarah start us out, what is the big idea you are here to talk about?
The big idea that I am here to talk about is that you don’t need a huge marketing budget to have a successful marketing campaign. You can have a successful marketing campaign on an affordable budget and honestly any business can do it.
So I want to clarify, when you say people avoid this because they are thinking big money, can you define big money in a dollar amount? And define affordable in a dollar amount for me.
So a lot of business owners, when they think of marketing, they think of “big advertising.” So they think of super bowl ads or high-frequency and high-volume radio. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to marketing.
What is the typical cost for something like high-frequency radio for example?
You can do high-frequency radio, depending on what city you are in (every city is different), for an affordable price depending on your strategy. I have had media buy clients get a full year of radio ads for less than $100,000. I have also done media buys for less than $30,000 for the whole year. It really just depends on the city you are in, the people you want to reach, and the radio station you are on.
So now let’s talk affordable, in comparison to that, how much is affordable? I mean what are you talking about when you say affordable do you mean like five bucks or do you mean like a thousand bucks?
There are advertising strategies where you can spend a thousand bucks or even a couple of hundred bucks and still get great results. It depends on your business, the industry you are in, and the city you are in. However, there are tons of opportunities, including ones that I would even say are close to free.
So if you are working with a small business that has avoided any kind of marketing campaign because they are afraid of the upfront barrier to success, what would you present to them as a gateway to marketing?
It will depend if they have never done any marketing before because they are a micro-business or a startup company that doesn’t have a long past or a huge marketing budget there’s still simple things they can do. I am working with a company right now, here in Austin, who does food prep. So they make meals for people who are wanting to lose weight or to gain muscle. Depending on which goal they are aiming for, they meet with a nutritionist and get their meals designed. They are working on an extremely low budget, as far as marketing goes, yet they are getting huge results. We created a bunch of YouTube videos for them and through them on Facebook. We used that as Facebook Advertising because the people they are trying to reach are young adults aged 20 to 40 years old. Those are the people on Facebook. Now that wouldn’t work for every business, but in these particular case, it does. I think they were spending about $25-50 per video and getting between 10,000-20,000 views.
Okay, so you’re saying you don’t have to pay for Facebook Advertising, but just creating really good content that you put on Facebook. So that is one of your options for marketing on a budget. Create great content, post it on social media and use that as a way to point back at the business. What’s another way?
So my first background in marketing was in collegiate sports marketing, and we had to be very creative. That’s the one thing, if you are going toward a low-budget marketing campaign, you usually have to get a little creative, and it and it typically calls for a little more elbow grease or work on your part. We found crazy, creative ways to marketing for very inexpensive. We utilized everything including canvassing, but not just canvassing people’s houses as most people would think of. We would pinpoint where our target market was. At this point, they were college students. We often went across campus and canvased people’s cars.
By canvassing do you mean to put out flyers?
Yeah, putting out flyers! It’s a very inexpensive way to marketing, but many companies look at it as “old school” and don’t think it would work. To be completely honest, I was in a meeting with some other Wizard of Ads partners, two to three years ago, who had a client up across Canada, who did real estate. I threw out the idea that they should canvass, because they had a really low budget, yet they were trying to get their whole company to do they same for advertising. So we used a few locations as “bird dogs” to try it first, so the other locations could see that it worked. So they did canvassing and hired college students to canvass the neighborhoods. It ended up being extremely successful, and they implemented it short-term across the whole company until they got their funds up to have a bigger advertising campaign.
So it sounds to me, based off of a couple of things you have said so far, that you are viewing these as stepping stones, not as a way of forever marketing your company.
Yeah, that is exactly how I see it. I work with a lot of startup companies and what I would call micro-companies. They usually only have a few staff members, often less than ten. The thing is, they don’t have huge marketing budgets. So a lot of them, especially when they first get started, are more concerned with sales, not how am I going to get customers in the door.
So it looks like the trap you are solving with this could be that business owners are stopping doing anything because they can’t afford the thing they think they would do if they had a lot of money.
Exactly! Most business owners, I think, imagine “big advertising” and believe they need a ton of money to put into radio or television ads. When a lot of times you can get good results, especially for a little company where a little bit of growth is huge, just doing easier things. One I really try to push with the companies of all sizes that I work with as clients are going out and getting involved in the community, I consider that marketing or at least PR. If you get your team together, have them wear an identifiable shirt (whether it’s a work shirt, just a shirt with your company name on it or a hat) and participate in walks or other non-profit events. That’s free! If you really want to get involved, sponsor something. It looks good on your company, which causes people to trust you more. This is a great way to bringing in new customers, who eventually become relational customers after they see not only are they getting a great product or service from your company, but they are helping the local community or even internationally. I would definitely consider that marketing too. You can do that with very little money or even just spend time volunteering with an organization.
Alright, so I hear three tools that Sarah has given us so far. They are easy to implement, if not free. Creating solid content, videos or otherwise, that you can put into social media outlets that drive people back to you. The second one is that old school marketing is not dead, it just may not be what you want to do for the entire lifespan of your business. The third one being community involvement is as much marketing as it is becoming a community resource. I think those are all three kick-butt solutions! So how do you get started on one of these or how do you even pick one, can you give us some tips?
I would start by figuring out your marketing budget. Everyone has their own formula of how to figure that out. Typically, I would say if you company is looking for growth, you need to be spending between 10-15% of your profits on marketing. Not everyone can do that, especially if you are a startup or a micro-company. Figure out whatever you can spend that is closest to that number; then I say do it! Marketing is something that is going to come back to your business; it’s an investment. If you’re doing content, it’s exponential! You can’t have enough content; there is always going to be a competitor who has more. If you can get that going, you online SEO will eventually explode, and it’s free.
Once you have your budget figured out, that’s when you need to look at what option would work best for the target marketing you are aiming for. For some companies, they may have a very young target market that they are aiming for, such as 20’s to 30’s, or a midrange of 40’s to 60’s. The target marketing truly depends on your business, the industry and who your ideal customers are.
When you figure that out, then you can break down your options. For example, if you are trying to reach younger people, I would recommend looking into content to spread on social media because that is the age group that is most active on social media. The mid-range is getting more and more active on social media each year. However, the younger generations are still the most active on them. With the younger crowd, radio works pretty well too. Also, with everything going on in the world these days, a lot of the younger generation is beginning to take more of an “activist stand” on issues such as global warming or you name it. This makes giving back to the community very successful with them as well. If you look at many of the popular videos on social media, they tell stories like “look at these people who helped save a dog from a river.” Watch social media and whatever you see coming up on your newsfeed; I would recommend taking that and finding a way to translate that into a way to advertise for your company. So which ever restaurant starts emulating those “Tasty” videos is going to hit it big time. You can quote me on that one.
Well, you heard it here! So Roy often says that there are two currencies in business, money and time. It seems like all of these solutions are replacing money with time for the business owner. So the only concern I would have is that when you are a start-up or small business, the only thing you have less of than money is time. How do you address that as a small business owner?
Honestly, I would find a way to make it part of your strategy. For example, if you are giving back to the community, I would recommend that you integrate it into your strategy and make it part of your business culture. This is what we do, but we also support this organization on the side. Get the whole staff involved and make is something that you’re all passionate about, especially if you pick a non-profit. That way, it’s not extra work.
As far as the other options go, if you don’t have the time to do them there are ways to pay people a reasonable amount of money to do it, while still saving money a lot of money than if you were choosing other alternatives. With canvassing, if you don’t have the time to do it, hire some trustworthy young people such as college students or people off of craigslist. You just need to make sure they will actually go out and do it.
So the takeaways I learned today, let me know if I miss anything, are that you don’t have to go big or not at all or go home. You can use small steps to increase your income so you can grow into larger marketing campaigns. Pick something that is an easy extension of your business culture, so you are not burning up all of the remaining time and energy that you have. Also, don’t ignore things that people have done in the past just because they are things that people have done in the past.
Yeah, the best marketing campaigns are finding something that has worked in the past and re-engineering it to work for your company. That’s business gold!
To watch more videos that other Wizard of Ads Partners or I have done with the American Small Business Institute, check out their website and their membership opportunities. If you are interested in discovering more low-budget marketing techniques that your business can take advantage of, feel free to contact me today.