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10 marketing tips that won’t cost a cent

Thursday, 26 August 2010 | By Nina Hendy
But with a nose for a bargain and a little know-how from the experts, it is possible to extract good value from a limited marketing budget.

1. Word-of-mouth

Get people talking about your business by hiring a ‘word-of-mouth' expert to start a conversation on your behalf.
The Word of Mouth Company operates across the eastern seaboard and starts 500 conversations a day. Its team of 50 conversation starters are invited to speak at established community groups like mother's groups about up to seven brands an hour. It costs from $1.30 per person and all feedback is tracked online.
"We generate conversations and all our campaigns are supported by print and online," company co-founder Jo Schultz says.

2. Social networking

Companies need more than just a website to be truly part of the digital age. Tim White, strategist of Melbourne digital agency Citrus recommends Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which uses key words to make sure your business features prominently in search engines. Beyond that, consider social networking, he says.
"Integrating your company into online communities is free. A company can utilise an online network to generate communication so your business becomes part of online conversations. It's the holy grail of digital marketing right now," White says. However tread carefully, he cautions, because negative conversations can breed quickly online.
Advertising on blogs or social networking sites is also increasing popular, White says. It allows you to place your brand near industry thought leaders and remains relatively inexpensive.

3. Customer Relationship Marketing

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems have long been the preserve of larger companies, but they are great tool for smaller businesses too. The systems capture customer information and can be used to create targetted marketing campaigns. For example, if you decide to send an offer to lapsed customers, a CRM allows you do this quickly and effectively.
An off-the-shelf CRM system can cost as little as $600, plus around $4,000 for a consultant to customise the system. However, billing systems like MYOB can often do the basics.
Paul Bennett, CEO of advertising agency Euro RSCG says CRM is vastly underutilised by Australian businesses. "Lots of companies seem to think CRM is the same thing as direct marketing, but it most certainly is not," Bennett says.
"Most businesses can have an immense amount of dormant information on their computer systems that can be used to create more effective marketing campaigns."

4. Experiential marketing

Whether its bubble wrapping lamp posts, creating pavement art or paying actors to argue in cinemas, experiential marketing (also known as ambient marketing) is on the increase as companies try to reach time-poor consumers.
Nick Callander, director of Melbourne experiential agency Ignition says if it's a unique idea developed from a genuine insight that's well-executed, it will achieve cost-effective results.
A great example of an Ignition experiential marketing campaign involved a campaign for the promotion of a new Ikea store. One night, the company put 50,000 Ikea swing tags on public furniture, and also drove around old Volvos loaded with Ikea furniture.
"These engaging brand experience moments will capture the attention, hearts and minds of consumers and present a clear call to action. If experiential is used as part of an overall campaign, then it works brilliantly," Callander says.

5. Product placement

Product placement is about dressing branded product as part of a set or photo shoot, or having it integrated into a script. But television networks and magazines are swamped with approaches, so consider hiring a PR firm to do the legwork.
Sydney's Believe Advertising specialises in product placement. Director Adrian Falk has had clothing, bags and FMCG brands feature in television shows, blockbuster movies, magazines and advertising shoots. It will set you back the cost of your product, plus his fee.
Fees vary depending on the longevity of the campaign and the objectives, but Falk is willing to work within a client's budget.
"It works perfectly for people who don't have the budget to advertise on TV and product placement is more believable than traditional advertising," Falk says.

6. Direct Marketing

Direct marketing includes brochures and offers sent in the mail, email and SMS communication, which can be very effective and relatively inexpensive.
The Australian Direct Marketing Association says costs vary depending on communication method and type of design and production used.
"Direct marketing allows you to measure return on investment very effectively because you know who you sent the offer to and can track whether they come back and take up the offer," director of corporate and regulatory affairs, Melina Rohan says.

7. Whisper campaign

Whisper campaigns are the mischievous cousin to word-of-mouth campaigns because the person being marketed to isn't aware of it.
Companies might hire an actor to visit a bar and mention to unsuspecting punters how great an alcohol brand is, for example.
It's hard to find anyone willing to admit they create whisper campaigns as it defeats the purpose, but they're alive and well in the Australian marketing scene. Try calling a few advertising or PR agencies and you should be able to find someone willing to do the legwork. Just make sure no one blows your cover.

8. Turn on the media

Generate media interest in your business with some new-age tactics.
Earlier this year, advertising agency Naked created a viral teaser campaign to promote the launch of Witchery Man retail stores. The YouTube video featured a young woman seeking to return a man's jacket after a brief encounter with him, who turned out to be an actor. The video was believed to be genuine and generated huge media response.
Tourism Queensland's ‘The Best Job in the World' competition has also generated far greater media interest than an advertising campaign ever could, with worldwide media coverage.
Hiring a PR firm or marketing agency to engage the media on a project basis can be extremely cost-effective.

9. Corporate events

Organising a corporate event doesn't have to cost the earth. Friday night drinks and canapés at your office is a good start, although hosting an event in a stylish restaurant or art gallery can be a cost-effective marketing option.
An event will give you valuable face time with your customers, but make sure you ask them to bring a friend so they can introduce a potential new customer to your business.
Justin Hind, chief operating officer of Downstream Marketing says getting to know your core customer base is paramount. "It's five times more expensive to attract a new customer to your business than it is to keep a current one happy," Hind says.

10. Negotiate

Discounts can be found across the media landscape, with television, radio, newspapers, outdoor companies and online media operators all prepared to negotiate. After all, sales representatives still need to make budget despite the volatile market.
Harold Mitchell buys media space for a living and has a reputation for being a strong negotiator. He says small businesses should follow a few basic rules when dealing with the media to snare a bargain.
"Make sure your credit is good before your start negotiating. And always deal with the highest level salesperson that you can."