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How to work with a $0 marketing budget


You have a great idea but you realise that you can’t afford a marketing budget. No matter what direction you want to head in, there is no chance of spending money until you make money.

You know your idea is a winner and it won’t take much effort to get it off the ground, but you’re not in a position to throw money at it at the moment. What are you going to do with a zero dollar marketing budget? The only thing you can do. Use your brain, use your creativity, create some buzz and… I’ll get to that later.

Now turn the tables – you have a $3 million marketing budget. So what do you do? You spend it, you spend your time on spending it, you spend it by print advertising, producing a television commercial, buying branded merchandise and giving it away to customers, having a marketing agency build you a new website with all the bells and whistles, getting a booth at a few trade shows and ordering new signage.

The list can go on and on, and before you know it you’ve burnt $2 million and the remaining $1 million is there to support the deals you’ve set up and future events.

Do you think that the companies in the two scenarios above could compete with each other? “Obviously not!” you say. “The $3 million marketing budget kicks ass all over a zero dollar budget. What can you do with zero dollars?”

I’ll tell you what you can do with zero dollars, you can use your brain and creativity:

  • Create a free webpage at a suitable social networking website. For professional services or B2B use LinkedIn or for B2C use a Facebook business page. Use both if you think it will help. Of course, there are others, and you should look into them, but these two are the most popular so you should start with them. Customise your web page to suit your brand and advertise that URL wherever you’re talking about your brand.
  • Start creating conversations about your brand all over the internet using blogs and blog comments, forums and social networking sites. Look into as many ways of gaining new connections or followers as you can, but don’t do anything unethical because you will be frowned upon and probably banished, making all of your hard work disappear in an instant.
  • Make a new offer – a deal where people can try before they buy or give out some free samples in return for testimonials of the product or service.
  • Ask for referrals from everyone.
  • Ask your existing customers to promote your products or services in return for more of your products or services.
  • Partner with other businesses and use each other’s databases to create a cross-promotion.
  • Add a touch of personality to your emails and regularly keep in touch with everyone who gives you their email address with content that is useful to them. Empower your followers and make them feel special, but try not to come across as creepy.
  • Try a viral marketing video on YouTube, or a viral email campaign, or viral anything.
  • Set yourself up as a guru.
  • Create content that’s controversial, risky, emotional, persuasive.
  • Individually senda message to each one of your existing customers by making the first 15 minutes of every day your ‘existing customers’ time. Send at least five emails in this time every day. The more the merrier, but don’t overload your customers’ inboxes – they’ll get annoyed and send you to the junk-email folder. A customer shouldn’t get any more than one marketing email per week from you.
  • Go out networking – you should be able to find some free networking events. Otherwise, consider making your own free networking event and advertise it through your online social networks.

It might take a little more effort than the job of handling the $3 million budget, but if you can create enough social conversation about your brand, you can overtake the company with the $3 million marketing budget.

What’s the biggest thing you need to do? Create something different, out of the ordinary, a WOW thing, something people will not be able to miss, something that grabs their attention and makes them so curious that they can’t put their attention elsewhere, something that creates a big word-of-mouth campaign. Think about the things you tell your friends about and what they talk or gossip about. Can you replicate one of those things and tweak it to promote your brand?

It might be difficult to create and decide on an exercise like this, and a risky thing to put your name on, but are you here to be ordinary and get ordinary results? No, you want to get ahead of the competition and move on in life. Then, once you’ve made some profits, you can afford to complement your zero dollar marketing budget with some conventional advertising in niche publications or some Pay Per Click targeted internet advertising.

Once you overtake the competition, you can use the marketing systems that you’ve created plus a $3 million marketing budget. Now the competition has no hope of catching you.

Remember this: If you always do what you’ve always done, you can always expect the same results. Think big, think massive, then take a risk. It’s the only way to the top.

Paul Groth is a marketing strategist, entrepreneur, and founder of www.marketingmixer.com.au. He is a strong believer in unconventional marketing using tactics such as persuasion, emotion, controversial content and getting the most bang for your buck using low-cost marketing methods. Follow Paul on twitter @paulMrG

Photo: Martin Kingsley