If you have a scrawny marketing budget, all is not lost. There are inexpensive ways to make an impression. Here are three suggestions:
Find people who influence buying decisions for others. Bloggers with substantial followings are a good example. Their followers pay attention to what they say about food, technology, travel or all kinds of other subjects. Approach a few bloggers who connect with your target audience. Ask them to sample your product, use your service or review your offering and then write about it in their blog.
Writers who monetize their blogs may ask for compensation, but what they charge is far less than advertising and their reach is more targeted because bloggers have created a community filled with your potential customers.
If tracking down bloggers relevant to your marketing pitch seems too daunting, there are services that can help, such as Find Your Influence, which is effectively an automated dating service matching advertisers with bloggers.
YouTube and Other Video
Short, catchy videos are popular, and thanks to advances in technology they have never been easier and cheaper to produce. YouTube presents a perfect open-air theater to post them.
Most videos don’t go viral, but many of them get a good number of views. The key is to make videos worth watching, put them in an accessible channel and let the right people know they exist.
Instead of thinking like a Hollywood movie director, ask a teenager to help you. Videos are second nature to young people, as are the increasingly simplified tools to produce sophisticated video content. They might even be able to show you how to make the next video and you can pay them with a gift card at Taco Bell.
Once you have produced your video and posted it on YouTube, you can encourage people to watch by emailing friends or people on your customer list. You also can promote the video on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other networks depending on who you are trying to reach. Email marketing, assuming you’ve collected emails, is basically free. Promoting a video on social media can be cost-effective, too. The video also can be featured on your website and in your blog.
Some of the most creative marketing ideas ever have involved street marketing. KFC once hired hundreds of people to dress up like Colonel Sanders and roam around New York, ending the day by sitting in a large bloc of seats at Yankee Stadium. The caper attracted gobs of media coverage and sparked lots of curious conversations.
You don’t need a 1,000 Colonel Sanders to create a stir. All you may need is a few volunteers willing to hand out your product on street corners while wearing logo-bearing T-shirts and funny hats.
KFC got major headlines and earned local goodwill by dispatching a Colonel Sanders look-alike to fill potholes in Louisville. You could identify a good cause – with or without involving asphalt – that connects with your product or service and convinces local TV stations to cover it.
Street marketing is an untapped source of nearly free advertising for those willing to throw inhibition to wind, dress up in a costume and do something kitschy or compassionate. In addition to some exposure and community buzz, you also will be giving your brand an injection of personality.
Gary Conkling is president and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.