No Budget Marketing

By Melody Craigmyle

Your year probably started with a “reduced” marketing budget and that has now moved into the “drastically cut” category. Unfortunately as the year has passed, many businesses are being asked to work miracles with “no budget” marketing. As a marketer, I’m intimately familiar with the challenges you are facing. Convincing your boss that NOW is the time to actually increase your marketing efforts is a tough sell. Gary Kayye wrote about this subject in October and warned readers to not disappear off the radar or they could face the challenge of spending much more money to get back into the game.

Even with no marketing budget, there are many ways of keeping your company in the forefront. The key ingredient to making any of these tactics works is content. You must start with solid, value-added content that showcases your expertise. Whether it is a presentation, video, newsletter article or your website, you’ll have to sit down and take inventory of what you have (if anything). Then begin the process of updating your content or seeking assistance in prying out the knowledge you have in your brain that others will think is fantastic. Here are a few ideas for “no budget” marketing:

Public Relations

You can’t underestimate the power of public relations and there are lots of options to consider, not just the printed story in the local newspaper.

Case Studies

The trade magazines are always looking for good case studies to publish. Near the end of the year, they all publish a media kit that you can download online (usually under advertising) that outlines their editorial calendars. From there, think about the projects you are working on and see if there is a fit. Ask your client early on if they would be willing to participate in a case study, and get their buy-in. There are two ways you can get the case study written for free: First, pitch it early to one of the trade publications as an exclusive and they will write it, shoot photography and publish it. Or second, most of the display manufacturers are salivating to get case studies and good photography of their installs. It boggles my mind every time I ask a manufacturer for good lifestyle/installation photography and most of the time they don’t have any to share. They have budget for this and will do most, if not all, of the leg work.

rAVe offers a free place to publish case studies online, as well, called AV in Action.

Press Releases

A well written and timely press release can get picked up by all the daily and weekly eNewsletters and drive traffic to your website. Be selective about what you send because you can quickly become known as a publisher of junk such as, “A/V Integrator Installs 50 LCDs in May.” Who cares? Things people care about are: special events, training, new product lines, partnerships, awards, high profile wins/installations. Wherever possible, tie in with a hot news angle and your chances of getting coverage are much higher. Usually anything that has to do with schools or education will get picked up by the local media.

Distribute your press releases for free on http://www.PRWeb.com or http://www.i-Newswire.com

Articles

I can’t think of any web based publication that isn’t looking for good articles to publish in their newsletters. I’m sure if you sit down and think long enough, you’ll figure out at least five topics you can write about. One idea is to target a complementary industry and offer to do an article for a company or trade association. For example, contact the local American Institute of Architects (AIA) chapter and write about lighting control systems for their newsletter. If you’re really good at this, submit them for free on eZine Articles at http://ezinearticles.com/submit/ and get additional distribution.

Networking

When I posted a question on LinkedIn for “no budget” marketing ideas, this was the #1 area where suggestions were provided so it must work. Alan Marquis, Regional Director of Sales and Marketing at American Audio Visual suggested, “Evaluate the organizations you are currently a member of and get on committees. Join the Chamber of commerce and not only attend events, but offer your services.” Your local chamber of commerce has a multitude of opportunities for networking. Maybe you’re already a member but not leveraging all the benefits. Whether it is a trade association, the chamber or a charitable committee, the key is frequency. Consistently show up to the events, become an active member— be generous with your time, advice and skills— and you’ll become the go-to person in your industry.

Seminars, Trainings & Speaking Engagements

Seek out opportunities to deliver informative presentations at some of the same organizations you’re targeting to network or write those articles. I promise you the local AIA chapter would love to have a cool presentation on the latest in A/V instead of yet another demonstration of CAD software. Also contemplate doing a seminar for your customers at your own location. Don’t know what would interest them? Then create a quick customer survey using Zoomerang.com or SurveyMonkey.com to gauge topics of interest – both have FREE versions. Try partnering with a local catering company for your event or approach one of the manufacturing partners for some funding (many times food and beverage can come out of travel budgets and the sales reps don’t even have to approach their marketing departments).

Todd Rogers, Communications Manager at BI-LO suggested in our LinkedIn discussion, “I have always thought that offering training sessions is a great marketing strategy. This is especially true if you are serving the church or school AV market, where volunteers are typically operating. A Lunch & Learn, free or low cost training session gives these groups information about how to produce a better show and positions your company as ‘the expert’.”

Free Listings

Craig’s List has become increasingly popular resource to find local service providers. Post a well written ad with a real e-mail address (not the anonymous one) that links to your website – which, by the way, must also have good content. May I point out the phrase “well written” once more? It’s amazing to me the things you see out there with misspellings, personal pontifications, and the flagrant abuse of the exclamation mark. Why does everyone think an exclamation mark makes! It! More! Exciting!!!!!!!!!!!!? Also check out http://www.yelp.com and list for free in the Professional Services section – then ask some of your customers to visit and write reviews on the site.

Social Media

Last month, I discussed some of the merits of social media through LinkedIn. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube can all be your allies in the “no budget” marketing fight. This topic is an entire article in itself so I suggest you start by doing some research before jumping in and opening a Twitter account. I recently read Joel Comm’s book “Twitter Power” and it’s a great primer on how to leverage Twitter and other social networks to grow your business. The folks over at Chief Manufacturing do a great job leveraging YouTube for product training and showing hands-on techniques on how to use their mounting solutions. You can do the same with your video camera and free editing software out on the web.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

I reluctantly add SEO to the “no budget” list because if there’s one thing you should spend money on, it’s professional SEO. Google changes the way they do their rankings 4-5 times a year and it’s truly a technical art. If you have a geek in-house that can assist in SEO then you should dedicate serious time and energy to the effort. Your role in the SEO is strategic direction, giving the geek guidance on keywords, appropriate page titles, the copy on the pages and links to other sites. A good place to start that provides tools and information on do-it-yourself SEO is http://www.seochat.com/seo-tools.

So even with a big zero for your marketing budget, there’s no excuse for going dark when there are many great options to keep in front of your customers and maybe even acquire some new ones along the way.

Melody was most recently Vice President of Marketing for Electrograph Systems. She is a marketing expert looking for an exciting new opportunity (hint, hint). She’ll also be helping rAVe with some cool new ways that we’ll be covering InfoComm, so stay tuned. Contact her at  mcraigmyle@comcast.net or find her online at http://www.linkedin.com/in/melodycraigmyle