Marketing online on a zero budget


6 Aug 2010

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One of the most difficult steps in starting your own business can be getting the word out; letting your target audience know who you are and what you’re about. It would appear impossible, then, to do this on a zero budget but there are many ways to market your product or service for free.

Create a buzz online

Precisely how much did it cost Old Spice to, well, spice up a tired old brand? Not much. With a camcorder, YouTube and Twitter, they created a huge buzz around ‘Old Spice Man’, a guy who chatted to celebrities and us regular folk on Twitter and created personalised responses that were then uploaded to Twitter.

If you want to get your brand noticed, then follow suit. The audience potential online is limitless and the more original or zany your idea is, the more of a chance you have of getting noticed.

Marketing guru Seth Godin talks about the Purple Cow effect but why not take a regular cow and dress it up in purple? Old Spice isn’t remarkable but Old Spice Man is.

Barter

No budget to buy ad space in print publications, on TV or radio? Sit down and think about your product and how it could benefit someone else. The power of barter is limitless and goes a long way when cash is scarce. If your product is butter or your service is babysitting it doesn’t matter: you can trade these valuable commodities for something you want.

Remember when you swapped action figures, toy soldiers, fancy paper and marbles as a child? This is just as relevant to your business now. Ring up the local newspaper and ask if they’ll run a series of ads for your product in return for a year’s supply of butter for their sandwiches!

Remember, people want and need tangible things at the end of the day. Just figure out the value proposition.

Twitter

If you haven’t been on Twitter yet, don’t be scared. Equally, if you have been and have huffily concluded that it is full of narcissistic individuals with verbal diarrhoea, please do not be so quick to judge because it is a great place to talk about your business and engage specifically with the kind of people who might be interested.

Join up at Twitter.com, choose a user name relevant to your business or name, and watch people talk for awhile. Follow those you are interested in, talk about things you think your target market care about (without blatantly pushing your product) and you should gather a loyal following over time.

It is also a great (and free!) way of tracking your brand by using an application such as Tweetdeck, where you can set up searches for keywords like your brand, your company name, the kind of product you sell. If you have a search set up for broken windows you will know every time someone mourns theirs and you can helpfully tweet back letting them know about your prompt and efficient window replacement service.

Blogging and bloggers

Contrary to some opinion, blogging is far from dead. It is the best way to get out news about your company (and you can always tweet a link to your post!) and is pull marketing at its best. People will come if they are interested.

If you have not blogged before, then head to a free service such as WordPress.com, get your account, name your blog and welcome to the world of instant self-publishing.

Here you are free to evangelise about your company, talk about developments in the world of window glass repair, give people tips on how to care for their windows, let them know how the window glass repair conference 2010 went, who was there and what new innovations were talked about.

This might seem terribly niche, but for every obscure topic there is a willing online audience. Chris Anderson talks about The Long Tail, a phrase used to explain that if you provide niche services, a market will follow.

Oh, and read other blogs and comment on them. Get used to the ‘blogosphere’, get a proper feel for what people like to talk about and if there are bloggers out there on topics such as DIY, home improvement, building materials, whatever it may be, you can offer to give them free samples.

They may blog about this. They may not. Don’t push but nurture engagement and your business will be seen as a valuable addition to this niche blogging community.

A perfect example of a business engaging with the blogosphere is Murphy’s Ice Cream from Dingle. Kieran Murphy’s blog Ice Cream Ireland is a great read, focuses on community where the product just so happens to fit into the narrative and it’s so creative that all the recipe ideas and suggestions from readers lead to the publishing of The Book of Sweet Things in 2008. A delicious marketing principle. All it takes is dedication and inspiration.

Radio

The wireless is still a powerful medium. In fact, daily radio listenership stands at 86pc of the adult Irish population, according to the latest JNLR figures for the 12-month period from July 2009 to June 2010.

If you haven’t got the budget for a radio campaign, then listen in to those mid-morning and afternoon shows where real people talk about real problems, as they say.

Could your product or service be a solution? If it is, you can contact the radio station and see if they give it a plug or give away some freebies.

Derbhile Dromey talks about this very marketing strategy on BloggerTone.com. She realised that a client of hers had a product that solved the problem being discussed by Ray D’Arcy and so it got a shout out on the show. Subsequently, her client’s website got a spike in visitor numbers.

LinkedIn

It’s a professional networking site so it does what it says on the tin, so to speak. This is where you’ll find plenty of links and this site runs deep. There are so many niche groups you can join to tap into a global audience and so many connections to be made through legitimate introductions.

Start your own group, invite people to join, get the word out. Link in your website, blog and Twitter account. The more you join in, the better brand recognition you will get. You’ll also find plenty of relevant events on LinkedIn and real-life networking and word of mouth for your business will take shape from there. Good luck!

Courtesy of Bizstartup.ie