How To Market Your Business Effectively For Next To Nothing

You’re a company owner - you’ve noticed a slow down in enquiries. The phones not ringing as much and you’re not getting those speculative enquiries you once were. Is it time to shut up shop and go home? Or, is it time to get serious about marketing your company? It is vital to ensure that when thinking about your business, think about how you can tell the potential customer about it. Think about ways that might stand out from the crowd. Don’t just think about tweets and search engines. Think creatively about your target market and how you can make your company real to potential clients.

Think creatively about your target market and how you can make your company real to potential clients Click To Tweet

I've set out some ideas below that could help you get your business seen for the right reasons:


The Truth About Most Business Marketing Strategies

What Constitutes Marketing

What’s The Plan?

Things You Could Do Today

What’s Your Elevator Pitch?

Exploit Local Possibilities Within Your Community

Partnerships and Collaboration

Network Mastery

Use Your Existing Customer Base As A Referral Base

E-Mail Databases Help You To Keep In Touch

Vouchers and Coupons

Freebies - Low-Cost Incentives


The Truth About Most Business Marketing Strategies


The thing is that many businesses are normally really great at the service they provide to the clients they have. It’s the first bit that they (and many other businesses for that matter) struggle with. It’s also fair to say that most companies haven’t considered a marketing budget - let alone a marketing plan - they will tell you that most enquiries come from word of mouth. If your new to the world of commerce, the chances are you won't have thought about how to market your small business.

The thing is that many businesses are normally really great at the service they provide to the clients they have. It’s the first bit that they (and many other businesses for that matter) struggle with. Click To Tweet

What Constitutes Marketing


Many small business owners commit their time to networking and promoting via haphazardly distributing their business cards to anyone who stands still long enough and near enough to have one thrust into their hands.


What’s The Plan?


According to a poll of over 300 businesses taken recently, 75% don’t have a formal marketing strategy. Which is probably code for don’t have one at all. Which means that they’re relying on gut instinct and what has gone before.

According to a poll of over 300 businesses taken recently, 75% don’t have a formal marketing strategy. Click To Tweet

Things You Could Do Today


The trouble is that many businesses leave it late before recognising that they need a process to follow. Many are at breaking point before they start thinking about the funnel and flow.


What’s Your Elevator Pitch?


Having an elevator pitch that you can happily level at your target audience is vital. I read an article once that suggested making it simple for anyone to relate to. So instead of stating “ we produce encryption for e-commerce platforms that use a 1028 key for the utmost security.”

If an adults concentration span is around thirty to sixty seconds in length, craft your pitch accordingly. Make it around fifty seconds with the juicy stuff nearer to the start. Click To Tweet

You’d consider the listener and accept they may have no prior knowledge of your business sector - let alone your business. So you’d say something like:

“When you checkout at an online store like Amazon - it uses security software for sending your card details - that’s what we produce”. Now we know that most people on the earth have heard of Amazon and many have used the service. It makes it easy to relate to.

Elevator Pitch

If an adults concentration span is around thirty to sixty seconds in length, craft your pitch accordingly. Make it around fifty seconds with the juicy stuff nearer to the start.

If you successfully engage with them, you’ve probably got a little over a minute to really sell them on your product or service. Invest the time to craft a killer elevator pitch. It makes your face to face time far more valuable and will increase your ability to guage interest and get some follow up.

Exploit Local Possibilities Within Your Community

It's not all digital marketing. It’s about being laser focussed when it comes to community, but it doesn’t have to cost the earth to put your message out there.

Sponsor a local event, make small take homes like bookmarks for your local library or sponsor a kids football team. The fact is that many organisations and entities are very thankful for airtime and face-time and donations. Think how your budget, limited or otherwise could help promote your business.

Partnerships and Collaboration

Cross promote each other. It’s a simple, free to implement idea that will give your business even more reach. Look to link to each others websites. You could even look to give each other incentive to promote your business in the form of a discount or agree some form retrospective deal where they earn a commission and vice versa. It’s amazing what a bit of incentivising can do to a business relationship.

All of which come at little risk to either party.

Network Mastery

The important thing about networking is to make it count. Make sure you see the right people at the event, get the opportunity to talk to them, make a decision and what other steps to take and move onto your next opportunity. Used wisely and for the right reasons, networking can become a very effective way of making new business connections in a short space of time.

Networking can be used for the wrong reasons too: thinking it can dig you out of an immediate hole is not realistic. The chances of coming across a knight on a white charger the first time you go networking is to put it mildly, unrealistic. Networking is like all marketing, it takes time to establish, but when it does, it can pay dividends.

Give a Talk and Show Them you’re The Expert

If you feel that becoming a key person of influence is something you feel will better place you in your niche for quality leads, referrals and partnerships, then speaking is a great way to increase your public profile. Public speaking takes courage. I was reminded of this by Glen Carlson - one of the founders of Dent Global who provide a step by step guide on becoming a KPI. He reminded me that that those who speak practice, that those who give that amazing talk have probably rehearsed and given that speech time and time again.

Dr Martin Luther King gave his “I Have A Dream Speech Click To Tweet

Dr Martin Luther King gave his “I Have A Dream Speech” hundreds of times all over America before he famously delivered it. The life coach Tony Robbins, started by delivering small speeches on giving up smoking and weight loss before he did what he does now. Start small, learn the speech and the craft and learn from the experience.

It often falls to networking afterwards and often people want to talk to you. I’ve found that you normally get a great deal of interest after a speech in what you do. I know that the co-founder of KPI, Daniel Priestley uses his speech in a really engaging way and then gives away his books to delegates. I can’t think of a more compelling way to get people curious about what you do.

Giving a presentation

Use Your Existing Customer Base As A Referral Base

If you’ve just completed a job with an existing client, there’s never a better time to ask who else they might know who could benefit from your expertise.

Some may say they don’t know anyone. Others will be only too happy to introduce you. But the best thing is: if you’ve done a great job for your client, they’ll do the selling for you.

E-Mail Databases Help You To Keep In Touch

Keeping in contact with those you’ve already met is by far and away cheaper than prospecting for a new client. All you need is an email address to give your online marketing a shot in the arm.

All you need is an email address to give your online marketing a shot in the arm. Click To Tweet

The best way to keep in touch is using an email marketing list. I love them as they are platform agnostic. Meaning - it doesn’t matter what happens, you can still keep in contact with your prospect no matter what happens to social media platforms.

Use the content from a blog post or article you’ve written to send to your mailing list to keep them in the loop.

Keep them abreast of offers and new products and services you’re offering.

Vouchers and Coupons

Giving people an incentive to come and visit you is an ideal way to get facetime for your business. There are two things however that need to be done to ensure that you get seen and that people take action.

Firstly, make sure that your offer is something that has a perceived high value, but can be bought for less. Normally a service is ideal.

The offer has to be compelling. It is no good offering five percent off things that are still expensive after the discount. It needs to be significant. Make sure that there is an expiry date on the voucher. Also, make sure it is time-bound. Vouchers that never go out of date are the scum of the business world!


Freebies - Low-Cost Incentives

When you’re creating your offer, make sure there is a way of sampling your services or products risk-free. Make a lite offer for clients to see how you think and how your business works. Once they’ve emotionally invested in you, they will come back for the next offer up or event the top of the range product or service you offer.

Kill your clients with kindness - it’s a great way of getting loyalty before  they’ve parted with a penny. One word of warning, make sure that the no-cost and low cost offers don’t take up too much of your time - otherwise it becomes counter-productive.

These simple marketing ideas will ensure that your new business or existing business gets seen. With relatively little up front cost these marketing efforts will have your business known by more people, quickly, efficiently and with little cost attached.

Go for it.

Kill your clients with kindness - it’s a great way of getting loyalty before they’ve parted with a penny. One word of warning, make sure that the no-cost and low cost offers don’t take up too much of your time - otherwise it becomes… Click To Tweet



Branded Workwear: What Putting Your Logo Onto A Polo Shirt Means

Have you ever wondered what the point is of getting branded workwear? Does it just seem like an expensive luxury that serves no purpose? Believe it or not, branding your workwear works so much deeper than that. I've put together a short article where I discuss with a client whose business is making branded workwear and promotional items why that perception is simply not true and why standing out being outstanding can win the business.

Personally Branded Workwear Can Put You Ahead Of Your Competitors

What type of business are you? Are you hiding you light under a bushel? Or are you showcasing your brand at every opportunity. Click To Tweet

I met with a client of mine recently who creates embroidered workwear and promotional items for clients. I was curious as to the whole phenomenon of workwear branding. Strangely enough, I lecture for one of our local colleges and one of the points we discussed only last week was how much more "branded" everyone's business is. Moving back twenty years ago, most businesses never even considered having a logo let alone a sign-written van with anything more than a phone number and a name of a company. So what happened? I think one of the key things is accessibility. There are more local businesses who offer an opportunity to brand your business for a reasonable price, quickly and efficiently. I also think that it is a case of keeping up with the Joneses to a large degree. Or FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out.

Embroidered Polo Shirts

Embroidered Garments Give People Confidence In your Business

I was however given some examples of the companies customers who had seen an upturn in their customers after changing the way that they appeared. A story of two plumbers: one turning up in ripped jeans and paint-stained t-shirt and the other turning up in smart uniform, with company details upon it. Who did the customer feel happier with? The uniformed representative. Why? Because she felt that they came over more professionally and confidence of it feeling like a larger and more organised company,

Who Was Actually The Best?

It doesn't matter who is actually best - it matters who the customer will choose. If you can get a competitive advantage cost effectively - why wouldn't you? Click To Tweet

The fact is that Mr Torn Jeans was a better and quicker plumber. However, the other chap not only booked more - he charged more too. All because of the customer perception gave out by a uniform and one other thing. A fridge magnet. This magnet said "in case of emergency" and put the companies emergency all hours mobile number. That will probably stay attached to the fridge for a very long time. probably keeping the leaflet delivery company I wrote about a couple of weeks ago!

Small Changes That Gets your Business and Brand Noticed.

Some simple changes, that didn't cost a fortune made some significant changes to that plumber's fortunes (not that plumbers need much more fortune in my house!) Some of the top tips I would advise anyone looking at clothing, branding their vehicles or giveaway items:

A Few Do's and Don't On Branding Your Business

Don't waste time putting addresses or phone numbers anywhere. Place the website address instead. Why? Because you can find everything else out from the website (if it is half decent). Make sure you are clear that you put what it is you do. None of us is ICI or Virgin. We need to explain our products and services. That's how people who see out logo'd vans and polo shirts will know if they're interested in what we offer. Then with a nice, short website address, they can be in contact with you.

embroidered garments



Leaflet Delivery and Compelling Offers

The idea of door dropping leaflets flyers and the like is not something I had ever considered for myself of my clients as part of a marketing campaign. I, like others before me believed they were the stuff of landscape gardeners and local paving companies. We work with a local BID (business improvement district) in our town, marketing and promoting their larger events we designed and maintained their website and working with them on a marketing campaign to get a good return on investment. It's a great opportunity to work with local businesses and in particular to work with retailers. A group that I rarely cross paths with. Not for any other reason than we just don't seem to get enquiries from them, mainly due to the fact that most of our marketing is aimed at business minds and not the retail arena. I digress.

Real World Example of Leaflet Distribution

On the occasion that I have worked with retailers and those who are working at the sharp end of the business world, we have used the medium of leaflet distribution. Not stuff it in a newspaper, not delivered by the Royal Mail, but actual real leaflet drops. I wondered who might offer a leaflet distribution service near me. Through networking, I met the owner of a leaflet distribution business in Cambridge, who assured me that popping leaflets through letterboxes was alive and well and that people "did quite well out of it". For local distribution service, the distribution prices were very reasonable. I must admit however, I was pretty sceptical as I like many of you will think that most leaflets are scooped up and dropped into the bin without further thought. His point was, that whilst it is true to stay that many leaflets DO end up in the bin, most households have leaflets stuck to their refrigerators or stuck to a pinboard that may be of interest to them.

The Solus Leaflet Distribution Myth

I remember being told about a type of delivery I should ask about. "What is solus distribution," I asked. I was informed that it meant the delivery company would only deliver a single leaflet. I was also told that it was a bit of nonsense as one thing you cannot control is whether someone else delivers a leaflet 5 seconds after you do, therefore rendering the concept null and void. Plus it had quite a large bearing on delivery prices.

Why I Decided To Do It

The reason I decided to use the leaflet drop company I talked to was their live GPS tracking and their guarantee. I was given a login and could actually watch my leaflets being delivered! No worries about my leaflets being dumped in a bin - I could actually see a little trail being drawn on a map to show the tracks of the delivery agents. James - the owner also promised that should the leaflets do happen to get dumped - he would personally ensure that they are re-printed and delivered by a competitor for free. What's not to love? Total peace of mind. The fact that they had live gps route logging devices meant that I could watch in a sad voyeuristic way the delivery as it happened. More importantly, so could my client.

Time To Walk The Walk

I pondered upon this notion and when I could I tried at a low level the flyer delivery service for a local client in the retail sector for an event. It seemed to work pretty well. Although from the information I gained, I considered that should the opportunity come again, a compelling offer was the order of the day - to quantify the success (or failure) of the concept as a true marketing option.

The opportunity arose, this time for our local BID. We were contacted by a new fish and chip shop - asking how they could get involved. I mentioned how we were going to run a leaflet distribution campaign and that we were seeking a compelling offer to go onto the leaflet. James - the owner of the business clearly knew what he was talking about. He had a list of tips and tricks to ensure the leaflet would stand the best chance of being read and reacted to. By the way, if you need some advice on how to create the perfect leaflet - check out this guide on leaflet distribution mastery.

Don't Forget The Compelling Offer

The owner said the magic words: "We could offer a free cone of chips with each leaflet brought into our shop". This was a golden opportunity to properly soak-test my theories on leaflet distribution. It was a proper compelling offer, it could be quantified and analysed and we could control the timescale.

The first time we ran the door drop incentive, for a mid-summer event, after careful monitoring the shop received back 250 leaflets (from a door to door distribution service of 5000). That was pretty epic - 5%. It was, quite rightly, considered a success. However, the next time the campaign was run, the offer was less compelling, (a 5% discount). This was immediately reflected in only 20 responses, run for a similar event at a similar time of year. The offer wasn't compelling enough.

leaflet distribution

My Conclusion

It led me to conclude that for marketing to work, EVERYTHING must align. The idea might be good, the delivery of the idea might be great, it may look good, the offer might be fine and the event might be good enough to visit. But it has to be better than that. It has to be on point. For this to work, there has to be a draw, the event needs to have sufficient gravitas to pull people towards it. The leaflet will stay on the fridge if the offer is compelling and will be used at the right time. Keeping your product, service and event in the mind's eye of your potential customer is key and having that offer that for you has a high potential worth to a customer is really important.

A Very Satisfactory Outcome

The outcome of this? We ran another campaign using the chip shop offer for the town's Christmas light switch on. We produced 6000 leaflets. 5000 delivered through letterboxes, 1000 given to shops and businesses to distribute in the days running up to the event. The results? Over 10,000 people visited the town on that day and over 1500 leaflets were collected by the shop! They had their best trading day in the history of the business. In summary if you're looking to advertise your business - consider a leaflet drop or two. But whatever you decide to do, make sure your offer is compelling.

Rags to Riches to Rags - My First Marketing Success Story

From a really early age, I've been fascinated with why things work the way that they do. I've never normally been confined by the fact that people love to tell you that you can't achieve something. I've always found that as a gauntlet-down challenge and more often than not achieved it in an unconventional way. A great example of that is when I was 18 I found myself with a conditional offer from Oxford University for a teaching degree. At around the same time, I found girls and this rather hampered my efforts, I'd always found school easy, but my luck was about to run out. You see, I find that being "a natural" only takes you so far. For me, that was somewhere between GCSE's and A-Levels.

I discovered that being funny, being a bit of a comedian can only take you so far, but what you needed to do was pay attention and learn stuff. I didn't take heed and found myself on the day we found out our grades in my 1980 Austin Metro, hands shaking, opening the envelope with what I thought was the key to my future in it.

The key turned out to be brown in colour as I discovered my fate. A "D" in Graphic Design (my favourite subject), an "E" in English (I never even read Pride and Prejudice - I will never know how I thought I was going to be able to answer questions on it) and finally an "N" for French (That's right, everyone says I didn't know you could get an N - well you can. It means N for near miss or close to an E but again you really didn't try hard enough did you).

After consoling myself and being comforted by my family, I decided that some direct action was needed. I decided I will never know why, to write a letter to the dean of residence at the college. Don't forget kids, this is before the internet - but I used it to my advantage. I wrote that I wished to discuss my grades and my offer to the college as I felt I was still good enough. I wrote that I'd be coming on the 15th of August (the next day) at 10 am to discuss in person my application. Now I know that the letter would never get there in time. But I thought I'd use that as leverage.

I drove two and a half hours to the college and arrived. I was greeted by the school secretary, informing her that I had a meeting with the dean of residence. She checked the diary. No appointment. At which moment I erupted in the style of a pantomime dame into a diatribe of how far I'd driven, how disappointing it was and that I had expected more. The secretary, assuming it was her fault called the dean of residence. He was in work and came down to see me.


above: a picture of me in the first week at university

I was ready to undertake my first bit of sales and marketing - on myself. This was my moment. He bowled around the corner, I felt my bravado leaving me as we sat down. What happened next was quite remarkable. He agreed to pick my application up through the university clearing system after I pledged I was still good enough to study at the college. I was shocked and really at that moment, I realised that although exciting, the career of teaching probably wasn't going to be for me. In fact, it turned out that two years later I decided to leave the college, having only gained a love of real ale and a smoking habit. I look back with some remorse as to what could have been - but I am so glad I did, as the life of a teacher really wasn't for me. Those of you who know me would probably agree.

The lesson it taught me was that no matter how unlikely the odds are that you're going to succeed, you really need to give it a go. Who would EVER have thought that a D,E and N would get me into an Oxford College? I think I must have the record surely for lowest grades. Whilst I'm not proud of my lack of drive to get the grades, I did become proud of what I later considered to be a fantastic example of seizing the day and getting through in the most unlikely circumstances.

Before You Buy Any Creative Service - Think Strategy

I visited a Cambridge client last week and, as is often the case, the conversation turned towards their next set of creative work. They were seeking to create some leaflets for a conference and also a redevelopment of their website. Sounds great, and as tempting as it sounded to jump straight in I declined to quote at that moment. The reason was quite simple. At that point and even after a short cursory conversation, they couldn't really tell me what they a) needed them for b) needed them to do c) what the desired outcome would be. Although it does, it shouldn't surprise me that people who are charged with commissioning work haven't considered why they need the output. A short analysis of WHO WHAT WHERE WHEN and WHY would make life a lot easier and might even adjust the course a little. It might even be that money could be saved when it might be concluded that some (or all) of those pieces of marketing collateral may not even be needed. Imagine the smile on the CFO's face when they realised they dodged a bullet.

Knowledge Isn't Power - Action Is Power

You'll have noticed that I've placed a rather contentious statement on the front page. It's been long bandied about that knowledge is power. But I have to say the more I think about it, the more I disagree. Having knowledge is of no use to anyone if you don't put it to good use. It's like having a library in your house and never visiting it. Or having a book case full of books that COULD change your life - and yet they don't - because you don't read them. We've long been sold the lie that education is the key to great wealth and enlightenment, and in some respects that might be true. It does however, all fall back to the fact that if you don't, can't or won't put it into action then you're wasting your time.

Having the greatest library is no use unless you visit it and that you take the publications from the shelf and read them. But even then it is only half of the battle. USING that information is the most important thing. The execution is key. Even doing something half by the book is better than inertia. It makes me sad when I see leagues of postgraduates, having been sold the lie that getting a degree is the key to your future. The fact is that learning the theory is fine, but placing it into action is what they need to do. To be honest, you can get experience in most (not all) fields without going to university to prove yourself.

A Good Website Gives Prospects A Good Shove In The Right Direction

If you are clear to what you want to achieve from your brief encounter with a visitor, you can encourage them to take the next step.

The important thing is to not move too quickly or to expect such a big commitment – it makes people smell a rat – even if there isn’t a dead rat in site! It’s the equivalent of meeting for a coffee. Keep your expectations sensible, if your next step is to get people to download some material or make an appointment – that is probably a good outcome. Make sure that your website alludes to this – work with your developer by clearly outlining what the process should be and they can advise how best this can be achieved.

Give Visitors and Prospects a Look Into Your Businesses Soul

Working closely with a development team means that as a project, we inject your company personality into your website design.

From videos to icons – the importance of openness and transparency will get your site more in tune with your company methodology. Transferring your personality into a website – means that it can break down concerns, reservations, and barriers if people already "get" who you are and what you do before you even speak to one another. It allows the relationship to move forward more smoothly than if your website didn’t reflect your business in the right way or at all.

Get The Inside Edge On Leads and Prospects

You can gain a lot of information from clients before you ever talk to them using digital marketing.

Using a combination of websites, forms and the emerging force of messenger chatbots along with heatmaps and recording, you can get more information, credibility and buy-in from a client more quickly, and from anywhere – quicker than a telesales team phoning 100 businesses a day. With a clever social media marketing campaign, a great website, some marketing collateral and an interactive messenger BOT you could be getting more leads than you know how to deal with.

Saving Businesses Time and Money

Providing information to your customers takes time, whether it’s on the phone, face-to-face, in a brochure, or in emails.

With a brochure, catalog or magazine based on a website you can provide plenty of information about your products and services. Once published, it is available to your customers immediately and indefinitely, saving you a ton of time and money in distribution costs and hundreds of old brochures cluttering an office cupboard - never destined to reach the grasp of a customer.