Marketing on a Shoestring

By Carolyn West Price

Since it has become all-too-apparent over the years that Mom was right, “money does not grow on trees,” it is always a challenge for call centers to effectively market their businesses on limited budgets. This is especially true when starting out, given the investment that must be made in “image” materials, such as a logo, brochures, stationery, cards, and a website. This is not an area to skimp on, since there is only one chance to make a first impression.

Compound the lack of disposable funds with the misperception that “marketing equals advertising” and many business owners just give up. They look at a couple of rate cards and see what it will cost to place just a few ads, knowing that is not enough to make an impact. They don’t realize that there are other areas of marketing that can be effective either with or without traditional advertising.

Here are a few low-budget/high impact ideas for you to consider as you revise or create your marketing plan.

  1. Review the Business Monthly’s “Special Sections” calendar and plan to submit at least one article this year to get yourself a by-line and lots of credibility. Frame your article; give it to clients; let everyone know you have been published for much greater impact after the paper has lost its shelf life. The cost: your time (and maybe a ghostwriter).
  2. Send press releases to the newspapers whenever you move, expand, hire management level employees, offer a new product, win an award, host an event that is open to the public, or are chosen for a speaking engagement. Don’t forget to include alumni magazines and newsletters of groups to which you belong on your media list. The cost: your time and a little postage (if you use snail mail).
  3. Create a client contact program. How will you reach your clients or customers at least six times during the year? Why not utilize a combination such as personal phone calls, an invitation to attend an event with you (Chamber networking, for instance), a bi-monthly email bulletin, and a survey demonstrating that you about care what your clients think. The cost: your time, maybe the graphic design of your bulletin, and postage.
  4. Volunteer or donate to non-profit organizations. If you donate to a silent auction, you create goodwill and your logo becomes a mini-billboard as everyone walks past your auction item. Donating time lets you impress people in a non-sales setting so you’ll be on the top of their mind when a need for your services arises. The cost: your time and the cost of a donated item.
  5. Establish a scholarship. Earn some publicity by sending press releases to announce it. In addition, all the parents whose children are eligible will now know of you and goodwill is created. The cost: $500.
  6. Educate. You’re an expert, so dazzle others. Host a seminar or workshop to teach others how to do something. An example may be properly answering the phone or taking a message, reinforcing that you are the expert. You can market these opportunities in everything from your email signature blocks to your bulletin, fax cover sheets, and starbursts in ads. If an organization invites you to speak, they’ll help with some of the marketing, too. The cost: your time, plus a room rental which is usually less than $100 for an area conference room.
  7. Proactively develop a referral-source network. If you make it a point to meet at least one “power partner” per month who can send you referrals, you will have 12 people who are not currently sending you business by this time next year. Target people whose professions are complementary to your own. Think of the exponential impact that can have if you pursue referrals from the clients they send you, too. Do something so you can discuss how you can make the relationship a win-win and to learn more about each other’s businesses and ideal prospects. It will be time well spent. The cost: a few lunches or admission fees and your time.

Carolyn West Price is president of IMPACT Marketing & Public Relations, Inc., and a member of the practitioner faculty at Johns Hopkins University. She travels around the US giving workshops and seminars to business organizations. Contact her at 410-461-9398 or 

[From Connection Magazine April 2005]

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