How to market your business without spending a penny


In 2013, the University of Tennessee looked into the failure rate of businesses across 11 different industries. Of the companies used in the study, they found that more than 50% failed after just 4 years, while the majority (71%) failed after their 10th year in business. In essence: your probability of running a successful business over the long-term is under 30%.

The researchers identified a number of reasons for this, with one of them being due to wasted marketing budgets. Businesses spent too much money on marketing with no meaningful return on investment. Perhaps due to the lack of having an effective plan or approach.

So if you're a start-up business, what can you do to market your product or service in the most efficient way possible – that is, maximising the size of your audience at little to no cost – to accelerate the growth of your business?

The key here is in developing and nurturing a creatively exponential mindset because it is with this mindset that the shift from 'I've got an awesome idea' to 'I'm running a multi-million-pound company' is now occurring faster than ever.

It is all about capturing the attention of your audience and potential customers in a world where we are surrounded by more and more choice and shorter and shorter attention spans.

3 ways to help get you thinking about what you could experiment with include: unique talking points, building a community and stunt marketing.

Unique talking points (UTPs) are essential features of your business that are so unique or different that it effortlessly compels people to tell others about it or share it on their social media channels. It gives them a story to tell. Some UTPs used by businesses include a nightclub serving tequila to your table via a toy train running above your head; an upscale bar changing a section of their cocktail menu every month to name drinks after their most loyal customers and members; and, an accountancy firm doing a 'launch party' at a burlesque club.

Building a community is crucial in today's business environment with the ubiquitous presence of social media and fact that people want to feel as if they are a part of something. For example, individuals are now able to turn themselves into a successful business 'overnight' by leveraging their following and social community built over time. If someone is passionate about fitness and has an Instagram following in the 100s of thousands, if not millions, with plenty of engagement, and decides to launch a new online course, book, or even app, it is very likely the take-up will be ridiculously high. Building communities are also what Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg did after the launch of her book 'Lean In', in order to spread her ideas from that book. Lean In circles were created and in just over a year, over 13,000 were formed with more launching every week.

The final way is stunt marketing, something Sir Richard Branson is famed for and which Baroness Mone of Mayfair employed to great effect when just starting out in business. With the paltry amount of cash she had available for marketing on her journey down to London from Scotland to put a bag of her prototype bras in Selfridges, she used it to hire a few actors to play plastic surgeons. They were used to protest outside the store with claims that her new product would make them redundant. Cue interviews with news channels at prime time and calls from department stores on New York's 5th Avenue.

How could you be more creative in the way you market your business this year so that you end up spending little to nothing and avoid being one of the many businesses that fail over time?

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