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Low-budget marketing plan. 4 great tips

Last updated on: September 11, 2009 

Image: Cover of No Money Marketing. Inset: Jessie Paul.
Photographs: Courtesty, Tata McGraw-Hil Jessie Paul

With over 15 years of experience in services marketing, Jessie Paul is considered an expert in brand globalisation. In No Money Marketing she shows how an emerging brand can spot and tap into its marketing ecosystem of all stakeholders, and compete successfully with established brands for market share. No Money Marketing will be released on September 16 at Bengaluru.

When designing a marketing plan on a limited budget, you have to think a little differently from those who have the luxury of ample money.

Here is a summary of the steps - both strategic and tactical - that you should take.

1. Think Flat: Harness globalisation to treat the world as your potential marketplace and potential supplier base. This has there distinct ramifications:

You and your customers are no longer constrained by geography and communication resources; she can be anyone, anywhere and buy from you at any time that she chooses. Similarly, you can be based anywhere and sell globally.

Your customers can, and will, talk to each other through blogs, chats, online opinion polls, supplier rating systems, with or without your help. As a good marketer, this is an amazing opportunity to establish two-way communication channels with your customer base. Invest in interactive websites, discussion boards, moderated forums on social networking sites -it's usually free.

Excerpted from: No Money Marketing: From Upstart to Big Brand on a Frugal Budget by Jessie Paul. Reproduced with permission from Tata McGraw-Hill Publishing Company Limited. Price: Rs 395. Copyright 2009.

Low-budget marketing plan. 4 great tips

Your supply chain can be infinitely innovative and flexible. Instead of rigidly applying off-shore supply or on-shore supply models, you should carefully evaluate hybrid models which can give you more bang for the buck.

2. Think Narrow: Sharply define the brand value proposition - why should someone choose your offering and not buy from the competition.

It is very tempting to position an offering as serving many needs, but it is hard to communicate so many benefits on a limited budget. Look for the reason why 80 per cent of your clients choose you, and go with that.

This will change over time as both your product and the business landscape evolve so you must keep revisiting it. But being focused here will simplify your communications and enhance word-of-mouth, referenceability and memorability - all big money-savers.

Here are some ways you can do this:

Create a superlative for yourself: Being the best/first/only/largest is impressive. You may not be able to grab these accolades with respect to the entire industry, but you can create a niche or sub-category in which you can be special. Most of these superlatives are transient and you will have to constantly innovate to keep the position alive. For example if "first" is the chosen position, you will have to constantly be the first in various fields.

Low-budget marketing plan. 4 great tips

Better mouse trap versus the overall offering: Decide whether you are going to sell purely on the basis of product benefits or will be marketing the holistic experience.

This will determine much of your marketing strategy. If you go with a product-centric approach it simplifies matters as all marketing will be built around the product benefits and supremacy. However, the company will have to invest in sustaining the product superiority.

If, on the other hand, you decide to market the experience, look for all the ways in which you can percolate the value proposition (chosen in step 1) into all aspects of the company, and ensure that the communication program touches all these elements. In this case the company will have to invest in sustaining all the elements, not just the product.

However, the client will buy the holistic experience not just the product benefits.Neither approach necessitates the investment of money. It is often just doing all the things you would do for your business, but consciously adopting the corporate theme and making it public.

For example, if you said that you were "client-centric" how could you reengineer all the customer touch-points to reinforce this claim? What are the awards you can win? What industry certifications are required to validate this?

Low-budget marketing plan. 4 great tips

Tightly define your customer: The more people you need to contact, the more your cost of marketing will rise. So, if you can define the potential target audience really narrowly, you can save money and raise efficiency.

Look for a demographic or psychographic pattern that can help you narrow down the prospect base. Or artificially restrict yourself to a particular location or ethnography which has a lower cost of contact for you. You can also focus on a particular function instead of the entire organization. Another option is to focus on a particular industry.

3. Think Collaboration: Communication to all elements of the eco-system, not just your key buyers.

Buyers can hear about your offering from different parts of their industry, and some elements (for example media) may have a higher level of influence in their decision-making process.

Moreover, a service really takes off when it acquires a critical mass of knowledgeable people who are willing to endorse it. Broadening your eco-system and facilitating cross-communication can speed up this process.

Often, there is no cost to contacting the members of an industry eco-system, though you will have to put in the effort to identify them and create relevant, custom communication. But you can save a lot of money by avoiding the mass media required for a direct contact with the buyer.

Low-budget marketing plan. 4 great tips

Image: The Thinker is a bronze and marble sculpture by Auguste Rodin.

This is the equivalent of what many of us may have resorted to in college. You want to meet a guy (or girl) but figure the direct approach may not work. So, you tell lots of your friends and perhaps the coffee-shop owner and the book-shop lady that you think this guy is great and wait for word to reach him.

Once it does, his interest is piqued and typically he does approach you. So, much more effective than a cold call!

Once you have built critical mass in that chose space, you can expand the circle of potential buyers and eventually when you have sufficient money go mass market.

4. Think Frugal

Constraints can force you to be clever. In general, the easiest way to reach your audience will be the most expensive. That's because someone else is doing the thinking behind creating that opportunity and also bringing in the audience for you. But if you were to create the opportunity then the costs go down.

For example, let's say that you work with a hotel to offer their guests something in return for placing flyers in the rooms. If you are the first person to approach the hotel then the costs will be low as the hotel will see it as easy additional revenue for no work.

Low-budget marketing plan. 4 great tips

But, once the idea has been commercialized and becomes a standard offering for their sales team the price will rise because others will now compete with you.

In India, "room drops" where a promotional item is dropped in a room which is the official venue for an event is still not a standard offering. Chances are that even if you are not a sponsor the hotel will let you drop a gift/flyer in their rooms for a nominal costs and you can reach the event participants.

Here are some guidelines on frugal thinking:

Avoid waste. If you have defined your target audience tightly, most mass media vehicles will be too broad for you. But today with some savvy negotiation you can bring down the reach (and thus the costing). This is true not just with the Internet - where tools exist for IP-level targeting - but also in print media.

You can persuade most dailies to run your ad in a limited number of copies and have those distributed only in your chosen locality. For example, to announce your new product launch it may be sufficient to cover just the main business district, and since the number of copies is so low you can afford a 4-page ad (called a "power jacket".)

Low-budget marketing plan. 4 great tips

Be interesting: There are many things that we do as part of our business - hiring, training, signing up suppliers, going green, selling, producing, customer service. Make each of these things interesting; seek opportunities to do them differently or uniquely.

For example, all listed firms have to manage their investor's relations. But, some of them have raised this to an art-from and have been recognized for this through various accolades. Providing food to employees is an old practice - but Google took it to another level of sophistication and used that as a differentiator.

Consciously think about whether what you are doing can win an award or be covered in media, even while serving its functional objective. You should also explore whether any of the attributes of your firm can be leveraged for human interest such as the country of origin or founder credentials.

Be insightful: Thanks to the Internet, information is easily available. What customers and prospects value today is insight? A good way to stand out amongst the clutter is to have a good point of view, and provide insights into the industry.

This will generate word-of-mouth buzz and free publicity, in addition to creating a loyal base of customers.

Low-budget marketing plan. 4 great tips

Research is often inexpensive or free. What matters is the industry knowledge that you bring to the table that converts the research data to an insight. Larger firms can set up a dedicated research bureau that acts as a nodal point for company insights, and smaller firms can create a panel of experts who perform a similar function.

Providing research reports on your website will get interested buyers to voluntarily begin a conversation with you. Speaking at events will also attract those with an interest in the subject. Establishing the CEO and other senior executives, as industry leaders will also ensure more interest in your firm.

I do hope you have enjoyed this book and that some of the principles and tips are useful to you as you create the next superbrand.

Finally, allow me to pass on to you the two words, which have been handed down from generation to generation of marketers, and which if followed diligently will save you form a premature old-age caused by the occupational hazards of typos, missed deadlines, leaked releases, corrupted databases, and irate bosses: 'Stay Cool'.

Excerpted from: No Money Marketing: From Upstart to Big Brand on a Frugal Budget by Jessie Paul. Reproduced with permission from Tata McGraw-Hill Publishing Company Limited. Price: Rs 395. Copyright 2009.