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Shoestring Marketing

Where to Save and Where Not

Time to save money on your marketing? How can you do that and still get effective results? First, avoid six big mistakes that many make. Then use the twelve techniques waiting for you below.

In your attempt to save costs don’t cut in these areas:


Never try to save money by cutting the value of your product to your customer. If you reduce value they will expect a corresponding price reduction at the very least.


Never sacrifice quality to save money. Be clear on what quality means to your customers. The best definition of quality is ‘meeting expectations’. Your customers got quality if they got what they expected. Quality is neither about price nor cost. Toyota and Rolls Royce are all quality cars.


Never try to save money by making your customers wait longer.

Cheapest deal

Going cheap is not a good way to save money. Cheap looks and feels cheap. Don’t send your marketing messages that feel cheap. Instead pick your marketing channels and hunt for the best deal – not the cheapest. There is no point in printing your business cards on the cheapest paper.

Core benefit

Never trim from the core benefit of your product in your attempt to save money. Whatever the main reason they buy your product – don’t you dare reduce that. That is like cutting bone.

Your web site image

You are what your web site looks like. Invest properly to get the best image for your company. Remember most of the cost is in the maintenance of the web site and content is king.

How to Save

Social Media

The obvious…Learn how to leverage social media networks and blogs correctly and do it. Search engines can rank your content and drive traffic to you. This may be the most cost-effective marketing that you can get.

Digital Marketing

Use an e-newsletter and blog to reach your clients regularly. While not all of your customer will be responsive, a significant portion will. Allow for sharing of the content.


The oldest form of commerce – trade food for animal hides. You can try two approaches to barter. You can trade directly with your supplier or customer. For example you might trade some of your product with a publisher for ad space in their publication. The drawback to this form of barter is that you both must want and need what the other has. You might barter the whole amount or have a mixed deal of cash and barter. Another form of barter is through one of the many barter companies. They form a relationship with many companies. Any one of the barter group can buy your product with their barter dollars. You can then spend those barter dollars with some other member of the barter group to buy what you need. If getting money from vendors is a challenge, ask for some product trade.

Co-op and MDF funds

Over half of all COOP/MDF funds go unclaimed! Ask for advertising subsidy from your vendors and distributors to help you promote their products. Make a plan and present it. Follow up with ROI reports so you can get more funding in the future!

Ask customers

This is so simple that many overlook it. Ask your customers what they’ve noticed that you could eliminate that has no significant value to them. Focus your efforts on what makes you the most profits. Always ask for customer testimonials and referrals. Remember to thank them and give a reward. It will breed more of the desired behaviour.

Buy when others are not

Buy your marketing services when demand is low. A company president was planning a national conference in a prime location. He asked a big hotel, “When is your slowest week of the year?” He then offered to book that week for his conference and asked for a deal. He got it and they got the business.


Share a promotion with another company that also markets to your customers. You can split the costs of your promotion. You can offer to promote their product at your business while they do the same for you. You can offer your product as a prize in their contest promotion. You might trade referrals or give testimonials for each other.

Work with a charity

You could donate time, product or resources to a charity. They might recognize you in their signage, printed material or with a nice letter. When you work with a charity you benefit from the goodwill you create among your customers and the community. You might also get some free media coverage in the process.


You can get more from your marketing if you just negotiate with your suppliers and customers. Negotiation is a skill not a talent so it can be learned and honed. Read a few good books and take a course on negotiation to become a superior negotiator. You will learn the different gambits, styles and strategies of negotiating.

Be creative

Look for unusual promotions in other industries and find a way to make it work for you. Being creative does not mean being original. Borrow ideas from around you. The best way to get creative ideas about your business is to talk to people who know nothing about your business. For how to generate more creative ideas try using SCAMPER as described in “Secrets of Power Marketing” and at www.Torok.com

Offer something more important than money

You might save on your marketing by offering your suppliers and customers something that they value more than money. What could that be? Depending on their situation it could be using your name as a reference, access to information, exposure to new markets, referrals, new technology, time to relax, etc..

Get your company name listed on the where to buy section of your vendors

Make it link to your web site directly to the vendor’s product information or showcase. Having it link to the vendor’s product on your web store to buy instantly is even better. Spend some effort here as the way the end-user goes from the vendor’s web site to yours and what they see and do can be the difference between success and failure to convert into a customer. However, ensure that your web site presence is acceptable. No one likes a crappy web site. Remember your web site is probably your most important marketing asset so do not cut corners here!

Spend carefully and be creative in stretching your shoestring marketing budget

By George Torok