Mel Kettle's Top 12 Tips for Marketing on a Shoestring Budget

Friday 30th October 2009 04:13pm
By Networx Brisbane

Mel Kettle was a guest panelist at the Networx 'Marketing on a Shoestring Budget' event, 28 October 2009 at The Melbourne Hotel.  Here she shares 12 top tips for low budget marketing:

1.  Have a marketing plan

  • It doesn’t need to be sophisticated but should at least include:
    - Marketing/business objectives
    - Target market
    - Key messages
    - Communication tactics appropriate for your target market
    - Budget
    - Timeline
    - Evaluation mechanisms
  • Work out what marketing you want to do, and when you want to do it – have an action plan – it might only be one activity a month, but make sure your marketing is regular and consistent – this way you won’t be caught out during slower times.
  • As a small business owner it is WAY too easy to get caught up in running the business and not thinking about where the next clients are coming from so you need to make sure your marketing is prioritised. Having a plan helps do this.
  • Make sure you evaluate what you do so you can see what works and what doesn’t. If your marketing is not working then look at how you can change and improve it.

2.  Know who your target market is

  • Your target market is the main group of potential consumers you want to sell your product or service to. It can be defined using demography (e.g. gender, age, income, education etc), geography (where people live/work), lifestyle preferences (also known as psychographic), product use or buying behaviour.
  • Saves you marketing $ as you are not wasting it on the wrong people who are less likely to be interested in your product
  • Know WHO your target market is as well as where they go to get information, so you can more precisely deliver the messages to the consumer – no point advertising in a golfing magazine if you are selling cricket bats – for example.
  • All marketing communication should be designed for a specific target market, created to achieve a specific objective and within a budget constraint.

3.  Use your networks and contacts

It's not who you know, it's not what you know, IT'S WHO KNOWS YOU!
  • The more people who know what you do, the more likely they are to refer business to you – so get out there and talk to people.
  • Networking not only has benefits for your CURRENT role or business, but it is also an investment in the future. The person you don’t meet today could be the person you need to know in a few months.
  • There are lots of networking opportunities – from formal networking functions through to social activities.
  • Take LOTS of business cards and USE them. Don’t be afraid to talk about what you do – just don’t ram it down people’s throats at social functions!!
  • A referral generates 80% more results than a cold call.
  • Approximately 70% of all jobs are found through Networking.
  • Most people you meet have around 200 contacts.
  • Get a contact book or use a database such as MS outlook, and keep the details of all the industry contacts that have helped you along the way. I include everyone in mine – from university lecturers to industry colleagues and associations to my sister-in-law’s family.
  • Enter all new contacts in as you get cards or meet people and include a note that reminds you where you met. I write how I meet people on cards as I receive them in case I don’t have a chance to update it in my outlook for a week or two.
  • I keep business cards in all my handbags, my wallet, car and my partner’s wallet and car. You never know when you might need one!
Going to networking and industry events
  • Network smart – target where you go as you can’t go to every event! If you are not comfortable going on your own then take a friend or a colleague. Once you have decided on who your target market is, then go to networking functions that they go to.
  • Set some goals for networking so that you will pick groups that will help you get what you are looking for. Some meetings are based more on learning, making contacts, and/or volunteering rather than on strictly making business connections.
  • Make sure you give each new contact one of your business cards and ask for one of theirs.
  • Try to learn something about the individual – don’t get to an event and pass as many cards around and get as many in return. I hate it when I’m talking to someone who is clearly assessing who they can go and meet next. You are better off meeting five people and finding out something about them so that a relationship can be established, rather than meeting 15 people.
  • Be genuine about who you are when you are talking to people and show interest in who they are and what they do. It’s not ALL about you!
  • Follow up from that event by an e-mail, phone call, visit. Send them relevant information that is of interest to them.
  • Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow.
  • Call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa. Express that you enjoyed meeting them, and ask if you could get together and share ideas.
  • Be careful how much alcohol you drink when at a networking or industry function. It doesn’t take much to ruin a hard-earned reputation.

4.  Go contra

  • If you want something and can’t afford it, offer a contra deal. If you believe in what you have to offer, then it has a value that can be exchanged.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask. The worst that can happen is the other person will say no.

5.  It's cheaper to market to your existing customers than to get new ones

  • Think about the work you are currently doing for your customers – now think about what else you can do for them. Can you work with them on a more permanent basis? Are there other people in their business you can work with? Can you develop a new product or service that will suit them?
  • One of my clients was a solicitor in the property sector. A quick bit of client research (done by a market research company) showed that 30% of his clients didn’t know about any other services he provided, which included things everyone needed such as preparing wills, trusts, and a few less needed services such as performing due diligence on business purchases. He wrote to all his clients thanking them for their services and included a short flyer that outlined all the services he provided – which resulted in an increase in business from current clients, and new clients as the existing ones referred him to family and friends for simple services such as wills, trusts and residential conveyancing. 
  • Research into why businesses fail to keep customers shows that customers leave because:
    - 1% die
    - 3% move away
    - 5% follow a friend or relative’s advice and switch to their recommended supplier
    - 9% switch due to a better price or better product
    - 14% switch due to product or service dissatisfaction.
    - Whilst the first two may be out of your control, you should be able to do something about the other 28%.
    - However, all of the reasons above still only account for a total of 32%. Why then do the other 68% of customers leave a business? Simply put, they leave because of the indifference of the business – they feel unappreciated, unimportant and taken for granted. Think about how you can make your current customers feel valued .

6. Word of mouth marketing – and asking your customers to work for you

  • Word of mouth is possibly the BEST way to promote your business. If your customers are happy with the service you are providing, ASK them to recommend you – they may not act on it immediately, or even at all, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get!
  • You could set up a formal reward or incentive program, but I find a quick phone call and sending a thank you card works equally well. Consider developing a customer retention and appreciation program, including frequent contact and communication. You don’t need to spend much – a phone call that is not business related, an email to say thanks for your business and to provide information about other services you offer, perhaps a small gift at relevant times of the year. 
  • Examples of items you could include in this program are a newsletter, greeting cards (Christmas and/or anniversary date your first meeting, or end of tax year), useful information (e.g. clipping of an interesting article or producing a special report) or small gifts.
  • Remember, though, that this is a customer contact program. Do NOT make the mistake of sending lots of “sales pitches” and thinking these are your “customer touches”. Send information that value adds.
  • Selling to a referred prospect is a lot easier than selling to a new prospect. The referral already knows that you do a great job for the person who gave you their name, plus he/she probably already has a need for your product or service.
  • Go after those customers you have already lost or are losing. By tracking customer activity, you will be able to tell when a customer is not using your services. Ask them why they left or are leaving. You might not win them back, but you will learn why they left and hopefully put that information to good use so you don’t lose other clients for the same reason.

7.  Email marketing

  • I don’t have to tell you that sending an email is far cheaper than posting a letter – in terms of dollars and your time. It can also generates faster responses and results.
  • Everyone should be using their email package to store email addresses for customers and prospects and using online communication wherever appropriate – for example a regular update email, newsletter, to promote an event or to share publicity about your business etc.
  • Also don’t forget your website. Make sure you promote it on everything you send out – email signatures, letterhead, brochures, promotional collateral etc etc.
  • If you have a bit of money to spend then think about promoting your website using Google AdWords – you can set a monthly budget and review it regularly, depending on how it is working for you.

8.  Media and publicity

  • Generating your own publicity doesn’t need to be hard.
  • Work out your story – if it is newsworthy, journos will want to talk to you. Make sure you talk to the right person – don’t just send a release – ideally call first to pitch the story – if they are not interested then ask what would interest them. Make sure you send them the information they want. Don’t call them unless you have something interesting to pitch! And don’t harass them after you have spoken to them. Make sure you give them your contact details – mobile phone and email – so they can get back to you if they need more information.
  • Don’t send a media release out unless you actually have something to say. Some newsworthy examples are:
    - launching your company
    - launching a new product or service
    - you win an award
    - you win a large contract or order
    - you undertake an independent survey that has interesting results for customers or the business community
    - you provide sponsorship or raise money for a charity in a unique way.
  • Local and community newspapers/radio/tv are also always on the lookout for local interest stories – again, don’t be afraid to ask!
  • Trade mags survive on unpaid contributors – think about a sector you want to target and think about how your business can benefit them. Pitch your ideas to the editor, and if they are interested then all you have to do is write the story. And, depending on what it is, it might work for a few different mags.

9.  Say thank you!

  • This is remarkably simple and quite common sense – but something many people don’t do.
  • Be sure to thank your customers, thank the people who refer business to you and thank your suppliers. This is one time where an email isn’t the best measure – send a card, send flowers, send chocolates, take them out to lunch (obviously the method you use to say thank you will depend on the value of the business). Just make sure you do it – and regularly! You will be amazed at what you can get in return!

10.  Social media

  • Social media is a growing phenomenon that has been embraced by many. It can be defined as web-based or online content that can be easily created by anyone. Also known as user-generated content, it is a new way that people are finding out what is happening in their communities, across their spheres of influence and in the world at large.
  • Social media includes blogging, micro-blogging (such as Twitter), social networking (such as Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Bebo), wikis, social bookmarking or tagging (such as StumbleUpon and Delicious), photo sharing (such as Flickr), video sharing (such as YouTube) and virtual worlds (such as Second Life).
  • A blog is a website that is updated regularly with news, commentary, images, video and events. A typical blog incorporates images, text and links to other websites and blogs. Readers are typically able to leave comments on each blog post.
  • It is estimated there are more than 200 million blogs and over 133 million indexed on
  • Two of the more common blogging tools are or and Blogger. Both are free to use.
  • Another type of blogging is micro-blogging, which uses very short posts. Twitter is a mico-blog.
  • Twitter is a free micro-blog that allows its users to send and receive updates, known as “tweets”, in real time and in posts of up to 140 characters. Users can send and receive tweets via, SMS on mobile phones and a whole range of 3rd party applications such as tweetdeck, OpenBeak (formerly Twitterberry) or Ubertwitter – for Blackberry, twitterfeed, tweetie and twitterfon for iPhones and lots more.
  • It has a lot of useful business applications as it can be used to share business tips (such as money tips), augment customer services, build you a community of followers, you can follow interesting people who might give you business ideas, you can share and discuss business ideas and useful information in your community, and it can show the human side of your business.
  • Ideally your tweets will include a mixture of personal information, business information, replies to tweets and re-tweets of other people’s tweets. A good guide for tweeting is the 70/20/10 rule - 70% sharing, 20% connecting and corresponding, 10% chit chat.
  • Standard taxonomy in tweets is important so people can find topics of interest. Using the # to prefix a word (eg #Networx) helps to create groupings on Twitter that can be easily followed by other twitterers.
  • Twitter can also be used to share website links and photos.
  • Should your business be on twitter? The conversation is happening whether you are there or not. Better to be part of it and manage any adverse reactions.
  • Facebook has traditionally been used by people to keep in touch with friends. However, many businesses are now using it another marketing tool to stay in touch with customers, and to generate awareness. It is also useful to:
  • Increase your visibility
  • Target your niche market – users provide a massive amount of information about themselves that can be readily accessed
  • Find business contacts – with more than 250 million users worldwide
  • Build relationships by engaging in conversations with current and prospective clients
  • In July 2009 Facebook introduced the new vanity URL feature, which is of particularly use to business as it enables businesses (or anyone) to create a custom URL for their page.
  • Perhaps the most common way for Facebook to be used as a business tool is by setting up a fan page. This will allow you to promote your business and share ideas with your fans. This can be done at
  • Checkout the WarChild Australia fan page for an example
  • Like Twitter, Facebook is free to use (apart from the paid advertising). If used regularly it can be a useful marketing tool.
  • LinkedIn has been also called Facebook for business. It currently has over 43 million members in over 200 countries. With LinkedIn you create a profile that summarises your professional experiences and achievements. Users create “connections” who are usually existing contacts, to form part of a network. A network typically includes your connections, your connections’ connections, which has the potential to link you to a huge number of other professionals.
  • The advantages of LinkedIn include:
    - It’s free to use
    - You can find out who your connections know and gain an introduction to them
    - It is a great tool for finding new business opportunities
    - There are many business groups that can be joined – including many marketing groups.
    - Share ideas with likeminded professionals in private groups
  • Check out Mel Kettle’s LinkedIn page:

11.Use the free resources available to you

  • There is a massive amount of information on the web and in books that can help you improve your marketing and give you new ideas. 
  • Type cheap marketing ideas into google and you will get over 1.5 million sites to choose from!!
  • Go to the library and check out marketing books. A few good ones are:
    - Marketing by Philip Kotler – there is an Australian edition
    - Anything else by Philip Kotler
    - Introduction to Marketing by Susan and Stephen Dann – and they have a new book called Contemporary Internet Marketing that I think came out earlier this year
    - Anything by Seth Godin
  • All these can be borrowed from the library, bought from most good bookstores and are available at the Australian Institute of Management library – which is an excellent resource for any of you who are also a member there.
  • Online resources that I find useful are: – free weekly e-newsletter for soloists and small business
    - My Small Business section of Sydney Morning Herald
    - – Word of Mouth Marketing Association
    - – free subscription service that emails 'call outs' for sources from journalists and bloggers
    - – US corporate and internal comms site with a range of free e-newsletters

12.Partner up

  • By partnering with complementary businesses you can expand your circle of influence.
  • For example – an accounting firm could partnering up with a lawyer that specialises in trusts, or a financial planner or a stockbroker. All their clients need accountants, and presumable many of your clients can use their services at some stage.
Things to remember
  • No single marketing effort works all the time for every business, so rotate several marketing tactics and vary your approach
  • Ask for help from friends and colleagues
  • Don’t forget your current clients – it costs six times more to make a sale to a new customer than to an existing one?

Don’t be a binge marketer – plan what you will do and be constantly marketing your business. If we think of marketing as an engine, it needs to be ticking over steadily at all times. A quiet spell now often signals a lack of marketing six or nine months ago.

By Mel Kettle
Director, Mel Kettle Communications
Tel:  0404 600 889 | E:  [email protected] | W: | Twitter: @melkettle

Read Mel Kettle's bio.


Lisa Ma

Post by Lisa Ma (@lisama_)
Networx Marketers Meetings - Brisbane
Follow on Twitter: @networxevents


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