As a small business owner you will know that good marketing is a crucial part of your businesses success. However, with a tight budget and limited resources it can be difficult to make a real impact on our marketplace.
In this article we will explore some of the best ways to truly make in impact with your creative marketing on a budget. We’ll discuss how to stand out and the importance of differentiation, how to measure and manage your marketing campaigns to maximise your ROI and share tips to help you make a big impact with limited resources. Whether you’re a solopreneur with a number of years behind you or are just starting out, this article has something for you. So grab a pen and paper and start making some notes.
The Importance of Differentiation: Why Being Unique is Crucial For Your Marketing Success
I need you to use your imagination for a minute. Imagine you’re on a beach, the sun is beating down, the sand is getting into your egg sandwiches and your kids are off playing near the water. They’re about 200 yards away from you, playing with a few new friends they’ve just made. The beach itself is crowded, hundreds of children all playing and yelling in a cacophony of noise.
Now strangely enough every child on the beach is wearing exactly the same red bathing costume. So while you’re watching on it’s taking a few seconds to spot which is your child, after all at 200 yards away everything is blurring onto one image.
Now, all of a sudden a tsunami is headed in your direction. In the panic that ensues you have 30 seconds to find your kids and get them to safety. But you’re all wearing the same costume, in the crowd everything looks the same.
Now imagine your kids are the only ones wearing blue costumes. So even in the panic you can easily spot them from a distance, giving you a much better chance of grabbing them and getting you all to safety.
It was the fact that you could spot them quickly that made the difference.
Now switch things around. You are your audience and the kids on the beach all wearing the same costume is you and your competitors. All scrambling to grab the attention and all looking the same.
But you don’t have 30 seconds to grab the attention of your audience - not even close. Modern statistics suggest that it takes 1/250th of one second to grab the attention of a potential customer. To put that into perspective it takes 1/150th of one second to blink.
So it takes longer to blink!
According to Mike Michalowicz in his book ‘Get Different’ your conversion rate, engagement and the success of your business relies on your ability to stand out from the crowd. This must be fully understood to move onto how we can use creative marketing to stand out from the crowd.
How to Differentiate Your Brand Through Creative Marketing: Guerrilla Marketing Strategies to Promote Your Brand
Before going into your marketing strategies there is an important side note. That is, you’re not going to be different for the sake of being different. I’m not suggesting you should be a maverick or start turning up to work naked just to stand out. Much impact can be made with very small, subtle changes that differentiate from the rest of your marketplace.
Creative marketing in a very real sense is simply doing what no one else is doing in your market. Suggestions such as thinking about what the opposite sector to you is doing and see if you can work it into your business. For example, if you’re a hair dresser the opposite sector may be a café owner or a small insurance broker. What is it they’re doing, could you work that into your marketing.
To use a personal example, one of my businesses is a music school, providing music tuition for schools in the midlands. I knew that most of the businesses in my sector use social media marketing and the same old boring lines. Within in our business we made the decision to avoid social media marketing altogether and write with humour when we sent letters in the post to head teachers. Over time and with very little tweaking we ended up with a 3600% return on our investment. As the months passed, that has improved.
Perhaps you are an ice cream van owner and you notice that everyone in your sector is advertising on Facebook. If you do the same you’ll become the lost voice but you do the same anyway. You throw money at it after taking advice that you simply haven’t spent enough yet. (Tip: throwing more money at an ad that isn’t getting noticed will not make people notice it. The only result is going to be a big hole in your bank account.) Or you could make a few videos, describing to your audience the different flavours, how the ice cream is made and some humour involved in the “ice cream wars” that you’re going to stage at a local car park for their enjoyment.
What if you’re a driving instructor. You do what the rest of your market are doing and put an advert in the newspaper or one of those free mags that are delivered door to door. And you sit and wait for your phone to ring. Trouble is, you’re the 3rd or 4th on the list and anyone that happens to be turning 17 might not even get to you.
Alternatively you can get onto Twitter and search for ‘happy 17th birthday.’ Anyone that is getting the greeting can receive a personal message from you saying ‘Happy 17th Birthday, have your first driving lesson on me.’ This simple proactive approach made a massive difference to the business of a friend of mine using this exact strategy.
The point is that getting creative and thinking of new ways to promote your brand and your business is not difficult. It simply requires thought and the big boy/girl pants to give it a go. If you want to take a session with me to talk over ideas to promote your business, I’m happy to do this at no cost to you. Just get in touch. The biggest step to creative marketing is actually giving it a go.
Every fibre in your body will be fighting against the idea. Everyone around you will fight you to change your mind, my own wife expressed grave concerns over the ‘unprofessionalism’ of our letters to the schools. But you must be brave and do it. Once you’ve done it once, doing it a second time is easy.
Differentiation and Creative Marketing on a Budget: How to Stand Out Without Breaking the Bank
Importantly we cannot pretend that our budget does not play a major part in our marketing strategy. And one of those parts is the very real fact that if no one has tried this before, we don’t know if it fails.
And it’s true! Doing the tried and tested approach has worked in the past, that’s why everyone’s doing it, right!?
But the tried and tested has become tired and your audience don’t even notice it anymore. There are some easy strategies to get the best results.
Firstly, and most importantly, you must see everything you do as an experiment. Experiments fail all the time but learning opportunities are gained at every step. Treating your marketing idea as an experiment will allow you to tweak over time.
Let’s say you’re a garage owner. After thinking about your strategy you notice that most people have their cars parked on their drive on a Sunday. So you go around your town with leaflets, putting them through doors every Sunday morning for a round 3 months. This isn’t quite getting you the returns you want so you think more. The leaflets are fine, but this time your going to have a selection of 6…each one with a different car model. As you walk up the drive you spot what the model of the family car is and put the corresponding leaflet through the door. This is more noticeable from your client. You notice an increase in returns and so systemise it to ensure every house in the town gets a leaflet every 6-7 weeks.
This exact process was followed by a client of mine, they now turn over £90,000 every month, differentiating from the standard newspaper advert or generic leaflet made a massive difference with NO ADDITIONAL COST to their budget.
Now, say you have a £500 budget. You’re not going to blow it all at once and social media marketing can prove to be expensive. Google, Facebook and their ilk will take your money without necessarily providing the leads.
You want to get different so you spend £100 of it on 10 books, all the same ones and it’s a book you know well. You send it out to 10 people on your dream list (don’t know what a dream list is? Get in touch urgently!) with a note saying ‘this had a massive impact on my business. I’ll pop round to pick it up on [date] and see what you think.’ Trouble is, getting someone to read a book is quite a challenge, you’re asking them to commit a lot of time and it fails. When you pick up the books no-one has even opened the things. You try it again a few times and the results are largely the same.
So you change it slightly. Instead of the full book you put post-it notes on particular passages with a note saying ‘this had a massive impact’ and ‘read this bit first’. Reading small sections is a lot more palatable and so you start to notice the reading of your book as gone up, inviting conversations from your prosects. Same books - same budget - bigger return. Now you have a plan in place to utilise the rest of your budget.
To see it all as experiments encourages you to keep trying and to tweak it until you’re getting the results you want. Only as a last resort should you abandon the strategy completely, instead change aspects of it and try again. You only fail when you give up!
Conclusion. The Benefits of Taking a Risk and Trying Something Different
It is a permanent and comfortable place, to fit in. It means your accepted and results in you being liked. It is also the place for obscurity and acceptance of ‘is what it is’ attitudes, particularly in your marketing.
To take small risks and to stand out may well get you laughed at, pointed at and questioned by those around you. Embrace it. Bathe in your weirdness. The rewards are yours to be taken as long as you stick with it, experiment and keep smart notes.
Here’s some real losers…did you hear about the guy that was fired twice for being unproductive? Failing at everything he touched, some say he’s failed 10,000 times!
I mean, L-O-S-E-R, right!?
And then there’s the guy, an American chap, bought a whole load of land to build what he calls ‘The Happiest Place On Earth’ Cuckoo….
And my all-time favourite; this guy that has these high and mighty ideas about building a £billon empire. I mean seriously, all he’s got is a few pounds in his pocket and a cart full of scruffy looking gear.
Well, Thomas Edison went onto become one of the worlds most revered entrepreneurs and inventors, Walt Disney left a legacy most of us can only drool over and Lord Alan Sugar – from a few pounds in his pocket he is now estimated to be worth £1.2billion.
I'm not saying that everything you try will be a raging success, in fact most experiments you try WILL fail and WILL need tweaking. But the risks of running with the herd are far greater.
The results and rewards are there for the taking by getting different.
Further reading: Mike Michalowicz: Get Different. Jay Conrad Levinson: Guerrilla Marketing