When I started my business I was just about broke. My cash flow from my existing businesses was nil, and I was employed part time as a nanny for my grandson. Since I had spent my remaining savings on joining this company, my start-up promotional budget was zero. Using credit cards was not an option, since I was already in debt and did not want to add any more.
My goal was to build my business on a pay as I go basis. The challenge was to find ways to do promotion and marketing on a very low budget. This starts out slowly and builds. It develops your resourcefulness and creativity.
The first thing I did was to take advantage of free communication through personal networking and social network sites on the internet, getting listed on the Internet and so forth. There are a number of sites where you can put free classified ads online.
Next I decided to use direct mail marketing. I didn’t have a list of email contacts who had opted in to receive my messages, so instead of email, I send out actual marketing letters instead. Now with direct mail there are firms that sell lists and or do your entire mailing for you at a cost of thousands of dollars. But I decided on a do it myself approach on a much smaller scale.
I had some coupons for 100 free black and white copies. I went to the shop and had copies made, then I would buy a book of stamps, then send out 18 letters at at time. The key is starting, no matter how small.
A great resource for direct mail marketing is Jeffrey Dobkin’s books, How to Market A Product for Under $500, and Uncommon Marketing Techniques. These are both pretty much pre-Internet marketing, and parts of them are less relevant to today’s reality; nevertheless I highly recommend both of these books as classics in the field of direct marketing. In the beginning I had no money for brochures. Jeff shows how to write your own letter and send to your prospects without a brochure.
I started a mailing list in a Word file, but I usually address my letters by hand. Also, if you like commemorative stamps add a nice touch. People are more likely to open this type of mail that looks interesting, than ones with mailing labels, or email for that matter.
The key to pay as you go is consistency. Instead of simply sending one letter to your prospects, you write a series of letters for a campaign. Instead of putting out some ads, and then forgetting about it, you have to put more ads out with some regularity. In this way you will start to build momentum in your business. As you make sales, you can then use the money to invest in more promotions.