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About Networking. We are a Business Networking Organisation Connecting Trades, Services and Professionals in a structured networking environment.

Six steps to low budget, effective marketing

How to slash your ridiculous marketing costs for better results


Marketers charge too much money and their SME clients in the services sector (with a wince and a whimper) usually end up biting the bullet and spending the money because they believe that marketing is a shortcut to profits. It isn’t.


Taking into account the kind of money spent on marketing, it’s hardly surprising that business owners and leaders expect a reasonable return on their investment within a short space of time. The fly in the ointment is that marketing is a long game. 


Of course, spend, results and marketing strategies vary by the size of the business, your industry and your sector. But certainly, in the SME services sector, overnight success is rare. And if you’re a small business in any industry, you probably don’t have the budgets to go from zero to hero anyway.


To fix the problem, marketers, if they are serious about helping businesses, need to dial back their rates (substantially). If they do, they will hold on to clients for longer, enjoy a more consistent spend and start achieving some real results.


Business owners need to cut back on their budgets, dampen their expectations and spread their marketing spend over a more extended period. If they do, they will have time to learn what works and what doesn’t, and they’ll enjoy fatter returns on investment and a stronger brand – over the long term.


Visibility is a primary function of marketing. The more visibility you have, the more business you are likely to do. If you can remain consistently visible on your customer’s radar, your market will eventually notice you and begin to take an interest (provided you’re interesting). 


Here are six steps to low budget, effective marketing:


1. You set the budget


The old “give me a quote” system doesn’t work very well because you are putting yourself at the mercy of whatever number the marketer or agency deems appropriate. Instead of letting the marketer set the terms, take the lead yourself.


Know how much you can spend and negotiate based on that – there are marketers out there that will work this way (particularly the smaller businesses and agencies).


Make sure your budget is one you can afford to maintain for between 12 and 18 months. Spending more than you can afford is bad marketing because you won’t be able to keep it up. 


Finally, lower your expectations of a quick return and buckle down for the long road ahead.


2. Test and measure everything.


Testing doesn’t have to be scientific. One of my clients sends out a newsletter monthly. That’s all they do. Every month we look at which articles have the most opens, unique clicks etc. Every newsletter, every story is tracked – all the information is right there, provided by services like Mailchimp.


By tracking content in this way, we found that despite their corporate finance audience, most people engaged with the personal development pieces, for example, how to make my staff like me. Who would have thought?


3. Maintain visibility


Whoever said absence makes the heart grow fonder was lying. It’s more like ‘out of sight, out of mind’. 


Networking groups like TNG prefer relatively regular attendance because they know that absent members get fewer if any, referrals from those that turn up for every meeting.


The more visible you are in your target market, the more business you will do.


4. Be consistent


Once you start, stay the course. 


Time and money are of course a factor, but it’s better not to do anything at all than it is to throw money away. The moment you stop, you undo all the good work and spend that has gone before.


Consistency earns trust. 


5. Add value


People only care when they know how much you care. Giving is one way to show you care. Inspire, entertain, inform, educate – it doesn’t matter, so long as you give.


When you are brave enough to offer advice and expertise on a particular subject, it suggests that you likely know what you’re doing. 


Teaching marks you as an authority on a subject. It inspires confidence and positions you as somebody who knows.


6. Be credible


Put most of your money in the foundation stones of your marketing. For example, graphic design and websites are the bedrock of your credibility.


Develop a positioning and a story for your business that resonates with your audience. One that you can use over and over again. Don’t worry if you get tired of hearing it because you’re not your audience.


A few years ago, I worked with a company that told a good story – this was before balance bikes were a thing. Their offering hinged around a brand story that said: “Kids learn to balance before they learn how to peddle”. I’ve never forgotten it.




Succeeding in your marketing (particularly in the SME services sector) is about taking control of your spend – don’t burn yourself out. Test and measure the response. Buckle down for the long haul. The results will come.

Article written by Colin Kennedy from Iron Road


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