5 Things I Learned About Marketing On a Budget

Hi Do-Gooders!

I’ve been marketing for a while now. I’ve marketed in nonprofits and I’ve marketed in small businesses. I studied marketing as part of my business degree, but let’s be real… school and real life are two totally different places. I’ve always marketed for others and now that I’m marketing for myself, I’ve had to really start thinking about the techniques I’ve been using in my past work. Like many of you probably reading this, I normally didn’t have much of a budget (if any) so that really shaped how I learned about marketing. It made me get creative and it made me really focus on what was most effective because I didn’t have the resources to make a lot of mistakes.

I know you’re out there, putting good things into the world and often doing it on a tiny budget and I know you’re busy. That’s why I wanted to share these 5 things I learned about marketing through my experience to give you some ideas and let you know that even without a big budget you can still get your message out there. So let’s get into it!

  1. People want to know your story. We like stories. We connect to stories. Our stories are what make us unique and what set us apart. We’re always telling ourselves stories about our world, whether that’s consciously or subconsciously. And people are telling themselves stories about you. That’s why you need to take control control of those stories and create your own narrative to share. Find your organization’s origin story and boil it down. Who started your organization? What need was this organization created to solve? Why did the founders decide they were the ones to solve this need? What makes your organization unique? How is this organization still living out this founder’s dreams? Why made this organization stand out to you? Give people points that they can relate to. Make your business human and give people something to relate to. For most of us, we have other people in our field who are selling or creating very similar products, so it’s your story that will make you stand out from the crowd.  It’s hard to relate to or identify with a business, but we can relate to other people. That’s what gets people’s attention and what makes you stand out.

  2. People aren’t really just paying for goods and services. his relates back to number one.  There’s a quote by my all time favorite marketing guru, Seth Godin, “People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories, and magic.” What are you really giving somebody? If you can get paper towels anywhere, why are you buying them at Target instead of Walmart or vice versa? There’s a whole experience that comes along with purchasing something and it’s a marketers job to curate that experience. One museum I worked at had a really great gift shop. It’s cute and unique but today it’s hard to compete with things like Amazon and other superstores. However, this shop thrives. It thrives for two reasons: 1) it’s in the museum and the museum is busy so it gets foot traffic, and 2) people who aren’t visiting the museum come in to buy gifts because they want to be able to tell others that they bought this unique and fun toy at a place that supports science. They want to know their money is going back into their community and encouraging science education.They want to feel like they’re giving back and they want to have something unique that people love. That’s why people shop at that store. What can you give people besides just your product or service? Identify that extra special experience that comes with your service or products and market that feeling.

  3. Market through pre-existing groups. If you have an event you’re hosting or new product you’re launching, being able to buy up a bunch of ads may sound like the dream but it isn’t always feasible for small business and nonprofit budgets. That’s okay, it’s just going to require a little more leg work from you. What’s the best way to get your message out to your target audience? Think about where your target audience is already gathering and target those organizations. Are you a nonprofit looking for the movers and shakers in your community? Target service groups. Do you have an event for kids and families? Reach out to the local schools and mommy bloggers. Find ways to get in front of these groups or have information that they can hand out to their tribes. This may be a bit more work, but it’s actually a lot more effective than ad space for two reasons. First, the people you’re targeting get to meet you so they automatically feel more connected to your organization. Second, there’s already a “know, trust and like” factor that people have with an organization. Reaching your target audience through these groups stamps a seal of approval on your company so you don’t have to work as hard to get people’s attention.

  4. Don’t be afraid to spend some money on Facebook advertising. There’s a misconception among a lot of small organizations that you shouldn’t be spending money on social media marketing because social media is free. While yes, technically social media is free, and you absolutely should be taking advantage of it (click here to read my other post on how to use social media to market your event), spending money on social media marketing is smart. Why? Because it’s super targeted. Besides being super targeted, it’s cheaper than traditional advertising and, unlike traditional advertising, you can immediately market and test your campaigns. You know how sometimes it feels like you think about product and then two seconds later it’s in your social media news feed? That’s because there are so many ways that businesses can target the perfect potential customer through the wonders of the internet and, most importantly, reach them when they’re ready to buy. It’s amazing.

  5. If you want media coverage have a story. I remember making this mistake early in career, when I was at a small nonprofit. Our finances weren’t looking good. It was our first year open and the peak of the recession. Nonprofits were folding all around us and our finances were looking scary, but we were determined to survive. I was putting my feelers out trying to get media coverage and I kept reaching out to people. Well, I must have gotten kind of annoying because my persistence resulted in a strongly worded email from one news station. One of the journalists I’d been emailing responded saying, “Look, I’m not going to talk about you on air for the sake of talking about you. You have nothing for me to share right now. My audience doesn’t want to hear about nothing and I’m not here to just talk about nothing with every single organization that emails me asking for help. If you have a story that matters, email me, otherwise leave me alone.” It was blunt and rude and he was 100% right. I was wasting his time and my time. I’ve never made the same mistake. Now whenever I reach out to someone I have a purpose. I have a story and I make sure it’s something that’s mutually beneficial and will serve the media station as well as myself.

There you have it Do-Gooders! Five things I’ve learned in marketing through my experience with small businesses and nonprofits. I hope this helps you. As always please share this if you found this useful. You can look into past posts too for other ideas about how to do more good. Keep putting more good into the world and I’ll see you next time!