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19 cheap, easy and profitable marketing ideas you can use today

19 cheap, easy and profitable marketing ideas you can use today

July 22, 2010

One of the benefits of consulting to some of the biggest names in business is that I get to meet some very smart, innovative people.

Recently, I got to meet one of my mentors, Jay Conrad Levinson -- who is considered the father of a unique marketing movement that he began during the last big recession in the 1970s. It's called guerrilla marketing and it’s based on using unconventional, low-cost means to get profitable results from your marketing. Who wouldn’t want that, right?

Well, during a conversation we had he agreed to share his top 19 cheap, easy marketing tactics small and mid-size business owners can use right away.

If it’s good enough for Steve Jobs and Bill Gates ...

"The most important number to look at in marketing is profits."

- Jay Conrad Levinson

Guerrilla Marketing began as a book for his classes at Berkley University where he taught students such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. His book is now considered one of the top 100 business books of all-time and is the lynchpin for a series of 65 Guerrilla Marketing books printed in 62 different languages with sales of more than $20 million. Not a bad introduction!

The series of books include Guerrilla Marketing for Lawyers, Guerrilla Marketing for Consultants, for CPAs, for Online, etc. Each book was written based on a need, which allowed him to apply his marketing principles to various niches.

Levinson leveraged a very powerful concept I call “riches in niches.” Remember, we always want to find ways to leverage our services and products for niche markets. For example, a book about general marketing principles may sell for $19.95. But a marketing book specifically designed for restaurant owners with sample promotions, templates and checklists can sell for $299, $399 or $499! There really are riches in niches.

And what I love about Levinson’s Guerrilla Marketing tactics is that they work all the time, for all types of businesses regardless of how much money you have. Here are 18 of some of his best tips ...

#1 – Traditional marketing measures results by sales or hits to a website or traffic to a store. Those are the wrong numbers to look at, Levinson argues. The most important number to look at is profit. “A lot of people sets sales records or a record number of hits and are losing money because they’re spending lots of money in the effort to do that,” he says. That’s why more attention should be paid to whether you’re making a profit on your efforts.

#2 – Traditional marketing is based on experience and judgment, which he says is a fancy of way of saying guesswork. Cash-strapped business owners can’t afford to make wrong guesses. So they base their marketing decisions on psychology and laws of human behavior such as the fact that 90% of all purchase decisions are made in the unconscious mind, he says. And what’s the best way to appeal to the unconscious mind? Repetition. “All decisions are based on emotional reasons,” Levinson says.

“People may rationalize decisions with logical reasoning but believe me its emotional reasons that cause them to make that decision … the single most important thing you can talk about with a customer is how they will feel after they make a purchase. That gets them seeing the future … and how they will feel is what it’s all about. That doesn’t come from judgment. That doesn’t come from guesswork.”

#3 – Most business owners believe you have to grow the company and then diversify. Coca Cola, for example, believed its brand stood for beverages and opened a winery and lost $89 million. They realized afterwards that their brand really stood for soft drinks. Gerber tried expanding into baby furniture and baby clothing and lost nearly $30 million. According to Levinson, guerrilla marketers don’t think about diversifying. “Think about maintaining your focus and adding even more excellence to what you’re already doing,” he says.

#4 – Traditional marketing says the best way to grow your business is to add new customers one at a time (linear growth). But that’s too expensive and too slow. Instead, Levinson recommends growing in 4 different directions at once – make larger sales, increase the number of sales, take advantage of referrals and grow one customer at a time. Marketing costs therefore don’t go up and profits increase, he says. In fact, referrals are one of the biggest areas where I see businesses fail miserably.

Here’s Levinson’s best referral strategy. Immediately after a purchase, when the customer is excited, ask him or her, “Can you give me 3 names of people who might benefit from our services that we can put on our mailing list?” It’s easy for you and the customer. You can offer incentives but they’re not needed. “If you have a good product that lives up to your promises,” Levinson says, “they’ll give you the referrals because they’ll want you to succeed.”

#5 – Make it your passion to follow-up with customers. Sixty-eight percent of business is lost – not because of shabby quality or poor service – but because of customers who were ignored after the purchase, Levinson says. So follow up by email, letters or phone calls just to make sure they’re happy and they’re aware of new updates about the product or service.

#6 – Traditional marketers are always worried about the competition. Don’t worry about them. Focus on co-operation, Levinson says. Look at other businesses that have the same kind of standards as you do. If you’re marketing to attendees at a conference, offer to put another company’s brochure in your bag if they’ll do the same for you. Offer to put their name on your website, if they do the same. I call it affiliate marketing and it’s a very powerful way to get your products and services in front of people you may not otherwise reach. Look for those who complement your services, not competitors. For instance, a fence company may also promote a third-party security system to its customers and vice versa.

#7 – Traditional marketers say you have to have a logo. You also need what Levinson calls a meme (rhymes with cream), which is an image or action that most people can quickly identify and understand what it means. Think of it as a metaphor for your business. The sprint commercial showing a pin drop gives viewers an idea of how clear the sound is on their phones. The GPS symbol we use clearly shows we help businesses go from where they are to where they want to go. You just have a few seconds to tell people what you’re offering and why you’re different so you need more than a logo. A meme gets your message across to your prospects and tells them what you want them to do.

To help you create a meme or metaphor for your business, what images come to mind when you think of your business? What images do you want your prospects to visualize when they think of your products or services?

#8 – Guerrilla marketing is the opposite of “me-marketing,” Levinson says. Most companies talk about their business, about their headquarters, about their products, etc. When people visit a website they don’t care about you, they care about themselves. The key is to talk about your products and services in terms of what they can do for your prospects.

#9 – Guerrilla marketing is also about giving, Levinson says. One of the best ways of giving is to educate your customers so they can achieve their goals by earning more money, losing weight or playing tennis better, for example. Guerrilla Marketers are blessed to be in the age of the internet because they give information away such as reports or e-books that cost them nearly nothing from their website. There are other ways to give too. An apartment building in Los Angeles, for example, has an occupancy rate that is regularly 100% while the average is only 70%. Why? Because it offers free “auto grooming” for its tenants. Every week, tenants get their cars cleaned for no charge! The cost of hiring someone to wash cars easily pays for itself with the increased tenants. What can you give away that your prospects will value?

#10 – Traditional marketers count the money at the end of each month to determine whether they’ve been successful. That’s important, but Levinson says it’s also important to count the relationships you’ve made. The sales will come, he argues, if you’re developing the relationships. IMPORTANT: These should be “warm relationships” that will likely lead to business for you. How many warm relationships have you created so far this month?

#11 – Traditional marketers don’t budget for technology. In the past, technology was expensive and not very versatile, Levinson says. Today, it’s much simpler and doesn’t even require a user’s manual. Technophobia is a fatal disease for many business owners. At 76 years old, Levinson says he’s using auto responders and is still trying to stay up to date with the latest software.

#12 – Traditional marketers try to target large groups. The bigger the better. Big mistake, Levinson says. Instead, your message should be aimed at individuals and the smaller the group, the better. For instance, if you’re marketing Viagra, traditional marketers would recommend advertising on TV or radio broadcasts to reach as many people as possible. Some may even try to narrow the audience to specific channels men would most likely watch. That’s still too broad. If you narrowed the ads to men who are talking about health issues, you’ve taken your message from broadcasting to micro-casting. But you would still be wasting money because it’s still too broad. If you found programs in which the topic is focused on erectile dysfunction then you have a winner. Everyone tuned into the channel would be interested in learning about Viagra. That’s what he calls nano-casting. It’s less expensive because it’s a smaller audience, but everyone would be interested which would result in enormous response rates. In this case, smaller is better.

Marketing comes down to 2 things: (1) a plan and (2) a commitment to the plan. Most executives fail when it comes to commitment, Levinson says. He worked on the plan to develop the Marlboro Man campaign in the 1960s. The campaign cost $18 million then and Marlboro ranked #31 in sales. It took 18 months for the company to begin to see positive results. Within several years, the company ranked #1.

#14 – Traditional marketers are always interested in advertising on radio, TV and in magazines, but Levinson says you should be just as passionate over “little things” like how the phone is answered. For example, Midas found most of its contact with customers came over the phone, but only 72% of callers scheduled an appointment. What he found is that when someone did answer the phone at a store, they were busy doing something else or they were in a bad mood. So he developed a program in which each store assigned someone to answer the phone and that person had to participate in a phone training program before they could even pick the phone up. Imagine that! You can’t pick up the phone unless you’ve been trained! Today, Midas converts 94% of its phone calls into appointments. The call is no longer perceived as an interruption. Staff actually smile when talking on the phone now. Levinson’s point: effective marketing is not just about the big mediums, it’s also about the little things like knowing a customer’s name and looking a person in the eye and smiling.

#15 – Marketing used to be about just making a sale. Today, it’s also about gaining a prospect’s consent to take the next step with you and develop a relationship, Levinson says. The owners of one summer camp Levinson works with are masters of relationship selling. They travel from show to show like most summer camp owners but instead of asking for a registration on the spot, they give prospects a DVD to take home. Then they schedule an in-home consultation with the prospects. Result: 84% enroll in the camp!

Consider this: At any given time, 4% of your audience is interested in buying what you have right now. Another 4% just need a nudge. The other 92% are telling you not to waste your money on them, Levinson says. So the idea is to focus your energies on the 8% who want to buy and are ready to buy, especially in a recession when you need to target your marketing dollars. You’ll also save yourself time and you won’t waste your staff’s energy chasing people who aren’t interested. I call this process next-stepping. Another company that does a terrific job of next-stepping is the makers of the ROM exercise machine.

The makers of the ROM 4-Minute Cross Trainer don’t hide the fact that it’s machine costs nearly $15,000 but they’re not asking prospects to buy. They’re just asking them to take the first step with them and take a look at their free DVD.

Another tip: When allocating your marketing budget, direct most of it towards your existing customers. Spend 10% talking to the universe, 30% to prospects and 60% to customers, Levinson says. Why spend so much on your existing customers? Because you get the best return for your dollar. In fact, it costs 6 times more to sell to a stranger than it does to an existing customer.

#16 – Realize that old-fashioned marketing is a monologue. Effective marketing should be a dialogue with your prospects. It’s a back and forth conversation, Levinson says. Interactivity leads to relationships. And relationships lead to sales! One of the best ways to do this is online. Let your prospects ask questions and post comments. Have a give and take with them.

#17 – Don’t talk about your benefits. You often hear marketers say we have to tell people about the benefits of our products and services. Yes, they’re important. But it’s more important to talk about your prospects’ problems, Levinson says. Why? Because it’s much easier to offer a solution to a problem. What are the problems your hungry fish are wrestling with right now? What’s keeping them up at nights? Talk about those things in your marketing.

#18 – Sell people what they need, NOT what they want (see related story, p 4). This is true even if it means telling them that’s not what they may need and risk losing the sale, Levinson says. Most likely they’ll be much more satisfied and they won’t resent you afterwards.

#19 – Traditional marketers can only identify a few marketing weapons such as radio, TV, magazines, newspapers, internet and maybe PR. There are actually more than 200 weapons, Levinson says. Don’t worry. We will send you his top 200 marketing weapons.

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