Million Dollar Marketing on a Shoestring Budget

This article originally appeared in the July 2013 edition of the Marketing GPS Newsletter. This article was contributed by guest author Jeanne Davant.

It’s never been easier for prospective customers to find and compare products and services online. At the same time, it’s never been more difficult for individual companies to stand out from the crowd.

Businesses and organizations today must understand how the revolutionary growth of social media and mobile use has created both of those conditions. How do you cut through the online noise and entice prospective customers to buy your products and services? And how do you do it, without breaking the bank?

Twenty-five participants in the 4th Annual CEO Workshop, Million Dollar Marketing on a Shoestring Budget, learned how social and mobile have changed the face of guerrilla marketing, and how they can use inexpensive tools to make sure their marketing messages are heard. The workshop, held June 12 in Colorado Springs, was hosted by NSI Partners and Colorado Springs Marketing Group, and featured four nationally known online-marketing experts. This month we’re sharing some of their insights with you.

The Social-Mobile Revolution

New social-media platforms are enabling people to share information on mobile devices at an incredible pace, said NSI Partners COO, Tom McClintock, who introduced the workshop. For example, an estimated 500 million photos are shared every day via Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Likewise, sharing of video and text content through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social-media platforms is occurring at an unprecedented rate.

What’s more, social-mobile sharing tools are being developed and embraced by users faster than ever before. Consider that to reach 1 million users,

  1. AOL took 9 years
  2. Facebook took 9 months
  3. Draw Something took 9 days

It might at first seem overwhelming, but the merger of social and mobile represents a great opportunity for your business or organization, said McClintock. A couple of years ago, companies had few options for cost-effective, guerrilla marketing—a Facebook business page and a Twitter account. But today, you can reach your ideal customers through social linking, LinkedIn group memberships, Google+ authorship tagging, mobile-optimized websites, QR codes, mobile directories, Pinterest, and more.

Let’s take a closer look at just one of these channels: Google+. It’s not only a social network, it’s an excellent way to move your content to the top of Google’s search-engine rankings. Between January and May of 2013, writers who used “authorship” tags and linked their online content to their Google+ profiles increased their content’s Google search rankings from 33% to 43%.
So, what does it take to leverage these new social media channels and exploit the mobile revolution? Actually, it begins with recognizing that you’re not a person who sells widgets or offers a service; you’re a business leader who sells widgets or offers a service, and you are an online publisher. This mindset will help you maximize the effectiveness of the new sales-and-marketing channels.

CEO Workshop speakers Fred Berns, Anthony Kirlew and Jeff Pederson outlined a three-step process to maximize your online publishing, centered on three key activities:

  1. Differentiate yourself from the competition
  2. Spend time, not money, to establish your online presence with great content.
  3. Make it your mission to create raving fans for your company.

I’ll explain each of these in further detail below.

1. The Million Dollar Marketing Word: Only

What is it that only you can offer your customers? “Tell them what only you can do, and you will get their business,” said Fred Berns, a nationally known branding specialist, coach, copywriter and founder of

You might say that you offer great customer service, you’re passionate about your products, or you have a lot of experience, but none of those platitudes truly distinguishes you from your competitors. But if you’re the only local, award-winning, financial analyst who has written articles published around the world, that combination can make your brand stand out.

Take some time to write an “only” statement about your business, considering:

  1. Your awards and honors
  2. Your specialty
  3. Your client niche
  4. Where you’ve been published
  5. Where you’ve spoken or taught
  6. Services or products only you offer
  7. Benefits only you can offer
  8. Your former career or careers
  9. Your education/degrees

Once you’ve created your “only” message, promote it on your main selling tool (your website!). Translate your “only” message into a short statement placed on your home page, and develop a great biography in your About Us section.

“Nothing differentiates your organization more clearly than you and the people who work for you,” Berns said. “First and foremost, you’re not selling products or services, you’re selling yourself. Your bio needs to be killer.”

Also, Berns recommended, share your message on social media, in print through press releases and even in personal conversations about your business.

2. Establish Your Online Presence

Is your message getting to the people who want and need your products or services? It doesn’t take a lot of money to create your online presence to ensure this happens, said Anthony Kirlew, founder of AKA Internet Marketing.

Kirlew urges businesses to create content that sells less and gives more. “I don’t believe in selling,” Kirlew said. “I believe in educating and empowering people. Sales will follow.”

Online marketing channels help you 1) connect with targeted prospects, 2) convert them to communicators who ask for more information, and 3) create opportunities for sales. Does your website get visitors’ attention and have a compelling offer and clear call-to-action? If not, think about what you can give to prospective customers—a white paper, a telecourse or a free consultation—and offer it on your site.

Blogging can take your business to another level, said Kirlew, who recommends posting twice a week at a blog co-located with your website. Great blog content doesn’t have to be difficult to generate. You can create question-and-answer or how-to posts; share promotions and offers; share inspirational thoughts; provide product reviews, and much more. Be sure to include photos, infographics and video, which greatly increase visitor interest. Video blogs and customer testimonials can be captured on your smartphone and uploaded within about 3 minutes.

The most important social media sites are LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube, Kirlew said. Supplement them with traditional PR channels like press releases.

Kirlew also outlined basic tactics that should be part of any business’s social media strategy:

  1. Offer consistent messages across the social channels you decide to use
  2. Use images and videos, which get shared most frequently
  3. Make your posts relevant—for example, plan around holidays and other important events
  4. Share often. You can quickly write up and share tips, testimonials, events and news about your industry, and you can leverage longer content such as blog posts to create multiple social media posts.
  5. If you have the budget, consider paid promotions, which can build your audience rapidly.
  6. Focus heavily on community building, not just selling.

3. Creating Raving Fans

Merely having satisfied customers won’t cut it anymore, said Jeff Pederson, founder of JPED Consulting LLC and creator of Decision Point, the only board-of-director model in the nation that brings small business owners together.

Customers are satisfied because most have low expectations; they’re used to bad service—late deliveries, cold food and lost orders. To increase your market share, you need to develop raving fans who will recommend you to their friends.

As noted above, a simple, compelling brand that differentiates you is the key to creating raving fans. It incorporates your business values—your brand promise—and your core competencies in terms that are in sync with what your customers want.

Pederson suggested business owners invest an eight-hour day to think deeply about their brands, and answer five sets of key questions:

  1. What is your purpose? Whom do you serve? What value do you deliver? Why do you matter?
  2. What is your business recipe? What is your difference? How do you deliver your value proposition? What makes your strategy superior?
  3. What should your organization character be? What assumptions guide you? What excites you about your organization? What is not negotiable?
  4. What are your goals and priorities? What results do you seek? What few, high-impact issues must you concentrate your resources on? What must you do about them and what actions must be taken? What must you do in the next 30 days, and who is responsible?
  5. What strategic conversation will capture the imagination and attention of your stakeholders and win their support? Whom must you talk to? What do they need to know? How can you reach them?

The answers to these questions will help you articulate your brand promise and core competencies, said Pederson. After doing that, ask your customers what they want, listen closely to what they tell you, and modify your brand-promise and core-competency statements as needed.

You now have a message you can build into everything your potential customers see and hear. Pederson suggests taking a look at your company logo, literature, website and advertising copy to make sure they reflect your brand values.

Though you may develop it largely yourself, your employees bear primary responsibility for delivering your brand, as they interact with customers and prospects. It’s important to talk with them about your brand values and core competencies, and that all of your employees understand and believe in them.

Review and update your brand values as needed. It will take time, but your brand will strengthen if you consistently communicate and deliver your brand values to customers. Communicating these values through social- and mobile-media will accelerate the process of sharing and receiving feedback from your audience. Not only will this ensure your values are delivered more quickly, but your ability to review and update your messages and values will likewise accelerate—putting you ahead of your slower-moving competitors.

Michael is responsible for client SEO work, reporting, FB ads, and web hosting. Prior to joining NSI Partners, Michael received his Bachelor of Science in Business Management Information Systems from Liberty University, and worked at the school’s Network Operations Center. Michael resides in Lynchburg, VA, with his wife, Megan. His hobbies include gaming, watching Atlanta Falcons football, and reading.

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About NSI Partners

A digital marketing company with almost two decades of experience, NSI Partners helps clients achieve robust results in search marketing, social media, and other digital marketing spaces.

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