Creative Marketing on a Shoestring

You've ransacked your brain for a shred of creativity, and you still can't come up with some decent marketing tactics. Good news: We've done the work for you.

In a world where a decent print ad can run to five digits, Internet ads start at hundreds a month and direct mail costs a dollar a pop, what's a cash-strapped entrepreneur to do? Fear not. If you're willing to put in time in lieu of money and aren't afraid of a little adventure, there are always ways to market your business-all for the price of a large pizza or less. Just avoid blowing money on methods that don't work for start-up businesses. Instead, try these unorthodox but effective (and inexpensive) marketing measures.

Pull a Stunt
As you sit in a sidewalk caf�FD one sunny afternoon, you notice heads suddenly swiveling. A woman is walking down the street.in a boned, laced bodice that gives her a silhouette that would make strong men faint. She hands out leaflets to her entranced audience. She makes more than $3,000 in bodice orders within the week. Not bad for a marketing outlay of $10 and a couple of hours.

A good publicity stunt is a startlingly effective way to catapult your business into the public eye and gain exposure that could otherwise cost you a fortune-if you're the kind of person who's not afraid to be a bit wacky. Think up a clever, funny, outrageous idea and tell the local media-newspapers, radio stations, TV stations-all about it. Call everyone you know, and ask them to spread the word.

If you're starting a homemade jam business, for example, put out a public challenge for a jam-sandwich-eating contest. Or stage a "live" commercial in a crowded mall or even the street. (Get permission first.) See if you can convince (or entice with free offers of whatever you sell) friends or family to take part. Otherwise, you can probably hire aspiring actors or musicians from local schools and guilds for very little money.

Even if you're not willing to go quite that far, you can whip up some public interest by adding theater to your business. If you're selling hand-painted silk accessories, give a full-blown silk-painting demonstration in the park, complete with flying painted-silk pennants. Or spread a bright cloth on the grass by a high-traffic area of the park, sit down in a suit with a briefcase, and put up a big sign that reads "Tax accountant for hire." The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

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This article was originally published in the April 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Creative Marketing on a Shoestring.

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