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Home-Based Success Begins with a Marketing Plan

Budget Scarce Resources to Cover Key Advertising and Marketing Tactics

By Steven D. Strauss

While marketing need not cost a fortune, what is critical is that you in fact take the time to learn about it, come up with a marketing plan, and then implement that plan.

While a marketing plan can be so complicated as to require special software and a 10-point plan, the new home-based business owner probably should avoid that.

One of the biggest mistakes new home-based entrepreneurs too often make is not earmarking enough time and effort (notice I did not say money) towards marketing and advertising. The fact is, while marketing need not cost a fortune, what is critical is that you in fact take the time to learn about it, come up with a marketing plan, and then implement that plan.

Here is why: Starting a new business is like being alone in a dark room; you know you are there, but no one else does. The only way you are going to turn on the light, the only way to let people know you are out there, is by marketing and advertising your business.

Craft a Simple Marketing Plan
While a marketing plan can be so complicated as to require special software and a 10-point plan, the new home-based business owner probably should avoid that. Instead, a far simpler plan is wiser. It need not be more than a page or two.

Here is what your marketing plan should include:

  • Goals: What do you want to accomplish with your initial marketing? During the startup phase, building a brand should be less important to you than making a sale. That is, your goal should probably be directed towards selling now instead of creating a memorable name.
  • Tools: Below are several low-cost marketing methods from which to choose. Your plan should be to try out as many marketing methods as you can afford, see which ones work best for you, and then use them again and again. Strive to use at least five different methods.
  • Budget: The Small Business Administration (SBA) says that a business should earmark at least five percent of its gross sales towards advertising. For the new small business, when that number may be hard to decipher, the important thing is to come up with a realistic number you can afford, then add some more money to that figure, and commit to it.
  • Timeline: Take your budget, divide by 12 months, and get started. One month try a few methods, the next month try some others.

So that is the marketing plan: Read through the many low-cost marketing methods listed below and decide which ones might work best in your business. Be patient and be creative. Watch the bottom line, and then decide which ones should become mainstay tools in your marketing tool chest.

Low-Cost Marketing Methods
Here then are some great ways to advertise and market your business on a shoestring:

Remnant Space: Near press time, magazines and newspapers may have unsold advertising space, called remnant space. If you are flexible, willing and able to buy at the last moment, you can probably pick up remnant space for a song. The same principle applies to unsold radio and television time.

Overnight Radio: One inexpensive way to build your business is to use overnight radio advertising. In major media markets, advertising during drive time (7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m.) can run anywhere from $250 a minute to a whopping $1,000 a minute. At those prices, the necessary repetition you need to create a successful campaign may be unaffordable. But overnight ads, while certainly reaching a far smaller audience, cost much, much less, and still can be very effective. How does $10 a minute sound?

An effective overnight radio campaign requires three elements:

  • A compelling message. You have to be selling something people want to buy.
  • Frequency. Repetition is the key. Repetition is the key. Repetition is the key.
  • Consistency. We all know the famous radio tag line “We’ll leave the light on for you!” because Motel 6 never fails to use it. That is the power of consistency.

Newspapers: Advertising in the newspaper can be expensive. Here are a few ways to reduce your costs:

  • Cut the size of you ad size in half, and save 50 percent. Double the size of your headline. If you then buy a premium placement (about 15 percent extra), you still save 35 percent and have an ad that might really get noticed.
  • Consider advertising only in the zip codes most likely to buy from you. You do not have to buy the whole region. You can save 50 percent or more.

Classified Ads: Both magazines and newspapers have classified ads, and the best thing is that they reach people who are shopping and are ready to buy right now. If you test an ad and it works, ask for a frequency discount when buying in bulk. You can have as much success with a classified as you do with a display ad at a fraction of the cost. Tip: Have a snappy headline!

The Yellow Pages: There are several ways to spend less on your Yellow Page advertising. First time advertisers should get as much as a 40 percent discount their first year. Also, find out about advertising in the online version of the book only.

Publicity: It does not take much money to get some free publicity, but what it does take is a great press release or press kit. If you can convince a radio or television station, or a magazine or newspaper, that your business is newsworthy, and then get them to do a story about it, bingo! That free publicity is worth its weight in gold. You can parlay it into more business, and reproduce that story for years to come, building credibility in the process.

Contests: A contest can generate interest and free publicity for your business. For example, a home-based photographer might have a yearly contest to see who took the best travel photo during the past year. Not only would this generate interest among his or her clientele, but a local newspaper might pick up the contest as a fun human interest story.

Testimonials: Satisfied customers can be one of your best sales tools. Ask them to write you a testimonial on their letterhead, and then include these letters in your marketing materials and promotions. Testimonials lend credibility to your advertising offer. They also are great to use in sales presentations.

Flyers: 5,000 flyers x 3 cents equals $150. Hire a student to put them on cars in your area. The key to a good flyer is to offer cheap prices and emphasize benefits, benefits, benefits!

Coupons: Most coupons are never redeemed, and those that are, are often redeemed for more than their value. Creating a coupon costs almost nothing, and if your home-based business stresses low costs, coupons, even unredeemed, build your business. To be effective, coupons must offer at least a 15 percent discount.

Samples: When the car dealer lets you take the car you are considering buying for a drive, what is that? It is a free sample. Gourmet grocers set out free food all day, as does Costco. Why? Free samples are inexpensive loss leaders that create sales. What can you offer for free?

Befriend a Concierge: The job of the concierge at a hotel or office building is to offer services to guests. Get on their list, and they become your marketing arm.

Web Sites: Today, you cannot be in business without a web site. It can be as little as an inexpensive e-billboard or as big as a full-blown e-commerce store. The important thing is to have one.

Online Advertising: There are many places to advertise your business online. For starters, check out www.homebusinessmag.com.

No, there is no shortage of inexpensive marketing and advertising tools available to help grow your new business. The important thing is to choose some that pique your interest, include them into your marketing plan, and get going. HBM

Steven D. Strauss is a lawyer, author, and public speaker. Steve’s “Ask an Expert” column is the most highly syndicated business column on the Internet. You can sign for his free newsletter, Small Business Success Secrets! at his web site — www.MrAllBiz.com

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