When I started my first business, a photography and graphic design studio, in 2005, one of the most recurring questions I had was how much should I spend on advertising?
I was looking for a proven formula. A formula that would lead to success, if I had the courage and the commitment to stick to it.
I had the determination. I was willing to do the work. What I couldn’t find was the proven formula.
In the absence of that formula, I wanted to know what was a big advertising budget and what was a little.
My friend Google knows everything, and a search today reveals that Apple spent $1.8 billion on advertising in 2015.
Is that a lot or is that a little? Given the size of Apple today.
And, what difference does knowing that number make?
Let's face it, our turnover is less than $1.8 billion, so we can't invest that much in advertising and promoting our business. To you and I, that is just a big meaningless number.
I remember watching a documentary about Coca-Cola, and how they spent 50% of their gross profit on advertising in 1920. That documentary stated that would be a huge amount to spend on advertising today so in 1920 that was reckless.
So, there it was. That was the closest that I ever got to discovering what a big advertising budget looked like.
Later, when I worked in distribution, I learned that manufacturers allocate a percentage of sales (typically 1% or 2%) to marketing.
That was at least a measure that could be applied to any business.
Is that realistic for a small business?
If you've got a 6-figure business, then you're only investing £1,000 or £2,000 into advertising and marketing.
Would you agree, that’s not exactly a high growth budget?
That’s certainly not going to grow a business at the speed of my ambition.
So… is there a way to grow a small business (or any size business) without walking a financial tightrope?
We all want to build our dream business, and we don’t want to risk our house and our families’ security to get it.
My wife and daughter like luxuries such as electricity, running water, 3 meals a day, and a roof over their head. So, I’m not going to risk so much that any of those things are threatened.
If that makes me a coward in your eyes, that's okay. That's the type of entrepreneur I am.
The rest of this blog will show you how to…
There are 3 things you can do if you’ve got a small advertising, marketing or promotional budget.
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
In 2005, the big idea about making advertising and marketing free was SEO or Search Engine Optimisation.
I'm sure you'll agree that if your business is not on the first page of Google, then it doesn't exist.
So, I spent vast amounts of money (NOT making advertising and marketing free) on SEO consultants who promised to get my website on the first page of Google for a range of keywords.
I stupidly paid upfront for their services, and they never got me to the first page! That was a very painful lesson that still clouds my judgement of SEO today.
Can you actually make advertising and marketing free?
Here are 3 ways to make advertising and marketing free.
Organic posts on social media are the easiest and fastest way to get your voice heard for free.
To be heard, you’ve first got to listen.
If you go into a group on Facebook or LinkedIn and just carpet bomb that community with your message, it’s unlikely to be heard and acted on if you don’t spend time giving value in the community.
You can't grab a loudspeaker, stand in a crowded room and expect people to listen to you. So don’t try to do the same thing online and expect a different result.
If you got into the community, and answer people’s questions with practical solutions, then you will become known as the guy or gal that can solve problems. You’ll become known as an expert.
When you answer someone’s question, you are first listening, showing that you care, and only then helping that person solve an immediate problem. That individual will act on your advice because you have taken the time to solve a specific problem for them.
Other people in the community will see your comments and that’s how you will become known.
This is the patience that’s needed to become known in a community. It’s what Jeff Walker calls Digging your well before you are thirsty.
When you dig your well first, your voice will be heard because you are a valued and trusted member of that community.
As an unknown outsider, you may have valuable information, and it will go unnoticed if you just carpet bomb your information and run.
Networking events are the real-life version of social media groups. They are communities of people that meet regularly to help each other.
To become known, you’ve got to show up regularly and give first. You’ve got to help people. You’ve got to listen, and share your experience in a way that solves a problem for the other person.
If you simply try to ram what you do down people’s throats, then you won’t build relationships, and it is likely to be a waste of your time.
The other critical thing about networking is that you must know your ideal customer is in the room (or likely to be in the room), or you will build friendships that won't turn into new business.
That’s fine if you’re there for social reasons, and not if you want a proven way to build your dream business for free.
Success with this method lies in your research before you first make contact.
I don’t know about you, but I hate it when I get a call in the middle of the day from someone that says Can I please speak to the business owner.
I can’t believe this opening line ever gets results, but the number of times that I hear it tells me that some people say, yes, that’s me.
Personally, I hate this opening because it tells me that they haven't given me the courtesy of 5-minutes of their time to look at my website and find my name. If my hard earned cash is not worth 5-minutes of their time, then why should I give them any of my time.
Before I pick up the phone, I send my ideal customer a physical letter. Why? Because it stands out. Because it gets read.
How many emails do you get a day? I’m going to guess that it’s a lot. If you’re anything like me, then you don’t read all your emails the same day, even the emails from people that you know send you value. So, what are the chances of an email being missed?
If you send a physical letter, then it immediately cuts through the clutter. The letter is addressed to a specific person, not to the business owner.
You see, I’ve done my homework. I know who the business owner is, I know what they do and precisely how I can help them. That’s all outlined in the letter.
At the end of the letter, I write that I will call them that week to discuss the next steps.
This is a very powerful growth strategy if you are a consultant or sell a high-end product. If you only need a handful of customers to have a flourishing business, then this is a perfect strategy.
If you want to reach 10,000 people, then this is not going to work with a limited advertising budget.
So, what options do you have if you want to reach a mass audience?
If you want to reach a mass audience, without having to spend a penny upfront on advertising or marketing, then you need to work with someone that has a community of your ideal customers.
If you’re a nutritionist, then you could work with personal trainers or people selling exercise DVDs.
As a nutritionist, you help people lose weight and have more energy by eating healthier.
Someone selling exercise DVDs is also helping people to lose weight and have more energy. They are helping people achieve the same result in a completely different way.
This makes them the perfect business to work with because they are a non-compete business that already has a community of people that need your help.
Yes, you will have to pay them a commission on sale. The commission is whatever you agree. The most important point is that you can build your dream business with a safety net because you aren’t spending money and hoping that it will turn into sales. You are simply, giving your new partner a commission on sale.
What else should you do if you’ve got a small advertising or marketing budget?
If you’ve got a small advertising or marketing budget… or… if you want to get the biggest bang for your buck… then you must follow a proven system.
You see, creating a proven system requires a lot of testing. Testing is the polite way of saying, ideas that didn’t work, or ideas that didn’t work as well as you hoped.
Testing involves spending time, money and enthusiasm on an idea. All of which are lost if your idea doesn’t work as well as you hoped.
When you follow someone else’s proven system, you can skip years of trial and error and unknowns sums of money.
When you follow someone else's system, you don't get cute or clever. You do the work, you follow their system to the letter, and you are likely to enjoy good results.
At least, that’s been my experience.
I’ve learned from the entrepreneurs that have come before me. I’ve followed their system to the letter, to see if it works in my world.
Once I’ve used their system and enjoyed successful results a few times, then I’ll start to ask if there’s anything that I can do differently to improve the results.
That’s only after I’ve used their proven system several times.
So, when you're starting, find a system from someone that you trust, and follow it to the letter. Resist the temptation to get clever or creative. The first time you just need to do it.
When it comes to writing emails or letters, or creating a video script, or a webinar presentation, there are still plenty of opportunities to add in your personality and your creative flair. Just make sure that you stay within the lines.
The best analogy that I can think of to explain being creative while staying within the lines is the difference between classical music and jazz. As a classical musician, your job is to read the dots. Yes, you can put some emotion into your playing, but you MUST play the same notes every single time.
As a jazz musician, you must improvise. You play the "signature" part of the tune, and then you and the other musicians can "play whatever you want".
So… how do 4 musicians improvise (play whatever you want) without the music just sounding like noise?
The musicians are all playing within the musical structure. They are all walking down the same street, and turning the same corners, at the same time. Improvisation means they can dance, or hop, or lurch from one giant step to the next.
The musical structure is the street that all the musicians are following. The dance, or hop, or lurch, is their improvisation.
In just the same way, you must find a proven structure and follow it to the letter. You must walk down the same street and take the first left. Don’t look right… don’t even tempt yourself… because that’s where disaster lays.
You can walk, run or dance down the street with your swagger… as long as you follow the proven route to success.
So, this brings us nicely onto the third and final thing you must do if you’ve got a small advertising or marketing budget…
If you’re doing something new… even if you’re following a proven system… don’t bet the farm!
You’ve got to make failure survivable.
I'm always learning and testing new ideas. Someone in the Facebook Advertising Mastermind that I'm a part of completely blew my mind.
I’m a believer in the truth that Hard work never lies.
This guy proved it with a Facebook campaign that had 800 different Ad Sets and 800 different Ads.
Suddenly I realized that I needed to up my game. I had to work a lot harder if I was going to succeed at the speed of my ambition.
So, for my next campaign, I pushed the bar of success higher than I had ever done.
I wrote 4 different ads, each with a different emotional hook.
Each ad, had a split test headline.
Each ad variation had 3 or more images.
Then I wanted to test all these ads in 4 different audience interests.
This brings the total number of Ad Set and Ad variations to 4x2x3x4 = 96
For the Facebook algorithm work properly, it needs a minimum of 10 conversions a day.
So, if I could get webinar registrations for £3, then I’d need to spend a minimum of £2,880 a day!
If the webinar registrations were £5 each then the budget jumps to £4,800 per day!
At that point, my work ethic and bank balance collided with each other.
As I’ve said, I’m a complete believer in the mantra that Hard work never lies… and I know that following a proven strategy is the short cut to success… and I know that I must make failure survivable.
What did I do?
I picked up the sword (my fountain pen with red ink) and started cutting holes in my planned campaign.
What was left, was a campaign that tested 4 different emotional hooks, and 2 different headlines for each ad message, with only ONE target audience.
What was left, was a campaign that would cost £300 per day, instead of £2,880!
What was left, was a campaign that made failure survivable.
As fate would have it, my Facebook account was shut down while I was in the middle of building out my £3,000 or £5,000 per day campaign.
It took several days to get my account reinstated. Enough time for me to realise that I must make failure survivable.
So, I don’t have the results to share with you yet… that will come in 2 weeks.
The point is that whatever strategy you are using… even if it’s one that you have used before… you must make failure survivable.
I’m not saying to doubt yourself or believe that you will fail. I’m just saying to hope for the best and plan for the worst.
That way, no matter what happens, you live to fight another day.
I hope this answers the question for you of what you should do if you’ve got a small advertising or marketing budget.
I hope you can now see a clear path to grow your business without risking your families’ security.
Your task now is to use ONE of these ideas this week.
It could be as simple as scaling back a campaign that you’ve got planned.
It could be making a list of the partners that you could work with to promote your business for free.
It could be making a list of the Facebook and LinkedIn groups that you want to be known in.
Remember, you've got to dig your well before you are thirsty so if this is your strategy, get busy listening and solving problems.
Please share your decision in the comments below.
If this can help a business owner you know, then please share it with them.
Until next time…
P.S. if you'd like to build your dream business then you need a proven system to find your ideal customer, earn their trust, and make them feel good about buying.
After many, many failures, I’ve created a simple 5-step system to find people that need your help, to earn their trust, and to make them feel good about buying. This system made me £672,989 in just 9 days!
I’d like to give you a free ebook that reveals: how to use the simple 5-step system that made me £672,989 in just 9 days!
To download your free copy just click the link below:
To download your free copy just click the link below:
I’m a copywriter and business growth trainer, mentor and consultant.
For the last 5 years, I’ve helped authors, coaches, mentors, consultants, software developer and health professionals to sell products and services in industries as diverse as property, technology, finance, personal development, business opportunity, weight loss, and alternative health.
These products and services have ranged in price from £5 to £12,000. My most successful campaign made £672,989 in just 9 days. I took that result and transformed it into a simple repeatable system. A system that I teach to ambitious entrepreneurs that want to make money on demand without a sales team.
Why do I want to help other business owners? Because my marketing journey began when I lost my first business, a photography and graphic design studio. The pain of watching my business slowly die, and being powerless to do anything about it, motivated me to discover how promotional messages can make money on demand without a sales team.
Today my mission is to prevent every business owner from suffering through the same pain as I did. I’d like to take entrepreneurs on the joy ride that comes with having a proven system to make money on demand and to relax with the security of knowing where your next sale is coming from.