When I started my business nearly eight years ago (March 2001), the U.S. was entering a period of economic stress, with unemployment rising and layoffs, many industry sectors were experiencing a downtown. Entering 2009, we’re in a similar position, arguably more significant, however the challenge to any business marketing and PR effort is the same: do more with less–or at least maintain in the face of economic gloom. In this blog, I’ll explore a few of these ideas in more detail so that your business can prosper & grow in spite of the lean times. For now, let me suggest a few tips:

Be resourceful- use existing resources, employees. Provide training where needed. Learn a new skill.

Research/survey your customer base – What do you really know about your best customers or the prospective customers you are trying to reach?

Targeted advertising – don’t waste your money on coupon clippers, yellow pages advertising or broad-based advertising. Use pay-per clicks, targeted e-mail distribution lists and reach out to your existing customer base.

Use Effective PR – this means using publicity techniques using time-tested PR tactics that deliver attention, buzz and more importantly customers.


19 thoughts on “Marketing and PR on a shoestring budget

  1. These are good tips, I feel that there are so many great resources that business don’t take advantage of. I think that companies should strive to know there marketing which they are trying to target. Good insight and tips.

  2. Though I am responding to an old posting from 2008, I still think these are great tips and should continue to serve as helpful lessons companies can learn a lot from. Thankfully, the economy today is a lot better than what it was 2 years ago. As a graduating senior this year, I cannot imagine how frustrating and devastating it would have been to graduate with a college degree and not find a stable job.

    As the economy improves, another lesson I would recommend for businesses to consider in order to prosper in spite of the lean times is to harness the incredible power of social media in business. Social media is such an exciting medium offering endless FREE opportunities to engage the masses and get great results. By simply creating profiles on the major powerhouses like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Myspace and Youtube, businesses have this amazing opportunity to leverage these powerful social media sites to their advantage. Before you know it, a small local coffeehouse company could have consumers talking positively about their products via Twitter.

  3. I agree with these tips and it suggests to me that when you are targeting your audience, keep the medium of the information relevant to the target audience. Selling electric cars at a Monster Truck rally could be a challenge. I could be generalizing as well!

    1. I agree here, becasue the customers you have now are the ones you want. It would be best for you to target the audience you already have, especially when times are tough and marketing budgets are lower than they should be.

  4. Like everyone else, I agree that these are great tips! Today’s companies face the challenge of marketing in an economic state of fierce and uncertainty. The key to maintaining forward momentum in today’s market is to resolve to be competitive and shift to an opportunistic mindset. Rather than focusing on the turbulence, company’s should leverage the dynamics of a down market and become an even stronger competitor. In my opinion, a weak economy can actually serve as an opportunity to evaluate your marketing and public relations initiatives so you can make them more effective and efficient.

    1. I agree that these tips are great, especially considering our current economic situation. Competition between competitors grows even more ruthless in times like these and it is important to always look towards the future rather than focus on the present. There are a lot of opportunities for the right companies even in this economy. For instance, renewable energy and business sustainability are in high demand right now so for a firm with enough capital, these concepts could offer huge competitive advantages and would also get something started that will likely be the norm in the future.

  5. Professor Jack, this reminds me of when you talked about that if you went back to school, you’d get a degree in graphic design. It goes to show that as society changes, the economy goes through a transformation as well and that means a business needs to keep up with the current trends like making an attractive, flashy website. As Christian pointed out, a lot of businesses are making use of social networking websites too and everyday I see a new company making a profile on Facebook or Twitter, hoping to gain the attention of the so many internet denizens.

  6. Nejla raises a good point here. The weak economy encourages levels of creativity in both marketing and public relations sectors that may not have been realized in an economy that keeps on going on in a “status quo” way of doing business and communications with their affected publics. Adaptation is another key point here. Firms and people need to have the ability to adapt to new ways or different ways of thinking and communicating.

  7. I think Steve is certainly right in pointing out that the current weak economy encourages levels of creativity in the fields of marketing and public relations. Social media, as I’ve pointed out in an earlier post, is a perfect example of this. Thanks to the accessibility of social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, businesses are capitalizing on the ability to connect to their customers on a more personal level more than ever before. As an avid social media user, I’ve followed local businesses such as the Nines luxury hotel in downtown Portland which has a Twitter account. The Nines’ Twitter profile, for example, posts special rates and trivia questions to generate customer interest and loyalty. One time, the Nines’ Twitter profile offered a 15% off rate for the first 5 Twitter followers that “retweet” their message. Unfortunately, I wasn’t fast enough to be one of the 5 winners but it is strategies like this that definitely captivate my attention as a consumer.

  8. Speaking of social media, I thought I would share some staggering facts I’ve obtained online through the Socialnomics Social Media Blog. I guess this goes to those who still refuse to believe in social media’s power and influence. These facts are incredible!

    -By 2010 Gen Y will outnumber Baby Boomers….96% of them have joined a social network

    -Social Media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the Web

    -1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. last year met via social media

    – Years to Reach 50 millions Users: Radio (38 Years), TV (13 Years), Internet (4 Years), iPod (3 Years)…Facebook added 100 million users in less than 9 months…iPhone applications hit 1 billion in 9 months.

    -If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s 4th largest between the United States and Indonesia (note that Facebook is now creeping up – recently announced 300 million users)

    -Yet, some sources say China’s QZone is larger with over 300 million using their services (Facebook’s ban in China plays into this)

    -comScore indicates that Russia has the most engage social media audience with visitors spending 6.6 hours and viewing 1,307 pages per visitor per month – Vkontakte.ru is the #1 social network

    1. I read this post after I had posted mine. This is exactly what I was talking about. Social networking is one of the most popular things going on today and is a vehicle for businesses to get their messages to consumers and potential consumers for free, in most cases. In addition to being free these networks let the businesses become more personal with the consumer.

  9. I think that using a “shoestring budget” is a good thing to go through. I know plenty of people who have their own businesses who cant afford things such as adverising, radio spots, or things like that. Having a small budget makes those looking for publicity become more resourceful, creative, and personal with the consumer using guerilla tactics. Even though it will require more work and time if someone is motivated they can make things happen for thier business. Building relationships/ helping others that can help you is something that people do all the time. You would be suprised with what you could do with a “shoestring budget”.

  10. Here are additional staggering facts about social media that I thought I would share:

    -% of companies using LinkedIn as a primary tool to find employees….80%

    -The fastest growing segment on Facebook is 55-65 year-old females

    -Ashton Kutcher and Ellen Degeneres (combined) have more Twitter followers than the population of Ireland, Norway, or Panama.

    -80% of Twitter usage is outside of Twitter…people update anywhere, anytime…imagine what that means for bad customer experiences?

    -Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passé…In 2009 Boston College stopped distributing e-mail addresses to incoming freshmen

    -What happens in Vegas stays on YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook…

    -The #2 largest search engine in the world is YouTube

    -Wikipedia has over 13 million articles…some studies show it’s more accurate than Encyclopedia Britannica…78% of these articles are non-English

    -There are over 200,000,000 Blogs

    -54% = Number of bloggers who post content or tweet daily

    -Because of the speed in which social media enables communication, word of mouth now becomes world of mouth

    -If you were paid a $1 for every time an article was posted on Wikipedia you would earn $156.23 per hour

    -Facebook USERS translated the site from English to Spanish via a Wiki in less than 4 weeks and cost Facebook $0

  11. Those tips are very useful, I learned something form that. I agree that lower your cost is one of the best way to save your business during the bad economic period. Also it is what marketing department and PR have to concern about. As a marketing major, it is very important for us to advertise a company and its new project or new product in a low cost with good results. Therefore, it is more important for us to doing that during the bad economic period. Our actions may have a huge impact on the company. PR is also a important role for a business during the bad economic period They can help company to deal with the media, looking for and communicate with some supportive stakesholders which will also hlep company a lot.

  12. Thanks for many great tips! During the economic recession, we must try not make any further mistakes, and we have to be aggressive and prepared for unexpected situations that could occur anywhere and anytime. I consider PR is one of the most effective tool to facilitate the organization to attain the objectives and to retain the company’s reputation in the hight level. Also, we’re required to know what our customers know in today business because they all are looking forward to get the best customer service, and we must attempt to keep the customer relationship for our business. In addition, everything we do must be targeted, and we should not waste of any sources and budgets. As a result, we would have good opportunities to reach the goals or at least to get as close as we can for our businesses

  13. Making good decisions and utilizing resources effectively can be of great help when the economy is not doing well. Small start up companies struggle the most, and need to be flawless in implementing business strategies.

    However, big corporation are not shielded from the consequences bad business management. Even if all else is executed effectively, a simple mistake can ruin your public image and decrease business profitability. For example, take CVS and their recent crisis. Chewable fluoride tablet medication was switched with cancer treatment medicine. Dispensing wrongly labeled prescription drugs could kill someone! CVS was really lucky that none of the consumers, whom received the switched medication, suffered ill health effects from the switch.


  14. Although this post has been a while ago, I think the tips are still helpful for lots of companies in today’s business environment. Because the current economy is still experiencing downturn, lots of companies are struggling with how to increase their business under the limited budget and resources. These tips provide useful insights for a company’s growth. One of the tips reminds something that I learned in one of my marketing classes. The tip is about targeted advertising. I totally agree with this. From my other marketing class, I learned that mass advertising not always work, and its efficiency could be low. I think making the advertising to reach the targeted customer base would be more efficient because it sends message to specific and potential customers who would be interested in the company’s services or products instead of wasting the money to reach out lots of people who are not the potential buyers. It could help the company maximize the use of its capital and resources.

  15. Being a frugal communicator is definitely a talent. I believe PR, marketing, and advertising need to be creative in messaging and strategy during poor economic times.

    A recent example is dollar shave club. A company no-one had ever heard of until they posted a viral vid explaining the company with a simple message: one dollar a month gets you a box of razors sent to your door. The video is very Old-Spice-esque, utilizing an overconfident narrator explaining how simple the company’s operation works. Its truly amazing how fast someone can get attention by attracting a large demographic and send their message in a humorous tone.

  16. One of the basis principle in advertising, marketing and also PR is to segment your markets or your publics. The segmentation is very useful because you don’t have unlimited money to spend and also you need to identify the market that is going to be interested in your products, services or information. In order to target them, you need to communicate in a way they will understand the message but you need also to communicate in one of the platform that they will used because we are more and more overwhelmed by ads and information. According to a research done in 2011, americans see about 3 000 ads and information BY DAY. So if the company doesn’t want to waste its money, it needs to be very careful with the target market, what they need, what they want to hear and what is the most efficient platform to communicate the information.

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