It’s often said that the greatest things in life are free.
We all know that offering coupons, discounts, and other financial incentives can be powerful marketing tools that are sure to generate buzz around your product. But sometimes, large ad campaigns just aren’t financially feasible, and you have to get creative with your marketing.
This will work especially well if you recognize that part of the appeal of your business is in the intangibles: factors that you can’t pay for and, in fact, mean more when you don’t.
Here are three alternative marketing strategies to improve relationships with your customers without breaking the bank:
1. Improve their reputation.
An old joke: How can you tell if someone is a vegan?
Answer: Don’t worry, they’ll remind you in five minutes.
Like NPR listeners, Crossfit members, and people who read books, there is a certain kind of person that is more than happy to brag about their hobby or product of choice.
In marketing your product or service, you implicitly promise to make your customers happier, healthier, smarter, or more attractive people. If you can’t afford to financially incentivize your product through a discount or coupon, you should add value to their lives by making them feel personally aligned to your product.
If it’s appropriate for your brand, advertise the fact that a certain percentage of the proceeds are forwarded to a charitable organization. Sell a t-shirt or coffee mug with your logo on it if your company’s aesthetic plays an important role in your marketing.
Perhaps, like AirBnB did, you could start a friendly competition and give it a hashtag. The organic marketing opportunities provided by social media will build customer loyalty and have an air of authenticity that can draw in new people.
2. Be friendly.
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are free services with paid options for advertising. They’re excellent options, especially if your company’s target demographic and overall aesthetic are overlap with your niche on social media sites (e.g., Tumblr for teenagers, Pinterest for women). Major names like Taco Bell have successfully used social media sites to cultivate a clever, enjoyable, and instantly retweetable online prescence.
Another option besides the usual “big three” of social media is Reddit, one of the top 30 most popular websites in the world. It is a great avenue for research, but also allows your company to interact with customers and interested parties on a more engaging and permanent level than on say, Twitter. Think about providing expert knowledge in your field and showcasing your personality in an “Ask Me Anything” thread, or becoming a celebrity for a day by making it to the Front Page.
People are more likely to do business with you if they see the man behind the curtain. Be a real person. Be friendly.
3. Provide them with a memorable experience.
Creating a pleasant memory or experience with your brand will do more to win over a customer’s loyalty than perhaps any amount of paid advertisements will. McDonald’s restaurants sell Happy Meals and host indoor playgrounds for this reason: they’d like for young customers to start building a relationship with the brand from an impressionable age.
The point: offer an experience that can’t be reproduced (or replaced) elsewhere. Maybe it’s as simple as good customer service and a tastefully decorated storefront. Perhaps you sponsor an athletic event, or offer potential customers the chance to publicly interact with your product.
This does two things. One, it outsources your advertising, since social media has the potential to spread your philosophy, ideas, and brand like wildfire. Two, marketing through a firsthand experience is so much more tangible than any advertisement, commercial, or fancy website could hope to be, and is thus more likely to be remembered by clients in the future.
The point here is to build a long-term relationship and rapport with your customer by adding value to their customers’ lives, stuff that can’t really be measured in money or is otherwise intangible. You can do this by improving their reputation, earning their respect and admiration, or offering them a unique experience that can’t necessarily be bought.
Deals, discounts, and coupons will give you immediate short-term returns. But when you offer an experience or work to improve the reputations of your customers, you’re paid back in customer loyalty and free advertising on social media. Plus, who doesn’t love to share their passion for their work and flex their creative sides in the process?
“Just be yourself” is great advice, but the second half of it is, “make yourself as awesome as possible.” Savvy?