Google “free or low cost marketing” and you'll find a zillion websites, books and coaches offering to teach you how to market your business without spending much money.
And while some of the techniques they preach can certainly be useful, I've found that rushing down the “free or low cost” approach can be a huge mistake for most businesses.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating that you splurge a ton of cash on marketing just hoping it'll work for you. A lot of paid advertising is a huge waste of money for consultants and coaches. But “free or low cost” can be equally as damaging in a more insidious way. Here's why…
Firstly, it encourages you to focus on the cost of your marketing, not the returns. This is a huge mistake. Get trapped in this “how much does it cost” mindset and you miss out on big opportunities for real growth.
Given the choice between free marketing that will bring you in 1 new client a month and paying £1,000 to get 10 new clients a month and you should be getting out your wallet as fast as humanly possible.
The two key factors with any marketing are the return you'll get on your investment (obviously), but also the speed with which you'll get that return.
Speed is important because of your ability to reinvest.
At face value, an investment in marketing of £1,000 that returns £5,000 looks much better than an investment of £1,000 that returns £2,000.
But if the first investment pays back in 3 months and the second pays back in 1 month it's a different story.
With the second investment you can take your £2,000 at the end of month 1 and reinvest to earn £4,000. Do the same at the end of month 2 and by the end of month 3 you've got £8,000, way outperforming the first investment.
So speed of return is often as important as the ROI.
And unfortunately a lot of free or low cost marketing takes a long time to pay off. Not all, of course, but a lot.
The second reason free and low cost marketing can be a trap is that it's never really free or low cost. It almost always involves a significant investment of time.
Going to networking events, “engaging” on social media. Writing a ton of articles for guest blog posts. All take a lot of time.
I'm not saying they're bad, but you must recognise the cost of your time when you're looking at marketing. You can always find more money. You only have 24 hours in a day.
Here's an example: I write quite a few guest blog posts for some big sites like Salesforce.com. Typical free or low cost marketing strategy. And. I find they're a pretty good investment of time, bringing me a steady stream of leads in the form of newsletter subscribers every time I write one.
But recently I've been experimenting with advertising on Facebook (yeah, Facebook, who'd a thunk eh?).
I've found that with a decent newsfeed ad linked to my 5 Tweaks free report. I can get email subscribers for under a pound a subscriber. So to get 100 new subscribers will cost me under £100.
That's way less than my cost per subscriber based on my investment in time in writing a guest blog post. Way, way less.
Now that doesn't mean I won't do guest blog posts. There are some other benefits too in terms of profile raising,
But by considering marketing outside the “free or low cost” canon I've been able to get a much better result much faster and for much less effort than sticking within it.
Could you do the same too?
Image by Ken Hawkins