By Roy H. Williams
Are you a one-person company with a lunch-money ad budget?
Good News: Time and money are interchangeable. You can always save one by spending more of the other.
When money is tight, spend time.
(If you don’t have any money AND you don’t have any time, then you’re spending your time on the wrong things.)
The key to low-budget advertising is to focus on small groups and individuals.
Here are some ways to do it:
1. Door-hangers on Doorknobs. If your target is geographically defined, print doorknob-hangers and hang them on doors in your area. Results will be proportionate to the strength of your offer. So make your offer detailed and specific. “Join us for worship this Sunday morning” is less likely to bring visitors to a church than “Single Parent Support Group meets Wednesday nights at 7:00. Childcare provided.” When I was young and in the seamless guttering business, I’d walk yard-to-yard diagramming rooflines on estimate sheets. The homeowner came home to find taped to their door a schematic of their roofline with my detailed bid for what it would cost to install seamless guttering on their home. Worked like magic. COST: Ink, estimate sheets, and shoe leather.
2. Flyers under Windshield Wipers. If you need to reach the drivers of a specific type of vehicle, such as pickup trucks, what better way than to walk your doorknob-hanging shoes across parking lots putting flyers under windshield wipers? Yes, you’ll occasionally get run out of a parking lot by a security guard in a golf cart and some lonely soul who needs a life will call to complain that you’re ruining the environment, but the results are usually worth the hassle.
3. Purchased Word-of-Mouth. Ride up and down in the elevators of tall buildings, stand at bus stops, wait at crosswalks or hang around in coffee shops to tell strangers about your business. “Have you heard about _______? It’s awesome.” It sounds nuts, I know, but it works. Pay a kid or do it yourself.
4. Virtual Showroom. Convert your website to a virtual showroom. Use it as an instantly deliverable, interactive brochure when people call to ask details about your company, your products or your services. “Are you sitting in front of a computer? Good. Now go to BlahBlah.com. Yeah, that’s me. Now click the button that says ‘Equipment.’ See that second photo?” Think of this website as a place where you sit down to talk with interested prospects. Make sure the virtual showroom is equipped with all the same tools and props as your physical showroom. You’ll be shocked what it does for the conversion rate of inquiries.
5. Nighttime Silhouettes. You’ve probably never seen one of these… which means no one else in your town has seen one either. First, locate a tall wall in a part of town that has lots of traffic at night, especially foot traffic. Then arrange with the owner of that building – and the building across the street – to let you install a logo projector. They’re effective and cheap. In some situations you can even use an old slide projector to achieve the desired effect.
6. T-shirts and Vests. My little ad firm with its 41 offices worldwide was launched in 1978 with a T-shirt advertising a thought-for-the-day recorded on a telephone answering machine. “Take a Break in Your Day. Dial Daybreak. 258-7700.” I could only afford one such printed t-shirt. I wore it a lot. Daybreak evolved into the Monday Morning Memo and a trilogy of bestsellers, then became the foundation upon which Wizard Academy was built. Have you visited our 22-acre campus?
7. Hand Stamps. One of my friends recently attended a ticketed event that required a hand-stamp for readmission. The hand-stamp was a delightful little mini-ad for one of the sponsors. Can you imagine a better advertising vehicle for creating personal identification with a brand? There’s something about looking down at your own hand and seeing a logo and knowing that the image has value. You’re having fun, the brand is there, and it’s part of you. The ink might wash off, but the impression doesn’t fade so quickly.
8. Publicity Stunt. Few things are as powerful as a publicity stunt that wins public attention. Going for inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records requires a lot of work, but holding a world record is extremely cool. Did you hear about the guy who dropped a golf ball at the edge of Mongolia, then whacked it 1,234 miles all the way to the other side? The journey required 12,170 swings of the club, 90 days and 510 lost balls. But he got interviewed by Jay Leno on The Tonight Show followed by The Today Show, CNN, CNN International, CTV, ESPN Cold Pizza, and PGA Tour Sunday. Articles were published about him in the New York Times and the Times of London. Then the Associated Press issued a worldwide story about the exploit. Outside Magazine featured him as one of its 25 Coolest People, the Men’s Journal put him in their Hall of Fame, National Public Radio broadcast their interview with him from coast to coast, then several European radio networks jumped on the bandwagon. Not a bad R.O.I. on a 90-day investment.
9. Self-Publish a Book. Nothing screams “expert” quite so loudly as writing a book on a subject. So get an ISBN number, register it with the Library of Congress, pay a printer to print your book, then sell it on Amazon.com. You may sell only a few copies, but the copies you give away will make you a fortune. You won’t make any money on the book. But you’ll make a fortune because of the book.
10. Spray-Painted Signs. In the early 1970s, “Hamp Baker says Drive with Care” was spray-painted on car hoods salvaged from crumpled automobiles, then those hoods were tied with bailing wire to barbed-wire fences across the state. Nobody in Oklahoma had ever heard of Hamp Baker, but his name was soon a household word. When he ran for public office, he won by a landslide.
You may have noticed that each of these things requires time and creative energy. There’s no one you can call to do these things for you, you’ve got to do them yourself. But if you’re willing to spend a little time to make a lot of money, pick 1 or 2 items from the list above, then get to work.
And prepare to be amazed.