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Zero Cost Marketing – Can You Promote Your Business For Free? Part 1:Discounts & Samples

Can You Promote Your Business At Low Or Zero Cost?

TV and radio ads, street side hoardings, bus stop panel adverts. And increasingly, display and video adverts every time we go online. They’re what comes to mind for a lot of us when we think about product, brand or business promotion. And done right, they can be hugely effective. There’s barely a woman over 25 who won’t remember the 2014 Diet Coke “Lawnmower Man” ad or its relatives, for instance. Personally, I can barely restrain the impulse to shout “Hoots mon, there’s juice loose aboot this hoose!” every time I put a Maynards Wine Gum in my mouth. Such is the power of good advertising.

This ad brings the Ohhh! to Coke
Hoot’s Mon! An unforgettable advert from Maynards

That’s all very well, but you may not have have access to the large marketing budget which that sort of campaign requires. For those with smaller budgets there are a variety of popular advertising methods including PPC and Facebook ads which can produce a great Return on Investment with only a small spend.

But what if your budget won’t even stretch that far? What if you have nothing, or next to it, to spend on promotional activities? Can you still promote your business effectively? Yes, with a flexible approach and sometimes a little creativity, you can.

This post is the first in a series where we will suggest promotional ideas which require no, or negligible monetary outlay but could still give your business the boost it needs.

The ideas will not be presented in any order of preference. Each business has its own individual characteristics so any suggestion may be more or less applicable and useful for your business and only you can make that call.

With that said, our first suggestion is:

1 Offer Samples Or Discounts

Often, people are unwilling to try something new in case they do not like it. This is a subject where I can offer plenty of personal experience. For I have a friend with an auto-dislike pre-set when it comes to food. “Do you want mango chutney Jane?” I say. “Oh No!” she says “I don’t like that.”. “Have you tried it?” I ask. And I find out that no, she has never tried it, but has turned it down on a preconception of what it would be like. I later present it in a meal without asking, and when she asks what the great tangy orange stuff was, I smile quietly and say casually “Oh, that?… …it was mango chutney.”. The next time she is offered it, she accepts eagerly.

The principle behind my friend’s food-fussiness can be extended to humanity and strange experiences in general. And the reluctance to try the unfamiliar is amplified if they also have to pay money for the opportunity. That’s understandable. Why pay to try something you might not like when you can feel more confident – though unadventurous – by sticking to something you know? Very few people want to waste money, especially right now.

If, however, they are given the opportunity to try at low to zero cost, the situation reverses. Very few people want to miss out on a freebie. Just mention that something is free and a ripple of interest is likely to spread quickly through the surrounding populace. By removing the cost you have removed the risk associated with the trial, and people’s curiosity (and fear of missing out) takes over.

So one good way to persuade potential customers to try your product or service and convince them of its value could be to provide them with that low-risk opportunity.

Samples offered as a way to promote at low or zero cost

Linked: Zero Cost Marketing Part 2 – Web Content

Samples And Discounts – Some Ideas

There are many ways in which you can entice consumers to sample or discover more about your business or product. Here are a few of them:

  • Physical samples. Whether handed out on the street or posted out to enquirers, these are a great way to let people see, touch, smell or taste your product so they can experience its quality first hand before purchasing.
  • Discounts. An offer of money off the full ticket price can be enough to tempt an otherwise unsure customer into a purchase.
  • Satisfaction or your money back”. Perhaps the ultimate no-risk option for the consumer, a refund-backed satisfaction guarantee can dispel the fear of wasting money and tempt a customer to try a new product.
  • Introductory offer. This could take a number of forms, including a new customer discount, a percentage off a first purchase or session, or free shipping for first time buyers.
  • A free consultation or first session. For service-based businesses, this could be a great way to introduce yourself to new clients and demonstrate the quality of your offering.
  • Refer a friend scheme. Who better to promote your business than your existing satisfied customers? You could offer a reward to them (for instance a discount or a free item or session) for recommending you and combine it with an introductory offer as an incentive for the friend they refer.
  • Multi-buy offer – A variant of a simple discount offer, this can take various forms including including Buy One Get One Free, Three for the price of two, “20% off if you buy 4” and so on. People are more likely to try new things if they see they are getting a bargain.
  • Free shipping or delivery – For physical goods, additional shipping costs often dissuade customers from a purchase. An offer of free shipping may give you the edge over the competition.

Final Thoughts

It’s true that while they don’t require a direct outlay of marketing budget, all of these options have some sort of cost associated with them. It’s either an opportunity cost in terms of the money you might have made on a full priced product or service, or a cost in your time and effort. Sometimes both. But if the alternative is languishing or no sales, it might be a small price to pay.


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