How do you get good marketing on a small budget?

By Gerard McAllister

So how do you get good marketing on a small budget? That was the question that I’ve had to answer for most of my marketing career. For years, I was a Marketing Manager for smaller family businesses. This is the type of business that has been in operation for a while and generally do well.

The Small Business

This business would either have one owner or be a husband and wife team. Their staff would be a loyal bunch of people that just enjoyed doing what they do within the close-knit environment. The owner(s) would often make decisions based on what is happening in their life at the current moment in time. Be it family issues or financial issues dealing with the work/family operation. In fact, I did hear one of them say that the husband and wife used to make business decisions over “the dinner table”. That is of course when they weren’t working late in the factory.

These decisions are based on things like how the family is travelling. For example, are the kids going to University or will they eventually work within the business? Either way, it is personal and precious to them. But any decision they make will affect their home life be it good or bad.

There is one thing that is certain and common to all the businesses and that is cash flow is tight. It is “Key” as they say.

You know your business and your market

The owner(s) all have another thing in common. They really know their business and their market. Because of its personal nature, they live and breathe the product and business. It is what they know and in many ways, a representation of who they are. They love what they do because of the freedom and control that it brings them.

During my time within these firms whenever I would come up with a marketing idea, the first question would be, “how much is that going to cost me?” In one business, I used to walk into the owner’s office with a jar, looking like a charity donation can, to see if I could raise some funds to do what I wanted to do for the business.

The answer would always be “let’s keep doing what we are doing and when we get more sales we can put it back into the marketing ideas that you have. We just need to bring in more return first”. But often this never happened.

You don’t have money for marketing ideas

The unfortunate and frustrating thing about having my ideas knocked back was watching our competitors (who had bigger budgets) do these very things. I didn’t resent my boss for not taking up my ideas because most of the time I knew money was the issue. Although there were times when I would see them spend on non-marketing activities without a question. Especially in engineering and technical environments. In these cases, making the product is more important than selling it.

You don’t have time for marketing

The next vital issue was time. These businesses are a full on all-hands-on-deck mixture of getting the job done and family life balance. Even if some of the ideas had been adopted there were not enough people to get the initiative successfully completed. And that was the companies with a marketing manager, what if there was only the owner(s). There simply is not enough time for marketing.

Over the years, I really started to understand the psyche of this kind of business owner. Most of the time decisions would be made on “what they have always done”, as this was proven safe. In a small business, risky decisions can have a major impact. And as mentioned earlier this can affect everything including family welfare.

It was this frustration, for all parties concerned, that I started to talk to people in the marketing industry such as; graphic designers, web developers and marketing managers to see what could be done to alleviate the fear of marketing that small business had.

Assertive Marketing was born

So, a group of marketing executives decided to find a way that we can take some of the expense out of the process. Thus, Assertive Marketing was born.
For years now the concept of getting good marketing advice has become too expensive and often out of reach for the smaller business.

The result of this collaboration is what we do.

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