Free marketing techniques or no marketing budget?

Free marketing or no marketing budget?

One of the most consistent misconceptions non-marketers have about marketing, whether in-house or through an agency, is that us marketers can “do marketing” for free. I’ve had non-marketing managers tell me, “We need to cut the marketing budget and still hit our numbers.” I’ve also had clients ask, “What can we do for free?”

“We’ve never spent a dollar on marketing.”

It seems like every time you see a successful startup founder talking about Pandora, or Pinterest, or Hit-Startup-X, they say, “We’ve never spent a dollar on marketing, and we’ve grown our business successfully.”

Marketing frustration

Yet, they have a CMO, VP of Marketing, marketing associates, an email tool, and more, don’t they? Don’t they?

But unfortunately, too many people listen to the startup folks say these things and think that marketing should be free. After all, viral is free, isn’t it? Email is free, isn’t it? Landing pages, SEO, community management, and more are free, aren’t they?

No. No, marketing is not free.

Of all the things that I’ve ever done in marketing, nothing that was successful was ever free… not even close. I ran one email program for a client that generated enough revenue in two emails to cover their entire annual marketing budget, but that involved writers, designers, coders, and more. Another client spent tens of thousands of dollars every month just on analytics around their market and competitors in an effort to provide the best customer service in the industry, and guess what, they’re considered to one of the best as a result.

The best marketing involves an investment just like the best product development, manufacturing, sales, and more all involve an investment. Just hiring people and telling them to make due without any budget isn’t going to get you very far. You’d be better served by not hiring a marketer at all and spending the money on simply creating a product that begs to be talked about, that begs to be loved, and has to be shared with friends and family.

Focus on making a great product

via See-ming Lee 李思明 SML

For that matter, why not just make a great product in the first place?

The best marketing is a great product, and when you have a great product, it makes not spending money on advertising, tools, writers, and more so much easier. Your marketing person can at least get by with doing their own outreach, creating their own landing pages, guest blogging, and more all with their own time and no additional expense. Even though all of that is extremely time consuming, your great product at least allows their “free” efforts to have some legs.

But, if you can’t ensure that your product is great in the first place, telling your in-house people or your agency that they need to cut their budget and still hit performance goals is just plain crazy.

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