What Are the Most Cost-Effective Marketing Channels Available Today?

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By Hector Cisneros

When the economy is booming, marketing your business is easy. Just about anything you do will produce some positive results. But what do you do when the economy heads south? How do you know what will be the best venue for your marketing money? What happens when every customer is researching the internet 19 ways from Sunday, even while shopping in your store? How do you determine where and how much to spend on marketing when no one seems to be buying? In this episode of Working the Web to Win, we will explore answers to these questions and more. We will provide the listener with a system to follow that maximizes their return on their marketing investment by helping them choose the best marketing channels for their available budget.


It's easy to make money when the economy is soaring, especially if you’re selling that hot new product or in an industry whose time has come. But what do you do when you’re on the downside of an upmarket? The answer is not a simple one, especially if you haven’t done your homework.

Any business built to last has done its homework. What I mean by homework is simple. You need to fully understand the target market and industry in which you have chosen to do business. All too often, business people jump in on a product or service that is really hot. In fact, usually when it is peaking. This usually leads to being too late to achieve maximum returns and you end up holding the bag with excess inventory or spending too much to break even on your investment. We see this a lot when people spend too much money on AdWords or other pay per click media because the heated bidding drove the advertising price too high.

So, What Should You Do?
You need to do what you should have done in the first place. Engage in research and
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planning!

All seasoned entrepreneurs have learned the hard way that there is no substitute for proper planning and research (other than the grace of God or dumb luck). Being a good steward of your marketing money requires that you learn and understand your target market, your unique selling proposition and that you create an irresistible offer to make sure sales take place. 

What is Proper Planning and Research?
Proper planning and research require that to learn the demographics and psychographics of your target market, you need to have a clear picture of your ideal customer's profile. This includes age, where they live, how much they make, how many people are in their family, how far they drive to work, where they shop, etc. In other words, you need to be able to describe this person in such detail that making an ad for them would be easy. By fully understanding their needs, wants and desires, you can create advertising that connects with their needs for your product or service. You must then create an offer that that takes the risk out of the transaction, making it easier for them to take the next step toward making a purchase. Meeting their needs must be a no-brainer for them when the economy is scary. Not understanding these elements is like shooting blanks.  And that leads to frustration and failure.

Testing Helps You Create Realistic Smart Goal
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Once you understand their needs, wants, desires, their demographics and other psychographic needs, you need to do a little testing and measuring. Some simple market surveys can be a big help. Also, running some advertising tests can also provide some big insights. Even small ads with a small budget can produce the kind of insight you need to create smart goals. For example, for a couple hundred dollars, you can run several different kinds of ads on social media. You can target your desired market precisely, and you can extrapolate sales based on the reactions to the short-term test ads. I usually spend around $500 for my test ads, and I try at least three different ads. If you don’t have a $500, you can still do some testing. A boosted ad on Facebook can run you as little as $5 a day! Keep in mind that if you are spending very little on a weekly test, you have to let it run longer. A $5 a day test needs to run for at least a couple of weeks to see if it’s getting any bites. Make sure the goals you set are S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time dependent). If not, the likelihood of throwing away your marketing money and failing is very high.

But You Say You Have No Money to Do Market Testing?
Well, if that's the case, you will have to resort to guerilla marketing tactics. This means word of mouth and social media posting. Both face to face word of mouth, and social networking are not new, but they are very cost effective. You can also use them to do test marketing of your advertising message, assuming you have built up credibility and trust with the groups and venues you're attending.

Low Cost and Effective Marketing Venues
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If you’re looking for low-cost marketing venues to participate in, Word of Mouth Networking is where it's at.  I highly recommend joining your local chamber of commerce and attending their meetings as often as possible. If you’re not a skilled social networker, I suggest that you join a BNI chapter (Business Networks International). They will teach you how to be an effective word of mouth marketer in an easy to digest, well tested and organized way. BNI has a system that generates referrals for its members who immerse themselves in it. I have been a member for over 24 years, and it has been a blessing for me and my business. However, like any system, it is only as good as how well it is utilized.

The Benefits of Engaging in Word of Mouth Marketing
  1. You will be a better communicator. All word of mouth venues requires some speaking, usually to a group. This provides practice and practice leads to improvement, including better speaking skills. This in turn leads to more referrals and sales.
  2. You can learn and utilize a system. A system is more effect at producing results, and it can be tested and measured. It is low cost.
  3. Most word of mouth venues requires a minimal investment (chamber membership fees, BNI dues, and meeting room/meal fees, etc.).
  4. Some even offer free webpages and closed garden social media websites to connect with other members.
  5. Training - Many referral networks provide some level of word of mouth marketing training. BNI is the leader in this category. Members are required to attend success training, and advanced training is also available.

Other Cost-Effective Marketing is Out there.

Websites - Anyone can get a free website today. You generally have to pay for the domain
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name, and there is usually an ongoing low-cost fee for your hosting, but building a website can be free. Sites like WIX.com and others offer these services with the idea that they will be able to sell you premium add-on services (even some necessary services) and features because you are saving so much on the site. In many cases, they will want to sell you access to more storage, templates, ad-free space, analytics and more. The big caveat I always like to point out is that you don’t own anything you build on WIX.com or any other free website providers. They own everything in their system. If you decide to move, you will be forced to build a new website. Make sure you check out our article called; What Your Webmaster Should be Telling You! to get more insight.

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Social Networking - AKA social media marketing is another free website substitute that many gorilla marketers take advantage of. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, this list could be a long one. Stick to the top 10 players in the arena. All provide free hosting (i.e. listing your content and connection information). Just remember you don’t own this space, they do. In fact, they are selling your information to the highest bidder in their paid advertising venues. Many social sites today support website features like video streaming and eCommerce as well. Facebook is the big dog in this arena with 1.7 billion subscribers and a multitude of advertising options. Just be aware that each social media site has its own evolving set of rules (sometimes evolving daily) and that anything you post is subject to their rules and scrutiny. For more information on this subject, read; Is Social Media More Powerful Than Face to Face Networking.

Blogging - Most have heard of blogs and blogging, but did you know that most blogs can also double as your website as well! The most popular blogging/website platform is WordPress. It can be hosted free on their site and can be upgraded with premium features. Most hosting companies like GoDaddy.com also offer low-cost WordPress hosting. Blogger
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owned by Google provides free hosting for your blog and the web pages you create using that platform. It has Google juice because it is a Google property. It is easy to use and has the advantage that every page and article you write gets indexed in Google search as soon as you press the publish button. A blog can give people a reason to come back and learn from your articles. Articles are a great way to showcase your expertise, build credibility and get more business. A blog can do most anything a regular website can do (including eCommerce, showcase videos, and podcast, etc.) and in most cases, it's free or next to free. On top of this, consistently producing new blog post soon creates a library of content that can become the outline if not the actual material for a book you authored. Blogging is also a great way to build an audience and is the perfect fodder for your social sites. If you want to learn more about blogging, check out our article called; Blogging Secrets of the Pros.

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Email Newsletters - If you have a database of customers, you can engage in touch marketing for very little money. If you are managing a larger database (say 500+ email addresses), you can use any number of email marketing systems which have a low-cost monthly fee). Products like IContact, Mail Chimp, and Constant Contact are all good systems. Engaging in email marketing (usually E-Newsletters) mainly costs you time (when writing them and sending them out). Their effectiveness can easily be measured, and they are a great low-cost marketing venue. Make sure you read; The Evolution of Touch Marketing in the 21St Century.

Video Marketing and WebTV Shows - Video marketing is hot right now. You can engage in free video streaming on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and
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other social networking sites absolutely free of charge. These can be marketing messages, educational videos, and even WebTV shows. If you want to provide high production value videos, you will need to invest some time and money to learn video production skills, purchase more sophisticated video production software and learn how to use it effectively to create high production quality videos. The nice thing about high quality videos is that they are a perfect subject for a social post and can be recycled as an advertising medium. It’s a great way to teach, build credibility and show off your industry expertise.  A good article to check out would be: The Guide to The Working The Web Universe.

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Podcasting and Internet Radio - Podcasting and Internet radio start at the incredibly low price of FREE! Podcasting is where you record your message or content offline, and then share it via the Apple Store, Google play, or some other podcast venue. Internet radio, on the other hand, can often be broadcast live or podcasted. Even BlogTalkRadio.com premium, has an entry level monthly fee of $39.95 a month. This fee won’t break the bank of most guerrilla marketers. The nice thing about internet radio and podcasting is that no one can see you. There is no stage fright, nothing to be camera shy about; it’s just a conversation about a subject you’re an expert in. If you also engaged in blogging, your blogs can become the outlines for your shows, and of course, both blogs and podcast are excellent fodder for your social posts. Make sure you read: “How to Make Money with Internet Radio and Podcasting”.

Digital Press Releases - Believe it or not, you can engage in FREE Press Releases (as
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long as you are willing to share space with other advertisers). A Press Release is a great way to get the word out about news in your company. Stories must be newsworthy for them to have an effect. If you want to create a low/no cost short term web page that will create some SEO ranking effects and get the word out of a new and significant change in your business, Press Releases are a great way to go. This is especially true on slow news days as a local news service could pick up your story and ask you to come on local TV, Radio or be interviewed for a newspaper. Check out my article called “Using Press Releases to Promote your Business.” It contains links to digital press release sites with Free and low-cost services.

Search Directory Listings - There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of internet directories. Google Search is the leader of the pack (controlling over 70% of all searches)
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but is only one of many. Most have heard of Yahoo and Bing, but there are literally hundreds more that are free to use. You just must take the time to post your business profile with them. This is a time-consuming endeavor, to say the least. You can subscribe to aggregation services like YEXT, but these can be expensive depending on how many directories you sign up for. We use a product we call Search Directory Push that will publish your business information to the top 100 search directories for a one-time fee of $300. That amounts to $3/directory. In our opinion, this is a much better proposition than spending 300 hours finding and posting your information to a hundred internet directories. If you’re looking for more cost effective internet marketing products, check out:; “Marketing 101 – What you need to Know before Buying Advertising

Fix Your SEO On and Off Page - You will hear people throw around the term SEO like it has some single meaning. In fact, SEO has several moving parts. There is on-page SEO,
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which has to do with making sure your META and ALT tags provide accurate and congruent content information on your web pages. It is also important that the content be congruent as well. Then there is Off-Page SEO that can be free to produce. This has to do with anything that points back to your webpages or content that mentions you and your business. On-Page SEO is relatively simple to create. It is simple to do, but not easy to create the perfect terms that make Google and other search engines happy.  On the other hand, it is easy to produce a variety of social posts that point back to your site. The main drawback is that social posts need to be consistently produced and this is a time-consuming affair, to say the least. If you’re looking to improve your website SEO, make sure your read; “Understanding the SEO Paradigm Shift in Business“.

Understand that the word FREE often means you will be providing the labor to produce the advertising. All of these FREE and low-cost marketing venues provide the ability to test and measure your effectiveness and produce positive results. It’s up to you to make sure you do your due diligence along with the testing and measuring to make sure you’re on the right track. Skipping these steps, even in free marketing venues means that you're flying blind with little chance of success. By understanding your target market, creating goals, testing your message and monitoring the results, you will be able to steer your way to higher levels of success without flying blind. The FREE and low-cost guerilla marketing venues mentioned in this article are great advertising opportunities courtesy of the internet age. However, Free does not equal success. Only by being immersed, diligent and engaged in the marketing process will you realize your goal and reach prosperity in a down economy. If you find you don’t have time to engage in these marketing venues, then hire a competent marketing agency like ours to create your plan, execute it and then hold them accountable for achieving the results in the plan.

That's my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.marketing tip

In this article, I have discussed what you need to know about your target market in order to be successful in a down economy. I have also talked about a dozen free or low-cost marketing venues that can help you when marketing money is tight, and every penny must yield useful information or a positive result. This article also contains many links to other resource articles that will help the reader delve deeper into this subject.
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Hector Cisneros is COO and Director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success. 

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