Unless you’ve got a fat Kickstarter account…wait, let’s correct that…even if you are backed by a fat Kickstarter, it makes sense to utilize proven marketing techniques that cost you little or nothing.

With money, you have the coveted both/and option: You can develop both cheap strategies and pricier campaigns. But writing a sizable check for marketing doesn’t guarantee success.

Recent and Expensive Marketing Fails

The companies in this list, all with large marketing budgets, did more than burn their money. They signed their reputation. We bring you these examples, there are many more you can easily find, to demonstrate that money doesn’t guarantee effective marketing:

Vera Bradley rolled out a campaign called, “It’s Good to be a Girl” with posters and hashtags many thought sounded like 1950s sexism.

Pepsi released the infamous Kendall Jenner commercial in which the celebrity model unites demonstrators and police with a can of soda, a spot slammed for making hay from social unrest and canceled in 24 hours complete with a corporate “our bad” letter.

Budweiser Bud Light labels with the slogan, “The Perfect Beer for Removing ‘No’ from Your Vocabulary for the Night #UpForWhatever” had people shaking their heads for several obvious reasons.

Established companies might have deep enough pockets to survive an expensive marketing failure.

Does yours? If so, an expensive campaign might be a cost-effective risk. But even so, sound, affordable marketing still makes sense too.

Free and Thrifty Marketing Methods

With those costly failures fresh in mind, let’s explore cheap strategies that are tried and true.

  1. Be Trustworthy and Caring

Persuasion is foundational to marketing. Thousands of years ago, Greek philosopher Aristotle coined terms for three components of persuasion:

Ethos: To be ethical, credible, trustworthy

Pathos: To be empathic, caring and relatable to your audience

Logos: To be logical in your persuasion

Marketing begins with the first two. They summarize who you are; who you are will shape your company’s personality. If you are ethical and caring, you will be trusted and liked. Jonathan Chan says, “People say ‘yes’ to those they like.” He fleshes out how to be likable and explains how it can grow your business.

  1. Encourage Customers to Talk Up your Company

Word of mouth (WOM) marketing has a long history, of course, and there’s more to it than telling your customers, “please tell your friends about us!” That’s a good place to start, though. If you’re likable, they’ll be happy to share their experience as your customer. In a brilliant flash of the obvious, Forbes Magazine defines word-of-mouth marketing as, “An unpaid form of promotion in which satisfied customers tell other people how much they like a business, product or service,” before listing helpful hints such as:

  • Deliver more than expected
  • Provide exceptional customer service
  • Stand out in positive ways such as being generous
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep

In addition to those tips, create a Reviews/Testimonial opportunity on your site, and encourage customers to review you on the best fit for your industry. Options are Google Reviews, Yelp, Amazon, Facebook, Houzz, LinkedIn, Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List.

ROverhate / Pixabay
  1. Develop Customer Marketers

Often called advocates, these are your best customers. When they refer someone, reach a significant purchase volume, post a great review or in some other way promote your company, reward them for their loyalty with discounts, free stuff, early opportunities to get new products and other bonuses.

  1. Make a Pitch to Niche Influencers

Niche influencers are people in your niche that command a large audience, and their position can help generate buzz for your brand. Developing an influencer marketing program doesn’t have to bust the budget. Get the attention of niche influencers by promoting them. Pass along content from them in your social media, which can be as simple as retweeting them or linking to their site or work in your blog. Invite them to guest post on your blog or offer them outstanding content you’ve created to post on their blog. Send them your products or offer them your services to try out and review.

  1. Give Away Stuff

Promotional product marketing is a low-cost, high-reward approach. Every Fortune 500 company uses promotional products like USBs, pens, caps, bags, clothing, key rings, cups and mugs while also engaging in costlier marketing methods. Choose products considered useful by your audience. Brand them. Include them as bonuses in shopping bags, shipping boxes or bags for leftovers. If you’re unsure what promotional products to select, ask your loyal customers what they like!

  1. Promote Mutually

A couple years ago, uberX provided free rides in Chicago for a weekend and made the promotion even better by partnering with local businesses that gave freebies to customers that showed them their Uber receipt from the free ride. Uber won by attracting new customers. The businesses won by experiencing increased sales. Then, Uber won again through the goodwill of the grateful businesses recommending, “take an Uber” to their customers and patrons. Speaking of Uber, another great move they pulled is “Uber for X” model, which inspired many on-demand startups in the last several years.

Look around you, whether near your physical location or in your digital community. What products and services complement yours without competing, so that the combination of the two might be more awesome than the sum of each separately? When you find a partner, each will instantly have access to a broader, more diverse audience.

Marketing You 2.0

Maybe this is a good time to go back to the beginning. Does your company exhibit caring and trustworthiness? If not, fix that foundation. If so, move on to the no-cost/low-cost marketing methods that you believe will produce the best results right now. From there, expand and enlarge your efforts, spending money only when needed and always with studied wisdom.