Marketing HeadachesFor many small businesses out there money is tight, and the idea of dropping a minimum efficient marketing spend just isn’t realistic for their budget.

But without some efficient marketing behind your business, you will most likely never get the customer base that will support the kind of marketing your business needs to grow.

This is a common catch-22 and one that I hear about all the time.

There are some solutions out there. Some companies set up equity for services arrangements, essentially selling part of their company to help build it in to a larger overall entity. I get about one equity for time offer each week, and though some seem tempting, equity doesn’t pay my bills.

Another solution is bringing on minimum wage interns, a dangerous move that has cost many businesses dearly after putting an inexperienced marketer in charge of their efforts.

So how can you fix this? In this three part series I am going to teach you how to build a marketing plan, implement that plan, and scale it, all with a cash strapped budget.

Define Your Objectives

Defining your objectives is key. What is it that you really want to achieve. “Get more customers” doesn’t really cut it on a tight budget, you need to focus.  You can have as many goals as you want here, but prioritize them.  Since you will be doing most of the work, you’ll also need to make sure that these goals are achievable. Think about how much time you can budget on a weekly basis to achieve these goals.

Also remember for each of these goals you will want to define separate plans and implementations for each goal, so don’t overwhelm yourself. If you feel like this is becoming a mountainous task, or even a hilly one, just do one goal for your marketing plan, and create a new plan for your next goal once you have completed the first one.

A few examples could be

  • Get business from the nearby condo unit
  • Get more exposure to the local community
  • Get more exposure to visitors to the city
  • Get customers who try us to keep coming back
  • Get customers with a higher budget
  • Build a strong social presence

By defining a clear objective from the start you will find the planning and implementation much easier, and you’ll find success way more attainable.

The downside of this is that many marketing plans work better in tandem, but for those businesses who are working on a tight budget, it is often unfeasible.

Setting Your Target Audience

This is a key success factor in any marketing plan, you need to know the audience for each of your goals like the back of your hand. One thing to remember is “Who are your current customers?” Often the best target audiences are similar to the customers you have, unless you are trying to attract a different crowd of people.

For each goal you defined in the first step you have to ask yourself who that person is.

Start broad (I’ve had some clients question race in a target audience, this is actually extremely useful information, and like all demographics in this list, to do with who will actually come to your business and buy from you, not personal preferences etc).

  • Men, women, couples?
  • Young, middle aged, old?
  • Poor, Getting by, median income, wealthy, rich?
  • Black, White, Hispanic, Asian?

Then narrow it down a little bit (This can be a little harder to ascertain). Look for hobbies, their lifestyle, their interests.

  • Do they look active?
  • Do they often seek out what you offer?
  • Do they attend bars close by?

(The easiest way to get this info is to strike up a conversion with your customers, for example, find the ones from the apartment complex and ask them what it’s like at that complex, maybe as if you plan on moving there).

Specify in a bulleted list who you are targeting, and then do the following.

  • Write a paragraph about who they are.
  • Write a paragraph about why they would seek out your business.
  • Write a paragraph about what they would love about your business that would keep them coming back.

Target Audience Analysis

Now you know who you want to target you need to  make sure they are the right fit, if you realize they are not going to buy, redefine your target audience.

In your target target audience analysis your task is to prove a few simple things.

  • Why your customers will be interested in what you have to offer.
  • There your target audience exists in your business area, in numbers enough to meet your goals.
  • Your strengths with that particular target audience.
  • Your weaknesses with that particular target audience.
  • What is of the highest value to that target audience (from your offerings).
  • Target Audiences “decision process” (step by step their thoughts before they buy).
  • What platform/s are your target audience most responsive to? (Recipes might be Pinterest or search, restaurant or local business customers might be Yelp and Google Maps).

The goal of the target audience is to validate your target audience choice, and collect data that gives you the best possible route to an optimal marketing process and design.

Competition Analysis

Competition analysis gives you a much clearer picture of how competitive different areas of your marketing strategy would be. Are all your competitors on Facebook Ads, but not Twitter Ads? Maybe they had poor performance with Twitter Ads, but it also means Facebook Ads are going to be more expensive. Are your competitors all ranking on the first page on Google? That’s going to make Search Engine Optimization more difficult for you.

Here’s a few things you can look at in different marketing areas:

  • Market position – where do you sit compared to your competitors in each marketing space
  • Strengths and weaknesses against competitors
    • Budget
    • Creative
    • Audience
  • Market Shares


Unique Value Proposition

What makes your company unique, and how can you sell it?

Define your greatest unique value proposition (UVP) that you can use to stand out against your competitors and get those customers to your door. Look for something that your target audience will find really attractive over your competitors.

When you are looking for your UVP remember that cost is not a major factor. Sure you should be competitive, but people are more likely to go for the value they receive over the price they pay.

Marketing Channels

If you’re working with a low or zero budget then picking your key marketing channels is hugely important.  You simply won’t have time to keep every single marketing channel working effectively.

Keep an eye on things that can be automated too, an automated email chain is an easy way to set up a sequence that will be sent to each customer over time.

Some marketing channels you will want to look at are –

  • SEO
  • Press and Media
  • Blogging/Content Marketing
  • Paid Advertising (If you can spare budget)
  • Social Media (Pick at most two channels – find where your audience is)
  • Guerrilla Marketing
  • Email Marketing (needs to be matched with a form of lead generation)
  • Mailers

Don’t go for what you think will be an easy solution, all of these take time, and do your research. Whatever marketing platforms you choose will require effort, so pick the ones that you found your audience will be the most responsive to, you should have gleaned some idea about this in your target audience analysis

Marketing Creative

Marketing creative is hugely important, you want to get the correct message and tone to appeal to your target audience.  In nearly all aspects of marketing visuals are hugely important, especially in paid advertising and social.  Spend some time creating your businesses brand guidelines. This includes a standardized logo, with color options for different image backgrounds, fonts and colors.  Some of these are merely guidelines, some creative will look better with fonts and colors without your brand style, but for the most part you want to give people a consistent experience. This helps establish a brand recognition in your marketing channel, to the point where people won’t even need to see your logo or company name to associate your brand with an image.


Creating a core business message is a great way to get your audience excited about your core business values. This can also be tied to your companies unique value proposition.  Are you committed to giving more to your customers, do you focus on quality, or fair trade items, is your company aiming to be green and environmentally friendly? Building a core message helps attract the customers you want, so make sure your core message aligns with your target audiences passions.


The tone of your message is just as important to communicating with your target audience. Are you looking to attract business professionals, or are you wanting to provide a relaxed atmosphere. Do you want to build an image as a trustworthy business, or known for your quick turn-around?  Align your tone to your target audience.  The type of copy you create for any of these will be completely different. A message saying you have quick turn around should be quick to read, with short words and sentences. If you’re looking to advertise your relaxed atmosphere, you will want copy and images that make the reader feel relaxed.

Your Marketing Funnel

Your marketing funnel is just as important as how you attract people online in the first place.  It’s taking your audience, and converting it in to customers.  The marketing funnel for a coffee shop would be completely different to an auto mechanic, but they do share some of the same base strategies.


The medium of your marketing funnel will generally be closely tied to your pre-defined marketing channels, But there are some exceptions. First and foremost is that on any campaign you will nearly always want to incorporate email, and if you have the budget, a re-marketing campaign.  In most of these cases your medium will be your traffic source, and a support for your funnel.

Your marketing funnel is simply the path that people who enter your business go through to make a sale, and keep coming back.

A simple example of this might be

  1. Social media offer – 20% discount for Facebook fans on an oil change – enter email for coupon
  2. Come in for oil change
  3. Email with discount for tune up
  4. Email when it’s time for next il change/tuneup

More advanced funnels might segment your funnel automatically.  So say someone signs up for your oil change offer, but never comes in. Send them an email 7 days later with an even better 30% offer.


Segmentation within your funnel helps you give the right message to the right person. Learning more about your customers means that you can give them a message that is more relevant to their needs. This means they are more likely to buy, and less likely to report your emails as spam, or unfollow your Facebook page.

In your marketing plan you need to clearly define how you would segment your leads in the ideal world, technical implementation of this segmentation can be dealt with later, and redefined if the ‘ideal’ segmentation is technically impossible with your skill set or budget.

For example, it’s easy to segment people based on where they signed up to your email list on your website. Depending on the page they signed up on you can tag them. For instance with the mechanic scenario you could tag them based on “oil change”, “brake replacement” or “transmission repair”. The page they signed up on can dictate the email that is automatically sent to them.

Where things get more complicated is if you want to discern if somebody bought your product from that email. Did they buy your transmission repair? If they did, you might want to send them a thank you email with other offers, if they didn’t, you might want to offer them a one off discount to your transmission repair services to make your business seem more appealing than your competition.

Think this sounds a little creepy? Ever get those supermarket flyers in your mailbox?  If you have a rewards card, there is often a good chance that they have been tailored to you personally in some way or another.  Buying baby stuff? you’re gonna get offers on diapers. Buying too many microwave meals? You’re probably going to get offers on frozen meals.


In the earlier example I showed how you can use timing to improve sales.  Someone who has purchased an oil change may need another oil change in three – six months. But what about a coffee shop? In this example your timing may be less about days since last visit and more about day of the week. Maybe you can do a Sunday Brunch offer, with a half price pastry with coffee. If you have slow customer times, offer a discount on that day during the slow times to get some people through your doors when you might otherwise be losing money.

For the timing part of your marketing plan you will want to estimate the best days, times, and special occasions to reach out to your potential customers (preferably for each segment) and when you will email any automated mailings (I.e 1 day after registration, then every week after first email for three months on a Friday morning, then once a month on the third, all emails at 4pm).


The key to success is to automate as much of this as possible, which is especially easy in email marketing, where you can predefine the emails sent to customers who join your email list. But you can also do some automation on Social Media, and create ‘set and forget’ paid campaigns (though you will want to make sure they are profitable first).

In your marketing plan identify areas that you can automate at a low cost.  In most instances (especially with smaller businesses) automation comes down to email. Define an email path that you think will work best with your target audience.

Funnel Paths

In the earlier example a gave you a very basic funnel path, yours will most likely be more complicated. When you are building your funnel remember that you will want to test and optimize all aspects of it in the future, so remember, the longer it is, the more testing you will need to do.

We’ll go in to this a little more in the implementation article, but in the meantime, take a best guess as to what will work with your customers. Think along the lines of

  • Where can I first grab the interest of customers
  • What is the best way I can connect with customers in the future
  • What is the best way I can get customers to buy their first product/service from me
  • What is the best way I can get customer to buy from me again.
  • What can I sell to customers at a lower price if they didn’t buy what I wanted them to buy?

The best way to achieve this is to include some common marketing tricks.

  • The Trip Wire – A simple technique of offering value to the potential customer at a low price. This demonstrates that they can trust you, you proved good value, and low prices. This method is perfect for getting people into your funnel.
  • Multiple Touch Points – Connect with your potential customers on different platforms so they see your message repeatedly.  If you chose Facebook and Email as your marketing channels, then try and get every one of your potential customers to connect with you on both those platforms.
  • Retargeting – If you’re investing a little cash in to retargeting.  Did they visit your website, but failed to buy? Using retargeting you can show ads across the internet to those very-nearly-customers. Did they buy x product from you? Maybe they would also be interested in product y? Word of warning here, more advanced retargeting campaigns, whilst effective, can be expensive and time consuming to create.
  • Upsell – Once they have bought your low-price trip wire item, sell them a more expensive item, and then an even more expensive item.
  • Downsell – So they didn’t buy an upsell, maybe give them a discount on your upsell, or try and sell them a cheaper item.
  • Segment – I mentioned this earlier, but segmentation is key. Selling someone an oil change means they won’t be interested in another oil change for a while.  But maybe they’ll be interested in something else.  In the automechanic example you can use notes from a brief inspection to see what may go wrong with the car in the future. Are those windscreen wipers looking a little worn, brake pads squeaking? Offer the deals that you know are going to be the most attractive to your prospects.


You look at your email open rate, or likes on your latest page, and you suddenly wonder why you are bothering at all.  We’ve all been there.  If your list is losing some of it’s pizzaz, it’s time to shake things up a bit.

  • Try changing your message or tone of your marketing
  • Create an insanely good limited time offer for people who have not opened emails in a while
  • Hold an event – Can get a little pricey, but people are more likely to come down for free food with live music than a discount.
  • Offer to let them go  Sometimes just telling people you will stop emailing them unless they click a link will get them to start paying attention again. And if they don’t click the link, they probably are not going to buy anyway.


Marketing goals are often arbitrary in the early stages, especially in online marketing. Value comes from testing and analysis.  Saying that, you still need goals.  In my experience the best solution for creating marketing goals is to first define what you want your business to have, and then take a realistic look at just how much time you can invest to get it to that point.

For your own goals you don’t necessarily have to have goals with immediate timelines, but set a timeline.

  • Year one – 500 new customers
  • Year two – 1000 new customers
  • Year three – 3000 new customers

The exception to this is if you find yourself not working towards reaching these goals.  If this becomes the case your goals may need to become more project orientated at a personal level (i.e – complete email auto-responder campaign this week).


Did you find this useful, have any questions or comments? Let me know!

Part two of this mini series will be coming soon, and we will be talking about how you can at no cost, or cheaply, implement the marketing campaign you have created with this methodology.