Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.

Creative Marketing in Tough Times

This article was originally published by the Statesman-Journal in mid-2008 and has been slightly updated.

Reaching your target market gets a little harder when your marketing budget is tapped by the recession. Even though the recession is ‘officially’ over (ask those looking for work if they think that’s true), you’re no doubt still challenged by tighter marketing budgets and other constraints.

So how do you get noticed in a busy marketing world with less of a marketing budget?

Brainstorm a little. Put on your thinking cap and see how you might adapt the following ideas to your product or service:

Picket Your Business: If your location is in a visible area, grab a dozen friends, make some signs and picket your business with signs that read “Company X is too nice!” or “Too good to be true!” or “Customer Service that’s Out of this World!” Who knows, maybe it’ll be a slow news day and a local news photographer will happen by (might not be a bad idea to alert them).

Business Cards are Like Confetti: Next time you get cards printed, double your order. Now find some complementary but not competitive businesses, and leave a stack of 25 on their counter in exchange for doing the same. Then drop by the library, go to the business book section, and leave a card in the books that relate specifically to your business or expertise. Slip them into magazines when you are waiting for an appointment with your doctor or dentist.

Pay it Forward: At the movies (or toll bridge or ball game or…) pay for the next customer and make sure the cashier gives your business card to the person. No guarantee the person will become a client but it can certainly get them talking. Okay, leave two business cards.

On-Hold Messaging: When people call your businesses and are put on hold while they wait for their party, they’re a captive audience. Now’s the perfect time to let them know about your company and any seasonal or timely specials you have going on. If you’re not doing this, it’s a missed opportunity – and it’s a low budget ploy to get in your customers’ ears. And yes, I do on-hold messaging!

Partnerships: The right partnership can double your business – as well as that of your new partner. Find a business whose clients can benefit from your service and chances are their clients will benefit from you. For instance: wedding planner + photographer; web designer + search engine specialist; house painters + window replacement.

Client Appreciation and Recognition: put on a barbecue at a local park or even a big back yard. Make sure your clients bring at least one or two business friends. Have a short ceremony handing out certificates, small prizes – anything to give recognition and appreciation to those that support you.

Offer Free Services: If you have a business that’s targeting the general population such as a restaurant, coffee shop, flower shop, etc., offer samples (free meal, drinks, roses) to other business folks. The key is to target people that see a lot of customers in a day and have an opportunity to talk to their clients at length. Think hair stylists and barbers. Who wouldn’t love to talk about a great freebie they just got, especially if it’s nearby?


Free E-Book: Write a short e-book that answers all the troubling questions your clients have and offer it on your website. If you can compile enough information, use the free version as an enticement for a longer in-depth e-book that you can charge for.

Blog Targeting: Got a lively blog that relates to your business or expertise? You should! If not, get one. If you do, strike up a deal with local internet cafes to make your blog the home page in exchange for free advertising on your blog.

Twitter: If you’re not aware of Twittering, think of it as short blog bursts that are instantly delivered to ‘followers.’ Learn who the leaders in your industry are and follow their Twitters (‘tweets?’) and let people know that you’re tweeting, too. If you blog chances are there is a tool that integrates your blog with Twitter so all your posts are sent out as a ‘tweet…’ Whatever your approach, Twitter is being used by more and more business people to pass on news, product comments, industry chatter and more.

Guest Blogging: Find a popular blog that relates to your industry, get familiar with its content and type of readers, and offer to send a free article for them to post. The article should offer useful information or unique insight into an industry situation or product problem. The more useful it is, the more likely you’ll be asked back – and other bloggers will take note, too. Make sure to include a ‘resource’ box with info on you and a link back to your website.

Articles: Write short informative articles relating to your product or service and distribute them via sites such as,, or Why give it away free? The more times your articles are read, the more chances you have to get a click back. When you consider how long articles can stay posted online, a single popular article can refer thousands back to your site.

Regardless of your budget or product or service, with some thought and creativity you can find a way to get in the face of (and perhaps under the skin) your most desired customers. Brainstorm a little, adapt some of these ideas and watch your bottom line.

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photo credit: Skeggzatori

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