6 Tricks I Learned on a $0 Marketing Budget

This post was written in reflection of my time as a marketing manager for a (not-so) small Aussie business. I’ve refrained from naming it for privacy purposes.

I wasn’t impressed.

Coming out of our best month EVER in sales – a month in which I’d spent thousands more than usual on advertising and influencers – it was clear that marketing was playing an instrumental role in our success.

But alas, unexpected costs entered the scene and I watched my budget – for the next few months – spiral down the bathtub. I’ve always hated that gurgling sound.

Our social media suffered, our website visits slumped – and most importantly, our sales fell. But my mother didn’t raise me to dwell on the negatives. So here’s what I’ve learned on an (almost) $0 budget:

1: Email Marketing Is So Much More Exciting Than It Sounds

Email newsletters were once a concept that sounded dated and boring to me – until I saw the numbers.

For every 10 visitors our social media sends to our website, 18 arrive from our emails (for reference, our email database contains ~40k subscribers while our social media following is over 60k).

On top of that, 69% more of our sales came from email visitors than social media subscribers. Your grid might look cute, but your database is where the money is at.

My favourite email newsletter platform is Mailchimp, but there are plenty of others out there.

2: It Doesn’t Cost A Cent To Be Real

“Behind The Scenes” stories are an amazing way to connect with your customers and show them who you really are.

Your product might be the best thing since sliced bread (which, by the way, didn’t take off AT ALL initially), but what you really want your customers (tribe, squad, fans – whatever) to love is your BRAND.

Show them the people and the values behind the scenes so they can truly connect with you. Instagram stories, reels, and TikTok are great platforms to share behind the scenes peeks.

3: Go Back To Your Values

Continuing on from #2 – we took a long hard look at our brand values (which were health and sustainability) and looked for ways to reflect that in EVERYTHING we do.

We teamed up with TerraCycle to offer in-store recycling solutions, added customer ‘sharing stations’ (for reusable containers and shopping bags), and published more content on sustainability. This had a few different effects:

  • We were obviously pretty proud of ourselves. Big personal win.
  • We shared our journey with our customers (with social media stories, blog posts and emails) – this built their trust and belief in us as a brand who truly stands for what we believe in.
  • Easily the best part – we inspired our followers to take actions themselves, as individuals. We empowered people.

4: Build A Community

This doesn’t have to cost you!

Start a running club from your store on Wednesday afternoons, provide snacks for a beach cleanup (and crucially – attend!!) or organise your own cleanup.

Throw a clothes swap or cooking workshop. Use your (and your staff’s) knowledge and you don’t need to spend a cent.

Take a look at Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine, a Facebook community created by Showpo founder Jane Lu – currently sitting at over 120,000 members and a true testimony to the power of a community.

I’m also a big fan of the much smaller Fishbowl Run Club – inviting runners to train together and share a discounted salad bowl afterward.

5: Collaborate With Other Brands

Teaming up with the like-minded brands is a brilliant way to offer your customers thousands of dollars worth of prizes on various giveaways – and, importantly, grow your mailing list.

The brands we teamed up with were Seed & Sprout, Billabong Retreat, and Vitamix – but you should choose brands that would suit your target customer.

In exchange, we collected thousands of emails to boost our database (which has reached an open rate of over 39%, compared to the industry average of 14%!).

At a store level, we’ve also teamed up with our local yoga studios and health centres to offer prizes, member discounts, and other cross-promotions.

The key in collaboration is to ensure both brands share the same values and that all deals are mutually beneficial.

6: Finally, The C Word

Content!!

Offering useful, free, and educational content is no marketing secret, and it’s so popular for lots of reasons:

  1. Build trust with your audience by offering them something useful and free.
  2. Position your brand as an authority and passionate advocate on your own range of niche topics (in this case – health, food and sustainability).
  3. Get found on Google – the more relevant content there is on your website, the more likely customers will stumble upon it.
  4. Have a good reason to continue communicating with your customers – our email newsletters and social media posts would be pretty repetitive if it weren’t for the content we were continually producing!

Whether it’s blogging, YouTube, photography, infographics or a combination – content is a cost-effective and simple way to reach your customers.

I’ve always been a big believer that money isn’t everything, and that even applies to marketing. Whether you’re working with $0 or $1,000,000 – there is no substitute for creativity and authenticity – so put those things first and watch the rest follow.

This was written during my time working as a full-time marketing manager in an Aussie business. Nowadays, I consult privately and offer freelance photography and content services. You can get in touch with me here if you’d like to learn more!

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