“How to Grow a Business From Nothing” — with nothing

When you sign up for a re-election campaign, you get a lot of mail, email and phone calls. Today, I received the following email. You don’t have to read the entire thing, but note the last paragraph — that the weekly marketing budget of this company is $50,000. That’s right, $50,000.

The point of the email was to talk about the commitment to marketing — a point upon which I highly agree. In my years of direct response advertising, I would often see clients cut their marketing budget, but keep the high-dollar dinners and lunches or maintain the corporate jet or continue hiring overpaid staff. And yet, how were they getting the word out about their company? How were they portraying their image? Without a dedicated fund to marketing, they weren’t.

But in today’s economy, many of us don’t have the money for a $50,000 marketing budget. In fact, for some small business owners, any marketing money at all comes directly from whatever is in the wallet or the cash register on any given day.

Without a marketing budget, what alternative is there?  Partnerships, relationships, community exposure — all of which can be found at Huntersville Connection.

As the economy began to sink many years ago and the Huntersville Town Board saw the population increase and budgets decrease, town officials saw the importance of working together with outside entities to answer needs for public facilities. The gyms at Huntersville and Blythe Elementary Schools and Lake Norman Charter were built in partnership — and a win-win for the schools and the citizens, due to a joint use agreement.

Why can’t businesses do the same?  Not long ago, I stopped in a local Huntersville business to tell the owners about the next Huntersville Connection meeting. The owners lamented for 45 minutes about traffic, their location, the restrictive covenants of their shopping center, the efforts they’d made to advertise…and how they weren’t bringing in any customers. But never once did they stop to consider building relationships. I’ve stopped by a couple of times since then, simply to follow up, and their complaints haven’t changed. Nor have their efforts to reach out to others in the community.

Perhaps Renaissance Festival characters could attend a special event at their store. Perhaps the Carolina Raptor Center could have a fundraiser with them. Perhaps they could have North County Regional Library have a library card sign up…. Or maybe they could take their clothing line and do a fashion show fundraiser for Hope House or Solomon House or for a club at one of our local high schools?

And what would that cost them? Nothing but extra time and effort and the opportunity to use word of mouth to get the positive word out about their efforts.

I wish we all could afford a $50,000 marketing budget. But I know times are tough and marketing isn’t always a business’s focus — these days, staying “in the black” is often the focus.

In two short months, the Fall Into Huntersville committee was able to create an event that brought 700-1,000 visitors to view tables and events by our local businesses and entities in a mere four hour time span. Imagine, just imagine, what you can do by simply coming to the next Huntersville Connection meeting and talking with someone new.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to profit from a free meeting?

Today’s email:

“How to Grow a Business From Nothing

People always ask me how I grew my company from literally nothing to $19 million in revenue a year. I’ve gotten emails asking, “Are you a business genius?” or “Did you raise capital from big investors?” The answer is no to both! So, how did my printing and marketing company grow so fast while thousands of others stayed the same size? Honestly, the truth is, I grew my company with simple postcard marketing. Really, it’s true.

I started out mailing 2500 postcards per week promoting our services. I did this for a while — and eventually our weekly income hit a plateau. I then said to my assistant,  what if we mailed 5000 postcards a week instead? At that time, this was a LOT of money for me, almost $1,000 in postage! I could barely pay myself at that point and $1,000 was not easy to come by. I bit the bullet and did it, week after week for four weeks before I could see a change.

Four weeks later our weekly income DOUBLED. This is no exaggeration. We doubled our weekly promo and doubled our income. Over the last 10 years, I’ve increased our weekly mailings bit-by-bit and we now mail 120,000 promotion postcards every week. And now I use many, many tools aside from postcards as well.

It may sound too simple to be true, or that I am telling you this just so that you buy my product. Yes, I’d love for you to buy my product, but I really want to get this point across to you: if you market steadily every week, your business will grow.

Yes, you need a good product and you have to deliver it well. But the secret to success is to get the word out…on a LARGE scale…and people will come and buy. Try it for a few months and see what happens. Set aside a weekly marketing budget and spend it each week no matter what. Ours is $50,000 a week. It is an expense that is in addition to marketing team payroll. We NEVER cut it — no matter what.”


Author: jillswain

Former Mayor Chamber of Commerce Exec. Director Advertising consultant Mom and spouse (30 years and counting!) Rec league girls' volleyball coach Champion of all things Huntersville, North Carolina

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