No overhead is quite the pleasant notion for small businesses struggling to stay alive and profitable in this economy. Often times advertising, marketing and PR budgets are the first to be slashed when times get tough. Yet those are the very legs that bring more business. Businesses that think outside of the box and even a bit Old Country, using the classic old school barter and applying it online and using social media are finding it easier to keep costs down and their communications departments alive. Bottom line: Hustling an online barter can remove the exchange of actual currency from the business transaction while still bringing in potential revenue by getting the word out.
So what's a CEO to do?
Partner with other companies.
Widen your viewership by gaining access to another company’s member base. The men's e-newsletter Thrillist takes advantage of this simple formula well. They throw multi-sponsored events and promote the heck out of said parties with a bevy of partnered sponsor names attached. There’s no money lost when using social media tools and strategic media relationships are prompted to get the word out.
“We talk impressions vs. dollar value, says Marketing Director, John Wiseman. “We offer other companies a co-branding value.” Wiseman estimates that the media value Thrillist gave to their co-sponsors of their annual Jet Mystery trip (this year to Montego Bay, Jamaica) was worth $115,000. Their readership is estimated at 1.5 million across 14 US cities.
By cheerleading each other’s companies and driving traffic and registration to one another’s websites, the companies essentially validate and endorse the other brand. “It’s a quid pro quo model,” says Wiseman. “We help each other get the word out and everyone wins with no money exchanged.
Network with like-minded and cool businesses.
Cold-Eeze CEO Ted Karkus went on Thrillist’s annual Jet Mystery trip. For some guests invited on the free trip, it was simply a chance to get away and have a good time. For Karkus, it was the perfect opportunity to reach new markets and a younger demographic. He realized a potential partnership in Jet Blue: “People get sick on planes, so giving out samples for people to try on the plane was a no-brainer. Younger people are especially savvy about preventative health measures.” Karkus, in looking at viral strategies for marketing his brand, found inspiration in the viral success of videos like that of Obama Girl.
Seek out other small businesses.
Bryce Gruber who runs The Luxury Spot, a lifestyle site for bon vivants, coordinates with other small and independent businesses, like yoga teachers and Pilates clothing companies. She sends out viral links promoting events and sales in exchange for potential freebies for Luxury Spot members. For the beef jerky aficionados at Perky Jerky who were on the Jet Mystery trip, they don't exclusively focus on being strategically paired in gift bags with fellow caffeinated mega product Starbucks, but also team up with small-time start ups like Early Bird granola.
Conduct business with the recession in mind.
Well, how can you not if you’re a successful CEO, right? For Thrillist, trading up pay for play is what’s turned the business into a well-known, million-dollar operation. For Cold-Eeze, a weekend in Jamaica proved invaluable exposure-wise. The cost to hand out free product samples and Cold-Eeze emblazoned towels to 150 people couldn’t have cost more than $3,000 of Cold-Eeze’s multi million dollar budget, estimates Karkus.
“Everyone has to sell their products during a recession and we have to find ways to expose our brands in an affordable way,” says Karkus. “Being part of a sponsorship was cost effective for us. We were able to put our product with an airline, in a hotel, and in the hands of people who would then tweet and blog about it for a cost that negligible to for a company that’s sold two billion lozenges.”