Stop Wasting Money and Start Negotiating

A non-existent marketing budget is no excuse for your small business to not have a logo, a TV commercial or a professional-quality brochure.
Founder, BackPocket COO
September 12, 2012

Negotiation is a fact of life. We negotiate with ourselves when we struggle to decide whether to hit the snooze button in the morning. We negotiate with our kids to get them to do their chores. We negotiate with sellers to get the best deals on products and services we need. We even negotiate with things we think are fixed costs, such as gas and food by searching for the stores that have the best prices and using coupons.

For some reason, however, there are things that entrepreneurs don’t think to negotiate for at all. And marketing is one such thing. Marketing costs for advertising, design writing and other services are far too often just assumed as fixed, hard costs, but nothing could be further from the truth.

With just a little creativity, some resolve, and a little time spent, you can find great marketing services for your company at a fraction of the cost.

Name Your Price

Traditional advertising can be incredibly expensive—if you pay full price. But here’s a secret: Every advertiser is willing to negotiate.

When you call up your local newspaper, TV or radio station or magazine, don’t be afraid to negotiate the price; all advertising gets cheaper the closer it is to the date or time the ad will run.

I’ve negotiated millions of dollars of radio and TV ads that were “preemptable.” We got them for 50 percent off, but if someone else came along willing to pay full price, the station would cancel our ads. “Great,” I’d say. “I’m building a brand for years to come. I’ll take as many 50 percent–off ads as I can get.”

Let your competitors pay full price. It’s what lazy brands do, and lazy brands always lose.

The Power of the Crowd

Creative work can be very expensive. While there are certainly some designers, writers, and consultants that are worth top-dollar, the reality is that you probably don’t need their level of service for your products. So, it pays to find the right level of service at the right price—cheap.

The good news is that there are plenty of websites around, like CrowdSpring.com, where dozens of people will produce creative work for you, yet you pay only the person whose work you love best, a process called crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing gives you the power of big brands who require world-class ad firms to pitch for their business, a costly process with only one winner.

You can also use old-fashioned outsourcing using great sites like guru.com or elance.com to develop everything from your company logo to ad layouts to glossy marketing brochures. With these websites you simply post your job, a price range, and a timeline and freelancers from around the world bid on your project and compete for your business.

Leverage Your Resources

I’ve learned to produce marketing materials inexpensively in other ways as well. I hired actors, but instead of paying them to model for a photo shoot, I gave them a quarter load of junk removal free of charge. When we were just starting out, we hired a good-looking young guy who fit our brand for $200 cash for unlimited use of his photo. It ended up being on hundreds of thousands of marketing pieces—the equivalent of $5,000 in actor’s fees. I’ve even made TV ads in which every actor we used was a friend of the company, and they all offered their time and talent for no money.

I have clients in Berlin who refused to pay a fixed price for commercials and convinced the TV station that if the ads were “really going to work,” the TV station could share in the risk and the potential gains. They are buying discounted TV advertising and paying the station a percentage of the revenues it generates.

Whatever the method, you have connections and resources that you can leverage to lower or eliminate the costs associated with at least a portion of your required creative and advertising work. It takes a little ingenuity (which is also free!) and will save you thousands of dollars. Not bad for a day's work.

Cameron Herold coaches entrepreneurs on five continents, helping them build their companies. He started BackPocket COO to coach and mentor young, fun companies. Herold was chief operating officer of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? for nearly seven years. Prior to that, he was VP of corporate development at Ubarter.com.

Learn more about negotiation tactics and ideas here

Founder, BackPocket COO