The High Cost of Free Marketing

By Seneca | Working Smarter

Jan 28

I'm sure if you've looked into internet marketing at all, you've no doubt been sucked into the allure of free marketing via social media, blogging, writing newsletters, Periscoping, doing your own SEO work and on and on and on. There is an urgency to be everywhere and doing everything and all these tried and tested ideas are absolutely free!

Let's blow a myth out of the water upfront. All that networking, social media, content writing you're doing to market your business?  It's not free. You have just sold yourself into slavery if your mindset is that it's free.

If you're not spending money, you're spending time. You're probably justifying it because that's what it takes to get a business off the ground. To an extent that's true; you do need to seed either time or money, and preferably some combination of the two to get going. You also need to start seeing some return on investment and be paying attention to some trends to start optimizing your process, just as you would do if you were putting up serious money.

How to be a marketer instead of a slave.​

How much do you want to make per hour? Or rather, what can you get by on if you're just starting out?

Now, how much have you budgeted for marketing per month?

How much time are you spending on "free marketing" activities? See where I'm going with this?

I'll wager there is a huge discrepancy between the time you spend and what you've allotted and can pay yourself. That's ok. But let's do better.

Hopefully you are tracking where your customers/clients are coming from. If not stop right now and get that going.

In simplest terms, you need to look at what's working and do more of that.

Are they reading your blog, getting on your mailing list and then buying? That's the repetitive marketing guru advice that does not work for Freedom Flowers. (My biz.)  It may work for you. Every business is different. You need to experiment a bit, find the things that work, perfect them and get the time investment down to a science.

Are you getting them through social media? Are they predominately referrals? Are they people who have had some type of personal interaction with you first? Do the thing that works. Nothing says you have to spend a bunch of time on social media except your own personal data!

I do really well with Facebook ads. If I had planted my feet stubbornly and refused to ever spend money to market, I would have missed all these customers. It's also 10 times easier than blogging. (I still blog, it's just not my priority.) Through the ad insights, I learned more about my demographic. You can't tell me you don't have a dollar a day to experiment with Facebook ads or other forms of advertising.

Keep track of the time you spend doing each type of "free marketing." You've established your hourly rate, and you're logging who you get from where. Was it worth it?

True, lots of things that you do won't pay off right away, and it's hard to know what will be the most profitable, especially if you're fairly new to your business.  Yet you always need to keep one ear to the Spirit and one ear to the ground about this.  Don't just ​keep ploughing along assuming it's the right thing and someday the ship will come in.  The contradiction I have for you is don't try it once, decide it doesn't work and give up.  (How upset are you with me right now?)  

What I'm trying to say, is that it's ok to try things, but always always prioritize what works.  Do that first and then indulge your shiny object syndrome.  Play to your strengths and don't let somebody else's great-for-them strategy lure you away from ​what you've already proven.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to find a marketing tactic that was profitable, even if only by a penny, find a way to automate it and then move on to the next thing.  ​

Now there's this thing called "customer lifetime value" which is the only reason I put up with coming out even or slightly under. That's something you'll have to estimate and decide what you're comfortable with. Again, it comes down to tracking your sales. I tend to retain customers pretty well so part of my customer gettin' strategy is giving samples. I lose in the short term but if I can get them to try it, they like it. I also stand out since nobody in my niche is doing that, and certainly not on the internet where you have to mail a physical product. Everybody gives downloadable stuff and encourages digital hoarding.

Crossing the Money Line

This is my spoof on the chicken line.  I come up against a lot of resistance in the online marketing world from entrepreneurs who steadfastly refuse to shell out.  I think this boils down to fear, and not taking yourself seriously.

I know I've been there, especially when I was writing my book. I was very reluctant to hire an editor, because it was expensive, and to be honest, I didn't really believe I'd make my money back on it. Yet I was still willing to put in the writing time. There's something really wrong with that. Had I not had people dragging me over the money line, that would have been a self-fulfilling prophecy, because not doing it right means nobody else takes you seriously either.

Sometimes taking yourself seriously means hiring a pro, or getting the software you really need rather than making do with the free version. Sometimes it means fixing up a workspace. What would you be doing if you 100% believed in your business? Now without being foolish, can you swing that?

So much of success is psychological. The good news is, once you get over the money line, and you see a positive ROI from it, you're going to feel a lot more free and flexible about how you market. You'll ideally use a mix of free and paid marketing campaigns so that you're no longer your own slave, and that way, if you run a bit short on either time or cash flow, your business doesn't fall apart.