Introduction to Frugal Marketing
By Shel Horowitz
Frugal marketing is the idea that you don't have to spend a lot of money to be an effective marketer. In fact, you'll often be a better marketer if you spend less. And by keeping costs down, you'll be profitable sooner!
This article (and the one that follows) is a "living example" of one
frugal marketing strategy: that you can write a page whose main goal
is to be "found" when people look for certain terms--that you can
get publicity on the Internet through a keyword-rich page, and still
make it useful for a human reader. If it reads a bit stilted, that's
why. This is why specific phrases such as press
releases, publicity on the Internet, newspaper and magazine articles,
and Internet discussion groups come up over and over again. But making
a page that's friendly to robotic spiders is only one small part of
The frugal marketing approach includes free publicity in the media: Using press releases (news releases), pitch letters, and other strategies to get positive media coverage in newspaper and magazine articles (not to mention online publicity through the thousands of Internet publications) or free airtime on broadcast media.
Frugal marketing uses online publicity strategies such as participation
in Internet discussion groups
and mailing lists, one-to-one e-mail, seeding articles, and of course,
an inexpensive but effective Internet domain and website.
Frugal marketing means being a "guerrilla" at trade shows, walking the floor for contacts instead of exhibiting--and spending little or no money.
And frugal marketing covers a lot more. The more you spend time at this site, the more you'll learn about making your marketing dollar work harder and stretch farther. Low costs. Great results. Doesn't that sound like a sensible approach to marketing?
If some of the notorious Internet dot-bombs had followed the principles of frugal marketing, they might still be around, enjoying a high ROI. If amazon.com had used frugal marketing techniques more extensively, the company could have been profitable at least three years before it finally had a quarter "in the black," in the 4th quarter of 2001. In 1998, for instance, the company's marketing cost was $133 million; its overall loss was "only" $124.5 million. Just replacing 10% of its wildly inflated marketing budget with frugal methods would have turned that huge loss into a $4 million profit!
Instead of such expensive strategies as banner ads, amazon could have been actively participating in online discussion groups. Amazon did use news releases, but was most successful only in getting coverage on the business page, rather than in newspaper and magazine articles that targeted the general reader--its real customer.
This site offers over 200 resources for frugal marketers--including
the complete archive of Shel Horowitz's Monthly
Frugal Marketing Tips (which I've written every month since May,
1997), as well as excerpts from the frugal marketing bible: Grassroots
Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World (a Finalist for ForeWord
Magazine's Book of the Year Award). Like the site (but in much more
detail), the book tells you how to get free publicity through media
coverage, Internet discussion groups, media you make and distribute
yourself, and much more.
I submit that by using such strategies as Internet discussion groups
and mailing lists, free
publicity in the media, and a guerrilla approach to such traditional
marketing activities as advertising, direct mail and trade shows,
that many businesses can grow and prosper with a ridiculously low
marketing budget. In my book, I actually demonstrate how a
marketing campaign could succeed with a budget as small as ten dollars*. Of
course, it's easier with more, but it can be done. When the media
contact you after you write a great news release and you see that
free publicity in newspaper and magazine articles, you can just smile
while others wonder how you did it.
Welcome. Stay as long as you like. Enjoy. And learn how to be a marketing success with a minimalist budget.
How to Use Press Releases to Have the Media Contact You and Get Free
Publicity in Newspapers and Magazines, or Free media Coverage
on the Radio
By Shel Horowitz
Press releases (you can also call them news releases) are a great tool for getting media coverage--my favorite kind of free publicity--and they should be part of every PR strategy. The majority of press releases go straight into the recycle bin--or simply get lost in the deluge of press materials. And some of the reason is that an amazing number of news releases break some of the basic rules.
So be a successful media contact and get the free publicity. Set your news releases apart from the crowd--do it right! That, along with proper follow up, will boost your odds significantly.
The crucial part is not so much in the structure of the release, but in the ingredients. Just as when you bake a cake, it needs flour, eggs, flavoring agents, and sweetener--but you can assemble them in thousands of different permutations within that basic "cake structure"
So here's what you should have in your computer cupboard when sending a press release to try to get mentioned in newspaper and magazine articles, or to get free airtime on the radio:
Other things are nice to have, but not essential: some sort of third-party validation, for example, or quotes from the principal person involved, or a summary.
- A news hook--something to pin the story on that makes
people want to read past the first couple of lines. You are competing
with a huge number of inputs so yours has to be memorable. Otherwise--you
get skipped over and someone else gets the free publicity.
- An understanding of who's reading the news release and
what they're looking for, i.e., one size definitely does *not* fit
all. This is why I always ask my press release clients who will
be reading it. Some audiences want something sexy or overdramatic,
others want just the facts, others want a local or niche angle.
- The right list to send it to, preferably with individual
editors'/reporters' names, recently verified, who write the kinds
of newspaper and magazine articles you're aiming at in your free
- Full contact info! The best release in the world is useless
if the reporter doesn't have the tools to follow up. Likewise, complete
info about the product or event (including ordering information,
- A format that's accessible to the news media. This means
good writing. Ideally, you'll see your exact words in print, in
newspaper and magazine articles. It also means using only one side
of the page, making it easy to read, and making sure it's addressed
to the right department (at the right fax number or e-mail address).
Eventually, it becomes second nature. I can knock off an easy release (say, for a community happening) in about 20 minutes, and the papers will pick it up. For a project with a national audience and significantly more research involved, it still usually only takes me one to two hours.
A fairly complete course in writing and distributing press releases
that get the media to contact you or write newspaper and magazine
articles about you is contained in my book, Grassroots Marketing:
Getting Noticed in a Noisy World. Preview it at http://www.frugalmarketing.com/gm.shtml
* Obviously, ten dollars is not an adequate marketing budget for most businesses, but it can be done. And depending on the goal, it may be all you need for one campaign. As an example, consider the marketing budget for a single event. I have often filled a room using methods that totaled between 0-$10 to hear a speaker or musician, using tools like well-crafted press releases, posted fliers, and e-mail alerts. Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World contains many examples of effective press releases, fliers, and e-mails, as well as many other low-cost/no-cost techniques.