Little or No Paid Media? Then Innovate

By George Farris 

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Marketers – whether working in-house or for an agency – rarely get to determine the marketing budget for their employers or clients.

Oh, we suggest. We recommend. We even put together elaborate presentations to explain why paid media are necessary to achieve the strategic goals. But in the end, someone else decides the amount of paid media used, if any.Sometimes it’s a tough pill to swallow because we know that a substantial media budget – with the right message – can immediately increase sales, as well as brand strength, brand stature and brand equity.

So what do you do when you have little or no paid media? Innovate. You can still grow and accomplish many of the same goals. Just make sure the boss understands it will take much longer and require more work.

And as you get started, understand you have three main goals:

• Create awareness of your brand, along with its products and services.

• Differentiate your brand, its products and services. Make it stand out in a way that leaves a positive impression.

• Try to get across the need for and relevance of your brand, its products and services.Since you have little or no paid media, you need another vehicle to carry your message and achieve your first goal of creating awareness. That vehicle must generate interest in the news, in social media and/or among prospects. The vehicle can be events, partnerships, contests, awards, entertainment or something else.

You can host a community forum or an industry webinar. You can gather input from leaders in the field – information your customers would have an interest in – and share it via a blog, podcast or videos. Go big enough to warrant a press release and email announcements to your prospects. Call and invite prospects and customers to attend or even contribute content or share ideas.

Remember: With no media budget you have to do more legwork. If you can’t reach the target by phone, you can email.

A charity event that raises money for a good cause is sometimes a good way to get folks on the same page and paying attention. But it needs to be something relevant (and, of course, the charity must receive the promised benefit).

Partnerships are another way to accomplish several goals. If other organizations partner with you, you increase your immediate audience automatically with each partner.

Your immediate audience is everyone you know – all your contacts. Combine your immediate audience with each partner’s immediate audience and ta-da! – more awareness automatically.

What sort of contest or entertainment can you create?

There are lots of ideas to consider. But I’ll share one we used for a certain public transportation agency. It needed to create awareness of all its many bus stop locations.

So we dressed a full-size mannequin up like a bus driver and photographed “Manny” at the various bus stops. We asked people to identify the location on social media. The fastest correct response won a prize.

At some point, you should have links to a more direct and commercial message, or have your audience  end up on a web page that has information about your products or services. But first, be sure to follow through on the event, contest or award as promised.  

Sound like a lot of work? It is. But without a paid media budget, it’s your quickest route to growth.

Editor’s Note: George Farris is CEO of Farris Marketing. Send questions and comments to