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Marketing your Small Business on a Budget

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Marketing your Small Business on a Budget

by Kurt Carstens
02 May 2007

Mention marketing to a business owner, and he can literally hear the funds drain from the business. Most SMME's (Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises) regard the word 'Marketing' as a swear word. It's almost derogatory to mention marketing as a business expense.

I've mentioned this in earlier articles and I' will mention it again. My ideas wont work for everyone, the aim is to inspire action amongst stagnant business owners and the critical first time entrepreneur who complains " nobody buys from me, where's my customers?"

Mention marketing to a business owner, and he can literally hear the funds drain from the business.

Mention marketing to a business owner, and he can literally hear the funds drain from the business. Most SMME's (Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises) regard the word " Marketing" as a swear word. It's almost derogatory to mention marketing as a business expense. Yet, dont we ever wonder why the biggest chicken Franchisor in the world, The biggest Distributor of Fizzy drinks and even the top 4 banks in this country and South africa's 3 cell phone operators all spend Millions of Rands and Dollars on Marketing!

If they are the market shareholders in their respective products, why do they still Market their product?
One of the most succesful home business operations for me is the Work-from-Home Hairdresser.

Lets take the hairdresser operating from a home garage. It's easy to see how the owner will be satisfied with her business operation. Many factors would influence her decision to work from home, but her clients are going to be very limited to family members, friends and neighbours. The business owner will be able to sustain the business on the existing client numbers, which is great, but I doubt very much this business will grow to the next level. The next level encompasses the dream we all have.... to sit back, relax and enjoy an ever growing income stream with minimal involvement from you as the busines owner. Using the correct marketing techniques will help us achieve that goal.

... to sit back, relax and enjoy an ever growing income stream...

I've always recommended that 3% to 5% of turnover be allocated towards the Marketing of any small business. A Hairdresser with a turnover of R20 000 per month, may want to consider spending R1 000 a month.

R1 000 is more than likely going to drop the hairdressers net profit from R13 000 to R12 000 a month, so spending it wisely is a must and requires a logical and methodical plan.

What are the options available to the hairdresser:

1. Hire a spokesperson

R1 000 will get you the services of a well spoken family member or friend who can act as the spokesperson for your business at least 3 times a week between 10am and 2pm. Their duties will include:

i) Ring-fencing your key players in the industry: Florists, Churches, Printers, wedding planners, catering companies, vehicle hire agencies, community hall managers, photographers, etc.

These "key players", are people in your own suburb/neighbourhood, who would have access to clients who would celebrate 21st's, weddings, 50th and 60th birthday celebrations, etc. Ring-fencing or networking with specific service providers in your industry, will ensure you generate leads from these other service providers on an ongoing basis, as they too will look forward to leads from you. (My understanding is that the local hairdresser is a hub of information!) Keeping in touch with your colleagues in the industry can easily generate a wealth of new business leads.

... ensure you generate leads from these other service providers on an ongoing basis...

ii) The second function your spokesperson can perform, is to contact your "not so regular clients" to confirm appointments for the next week or next month. Sealing the deal is the name of the game, and a confirmed date and time is much better than a "maybe". Clients/customers are more inclined to make the effort if they know they have a fixed appointment and less inclined to stay away.

I can hear the moaners and sceptics out there saying ; But How do I get their phone numbers".... simple, you run a competition instore where your clients can win a free hair and face makeover or a combination of hair products or even.... dare I say it... a GHD ( the ultimate hair fighting weapon on the market ). A simple entry form with place for telephone, cell and even email addresses will make your salon a popular topic for discussion. (more free marketing!)

iii) A third function the spokesperson can perform is to contact the regulars, those clients or customers that just come for the gossip or to find out what happened on Egoli the night before. These people are already your walking, talking, self appointed marketers.... and must never be offended by you or your staff. Its true what they say about bad news travelling faster than good news - always keep that in mind. You have to handle these clients with golden gloves, they speak to a lot of people and in most cases are influential in their decion making. The importance of these regular clients are that they can double your client base by simply providing two or three other names of people who will appreciate your services. Their influence will produce greater traffic to your business. A courtsey call to them now and again, will reproduce the same results when they are at work, in a mall, out with friends, on any occassion, you can expect them to talk about you and your business after your courtesy call.

2. Treat your clients

A hairdressing salon, must serve a range of tea and coffees. Purchase a few decent mugs and fancy tea cups and a range of quality teas. A big kettle or urn, will change your service levels from mediocre to stunning in the eyes of your clients.

... change your service levels from mediocre to stunning ...

Hire two school kids to wash your clients cars during the summer months, while they receive their own makeover in the salon. A shiny new car plus shiny new hair will make you the talk of the town.

3 Conventional advertising.

i ) The suicidal advert distributor

I bet the first thing that came to mind ,when I said "marketing" was, angry motorists at the traffic lights closest to your business, fighting off suicidal advert distributors, bouncing around between cars shouting "Hiers jou discount mammie!" - no, thats just wrong. I dont care how many adverts you throw at my car while I'm driving, I'm not going to suddenly swing around and head off in the direction of your business - that doesnt work for me.

What will work for me is, students - dressed appropriately - looking to earn an extra buck, handing me a colourful comb with the details of your salon, at the appropriate time of the day - not when I have five minutes to get to work. Even have the students identify only female drivers or women with bad haircuts. Managing your target market will save you from selling to the wrong client and wasting your advertising stock.

ii ) Board advertising

Have you ever seen those hand written boards that have the busines name written in black marker, and the words gradually get smaller as they run out of space on board? As I drive past at 40 km/ph , your board looks like a blur on the horizon.

Make the effort to go to a good printer, make a big board with your name in lights, its not as expensive as you think. ( and more impressive than littering the neighbourhood with 5 000 unwanted advertisment flyers - also more permanent). Go to a location nearest your business, and the main road, ensure the area is well lit. Either use the space provided for advertising or get permission from the relevant land owner to mount your sign. If you have to pay rent, weigh up the pros' and con's - R300 may be a worthwhile amount to pay for your sign to be displayed on that particular spot. Dont be afraid to negotiate. Our hairdresser got away with a R50 a month rental and two free wash & dry's a month.

iii) Business Cards

A must for every business. Get 1 000 (these days for under R400), your business logo, name, telephone, numbers, open and closed times. On the reverse all your services offered, and specialist services (weddings / 70th's / etc), A business card under the wiper blade of my car still seems more professional than a red and white flyer about different hairstyles and on the reverse, the intricate details of how I can make money from ink catridges.

4. Join the club

Stay professional, stay focused, stay on top of your game. Join an organisation with a good reputation in your industry. Pay the annual fee. Why? It keeps you abreast of the changes in your industry, changes to legislation and the like.

Discounts are offered through these organsations that you could benefit from. Tried and tested methods and best practices are often written about in the monthly magazine or newsletter. Successful people share information that works for them, use that information and become an expert in your field.

Often organsisations will voice their needs collectively to the relevant obstacle in their way to force change. A good example would be; the fact that our hairdresser gets the benefit of working from home and using the space she works in as a tax deduction, simply because a group of work-from-- home businessmen said " please Mr Finance Minister, we already give enough to SARS."

Join the Club

Furthermore, whichever industry we work in, the relevant governing body will always look out for the other partcipants in the industry to ensure the right image for the industry is maintained. Organsiations will strive to get rid of the bad apples and ensure that the industry is kept alive through competitive interaction between members/ participants. We all know what happens in a monopoly industry ---- telecommunications, public transport, etc to name a few.

Go join a club / organisation now and proudly wear your company colours!

We spoke about the marketing cost of this exercise being around 5% of turnover, I certainly hope that the hairdresser in our example can see the potential to double her turnover with the right marketing technique. I certainly would'nt mind paying 5% of my salary in order for my salary to double over the next 6 to 12 months.


YOU are the greatest marketer of your own business. Dont stop talking about your business, never lose sight of your goals and always approach your obstacles as an opportunity to talk more about your company.

Marketing is also not magic, it will create exposure, and get you noticed.... but how you react to the attention you receive, can either build your business or break it down.

These are but a few ways to market you company, do your own research and find more unique ways to market your business and write to us about your successes or failures.

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