How to Market Cheaply – Without Looking Cheap

Question: How do you create a direct mail/email campaign with a low budget without coming off looking cheap or like you’re broke?

Concept reigns! Creating an email campaign that rocks means creating a campaign that’s connected conceptually and stylistically.

Make sure it contains fresh work, not recycled images that second-guess the marketplace. Be certain you show where you’re going, not where you have been.

Take risks. Be outrageous. You have nothing to lose, because you cannot lose something you don’t have. Go for it.

Best Advice

Marty Goldstein, a founder of The Creative Black Book, used to offer these words of caution:

“It’s like going into Grand Central Station at rush hour, standing at the top of the great stairwell and shouting ‘*&%#@ you!’ Everyone there stops what they are doing and looks towards you. If you are going to do something outrageous to get someone’s attention, you better have something to say.”

In other words, make sure that your work is as outrageous as your promotion. Put as much creative energy into your campaign as you put into making pictures.

You can also consider a joint promotion with a designer, copywriter and printer where everyone shares their prospect lists and chips in a share of the cost.

Remember, every promotional piece should have some kind of a call to action that goes beyond asking them to call you. Be proactive, not reactive, and always ask yourself: What’s in it for my prospect? How will he or she benefit by replying to this email and/or direct mail?

Find a way to make the recipient smile. And whenever possible, personalize your email and stand-alone promotions.

The Brilliant (If Somewhat Exaggerated) Tale of the Pigeon

I retell this classic story because it has a great lesson and speaks directly to the question. (Readers beware: This story is a legend and may have embellishments.)

The Business Lab Marketing Budget Photographer Steve Steigman

© Steve Steigman

Photographer Steve Steigman was best known for his image Blown Away from the 1978 Maxell cassette advertisement. Steigman was the penultimate promoter. That picture literally took off. Steve made a giant print of the ad with his name prominently displayed and hired an airplane and a pilot, who dragged the image over New York City.

But Steigman was not always Steve Steigman.

Steve and his rep, Charlie Burns, were having a difficult time getting art directors to pick up their telephones. They made a list of the most creative prospects. In order to get their attention, they needed to be outrageous.

While walking up Madison Avenue one day, they wandered into a shop selling Asian merchandise. There was a stack of small bamboo bird cages. They had a dozen sent back to the studio.

That night, they went to a park and captured twelve pigeons. They put a pigeon in each cage and hired a messenger to deliver them to their top prospects (remember, this was the late 70s). There was a hangtag on the cage that said, “If you would like to see Steve Steigman’s portfolio, release the pigeon.”

They were not carrier pigeons. That was the conceit of the promotion. They knew no one would keep the pigeon. Twelve released pigeons flew directly back to the park where they were captured. And then the fun began.

Steve and Charlie began making telephone calls. It was the pigeons that got them past the gatekeepers. All they needed to say was, “This is Steve Steigman. So and so’s pigeon arrived at my studio at about 1 am this morning. It was the third one back. Which is better for you: tomorrow at 10 or Thursday at noon?”

It was the willingness to be outrageous that helped Steve Steigman become Big City Productions, which subsequently started the careers of people like Howard Berman, Steve Bronstein, rep Gary Hurewitz and so many others.

I know, I know. Some of you are saying those times were different. They were. But being outrageous still works. And Steve accomplished this promo on a very limited budget.

In today’s world, the promotion would have continued with an email sent to a large list showing a photograph of the pigeon promotion and creating so much curiosity that people would want to know who made it.

So your answer is simple, really: invent a pigeon promotion.

About Ian

Ian offers teleconferences, workshops and career coaching to a wide range of artists. He’s created a new 2-day offering called The Heartstorming Career Redirection Workshop, which is based on the concept that our passions remain more or less the same throughout our careers, however it is vital to take new actions to bring them into being. Heartstorming

Related Articles:

1. Making a Big Marketing Impact on a Small Budget

2. How to Make the Most of Your Marketing Dollar

3. On Marketing Budgets: Why Size Doesn’t Matter

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