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Advanced small business marketing: three forms of advertising with a negative net cost

Advanced small business marketing: three forms of advertising with a negative net cost

Once you’ve established a reliable marketing funnel that consistently brings in leads and helps you convert them to sales, you’ll find yourself wondering if there’s more you can do to grow your business.

There is. Not only can you improve the effectiveness of your marketing, you can actually lower the total cost of all your combined marketing efforts.

I call these strategies “advanced” because 1) you need to first have a well-oiled basic funnel, and 2)they take a little more leg work up front. That’s why so few small businesses actually do them, and that’s a good thing for you, because it gives you a competitive edge. The best part is that once you get them up and running, they’ll actually bring in money rather than costing you. In other words, on top of delivering your message, they’ll be their own source of revenue. They are:

1. Branded apparel

2. Private label merchandise

3. Selling your expertise

1. Branded apparel

The impressions you get through branded apparel are powerful, because they’re coming from a third party. As consumers, we tend to take everything we hear from sellers with a grain of salt, because we understand that the seller has a strong motive to make their product sound good. When a message comes from a third party, like a customer, it's more credible.

When it comes from people we trust --- like friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors --- it's more convincing than any other form of messaging. On top of that, branded apparel is a great conversation starter for our favorite marketing method of all time...word-of-mouth (see how you can strengthen your word-of-mouth here).

You can get loyal customers (and anybody who thinks your apparel looks cool) to pay for the privilege of wearing your brand.

You don’t even need a retail space to do this. As a service business, you can keep a stock of clothing items in your shop or warehouse and sell them through an E-commerce portal for a modest profit.

Tip: the more comfortable and attractive your branded apparel is, the more people are going to wear it, and the more impressions you’re going to get for your money. People who are loyal to your brand will likely wear a cheap Gildan hoody that only costs you about $10 but what if you spend a few more dollars and make it their favorite hoody?

2. Private-label and white-label merchandise

This strategy entails buying a product that somebody else made, and putting your own brand on it. Of course, you need to find a manufacturer in order to pull this off, which is why it's one of those things that many local businesses never get around to. One example a private label opportunities is a barber shop or salon. These business sell all kinds of hair products. The ones that don’t re-brand them are missing out an advertising opportunity.

What about when you go a breakfast diner, and they sell glasses or coffee mugs with their own logo on it? They might just be buying blank glasses or mugs from Amazon or Walmart and paying a local company to print a label on it, but you can do this with almost any product.

There are manufacturers out there who exist just to serve this need. You can see a list of them here Some of them will merely find you a product that other businesses also can purchase and re-label as their own (this is white labeling) while some will actually let you make tweaks to their products and come up with a private version (private label).

To find private label and white label opportunities for your business, just ask yourself what problems your customers have consulted you about. What solutions were you able to recommend? Is it a product you can stock yourself?

Disclaimer: always do some market analysis before investing heavily in re-labeled merchandise. What seems like a sure winner might be a tougher sell than you think, and end up costing you in the long run. One simple way to test out a product is to simply buy a small stock of an item from your local retailer and see if you can sell it at cost or with a small markup, before you go through the trouble of sourcing and ordering private label products.

3. Selling your expertise

This is just taking your expertise in your field and creating content that goes behind a paywall. Don’t think people would pay for your advice? Ask yourself, then, if you could make it as a consultant in your field. The truth is, as a business owner you area consultant. Especially if you run a service business. You’re the expert, and you’re constantly having to educate your customers on what’s in their best interest, because...well, their expertise is in another field.

So what if you’re not a competent writer or don’t have the time to write? You can make video content instead, or contract a writer.

Premium content could be a paid subscription newsletter or E-books. It could be a one-time access fee to all premium content, or a monthly subscription fee. Keep in mind that you don’t want to put all of your content behind a paywall; you still want to run free content that brings in customer interest and positions you as a credible and helpful authority in your field.

If you’ve ever thought you could write a book or work as a consultant, you should be working towards premium content in some form. You can make enough money to cover the cost of production, and get a powerful form of advertising for free. The end goal, of course, is to build a large enough audience that you can actually turn your content into its own revenue stream.


Again, these are advanced strategies. They require some leg work to get started. And again, this is a good thing because it means that your competition probably isn’t doing them. If you can get these up and going, the proceeds will chip away at the cost of all your other marketing. Which means a lower net cost for your marketing funnel...which means higher profit margins for your business.