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I've got no money for advertising

How to advertise to schools when there is no money in the marketing budget

One of the key things that we all have to do when running any business is have a clear plan of how people are going to find out about our product or service and then be persuaded to buy. Clearly you have to do something or else there will be no sales.

But advertising can be expensive. So what is to be done?

Let’s assume you make £20 each time you make your average sale. Now the question is not “I’ve got no money for advertising” but rather, “I know that if I spend £15 on advertising and I make one sale, I am making a profit.” 

This is the vital information you must have – and yet quite a few companies don’t have this figure to hand when they think about advertising. 

Of course, at this stage there is no guarantee that you will get £20 worth of sales every time you spend £15, any more than there is any guarantee that teachers will actually want to buy your product when you advertise (even if they said that they wanted it, when you did the original research).

So what one therefore has to do is to do is ask these two questions…

a) What media looks most likely to bring in the best results for my product?

b) How much am I willing to invest in my experimentation?

Looking at point a) the answer has been given to some degree in an earlier article in which I set out some of the answers. 

What that table shows is that generally speaking, the more you spend the more sales you get back.  

Now you might well be tempted at this point to go for the cheapest to minimise the risk, but there is a risk with this approach in that if you get no sales, you don’t really know if it is the advert you have written, the product, the medium itself, or the pricing that has failed.

Thus my own answer, with selling products to schools is to do this:

First I would undertake a trial run using a solo postal campaign to maybe 300 schools chosen at random (definitely not chosen by county). The cost will be £150 or so, and most campaigns bring something back in, unless the leaflet really is poorly produced. Even if you only get a few sales and retrieve, say, £100 in profit, you have learned a lot for a fairly modest cost.

Now to help you with this venture, Hamilton House has a free service in which you can send a copy of your advert and free of charge we’ll give you a review of it and let you know of any changes we’d suggest. Just email a copy of the advert to Chris@hamilton-house.com with a request for a confidential review.

And incidentally, while reporting on the review we’ll talk through exactly how many test leaflets you should send out – it all depends on the level of profit of each sale.

Second, if possible I would try an advert using the Education Management News email system which is described here. The benefits are that you don’t have to write or design your own copy – just send us a draft of what you want to say – and this service has the best response of all email services.

What’s more, for your first use of this service we’ll give you a 30% discount, and we will also (each time you use the service) give you a free listing on www.ukeducationnews.co.uk, the rolling news service, which normally results in another 700 people reading your advertisement.

Plus you will get a free listing on at least one of our other main educational websites (please call 01536 399 000 for details).

Finally, I would make sure that I am running a blog and writing articles at the very, very least once a week, and in fact once a day if possible. You can, of course, set up a blog yourself for next to nothing, or if you wish you can talk to Hamilton House about it.

Blogs bring in a huge level of readership. The blogs run from the Hamilton House office get from 25,000 to 750,000 visits a month – and we started them all from scratch. There is more about running blogs here.

So there we have it. It is not a question of not having any money, but rather deciding how much you are going to risk in your experimentation. I believe that the amount you risk can be quite modest, and you can still make progress.

But if you think that these ideas might not be right for you, please do call 01536 399 000, and we’ll try to come up with something more suitable.

Tony Attwood



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