"Welcome aboard 21st Century Marketing Airways. I will be your Captain, and assisting me on this flight will be your Company’s Receptionist, the Production floor supervisor and two of your Sales reps."

The traditional marketing department whose job was to spend money has its days numbered. In the 21st Century, with cutthroat competition and choosy customers, every employee is a potential sales rep; every marketing manager must justify their budgets by showing their contribution to the bottom line.

I was very impressed when the Marketing Director of one of Kenya’s largest banks asked me,

“How will this marketing activity translate into new bank accounts?”

With that kind of thinking, no wonder her bank is a market leader in East Africa.

Allow me to share four low cost tactics that I have seen bringing tremendous business results, often to the pleasant surprise of CEOs.

1. Crowd Source Ideas From Whole Company

What are intranets for?

In most companies, employees mostly use intranets to check phone extensions of other departments. Most intranets actually come with a forum section that can be activated by the click of a button. Post a challenge (e.g. How can we get more young Mothers to purchase product Y?) and invite your staff to contribute their solutions to that problem. Offer a reward to incentivize participation.

A trick I learnt was to offer a reward (something like shopping vouchers) to the department that produces the winning solution, that way you encourage teamwork. That IT guy who has aspirations of being a Business Development Manager some day might just surprise you.

2. Commit 4% Of Your Marketing Budget To Never Tried Before Initiatives

Let’s face it, you have a job to protect so losing part of your tight budget to frivolous ideas that ambitious agencies bring your way isn’t really the wisest decision, but we live in the Age of experimentation, so how about committing an amount that you can afford to lose?

If it works out, you become a hero, if it doesn’t; at least you still keep your job.

Check out this Coca Cola Case Study for some inspiration.

3. Forget Focus Groups, Trigger Honest Conversations About Competitors

This could be as simple as having someone stand at the supermarket shelf where your product is stocked asking everyone who buys market Leader X’s products why they choose them over you, in exchange for airtime vouchers, or paying a popular tweep (a Twitter user with lots of followers) a couple of thousands to ask his/her followers if any of them buys competitor product X and why.

It’s cheaper than doing a focus group, and more often than not, yield’s more useful answers.

4. Pull An Outrageous PR Stunt

A bank that does Facebook interviews for bank teller positions, an insurance company that insures customers against heart breaks on Valentines day, a CEO who shoots weekly Videos to respond to customer’s tweets about his company, I have tons of these.

Any PR expert worth his salt will tell you that the best PR stunts cost the least money. But be smart; have a Strategy to turn the ensuing conversation into a business opportunity.

In the 21st century, innovation is the new currency. Big marketing budgets will not necessarily lead to more business, but a little creativity can go a long way.

I call it thinking ‘small’ for BIG rewards.

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