Marketing on a Shoestring

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Smart Ideas from a Former Ad Exec
What can a small business or author with little or no budget for marketing learn from a former top ad exec for the likes of Apple and Nike?

As it turns out – plenty!

I recently read an article based on an interview with former Chiat/Day Advertising executive Tom Patty, author of Tom Patty’s Marketing Without Money. It was so good, I already bought the book! The article was written by my good friend Michael Levin, a New York Times best-selling author and CEO of

It has some great ideas from which we can all benefit – no matter how big or small our marketing budget.

What’s Better – Marketing With Money Or Marketing Without It?

By Michael Levin

The best way to market a new product, says Tom Patty, author of the new book Tom Patty’s Marketing Without Money, is to spend $100 million.

Of course, if you don’t have $100 million, you can always substitute creativity, daring and hard work, which is what Marketing Without Money teaches you.

Patty was a top advertising executive at Chiat/Day Advertising, whose clients included Apple, Nike, Pizza Hut, Nissan and other major brands.

“If a business has a budget and can afford to spend money on advertising,” Patty told me, “they can be assured that they will get something for their money. They will have a high probability that the ad or TV commercial will run and that people will see it.

“When I ran the Nissan Motors account at Chiat/Day, we spent about $100 million to introduce a new Nissan model. We could be pretty sure that that money would translate into about 70 to 80 percent awareness among the target, adults 18 to 34. Of course, we could not know precisely how many sales would result from this advertising, but we could at least be pretty sure that most people were aware of our new product.”

That’s why spending $100 million is almost always a good idea. But what if you don’t have nine digits to toss on advertising and marketing? What if your business’s marketing budget is … zero?

Says Patty: “If a business does not have a budget for advertising, it needs to come up with clever ways to cause other people to talk about their product or service – by getting publicity or using social media or whatever. If you can’t produce an expensive television commercial, you can create a YouTube video that millions of people want to see. Or you can generate an effective email campaign that generates awareness and sales.”

“In addition,” says Patty, “small businesses can use the exact same strategies that Nike and Apple and other successful companies used to grow their business. They can satisfy more customer needs by creating new products and services. They can make it more convenient for customers to buy their products or services by expanding distribution. They can increase their value equation by providing more benefits for the same cost. Etc. etc.etc.”

Patty retired from Chiat/Day advertising more than a decade ago and now gives marketing seminars and consults with small business owners for SCORE in Orange County, Calif. The book is based on his consulting, which comes down to these 10 points:

  1. Marketing is more than advertising. Marketing is EVERYTHING you do to attract and retain good customers.
  2.  A customer is someone who PAYS YOU for your products or services.
  3. All customers are NOT equal. Customers come in four flavors: Evangelist, Good, Bad, and Ugly.
  4. A business will get the kind of customers it deserves. Just like fishing, the bait you use determines the fish you catch.
  5. There are only three ways to grow your business; 1. Merge/ Acquire; 2. get more new customers; or 3. get more money from existing customers.
  6. The most efficient strategy is to get more money from your existing customers.
  7. There are five proven strategies used by every successful business, from Nike to Apple to Starbucks, etc. Small business owners can use these strategies. (But you’ve got to buy the book to get the strategies!)
  8. It is critical to select the right target audience for your marketing; otherwise you will waste time, effort, and money.
  9. Getting a lot of people to “like” you on the Internet is not going to pay your bills. They must “buy” you and “love” you.
  10. All big companies started as small companies. Do not try to emulate what today’s Nike or Apple do; emulate what they did when they were small.

And if you happen to find $100 million in a drawer somewhere, you can always hire Chiat/Day! Or for just $15 you can buy Patty’s book at Amazon and do it yourself.


As Michael and Tom point out, it’s easier than ever today to gain publicity and visibility – the problem is, it’s easier for everyone else, too!

That’s why it’s also more important than ever to work hard at shaping your unique message, identifying your audience and putting yourself where they’ll see you, whether that’s social media, traditional and online print publications, or interviews on radio and TV.

Give ’em something to talk about!

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