Is free or cheap marketing false economy?

Do you jump at the chance of some ‘free or cheap’ marketing?

You know the sort of thing:

  • Donating a free product or service as a prize for a social contest.
  • Giving a freebie to a local social influencer.
  • Placing a cheap advert on a sports club’s website.

However, while they’re tempting, you should proceed with caution. Ask yourself:

  • What are the hidden costs in time and money?
  • Is this the best activity to promote my business?

In rushing to take up a cheap marketing opportunity you may well end up spending more money and time than you’d anticipated. We’re not saying these three examples are never a good marketing move, we’re just suggesting that you assess the real value to your business.

It’s free. I can’t go wrong!

It could be a waste time and money if you’re promoting your business to people who don’t need your services, live too far away or are simply your wrong target market.

Think about the examples at the start of this blog:

  • If the business running the social contest you donated a prize to is not local to you, then the chances are their followers will not drive 20 miles to give your business a try.
  • Will you make back the money you spent on providing the free product or service? How many followers does this influencer have, and are they your target audience?
  • ‘Free’ adverts still need to be professionally designed at a cost to you. And if it’s a rugby club, for example, the audience will be fairly limited if you’re a beauty salon offering manicures and eyelashes.

Choose the right marketing opportunity for you

So, don’t choose your marketing opportunities based solely on the low cost. Instead ask yourself:

  • Will this get me in front of my ideal client (target audience)?
  • Will this help me achieve my growth and business goals?

If you answered ‘no’ to either of these questions, don’t take up this particular ‘free’ marketing opportunity.

If you answered ‘yes’ to both, then you need calculate whether it’s worth the time, effort and cost to your business.

1. Time is money

Work out how much time it will take for you or a team member to put the promotion together. How many paying clients could you have serviced or how many products could you have sold in this time? This is what it’s actually going to cost you.

2. Hidden marketing costs

Now add in the cost of any professional services such as design, print or copywriting needed to complete the marketing project.

Only now will you know the true costs of this marketing opportunity. And we expect it’s more than you were thinking when that ‘cheap or free’ advert, editorial or promotional opportunity was offered.

Never make a marketing decision based solely on cost.

Let’s look at which costs you more:

  1. A ‘free’ opportunity that actually costs you £300 to implement but it doesn’t bring in any new clients.


  1. Spending £900 on the right marketing campaign for your business that brings in 10 new clients.

If each of these 10 new clients spend just £300 over the year that’s £3,000 of new revenue to you for £900 marketing spend. Which gives you a gross profit of £2,100.

Cheap marketing can often be a false economy. Before you take up that tempting free offer, be sure that it will protect your brand, help to grow your customer base and increase your revenue as a result. A badly timed or poorly executed or targeted promotion could harm your reputation and lose you money.

Add value with the right professional marketing expertise

If you want to invest in your future success, we can help to make your budget work a lot harder. Get in touch with us at Two Lizards to discuss how we could help you secure more clients, increase your sales and boost your brand awareness, cost-effectively. Call us on 01306 621001 or contact us here.