It’s true: you can build a business and even market that business for free. You might even find a small amount of success. If you want to find real success, though, and earn a real living you’re going to have to spend some money. Moreover, it is better to spend money now to find success later than to try to scrape money together later when you’re trying to avoid failure.
This is true of any industry and business type. Just ask the musicians who have to buy instruments to play and equipment on which to record their songs. Ask the retail shop that had to lease sales space and pay for the inventory that currently stocks the shelves. Ask the tech genius who had to buy the materials with which to make his product prototype. It is true all over. It is especially true when it comes to marketing and promotions.
For some people, going after money and finding financing is easy. Some have found ways to seek out money from very early ages. For the rest of you, accepting the fact that building is costly is going to take some work.
“But I can build a blog for free on WordPress and tweet and post on Facebook for free,” you might say. “Why would I spend money on an ad campaign, I can just create a viral video or use guerilla marketing to spread the word about my business at almost no cost!”
Here’s the thing about using free methods to promote your business: they are temporary. When you use free methods you are entirely dependent upon other peoples’ mercy. You have to trust that free website host to stay afloat themselves (and, hopefully you’re okay with them putting their own ads on your stuff. How else would they make money for the space your site is eating?). You have to trust that your messages will be seen by your Twitter and Facebook followers. Facebook is already well known for throttling the messages of users who refuse to pay them.
Even if the sites and feeds operate perfectly 100% of the time, you have to trust that a viewer will remember your posts and to check your site every now and again. The human memory is a fickle thing. Worse, the human attention span is always getting shorter. That viral video you made might have gotten a million hits yesterday but today people can’t remember your YouTube channel’s name.
The point of paying for advertising and marketing materials is to create something that you control and that will last. It is to give users messages that will stay with them. Why else do you think businesses used to send out calendars to everybody every December?
Of course in today’s world, with people managing their time and calendars digitally, wall calendars probably won’t get you very far. You need to think of things that people will actually use and want to have on hand. For example, buying a gross of the Memory Suppliers’ credit card USB drive branded with your company logo and web address would provide people something that they can actually use in their daily lives. Another good idea is a branded notepad that they can keep in their bags or on their refrigerators to help manage lists and messages and notes. Water bottles, especially if they are made well, are often well received. If you have the room in your budget, shirts and totebags are some of the best things you can give away.
Spending money is good for your business. It is what helps you get the highest quality materials for your products. It is what will help you project the best image of your company to potential clients.
It is also important to remember that the important part of the “you have to spend money to make money” cliche isn’t really the “spending” part, anyway. It’s the making part. Businesses that can bootstrap are great and might even earn a few bucks now and then. Businesses that see the value in investing in themselves earn a profit.