By Hannah Stringer, Head of Marketing, Moneypenny

Last week one of our small business clients told us about a marketing campaign she used to attract new clients. Not unusual in itself, but her method was one that made us sit up and pay attention.

Julia, who runs an ironing company, didn’t have a big budget. But what she did have was Tom, a good friend with an equally good idea. A couple of weeks earlier, Julia had done what many small businesses on a budget do, and hand-delivered some flyers in her local area. Unfortunately it didn’t result in the phone ringing. It was at this point that she turned to Tom for help.

Three days later, Tom presented her with a screwed up paper ball. Puzzled and rather underwhelmed, Julia looked at her friend for an answer. He replied: “What would you do if you came home one day and found this on your doormat?”. Still unsure where this was going, she replied that she’d pick it up and throw it out. But, she added, I'd probably uncrumple it first to check it wasn’t anything important.

Exactly Tom said. Prompting Julia to unscrew the ball, inside she found the message 'Don’t let your clothes become as creased as this'. A simple yet clever idea, and one that won the small business a whole raft of new clients.

Here are our top five tips to masterminding a successful marketing campaign on a budget:

1. Research, research, research
At the risk of sounding like a cheesy motivational speaker, it’s essential that you fully understand what your company offers, and how that differs from your competitors. Perhaps, even more importantly, you also need to create a profile of your key customers. How old are they? Where do they work, and what do they like to do in their spare time? Without the answers to these questions it's impossible to know where, and how, to target potential clients. Once you’ve established this, use it to your advantage and let it shape your marketing activities. Don't be afraid to ask friends and family that fall into your category for their opinions and test out ideas on them too. Sometimes the best ideas are the ones you come up with over a cup of tea, a pack of biscuits and a group of good friends.

2. Get your creative juices flowing
A few years ago Carlsberg was responsible for what marketing experts still describe as one the best marketing stunts ever. Dubbed the ‘litter’ campaign, Carlsberg covered London’s pavements with what, at first glance, looked like bits of paper. On closer inspection, however, it turned out that they were in fact £10 and £20 notes; each one bearing a little sticker stating that ‘Carlsberg don’t do litter, but if they did, it would probably be the best litter in the world’. The entire campaign cost the firm just £5,000 (a tiny amount for such a large company), but earned them a shed load of national press coverage and increased sales. Of course, most small businesses don’t have £5,000 to literally throw away – and we obviously don’t encourage littering – but the creativity behind the idea is a great example of how imaginative you can be. You really don’t need to work for Saatchi and Saatchi to come up with a great idea; just relax and let your imagination run loose.

3. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes
Just before Christmas in 2006, a 40% off voucher for off-licence chain Threshers was leaked on the internet. At the time it was reported that the voucher was only ever intended for distribution partners – not the general public. The result? Lots of excitement, and people flooding into Threshers to take advantage of this great deal. Debate over whether it was in fact a clever marketing ploy still continues, but either way the company experienced a massive spike in sales. The lesson to take from this is that it's important to put yourself in your client’s shoes. After all, who doesn't like feeling like that they’ve got a special deal, or are saving money? As mentioned in point one, refer back to who your clients are, what will appeal to them, and what will make them get excited.

4. Think local
When I moved house four years ago, I woke up on my first morning to find a pint of milk on my doorstep. Attached to it was a little tag saying ‘welcome to your new home’, along with the details of our local milkman. For the next few days he continued to deliver a pint of milk, at no charge, along with a note saying how he would love to keep delivering to me. He had obviously spotted that I was moving in, and knowing how stressful it can be, understood that a cup of tea is a must! This small act of kindness won me over, and to this day I still buy their (more expensive) milk. Big businesses spend a huge amount of money on analysing customer data, but as a small company you have a competitive edge here. Think about how you can use your local knowledge to your advantage.

5. Simplicity
It might be a cliché, but the simplest ideas are often the best. The kind of things that you see or read and instantly say to yourself 'why didn't I think of that'? Tourism Queensland, for example, was responsible for one such campaign that you might remember a few years back. In search for a caretaker on a remote Australian island, the marketing team realised that this presented them with a unique PR opportunity. After all, who wouldn’t fancy being paid AUD $150,000 (approx £78,000) to live on a beautiful island in the middle of the Indian Ocean for six months? So, to capitalise on this, the marketing team placed an eye-catching advert in numerous publications with the headline: The best job in the world. Understandably it attracted a lot of attention with 34,000 video applications from 200 countries across the world. Fairly stunning results. The key is to be simple, yet bold and memorable.