Christmas Communication Gift: How would I market a dept, program or class on no budget?

ChristmasSo you’ve been challenged with getting people to pay attention to things you are offering them but you’ve got no budget to do it with.  Just a few years ago, you probably would have been out of luck.

The only thing you would have been able to use is good old “word of mouth”.  Which, btw, is still one of the best ways to get people to pay attention.

But today if you don’t have money, there are a lot more opportunities to get the word out.

Website – Central Hub
With no budget, I can get an ND blog and make it into a website.  The blog section can always be used for news and there are lots of different themes and layouts to choose from.  The main thing that I want people to do when they visit the website is to do something.  Sign up for something.  You need to get their information so you can reach out to them. So that leads us to the next thing.  Make sure you phone number and email are easy to find on the website.

Email Marketing – Outreach Communications is the only one that I know of that offers a FREE version up to 1000 people.  That’s pretty good.  You can always move your list once you have more than 1000 people.  And if you have 1000 people connected and you still have no marketing or communications budget, then you really need to have a strong talk with your business manager.  With you can set up a good HTML email system and track everything going out.  You’ll want to start sending emails to everyone on the list at least once a quarter.  It would be better once a month.  But again, it’s still free.  Please don’t use a listserv as email marketing.  It’s not a good tool for that and my colleague, Chas Grundy, does an excellent job of telling us why.

Public Relations – Outreach Communications
The worst you can do is build a good website/blog with an email marketing signup form and have no traffic to the website.  So how do you get traffic?  PR is a great way to do it.  Start writing lots of press releases and send them to our Public Relations department.  Call them and pitch your best stories about your dept and program.  Think about what would interest the people you want and feed great press releases and stories to PR.  Make sure you put lots of links back to your website.  After you write a press release, use to see how well it does. – Inbound Communications
So maybe someone hears about your program or department but they don’t know exactly what your website is called.  For FREE, you can contact the Library and have them link keywords and phases to your website.  For example, if you go to the website and search for “website”, you’ll get two websites from the agency at the top.  One is our with a ad “Need An Easy To Use Website”.  One for for Notre Dame’s Internal Marketing Agency.  We set these up so we are found before the rest of the university.  You can do it as well.  Just do this.  Contact Tom Lehman at the Notre Dame Library and he will help you. – Inbound Communications
Getting your events on is very easy.  Just submit your event and a manager will review and probably approve.  Lots of people visit this website and you will get links back to your website.

The Week @ ND – Outreach Communications
The Week goes out every week to all faculty, staff and students.  Making good offers gets the most click-throughs and responses but just getting the word out is so important.  Contact Gail Mancini in Internal Communications to get your info into The Week.  You can also put stuff on by submitting to the website.

Facebook – Inbound Communications
Setting up a Facebook Page (NOT A PROFILE) is a good investment if your target audience is on the network and you understand what you are getting yourself into.  Social media marketing can be complex and time-consuming for those not used to it.  But a Facebook page can be highly rewarding in connecting with your audience and interacting with them.

Commenting – Inbound Communications
Commenting is a great way to get people to understand who you are and what you are trying to get them to pay attention.  Most news websites and blogs allow for commenting.  Reading their articles that are associated with what you are doing and then leaving them a thoughtful comment can gain you an inbound link (inbound links are very important to search engines for ranking websites).  You can also join groups on Linkedin, various forums, Facebook groups, etc…  Comment and leave links back to your website.

Word of Mouth – Outreach Communications
Don’t forget that a personal invitation from you is probably the most effective marketing and communication you have.  Person to person interaction starts relationships that can last for a long time.  People that can influence many others is always a good investment of time.  I would recommend reaching out to those that can touch many people here on campus.  If they know you and understand your communications, they can effect many people.  But the relationship cannot be superficial.  People are excellent at sensing a fake relationship.  Trust is something that is built up over time.

That’s it.  Nothing here costs money – just time.  But that may be your most precious resource.  So if you do have money, make sure you use it where it will save you the most time.

If you don’t know how to build a website, then pay someone (like the Agency) to build it for you.  If you don’t know how to write a good press release, pay someone to do it for you (we can help you with that as well).  Then you can use your time to pitch to Public Relations or spreading word-of-mouth with influencers.

That’s it.  Merry Christmas and Have a Happy New Year!


  1. I agree with you on setting up a Facebook Fanpage for a target audience. Thanks Eric

  2. Thanks for the good inputs.

    I would add too for Email Marketing. It is very good.

  3. Maybe a good idea to promote our fiberglass swimming pool brand…

  4. These are great ideas for free promotion. You can also add Twitter to the list. Also, two other good free autoresponders are list wire and auto-senders ( I haven’t tried list wire, but I recently started using auto senders, they allow up to 1000 people like mail chimp but without the 6000 message cap. You can also upgrade when you list gets larger and not move. For a paid autoresponder I use Imnica mail.

    Facebook is great too, but like you said can be time consuming.


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