IT’S the same old pattern.

At the start of a recession, businesses tend to invest more on marketing and sales as an initial knee jerk reaction to dropping sales.

I recall many businesses reporting that they experienced a sense of “not being on the ball’” after the boom had ceased.

However, once the realisation that there are bigger forces at work hits, the marketing budgets are reined in again.

Sounds sensible to me. What’s the point of marketing to an audience that has no money to spend?

However, since we aren’t completely sure when spending will increase, surely it’s better to be at the front of the bread queue.

But I am asked more and more about what businesses can do to keep their profile up with almost no budget.

There isn’t a magic solution, of course, but there are plenty of marketing activities to consider which can produce great results if you’re creative enough.

In fact, lack of budget forces us to be creative – which can only be a good thing.

And when there’s little money – there’s usually plenty of time.

Simple cost saving measures would include swapping a glossy brochure for something online, but in general when we have little or no money we are looking at PR, online marketing and anything quirky and different to attract attention in terms of an event, activity or even just decorating your van in an unusual way.

The first is PR. It shouldn’t take long to write a good press release along with a good photo and send out. If you want local exposure, this is a great way of getting a mention.

For local and regional press, always ensure you have a local angle or, for obvious reasons, they are unlikely to print.

However, nothing beats a “great” story and a “great” story with a great picture gets more space. Since most business owners have lots to say and plenty of interesting experiences – why not take that opportunity.

A good example I’d like to share is when a Euro MP hailing from Yorkshire had been in the spotlight after exclaiming that businesses shouldn’t employ women of child-bearing age.

I wrote an opinion piece and sent it to a newspaper with a photo. To my amazement – they gave it a full page spread and my business got lots of exposure!

So, Id say if there’s something in the news that relates to your business, write about it and send it on – because you just never know.

Next is social media. Yes, here I am going on about it again – but I simply cannot stress how useful these tools can be and essentially, all they cost is your time.

LinkedIn for B2B organisations is great for extending your network reach and can really produce some exciting collaborations and leads.

Facebook, twitter, flickr and blogs are just brilliant for B2C businesses.

It can take a little time to build up but it will be worth it and gives you direct access to enormous numbers of people.

Leaflet dropping is an obvious consideration, but extremely time-consuming and you will need a special licence from the council to hand out leaflets in town. Many people don’t realise how cost effective distributing leaflets through the paper can be. You can select postcode areas and choose your quantity.

But by far the best way of getting some attention is coming up with something really quirky and different – so get your thinking caps on!