Marketing is a huge part of running a business. Experts say that an entrepreneur should devote as low as 6 per cent and as high as 20 per cent of their gross revenue to marketing. Even when you look at big businesses, they inject so much money into their marketing. The company with the biggest marketing budget globally is at US$5.75 billion (that is Comcast Corporation). Most people are not that ready to inject that much into marketing their business. Given that scenario, it might be better for one to start a business that markets itself. It is upon that premise that I have decided to do an article on businesses that market themselves. Basically, these are businesses that require little to no marketing – the key means of brand visibility being brought about by word of mouth.

Clothing Sales

I have seen so many people who sell clothes at gate fronts, from car boots, and even from boutiques. So many of them thrive yet they have no social media presence, no radio or TV adverts, and even no fliers or banners anywhere. Those popular clothes bales (mabhero) are one of the widely sold clothing items in Zimbabwe. The growth and success of such clothing-centred businesses are two things namely, quality and pricing, amongst others. Satisfied or impressed customers gladly tell others in their sphere of contact and word spreads easily. Those who then invest in some deliberate marketing strategies open up even more traction to drive more sales.

Fast Foods Joints

Think of those fast food joints where you grab your lunch or hold your braais. I am not referring to household brands e.g. Chicken Inn, Chicken Slice, and so on. I bet you most of such joints are not known online or even in the press. I know of one particular spot I once went to in Masvingo after a work colleague recommended it. The place does not even have a name per se but lots of people converge there to braai their meat, buy sadza, and the like. In Harare you could be familiar with places like Mereki, Zindoga, just to mention a few.

These places and more have grown just by word of mouth. Such joints can get so popular that notable personalities such as radio personalities mention them in passing and that passes off as a promotion of the brand. So what am I saying? Start a fast food joint and make it the talk of the hood, or the talk of the town. As its popularity grows more and more people will go for its services without any significant spending on marketing.

Food Retail

I recall a one-time last year when a particular food supermarket was opened in Masvingo. They introduced their brand by using penetration pricing. They priced their products cheaper than anyone already in the market and it became the norm to have long winding queues at this supermarket. This quickly established their brand because everyone was talking about it. I myself knew about it before I even saw the supermarket. They literally did not spend money on marketing initiatives such as newspaper ads, radio, TV, or social media ads. This is typical of the retail world – offer unbeatable prices and customers will just do the marketing for you.

Beauty And Cosmetics

Just about anyone wants to look, appear, and feel good. This is why beauty products and cosmetic products in general are a hit. People, ladies particularly, are always traversing the market in search of the latest stuff. Just as is typical of the ladies to share such trends you can be sure information will spread around fast. I have noticed that someone can simply go onto a WhatsApp group or Facebook page and ask where they can find some beauty or cosmetic product. They can get several options from people’s responses to such questions. As all this happens you find that people’s businesses under this domain become more visible without any deliberate marketing on their side.

Selling Merchandise (Merch)

I am exploring this type of business from two angles. One, you can be a notable public figure and you get certain items branded e.g. caps, t-shirts, wristbands and the like. Then you personally sell them or get other people to sell them. These items will sell as much as the strength of your personal brand’s popularity – you will not have to part with money to sell them. You can just be at a strategic event and they will sell effortlessly. Two, you are not necessarily a public figure but you can look for merch that is popular with people. One example is soccer jerseys; so many soccer fanatics out there who always want to adorn the latest soccer jerseys. Those are yet again easy items to sell without having to market.

These are just some examples that I had to discuss. The beauty of running a business that markets itself is that it is possible for any business. Tesla is one of the most notable examples of a global titan that grew without much marketing. At one point their marketing budget was less than US$50 million whilst General Electric (GE) had a marketing budget of more than US$5 billion. Yet Tesla was making waves way ahead of GE. The bottom line is that you can be enterprising with virtually any business. Key to note is that the biggest driver would be word of mouth.