Manar Al Hinai: Marketing need not be a challenge

Marketing for UAE entrepreneurs: how to promote your business creatively on a budget.

This year has been a challenging one for my interior designer friend. The economic slowdown and job cuts meant that a number of her potential clients postponed their design projects, indefinitely. Things are not much better for retailers. As reported by The National this month, new car sales in the UAE are down by 30 per cent compared with last year and will not recover until the end of next year.

For entrepreneurs, the current situation makes marketing a challenge. A client of mine was keen on expanding the business’s marketing effort but did not want to invest in advertising, preferring instead other creative approaches that would not require much financing.

As you work on your 2017 business plans, here are some creative ways to market your business while keeping your finances and budget in check:

• Get social on social media

According to, 78 per cent of Americans have at least one social media profile. The number of worldwide social media users is 1.96 billion with that number expected to grow to 2.5bn by 2018. Depending on your target audience and where it is tuned in most, consider all the popular channels, be it LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat. Each of these provides a unique way of engaging with your users. Some clients get ambitious and would like to be present on all. I advise otherwise and suggest focusing on two, or three max, and enhancing the reach there.

• Everybody loves a free gift

If you are active on social media, and want to attract new traffic to your page, then consider competitions and giveaways. The key is to make it creative to ensure people actually want to take part. It does not have to be an expensive giveaway but could be a new product or a huge discount on a service that you provide. One way of making people eligible to win is to only give the prize to those who tag their friends to your page or who share your post on their page. Another option is to advertise your products through users with lots of followers; you can do this by sending personalised gifts to different users, in the hope they will share the arrival of the gift on their page as a way of thanks. This is an indirect method of advertising through their pages and hopefully you will receive a good review in the process that will enhance your business reputation and attract new customers that consider these users’ recommendations.

• Leverage your own channels

Use your own outlets and channels to advertise your business. Incorporate the latest offer/promotion, or your website, in your email signature if you have not done so already. You could also include your latest offers as your customers wait while hold on the phone instead of playing music. If you have a retail shop, then advertise any promotions on your windows. Again, the more creatively this is done, the better attention it will attract. Incorporate your brand’s website and social media in your promotional items or giveaways. Consider giving away car sunshades, mugs or even shirts with your business website and social media incorporated into the design. These then serve as advertisements for your business as your customers go about their day and act a reminders to keep your brand in mind.

• Don’t forget the media

I know many entrepreneurs who never consider traditional media as an option. But being mentioned on the radio or in a magazine or newspaper is free marketing and perhaps one of the most credible methods of getting your brand out there. If you do something where community members are benefiting from it, then draft a press release and let the media know. If you are launching a new product/service in the market, plan a press day and invite journalists to attend and learn more about it or to experience it first hand. Seek opportunities in TV, radio or print where you can share your knowledge or expertise via an interview or a commentary. Marketing your business on a tight budget, and creatively, could turn out to be the best advertising your brand has ever received.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.

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Published: December 24, 2016 04:00 AM


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