community of peopleEvery time we speak, it never fails that at least one member of the audience comes up and asks, “I’m just a start up, I’m on a very limited budget. How can I afford to advertise and get the word out about my goods and services?”

Almost everyone in the audience is looking for ways to save money in their new or developing business. They’re all looking for the most bang for their buck in every area of spending. Marketing your products and services are probably the biggest challenges new business face. It doesn’t matter how good your products and services are if your customer doesn’t know about them.

No Advertising Budget, No Entry

When we started Barefoot Wine, we were completely undercapitalized. Our first big chain buyer asked us if we were going to spend $200,000 in an advertising campaign to build our brand before he would take it in to his stores. We were so strapped, we didn’t even have one of those $200,000. He then basically turned us down and for good reason, our brand was unheard of, and he would be taking a big risk giving expensive shelf space to an unknown and unproven brand.

He told us that without a well-funded advertising campaign he wouldn’t touch it …and no other chain or box store would either, for that matter. The big chain buyer said, without advertising, we would have to focus on selling the independently owned stores one at a time. We told him, “That will take years!” He said, “You’re right! You better get started!” He did say that once we became a household word, he would put us in to his 200+ store chain. Well, it took 2 years, and yes, he did put us in. His was the first large chain store in the country to take us.

Becoming a Household Name Without Advertising

But we didn’t become a “household word” through commercial advertising. And we didn’t become a “household word” throughout the country at first. We became a household word only in California and we did it through support for the community from which our customers came. You see, the independents were no different than the chains. They didn’t want to take a chance on an unknown brand that wasn’t being commercially advertised. In fact, they threaten to discontinue Barefoot if it didn’t sell within 90 days. And we only had a handful of accounts that would even take that chance, to begin with.

It was during that first in 90 days that we got a call from a nonprofit community organization asking us to support their kids-after-school park. Once again, we had no money. But we did have wine! We donated wine to their fundraiser. The next month we noticed a big uptick in sales in the stores in that particular community. Without knowing it at the time, we had given the members of that organization a social reason to buy our product. They also felt obligated to tell their friends colleagues and families to go out and buy it as well.

We thought, “Wow! Maybe we’ve discovered something here! Maybe this is an alternative to expensive commercial advertising. Maybe it’s more effective simply because it’s more locally targeted. Members of the organization lived in the neighborhoods surrounding the stores where our products were for sale. Then we thought, let’s try this in another market, only this time we asked for a few concessions that the nonprofit could readily provide. They mentioned us in their newsletter, they thanked is from the podium, they let us put up banners, they let us put out lists of where to buy our products at their fundraiser, they let us write posts in their newsletter, they used our logo and let us use theirs.

These were not big national organizations looking for paid sponsorship. These were just little community organizations, but they were made up of potential customers. Why shouldn’t we support our potential customers?

Worthy Cause Marketing

As Ivan Meisner says, “When it comes to networking, take off the bib and put on the apron!” This approach to getting the word out, which we called Worthy Cause Marketing, was so effective that as we expanded Barefoot into other states, regions, and even countries, we got the word out by supporting local communities and their worthy causes.

Already we can hear the objection, “Well it was easy for you. You are selling wine, but how does that work for me with my product and services?” At a local Chamber of Commerce meeting, we met a gentleman who was practicing Worthy Cause Marketing to get the word out about his services. What was he selling? Gun safety! He found that he could support parent-teacher associations, as well as police and sheriffs associations by offering free classes as a silent auction item during their fundraising dinners. Association members saw his support for their cause. Some members bought and used the silent auction classes. They came back and recommended his classes to all the other members.

Targeting the Networked Market

One of the great advantages of working with community organizations is that they are already networked! They are already communicating. And they are local to where your goods and services are for sale. Offering them free goods and services to support their causes as well as helping them get the word out about their goals and fundraisers will endear you and your products to their members. You become part of their organization and a supporter of the causes they hold dear. Of course, they want to support you in the marketplace.

You will not only show the world that you stand for more than the mercantile value of your goods and services, but that you support the causes that are important to your customers. It’s not only a great contribution for your company to make to your community, but in the long run, it’s the cheapest form of advertising!

Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact