Above the line marketing is generally the marketing activity that is traditional in nature and requires some money to bring it to life. For example, TV advertising, gift with purchase campaigns, google adwords etc. In contrast, below the line marketing is the marketing that doesn't necessarily cost money, but generally takes time and can be done in house. For example, how customers are greeted with they arrive, communications on the bottom of our email signature, newsletters etc.
Because above the line marketing requires budget allocation, it is naturally respected, well planned, executed by professionals and reviewed regularly. Often the time we allocate into managing our below the line activity can be not as well respected, managed or reviewed because it isn't a separate line item on the profit and loss statement. This is a common approach by many organisations, however those organistations who take the time to work out the difference between above the line and below the line marketing and treat each activity with the same level of respect, whether it's on the profit and loss statement as a separate line item or hidden in your wages bill, can see great results and a positive impact on sales.
Here's an example: A hairdresser spends $2K per month on radio advertising, reviews this regularly, spent money upfront on a professionally written script and production and has great success with the ad. She works with her marketing consultant to review this regularly and adjusts it as the market changes. Her revenue keeps rising gradually, so she's happy. At the end of financial year, she elects to get her marketing consultant involved with her accountant to review the business performance and look for ways to improve her business. Through analysing her records they agree she is getting new customers all of the time, however she is also losing customers too! By taking some time to put into place a thorough below the line marketing program including thank you cards, gifts for re-booking within a certain timeframe, rewards for clients introducing friends, professionally merchandised stock shelves, regular before and after photos on Facebook, regular emails to clients with tips and tricks to maintain their hair between visits, she was able to increase the return rate of clients and this added additional revenue and profit as it was less costly to maintain and grow clients this way, than via radio advertising. She still keep the radio advertising going, but now enjoys the returns from her above the line and below the line marketing activity!
This is a great example of applying some respect to below the line activity and reaping the rewards. Have a look at your organisation's marketing and see if you can add value through some low cost yet highly effective below the line activity.