MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Marketing on a shoestring

Looking to trim your marketing budget? Here are ten ways to get more for less.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Marketing is often seen as a luxury for the good times. But in reality, good marketing drives revenue streams – it’s an investment that pays. With many organizations cutting back on marketing, now is the time to take advantage and be aggressive. MT asked Quentin Crowe, managing director of marketing training firm The Marketers’ Forum, to give us his top tips on how to cut your marketing spend.

1. Buy advertising cheap
Currently, most traditional media are struggling to find advertisers. Not only are there some incredible bargains to be had, your share of voice will be greater because of reduced competition. Make sure you have pre-designed a number of different-sized adverts so that you can take advantage of last-minute deals. If you are really brave, why not send a cheque for a nominal sum, stating that the publisher can cash the cheque if they use the ad?

2. Use PR – if you have something genuine to say
All publications need good editorial stories. Provided you really do deliver demonstrably better products and support service, you should both share your expertise and offer genuinely newsworthy stories to your trade publications. Genuine PR builds much greater credibility than advertising alone, and good PR agencies can be extremely cost-effective.

3. Understand your customers’ buying behaviour
Recent research conducted by the Marketers’ Forum identified the fact that customers are taking longer to make decisions. Furthermore, they are testing the market more thoroughly. They will look at more competitors and will want more information from you and from independent sources before committing. Take time to understand the journey customers take to make a decision. These insights will give you the edge over competitors.

4. Compete on value, not price
It is all too easy to panic and reduce prices in the current economic climate.  Although this might provide some short-term relief, the brand will be damaged and it could prove difficult to raise prices again. Remember, customers tune in to ‘WIIFM’ – ‘What’s in it for me’.  Understand what problems you are really solving for your customers so that you can differentiate your offering on value, not price alone. Provide real problem-solving advice and information on your website, to encourage more potential and existing customers to engage with you.

5. Embrace new technology – even the ‘fads’
Do not be afraid of RSS, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, podcasts, wikis etc.  Although many of your customers might not be ‘early adopters’ and therefore aren’t using this technology now, one day they might. Be brave enough to experiment. Write a blog (or even video) about your area of expertise. You could be amazed by the following you generate, not to mention the benefits to your Search Engine ranking.

6. Your message - dare to be different
Bland is boring and does not sell. Be radical. Make sure you stand out from the crowd with a bold message and bold presentation. 

7. Involve the team
Everyone in your organization is a marketer. They are all representing your brand, so it makes sense to engage them.  Ask them for insights about your customers and why they really buy from you.  Ask for ideas about possible PR stories, where to advertise, what messages to use and any general business ideas.

8. Invest in good training
Like marketing, training is an area that is often seen as a cost-saving opportunity in a recession. Training not only develops new ideas, it helps your team keep abreast of new trends and demonstrates a commitment to them.  There are many grants and funds available for training, so it need not cost a fortune.

9. Start with no budget
Necessity is the mother of invention.  You start with a zero budget for real, or as a good exercise.  Challenge your team to develop ideas that will create sufficient leads to meet your targets without any budget at all. To start with, you can develop ideas to generate more business from existing customers.  Then you could look at innovative referral schemes, before moving on to persuading customers to transfer from rival organizations. Using social media is a great way to expand your network and of course, word-of-mouth sells more effectively than any other means. So work out how to get your customers to recommend you!

10. Avoid the complacency trap
Complacency can prove to be very damaging in the long run, especially in highly profitable industries. Think of Woolworths, which relied on its old business model until the company sunk. Challenge every aspect of what you do and how you do it.

As ever, let us know below if you have anything to add...

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