Your 2013 Marketing Budget Has Been Slashed – What’s Plan B?

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Although the economy is clearly improving, many SMBs continue to struggle and are compelled to slash costs across the board. Marketing is frequently a favorite target, particularly if you can’t show, in concrete terms, convincing ROI numbers in the C-suite. As well, it helps a lot if the sales folks are standing at the barricades to defend your expenditures. When they talk, people listen.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the time-tested wisdom regarding the need to invest MORE in marketing (or at least not cut anything) when companies face financial challenges. We will not discuss that here, but do agree 100% with that assertion. You may have no choice but to cut part of the marketing budget, but we think it’s important to reframe the discussion slightly. The reduction should not be an arbitrary amount or percentage. Instead, it should be determined thoughtfully by reviewing:

  • priorities
  • efficacy
  • lower-cost alternatives

It’s that last point that we believe requires extra scrutiny. Typically marketers have a portfolio of channels and programs which reach customers. You (or your boss) might be tempted to simply shut down entire channels or rip out complete programs. An intelligent organization with adept marketers will find more clever ways of managing reductions by looking for lower-cost alternatives that preserve core objectives.

Huddle with the sales folks before talking to anyone else outside of marketing. This is a critical step. Proposals or plans that don’t take their perspective into account will lack credibility and have a higher probability of failure.

It may be tempting to apply a broad strategy to achieve this goal (more inbound and less outbound; more digital and less traditional; or something else), but we think it’s more productive to look at specific tactics in more detail. The table below lists some of our favorite ideas; but we would be delighted if readers could add their own suggestions to the comments section below.

Expensive Tactics Lower-Cost Alternatives
  • Set up a booth at a remote trade show.
  • Hold open houses at local offices.
  • Meet prospects face-to-face.
  • Use web and video conferencing.
  • Host in-person seminars.
  • Use webinars.
  • Hire industry experts and pundits as speakers at shows and other events.
  • Ask good customers to make presentations on your behalf.
  • Use pay-per-click advertising.
  • Optimize your web site for search engines.
  • Purchase advertising and other forms of communication.
  • Publish frequent and informative press releases.
  • Blog.
  • Use social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Volunteer for industry and professional speaking engagements.
  • Participate in local seminars.
  • Volunteer in the community.
  • Publish an e-mail newsletter that is genuinely informative and helpful.
  • Publish in trade journals and industry publications.
  • Network at industry events and professional organizations.
  • Post to online forums.
  • Do co-marketing and joint advertising with partners.
  • Buy and build lists, then use them for targeted communications.
  • Post useful and compelling web site content (e.g., whitepapers, expertise tips, case studies). “Give knowledge away.”
  • Use off-line (e.g., print) advertising.
  • Use online advertising.
  • Hire more people.
  • Use interns for special projects.
  • Make every employee a salesperson.
  • Hire writers to produce original content.
  • Distribute article reprints.
  • Repurpose existing content (e.g., create small articles, slide shows and blog posts from a whitepaper).
  • Publish customer testimonials.
  • Curate other people’s content.

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