Tips for a Tough Economy: Marketing on a Small(er) Budget

When the economy worsens and the term “401″ more accurately describes my account balance than the retirement vehicle itself, marketing services firms across the nation try to get their finger on the “our method is most cost-effective” scale.  If you read their self-promoting white papers and newsletters, you will find that nearly every sector of the marketing services world is claiming their method is tailor-made for tough economies.  But which marketing methods REALLY give you the most return for your marketing investment?  Pay-per-Click? Direct email? Web ads? Database marketing? Webinars? Direct mail?  The answer is, IT DOESN’T MATTER.  Because as long as you keep making these five marketing mistakes, you’re going to lose money  no matter what you do.

Marketing Mistake #1: Using Shotgun-Style Approaches. If your company spends $10,000 to get its new print advertisement in front of 1 million readers of a magazine (only a penny per thousand people) is it a good investment?  Not if only 2,000 of the magazine’s readers are in your target market.  If you don’t know how many legitimate potential customers are in a group you’re marketing to, you have no business booking the campaign—especially in a shaky economy.  Do your homework in advance of booking your campaigns, and calculate the REAL cost of reaching your target audience.

Mistake #2: Spending Money on Marketing Campaigns You Can’t Measure. Once you make a conscious decision to weed out shotgun-style marketing approaches, the next step is to eliminate any campaigns that don’t have measurable performance metrics.  How much money is your company making from its trade shows, print ads and pay-per-click placements?  If your marketing department doesn’t have a way to answer the question, don’t write the check.

Mistake #3: Not Moving Your Money Around. Marketing is different than the 401(k) I mentioned in my intro.  When I don’t get my money out of the stock market in time, I’m pretty much stuck re-buying the same stocks, in hopes that someday they all rebound and the principle of Dollar Cost Averaging finally works in my favor.  But small companies are not under the same obligation.  Don’t make the mistake of continually re-investing in certain campaigns because of some unwarranted need for marketing ‘variety.’  If certain campaign types work better than others, increase your focus in those areas.

Mistake #4: Not Negotiating with Vendors. When the economy is slow, your marketing budget will shrink . . . but so will the list of people wanting to advertise in the same places you do.  Here’s a tip: if your current marketing budget is smaller than last year, tell your vendors.  Less than three weeks ago I explained to an ad rep I had been working with for four years that my marketing budget shrunk by 20%.  Within a half-hour she rewrote my quarterly Insertion Order and sent it back to me–with a 20% discount reflected.  Available advertising inventory ( both print and web) has grown SIGNIFICANTLY over the last year.  There is no reason you can’t take advantage.

Mistake #5: Not Marketing. If you really sat down and gave it some thought, you’d probably realize you’ve completely lost track of a few competitors recently.  In an effort to hang on for dear life, these companies have more than likely stopped spending money on marketing.  But unless your company sells luxury boats in Detroit, there are still customers out there! By cutting off your marketing efforts completely, you are assuming the risk that your business can live off of its existing customers indefinitely.  Are you willing to take this chance?

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