The economic crisis we are all experiencing has given new meaning to the term, “survival of the fittest.” With businesses struggling to keep their doors open, budget lines are under strict scrutiny. Everything from office supplies to employee benefits and bonuses are being slashed in order to avoid the "big L"... (layoffs)
Where does your marketing budget fit in all this? If you’re like most, it is very close to the top of the pile.
According to research done by MarketingSherpa.com, 60% of large companies and 29% of medium-sized companies had already cut or were expected to cut their marketing budgets by end of 2008.
Most companies are finding they are stuck in a catch-22. They feel they don't have the dollars to spend on marketing; however, without marketing they can't attract the customers they need to keep their business going. The trick is to find a happy-medium between cutting and stretching the budget.
We have compiled a list of five tips that will help you extend your marketing budget and increase exposure for your business.
- Spend More on Media and Less on Overhead
Look at the dollar amount for a single campaign and how those dollars are spent. Are you paying someone else to come up with your radio ad campaign or to write the copy for your newsletter? Can any of this be done in-house? Tap into your office talent WITHOUT jeopardizing the message you are wanting to send.
By having a CMS (content management system) installed on your website, enabling you to do updates in-house, you will save time (emailing back and forth with your design firm) and money in the long run. This way, updates can be weekly or even daily as needed.
Spending too much of your budget on overhead isn't going to drive revenue; however, cutting overhead out completely (and having your neighbour's 14 year old nephew design your next newspaper ad for unlimited summer pool access) isn't going to get you the results you need either.
- Review Your ROI
This sounds pretty basic, yet very few businesses actually track this information. By simply asking new customers how they heard about you/your products/services/etc. or analysing your website statistics, you can see what works and what doesn’t.
Ask your web developers to install Google Analytics for you. There may be a small installation fee; however, the program is free and offers a wealth of information.
Don't be afraid to cut the fat where necessary. You may find the monthly ad you have been putting in a local newspaper or magazine for the past two years is driving less and less traffic to your business and those dollars could be better spent elsewhere.
- Turn to the Internet and Go Green at the Same Time
Did you know the average direct mail-out costs approximately $1.00 per letter/postcard/brochure, while the average e-newsletter costs approximately $0.03 per email sent and has a significantly higher follow-thru rates on calls to action within the campaign.
E-newsletters are the most cost effective way to keep in contact with customers. Most e-newsletter programs offer a form your customers can fill in that automatically puts their address into your subscriber list. For in-store, a clipboard on the counter asking for name and email address to add to your newsletter system works great too.
NOTE: Don't try to be sneaky when you gather email addresses. That will only frustrate your customers and make them not want to do business with you. Make it clear what it is for and make sure every newsletter has a link to unsubscribe.
Take a look at the how much you spend on phone book advertising. Be honest... when was the last time you actually picked up the phone book to find a business? Are there enough layers of dust on top of it that you could make a real fossil for your kid's science fair project? More and more people are turning to the internet to find businesses. It is very important to make sure you are listed in Google Maps and the most popular online business directories in your area. These are also much easier to track using your website stats.
This will help cut print and advertising costs and will probably save a tree or two!
- Market to Existing Customers
Your best customers are the ones that keep coming back and refer others to you. Moreover, it is more cost-effective to market to existing customers than it is to get new ones. Even when spending is down, keep in contact with your customers to let them know that you haven't forgotten about them.
Offering existing customers a special rate, coupons or a private sales event may give them the push they need to come back. As I was writing this, an email came in from The Brick telling me about a special private sale that is not available to the general public. Being that I have been contemplating purchasing some new furniture but not willing to pay full price, I just might go down and take a peak.
- Send Out Media Releases
With all the doom and gloom in the news lately, reading the business section sometimes can make you feel like you just walked into a Goth poetry slam... sad and questioning your reasons to go on. The media knows this and are always looking for stories that bring about some light and hope.
Expanding your space, bringing in a unique line that no-one else carries, or forming a new partnership with another company are just some examples of good media release material.
A well-written release will catch the attention of several media outlets, and is virtually free. As stated above, don't jeopardize your message by getting the kid in the mail room to write it just so you can save a few dollars on a copy writer.
If a newspaper/magazine/etc. does pick up your press release, you may be approached to look at advertising with them. A well placed ad beside the article allows you to include a call to action for interested readers. Consider their readership and ask their other advertisers about their experience before you make a decision.
Making a few small changes to your marketing strategies can help you cut costs and keep the budget fairies happy. You’ll also increase customer relations by connecting with them more frequently and in more modern ways.