In every household, monthly decisions are made on the bills to be paid and the goods to be bought: which ones are done without hesitation and which are debated or put off until the money situation changes? For example, it’s easy deciding that the mortgage, hydro & heating, and insurance bills get paid. But what about the phone/internet bills, the fitness membership, debt repayment or the overdue replacement of that old furnace? These aren’t black or white. They’re more like the red vs blue pill choice that Morpheus gave in “The Matrix”
A similar phenomenon plays out in most small and mid-sized companies each quarter. The amounts and the vendors are different from company to company, but each of them has marketing expenses that are constantly under scrutiny. Belt-tightening occurs – What do you cut? What do you keep? You get my drift.
Sometimes marketing programs survive intact, other times they succumb to budgetary pressure. There is perfect answer to how you prioritize competing marketing programs, but there are questions and guidelines you can follow to figure out the right answer for your situation.
11 Tactics for Choosing Which Marketing Programs to Keep
- Your short-term actions, if they are deliberately chosen, can be different from long-term goals. If you`re at an early stage of a new product or a company, you may have to do unconventional tasks in the short-term to prove that what your doing is viable in the long-term.
- Look back over the past year or two, to times you reduced marketing expenses because of fiscal constraints. Now look to times when cash flow was plentiful. Did you raise marketing spend enough during those times to compensate for the shortfall? We often forget to do that. Its a problem because sales forecasts (which are rarely lowered) are contingent on fully executing the marketing plan. Getting marketing back to its intended levels (when finances improve) helps sales to hit their targets.
- Running marketing programs doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money on marketing. Spending money can speed up the time needed to see whether a marketing strategy will work, such as running a PPC campaign vs doing organic Search Engine Optimization. You can get the answer on whether a strategy works by going the SEO route, but you have to be willing to wait longer.
- See marketing as a process, not a project. Take a marketing blog. How much does it cost to produce content for it? Its something you can do even in the tightest of fiscal climates. I think prospects value companies where they see some form of marketing activity going on at all times. Conversely, I think it raises dangerous doubts in the mind of a prospect when they see a website or campaigns done very sporadically. With how volatile revenue is in the current economy, it’s tempting to ratchet marketing initiatives up and down whenever the sales outlook changes. But your audience expects to see your marketing messages in a steady rhythm once they get out of that rhythm, it’s extremely hard to get their attention back.
- Try to use your best vendors on a recurring basis instead of using them only as ad hoc resources. Vendors who see work with you as long-term will also invest in a relationship with you. They’ll be glad to be spared the cost of constantly hunting for their next revenue opportunity (cost which is buried in their standard rates). You’ll likely be rewarded lower prices and the efficiencies that come when dealing with vendors that you come to know very well. Vendors can help you repurpose marketing content everywhere you can. As new materials are being developed, ask how many different uses you can get out of them. This can save you money, as you won’t need to make as many pieces of content from scratch.
- Spend a little time researching to find what your customers and your non-customer audience like about you. This reduces risk on the marketing money you spend, because you have data showing a program works even before you fully deploy it. You could also run a pilot campaign for which you have assigned an ROI target. If the mini-campaign achieves that, then follow through with increasing your spend on a full-scale campaign.
- Look for others to partner with, so that your cash flow volatility can be blended with their cash flow swings. Between the two of you, you have a better assurance of being able to spend marketing dollars on a regular basis. Level out the peaks and valleys in your joint spending, or spread out your budgets. Small amounts spent strategically over time, even on things you won’t need for a while, will help because they will be available when you do need them.
- Though sales may not realize it, they often hurt marketing by discounting price. The margin they give away is the oxygen supply that is fed into future marketing initiatives. When sales makes commodity-style price cuts, management assumes marketing can’t preserve margin, and slashes their budget in a knee-jerk reaction. Marketing no longer imbues the product with unique value and sales ultimate fear comes true: it becomes a commodity. Ironically, sales must now reach and sell more product to more prospects to make the same profit, making them need marketing more than ever. Its little wonder that sales and marketing teams clash, when they don’t see how all this is linked together! Working together, these teams may find ways to hold prices firm or even raise prices slightly, relieving pressure on the number of prospects that marketing must reach. Ultimately, shared decision-making on pricing can bring both of these groups into harmony with each other.
- In a related point, have you considered that money spent on positioning and differentiating your product could be recouped by the ability to transform that equity into a premium that you charge on your product’s price? Could money spent on the campaign not be recouped by the additional sales that it brings in?
- Don’t fall in the trap of spending a little on many things. A few hundred here, a couple of thousand there and surprisingly fast, your spending is in the tens of thousands. Take a SaaS marketing tool you use that carries a $10/month subscription. As harmless as they seem, the more of them you purchase, the less room you have for substantial marketing investments. This is an easy way to save money As they said back in The Depression, Watch the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.
- Finally, when you’re satisfied that a planned initiative will work, ask the ultimate ROI question before you launch it. If budgets were tightened and you couldn’t use company funds for this marketing, would you be willing to spend your own money and wait to be reimbursed by the sales that your marketing investment produced?
Resources follow resolve
I hope the above has provided some helpful ways to choose how you spend your marketing dollars. As contradictory as it sounds, if you consider marketing as essential, you might even go ahead with it when you don’t have the money for it. The good news is that, done properly, marketing should earn you money that you don’t already have. When you look at it that way, you’re really viewing marketing as an investment and a revenue generator.