Maximizing Marketing Dollars

Posted on June 25, 2010

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The economic turmoil of the past few years has wreaked havoc on many businesses, large and small. It’s not surprising. A domino effect occurs, where the failure or slow down of one business affects virtually everyone in its chain of influence, from clients to vendors. Given this atmosphere, everyone remains understandably cautious. Marketing, and in particular advertising spending, is one area that tends to be cut first despite its vital role in securing new business. Before you hack and slash, consider creative options that can extend your marketing dollars.

Cooperative Marketing

Have you explored cooperative marketing possibilities? Many manufacturers, vendors and associations that support your business or industry have cooperative marketing funds available, simply for the asking. These funds typically need to be requested, and are rarely publicized, so they often go unused. The funds may allow you to co-advertise a major brand you carry or advertise your business alongside an association that supports your industry, all with a percentage of the cost or flat amount reimbursed by your advertising partner. Read more about this in a recent article I wrote about cooperative direct mail programs.

Free and Low-Cost Opportunities

The term “social media” and its multiple iterations scares many business owners. No one wants to create a PR nightmare or invite negative comments into their business. However, with smart application, you can take the best of the social web–and its incredible relationship building power–and reduce or negate potential complications. Start small. Be honest. Offer value.

FACEBOOK. Try a free Facebook Fan page, where you can converse directly with customers, sharing new products and offering valuable benefits, freebies and sales promotions specifically to “fans.”

TWITTER. If your work has widespread application to a larger audience, consider a Twitter feed. Use this simple format to share information related to your line of work that helps others. You might be surprised how many followers turn into customers.

BLOGS. If you have specialized knowledge, a blog is a great way to share it. This avenue is more time intensive, but it also creates a stronger connection with readers. Focus on the parts of your business with the greatest outside interest. Write for your potential future customers. What do they need to know right now to improve their business? How can your knowledge and service help them succeed? Being of service, in any format, is the key to success.

Beyond the Quick Fix: Planning with Purpose

Marketing strategy is often discussed but quite rarely systematized. This is a key mistake in a tightening market. In an effort to quickly appease the accountants, it is common to see whole areas of a marketing process removed without pausing to analyze how this impacts the whole. Trimming the budget is not the problem. The problem lies in integration. If you are maximizing your opportunities and budget, your marketing plan should function as an integrated whole, each piece supporting the other to exponentially increase your reach and response. If this is not the case–if for instance, you still budget and evaluate “advertising” and “public relations” and “web marketing” as separate entities–your first step to streamlined marketing spending lies in creating an integrated marketing plan and budget. This process alone will allow you to more easily identify areas of excess and areas in need, and adjust accordingly. If your marketing is already integrated, then go back to your strategic marketing mission before making cuts. Evaluate how you can reduce the intensity or level of your overall strategy without destroying the delicate balance you’ve created. If you find that entrenched interests are making this nearly impossible, consider bringing in a neutral party and be open to their impressions. Sometimes a divorced perspective is all it takes to identify a simple way to solve short-term spending problems while maintaining long-term potential for growth.