The economy is tough. Businesses of all kinds and sizes are hurting and looking to make money and save money. One of the ways that companies often try to save money is to cut their marketing budget. The pros and cons of this is a conversation for another day.
Instead I want to focus on what happens to a business the day after they cut their marketing budget to zero. After all, they still need to operate. They still need to engage their customers. And they still need to stimulate new business.
Over the past year, one of our clients was forced into a position of having to cut their budget with us to zero. They asked us to consult with them and give them some insight into how to operate their marketing internally, despite the fact that they have no real marketing staff, until such time that they could go back to a monthly program with us.
What follows are some recommendations that we gave them.
Don’t Stop The Ad Buys
Businesses must exhibit some minimal competitive posture in order to maintain relevance in their market. Customers and prospects need to see the business even during hard times.
When businesses can no longer afford to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on ads, one option is to scale back ad buys and cut out underperforming channels.
For example, if your business gets great engagement on Facebook that drives leads while Google Adwords drives up traffic with no real increase in leads, then cut out the latter. Then you can experiment with either lowering your investment in ads or spreading out the cost differently.
It’s not always about how much you spend, but how smart you spend it. My friend Pam Aungst (Pam Ann Marketing) reminds her customers that even 20 bucks on Facebook can do wonders.
Don’t Stop On An Upward Curve
If you web site traffic or the number of leads you are generating is increasing, then you better think really hard about changing whatever it is that is making that happen.
The first step is to identify the cause of the upward curve and then try to maintain that momentum. But financial realities being what they are, you may need to consider making heartbreaking cuts in other places. The responsibility of the business is to survive. Sometimes simply cutting expenses goes counter to that goal.
Maintain Your Social Media Yourself Or Cut It Completely
If your business is forced to let go of its marketing company, all of its social accounts will still exist. Someone internally needs to manage those accounts even if in a scaled back capacity.
If your business does not have the resources to do even a minimal level of maintenance on social media then – and I know this is going to be controversial – delete your social media accounts.
It’s better that prospects or customers be forced to use traditional channels such as phone or snail mail than to attempt to contact you on social media and never hear back. Along these lines…
Learn To Love Social Media
How can you reach so many people for so little money? Yes, social media done well requires skill and finesse, but during hard times, a business can maintain a small social media footprint and communicate with the world in a convenient and easy way.
If you are not comfortable with or don’t understand social media, hire a consultant to train you on how to use social media or at the very least go to your local bookstore and buy a book on the topic.
It’s worth the time and will be helpful in the long run because social media will be the marketing platform of the future.
Schedule Sit-Down Marketing Time
The most important thing you can do during lean times is to remind your customers that you exist.
Schedule a permanent time to handle marketing tasks such as posting to social media or responding to web submissions. I know it’s hard to do when you have dozens of other things to do during the day, but if you don’t schedule time chances are you just won’t do it. If that’s the case, you’re just handing your competition an advantage.
Drip-Release Your Messages
Whatever channels you opt to keep – Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, email – there are tools that allow you to pre-schedule your communications.
Most people get caught up with the idea of posting when they think about it. This usually results in poorly planned messages.
A better approach is to take the time you’ve dedicated to marketing and schedule all of your communications. If you can do this in a batch of a week or greater, then you can consolidate your sit-down marketing time but still have a constant stream of communications going out to existing or potential customers.
Don’t Overthink Your Messages
When we do web site evaluations, one of the recurring themes is when a business fails to manage their marketing communications because they want each and every message to be perfect.
So they tweak, tweak and they tweak some more.
Your focus should be on a consistent messaging campaign. Sometimes your communications will be awesome and sometimes they won’t. I’m not saying to post or email bad content, but not all content can be perfect.
And while we’re on the subject, a related theme I see frequently is when businesses try to cram too many things into a single message. If you want people to know about your promotion, plus your sale, plus your coupon you’re just going to end up muddling the message.
Prune messages down to a single thought, idea or proposition. If you have multiple thoughts, then spread them out. It’s easier to get consumers to do a single thing than to have them follow a checklist.
Answer, Follow Back And Give Thanks
Be a good social media citizen. Reply to questions. Follow people who are like-minded or that engage you. And when people share your content, go out of your way to thanks them.
Remember social media is about being social. The goodwill you build can create new customers. Not doing your part could result in customers feeling like they are getting the cold shoulder, or worse, that you are out of business.
Reap The Benefits Of Loyal Customers
The best advertising your business can get is the word of a happy customer. Capitalize on that. Encourage your customers to be evangelists for your business. Ask them to share Facebook posts, retweet on Twitter and forward your emails to friends.
It’s a lot cheaper to tap into your customer base than to try to tap into an entirely new group of potential customers. Harness their collective power to amplify your communications.
Understand Analytics As A Concept
Track everything you do. Measure its performance. Continue to do the stuff that works. Stop doing the stuff that doesn’t. It’s that simple.
Finally, Sync Your Efforts
There’s no reason why you need to create distinct content for every channel. Create one awesome piece of content and then deliver that content over every channel. Sure you should refine each to play to the strength of that channel, but that’s easier to do than creating new content from scratch.
Tell me your ideas on what a business should do when they are forced to go at it alone.
And while you’re here, if you know a business that is in this position, invite them to sign up for our newsletter. They’ll get great content plus we’re planning a series of contests that include blocks of free consultation time.
Join the discussion 4 Comments
Great post Ralph! One thing I encourage my clients on a tight budget is to spend one on one time with customers. Coffee is still a great/small investment and face to face can get great referrals. The other suggestion I have is to fully support your customers social media efforts. Focus on your best customers and comment on their posts/blogs etc. That personal touch always pays off.
Great ideas! I’ll be expecting my coffee next time I’m in Sacramento.
Thanks so much for the shout out, Ralph! Great article.