Over the years, having worked in marketing for extremely large companies and also for small ones, I found that there are some discrepancies when talking about marketing budgets. Typically in a company the marketing budget should be around 10-15% of your annual revenues, and when a company is starting the percentage is much higher in order to gain awareness in the market. The truth of the matter as we all know is that is the first budget that finance or investors go after to cut. Though we all know that is very short-sided on their part, unfortunately accountants don't really understand that just having a product and sales people does not a product sell. As hard as we all have tried to explain this over the years, it is a fact we all have to learn to deal with that will never go away.
On the flip side of this extreme are the large marketing firms that many small companies go to in order to get marketing help. Most of these marketing firms have name recognition in the industry for doing an excellent job helping larger corporations brand and market their company and products. In order to do this they have budgets of a million dollars or more to work with to create what is needed. The problem is the same firm that knows how to help a large company does not understand how to aid a small company get up and running. They will tell you that you won't be able to survive without the large marketing budget. The truth is that is a huge fallacy and your investors will not give you that kind of working capital and even if you had it at this point, the investment would not give you the return required.
If you are a start-up or a small business, there are definite ways that you can market and grow your business with a limited budget. Also understand marketing is not just marketing communications. The first step is creating a comprehensive marketing plan that covers all aspects of marketing from product, branding, pricing, promotion, lead generation, public relations, and communications to name a few. Many of these, you should be able to do yourself with a little help without blowing your budget. The key is having a plan that outlines the requirements, the priorities and expected costs and getting help in figuring out how to get what you need done on the budget you were given. Listed below are just a few tips to help get you started:
There are some excellent boutique marketing companies that can aid with branding, if you don’t have the expertise. You are not looking for the brand awareness at this point of Microsoft or General Motors. You are looking to create an understanding in the market of your product, understand your target market and how to reach them, what the perceived value is to that target market, and create a look and value proposition that is recognizable and understandable to the end customer.
For your marketing communications strategy, you can find some excellent graphic designers to create the required elements that you require for your communication pieces or web. In most cases, a graphic designer or web designer are the first key employees in a start-up or small business. For this reason, for your website I would recommend looking at a CMS (Content Management System). The graphic designer can create the look and the templates for you and you can concentrate on the content. A CMS allows someone who does not know HTML, PHP, Forms, and other requirements of a web today to develop and maintain their web site with tools without going to a web designer for constant updates. This can get costly over time. The same is true of your other communication pieces. Templates can be created for various pieces from datasheets, programs, press releases to case studies. These templates can be imported into Microsoft® Word, Microsoft® Publisher or other lower end tools which you can use to create professional looking collateral that you can maintain yourself without going back to a third party to make changes.
With the onset of SaaS (Software as a Service) products and other marketing tools, there are many ways to cost effectively perform lead generation without spending money on large direct mail campaigns where the return is around 1-2%. This makes sense still in a large organization, but the costs to create the mail piece and the lists cost the same for a small organization and are cost prohibitive for the return expected. Webinars are excellent in drawing a crowd when there is a topic of interest to your target audience. You will be able to find industry partners who in many cases are happy to present and then the last few minutes of the webinar can be left for small and subtle sales pitch.
Another product on the market that I found that was cost effective and was a wonderful lead generation/prospecting tool is called Goldmail. It is a SaaS service which allows you to create professional presentations with voice that creates a link for you to send to your prospects. Today cold calling in many ways has gone the way of the dinosaur. The decision maker you need to talk to hides behind voicemail, administrators, and various other walls that they create to avoid being bothered constantly. This tool allows you to create a professional short message which is personal, in your own voice and give you that 1 minute introduction that you would give if you were able to access them on the phone. You create the professional message / presentation and send the recipient the link. It even tracks whether the recipient read the message. It is at this point that calling will give you a better chance to get access to the person and get that appointment as they already have an understanding of your message.
In the past, when most said events, the first thing thought about were trade shows. In a lot of industries, trade shows have dwindled and if you have attended one, you will determine quickly you will never receive in most cases the return on your investment. I am not advocating cutting out trade shows completely as it depends on the product and industry, but there are other cost effective ways to spend money and get a better return.
There are events such as associations, and networking groups to name a few that can get you a better return at a lower cost than a trade show. Many of these have targeted table top trade shows that as a member that you can participate in for a fraction of the cost. There are many times speaking engagements as well at these events that you can look to your executives to participate.
New Marketing Mediums
There are many ways available today to market your company and products that didn’t exist years ago. One such medium is Social Media which you can utilize for basically nothing. If the 30 year and under are one of your target markets, then here is another low cost way to get access to that market. There are also other tools such as marketing voice solutions, SMS, and other mediums that can help you and are cost effective.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for ideas that you can use to help you market your company and products on a limited marketing budget. Hopefully this will give you some ideas on how you can master this for your business. Just because your executive, board, or investors have not given you the million dollar marketing budget, you still can use the funds you have effectively to get your desired results with the budget you have.
RK Fischer & Associates