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Direct Marketing on a Shoestring Budget

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So you've got a small marketing budget? That's OK, there's still a lot you can do to reach your B2B audience; it just may take a little more elbow grease.

The key to stretching a budget is shrinking your focus. Don't attempt to give every product or service or each geography an equal slice of the pie—that will only dilute your overall marketing attempts. Also, know your audience; market to the right people in the organization. Although your message may not spread as wide, it will certainly go deeper.

In terms of bang for the buck, direct marketing can still be one of the cheapest and most effective ways of reaching your potential customers. With a small budget, tradeshows and advertising may be completely out of the question. But by using email and snail mail, companies can still stay top of mind among prospects and customers.

Here are some things to try that will help you keep that constant stream of communication going without breaking the bank.

Email


The good news is that email is free. The bad news is that many companies use and abuse this mode of communication. Your challenge will be breaking through the clutter—without spamming your audience.

I've successfully used the educational approach. Offer information you know that your audience wants and needs. One example is a monthly e-newsletter containing information pulled from Web sites that is informative or interesting to the audience. I've used material such as key industry metrics and articles of interest, links to recently published reports, and the like. Only one "company offer" was part of the newsletter, and our logo at the end and was the only link to us.

The newsletter was also offered by subscription only. By doing this, we really found out who the information was important to, and we could tailor our offers accordingly. It also helps with spam laws.

Don't send email too often. If recipients feel overwhelmed by your marketing, they will request to be taken off your mailing list. That's definitely a cost you can't afford. I try to keep the email communication to once or twice a month, with other forms of communication sprinkled in between. Once a week is the most I would recommend. The key is staying in recipients' inboxes.

Direct Mail

Direct mail got a bad rap when email first became used as a marketing tool. It was much more expensive, comparatively, and could be very costly to create. Although that's true, not everyone in your audience responds to email; and when done in a targeted fashion, direct mail really isn't too expensive.

Focus your campaign by knowing what information to send to whom. Don't send all your product brochures to everyone on your list. They will end up in the trash 90% of the time. Save collateral distribution for someone who asks (not after you offer) or for the tradeshows.

Personalized letters that hit right at the customer's pain take a little more time but can elicit a response as well. With mail, the more personal the better: Do you know something specific about the recipients' company that will make them interested in your product or service? A little research on the front end, to make the offer really speak to them, will go a long way.

Consider a printed company newsletter for distribution a few times a year. These can often get away with being less educational and more promotional than e-newsletters. The one I developed had a customer spotlight article, product update article, news on events we were attending, and other relevant company news. In this case, it was all about us—but was still good information for anyone who owned or was considering buying our products. Stay away from articles about the company Christmas party or Employee of the Month—they don't provide reasons for people to buy from you.

The printed newsletter achieves the goal of keeping your company in the mind of the prospect. It's a great way to introduce someone to your company, as it can provide a snapshot of who you and your customers are. If done well, it can often replace a costly brochure. Because it does cost more than email, don't send it out as often; two or four times per year is plenty. The postage will vary depending on your breadth of coverage, but in the US a tri-fold newsletter is usually only $0.39 to mail.

Other Direct Mail Tips

Sorting your contacts by geography, title, department, or other criteria will help you know who you need to send information to. If you are selling IT services, you'll want to get in contact with the CIO, not the CFO or the VP of Sales. Don't spend money on those not involved in the process.

Keep in mind that to make your email or direct mail campaigns go even further, you'll need to use a consistent look and feel. You want that prospect to have deja vu when they see your material. Without this, you are losing some valuable brand mindshare. The other benefit is that you don't have to come up with an entirely new creative each time you develop an email or letter; in other words, it's good for your budget.

Print and mail in regular sizes; odd shapes, such as square envelopes or bulky items, cost more to mail. If you are doing mailings outside of the US, check into getting them printed and mailed locally, in that country, as it would be more costly to mail from the US.

Don't send off your collateral packet to every new contact you get. This will be a waste of postage and of expensive collateral. Nurture these contacts though email with specific and relevant offers, and wait for them to ask for material.

Happy Mailings!


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Jodi Bash has worked for startups and global corporations in various marketing capacities, including product management, marketing operations, program development, corporate branding and messaging, press relations, team management and sales. She has an MBA from Rice University.

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  • by aditya Wed Mar 18, 2009 via web

    All great ideas however I would moreover include a further item to it: think about doing a virtual event. By applying Virtual events to marketing challenges, you can get the word out to prospective customers, produce new leads and help out close business by now in the pipeline. There are small-budget ways to hold virtual events and there are more robust, feature rich and scalable solutions (like InXpo, ON24 or Stream57) that are great for putting on events that include virtual exhibits, informative conference sessions, product demos as well as networking with attendees. Although people are hesitant to travel, they are very prone to be present at an event that they can attend from their desk. Even if you are just doing a manufactured goods demo or better yet, offering several educational information in say a webinar or webcast, a virtual event will get you additional coverage and more leads very cost effectively. Visit www.virtualedge.org to discover further about how to do this and locate virtual event providers.

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