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10 Ways to Stretch Your Marketing Budget

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All marketing practitioners are seeking ways to save money and get a bigger bang for their budget buck. How to do that isn't at all obvious. But, sometimes, the answer can be staring you in the face!

No. 1: Seek opportunity in adversity

Inertia, complacency, and overconfidence are your inner demons. Get rid of them. They'll cost you money. Reading the writing on the wall, on the other hand, is a great place to start to save money.

Too many marketers pay insufficient attention to the early warning signs of big shifts in demographics, technology, and regulation. As a result, they miss out on a great opportunity to proactively innovate to take advantage of those shifts.

Turn adversity on its head and get it to work in your favor. The key is to translate challenges into opportunities (glass half full...) and use constraints to spur innovation (necessity as mother of invention...).


No. 2: Do more with less

Being resourceful in a resource-scare world should be second nature. But it isn't.

You don't necessarily need a multimillion-dollar budget. In fact, some of the most successful in our industry are those able to get more from less by applying frugality to every activity they perform. They tend to work for organizations that are efficient, and by that I mean they are frugal in how they design products, how they produce them, how they deliver them, and how they perform after-sales or after-care.

Their frugality shows up not only in their parsimonious use of capital and natural resources but also in how they maximize their limited time and energy. Rather than driving everything themselves, which can be very costly, they rely extensively on partners and collaborators to perform various operations, saving resources, time ,and money.

Try to reuse and combine rather than create something new from scratch.

No. 3: Think and act flexibly

Try walking across a road in Mumbai, India. You'll make it to the other side only if you're prepared to think and act flexibly! And there's no point thinking the Highway Code (Rules of the Road) is going to be your savior when you're behind the wheel. It won't. Linear thinking won't always help. The same is true in our industry.

Western brand owners and their leaders often operate in a black-and-white world that confers a sense of predictability to the order of things. For example, competitors are bad and partners are good; regulations are typically bad for business whereas protectionist policies are good; and although some brand owners may like doing good as part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives, they worry primarily about doing well financially.

Yet such binary thinking that's anchored in deep-seated assumptions prevents brand owners from reconciling priorities, a process that could yield creative, innovative, and highly cost-effective marketing solutions. The sheer diversity, volatility, and unpredictability of global markets demand that we be flexible. Inflexibility will result in failure and a waste of resources.

We must think laterally, out of the box. We must experiment and improvise.

No. 4: Keep it simple

In the developing world, consumers are put off by complexity. Complicated and elaborate communication is costly and can be a distraction. In the Western hemisphere, we seem obsessed with everything being bigger and brighter. We often get seduced by the power of technology. The world beyond 2013 won't be like that.

Consumers are down-shifting and opting for simpler, more meaningful lives. Brand owners that respond to these attitudes, values, beliefs, perceptions, and behaviors will benefit in the long run.

No. 5: Use the Web

Being part of the community, being yourself, being transparent, being a great listener and a genuine problem solver build trust, and the fastest way to do so with the biggest community of like-minded people is via the Web.

No. 6: Avoid dependency relationships with external agencies

The only practical way to do this is to be focused on outcomes, not just outputs. Share the learning of triumphs and mistakes. By making a commitment to triple-loop learning, you'll save a fortune in the long run as the agencies won't suggest strategies that don't work and you won't blow a big fat hole in your budget finding out. Learn as you go.

No. 7: Spend less than others say you should

Anyone who's ever been into a car showroom to buy a new or used car will know that having an idea of what you want to spend can evaporate in the presence of a convincing salesperson who knows how to pull emotional levers and customize the product "just for you."

It's not just alloy wheels or a nicer in-car entertainment system, but it's the extended warranty, freedom of not worrying about the gap in resale value when you go to sell the car at the end of the payments period, and other extras' that all come at a price. You invariably end up with a figure that's more than the one you started with.

The same is true in our industry, particularly when designing and building a website. Beware of buying extra bells and whistles. Chances are, you don't need them.

No. 8: Don't just spend time with people you know; network instead

In our industry, many of us prefer to keep the company of those whom we know. But growth of a commercial enterprise demands networking. For one thing, building a new relationship with a customer or client could unlock marketing and sales opportunities well beyond the spending constraints of those you already know.

Effective communication increasingly depends on word-of-mouth. And the best way to stimulate effective word-of-mouth is to network. And the best bit is that it doesn't have to cost you anything if you join a relevant social networking group where you are free to exchange thoughts and ideas.

No. 9: Collaborate with your customers and clients for profit

Why use expensive market research to come up with insights and answers to some of the most challenging sales and marketing issues when you can collaborate with your customers and clients and get them to help you design your products and services in the first place? After all, if they like them, they'll want to buy them.

No. 10: Know your ends from your means

Winston Churchill, one of the greatest statesmen who ever lived, once said: "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results."

The best communication plans and investment in a range of activities will all turn to dust if they don't deliver the outcomes you're looking for. Being outcome-focused rather than output-driven means that you know your ends from your means.

And that's by far the most profitable place to be.


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Ardi Kolah is author of High Impact Marketing That Gets Results, published by Kogan Page.

Twitter: @guruinabottle

LinkedIn: Ardi Kolah

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  • by Gracious Store Sat Aug 10, 2013 via web

    The greatest enmey of success is inertia and complacency, refusal to makes change when necessary and being satisfied with the status quo. If any marketer overcomes these demons within his/herself, he/she will be destined to accomplish great things in his/her business

  • by Ardi Kolah Sun Aug 11, 2013 via web

    Thanks for sharing - I totally agree and yet why as a community of creative thinkers we are so risk averse? Does it make sense to you?

  • by Tanya @IgniteUCommerce Wed Aug 14, 2013 via web

    Speaking as a merchant service agent, I think another great way for businesses to be frugal and find more marketing dollars is to trust a known, ethical, direct merchant service processing agent to cut overhead costs on ancillary business services, such as payment processing, to come up with funds from other places within their operational budget. If more marketing consultants seriously considered this, they could help their prospects sign on, create a value add on to their client they won't forget (more loyalty and trust is gained), and earn a monthly residual on all switched services. Research is the key though, to offering quality partners who will enhance their reputation through their quality value added services.

  • by Ardi Kolah Mon Aug 19, 2013 via web

    Hi Tanya - outsourcing both strategic and tactical functions as you describe can reduce costs and makes sense provided it's right for the company or organisation to do so.

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