MindFire Communications, Inc.
Spending smart instead of spending big
January 28, 2008 | Inga Rundquist

Most marketers think their budget is too small – whether it’s $50,000 or $50 million. No matter how much you have to spend on marketing, you need to make sure every cent counts.

If you’re in a situation where your marketing budget is small, but needs to have a big impact, here are some ideas for ways to build a foundation that allows you to outsmart rather than outspend.

Know your customer

Find a way to do consumer research. You can’t outsmart without the right information.

Do you know who your customers are? Do you have a good understanding of their media habits? Do you know what they like and don’t like about your product or service?

You can’t afford to be everywhere, so you have to figure out how to get in front of the right potential customers. You have to know how to shape your message to get their attention. You have to know how to stand out from your competitors.

Work with a research partner who understands what you need. Stay closely involved throughout the process. You need to make sure you end up with actionable data, rather than a big fat binder full of tabular data.

If you can’t find a way to do formal customer research, at least consider doing some basic customer feedback surveys. There are some very easy-to-use and inexpensive or even free online survey tools available. The better you understand your customers and their needs, the better decisions you can make about your marketing. (And the happier your customers will be.)

Know your brand and communicate it consistently

Your brand is the intangible sum of everything your company represents in the minds of consumers. You need to fiercely protect your brand, nurture it, and help it grow.

Invest in the resources needed to really understand your brand from the perspective of your customers. What is the essence of your brand? Unless you understand what makes your product or service compelling, you can’t effectively communicate that in your internal and external communications. Until you know how your product or service is differentiated from your top competitors in the minds of your target customers, you can’t effectively position yourself in the marketplace.

Once you know what your brand is, stay focused on your brand image. Make sure you’re consistent and clear in your brand messaging. Relevance and repetition are critical to effectiveness.

Make sure that all your communications work together and reinforce each other. The goal is to be consistent enough in your approach that a quick glance at an ad instantly communicates who the advertiser is – even without seeing the logo (Target® does this very well). That consistency in messaging will help provide the impression that you’re everywhere, which will really help you maximize your marketing investment.

Target effectively

One of the best ways to squeeze more out of your marketing budget is to carefully scrutinize your media plan.

That’s not easy to do. Media is changing fast. There are so many new options and opportunities. How do you know where to invest your media dollars?

It’s all about talking to the right people in the right place at the right time. It doesn’t matter how amazing your ads look if they fail to reach the right consumer.

Make sure your medium matches your target audience, and then make sure the medium matches the message.

Some mediums are better suited to complicated messages – such as direct mail or print. Others work better for simple, straightforward messages, such as TV, radio or outdoor.

If you have a decent-sized marketing budget, and more than half of your marketing dollars are focused on one medium, you may need to diversify. Consumers don’t limit their media consumption to just one media – and neither should you. A media approach that presents your message and brand in different ways in different media environments can improve overall visibility and effectiveness.

If your marketing budget is small, focus may be more important than diversification. With a very limited marketing budget, it can be easy to end up spending a little bit in a lot of places. If your budget doesn’t allow you to generate strong frequency in any one medium, then determine which media approach is best for you, and focus your efforts there.

Engage your audience

Consumers are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages every day. For a message to stand out, it has to be engaging.  You can have the best research, a clearly defined brand, and a good media plan – but if the creative is not engaging enough to get that consumer’s attention in the first place, none of the other work and planning you’ve done will matter.

Nothing adds to your budget more than creative that gets talked about. (The Apple 1984 spot ran ONE time.

This article originally appeared in the Tree Full of Owls column in the Corridor Business Journal.

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