It’s no secret that the marketing budget is the first thing to get cut when revenues go down. It’s ironic that marketing is the one thing that will help you build awareness and get your product or service in front of the right people to buy it. In a perfect world, you should actually be spending more money when revenues are down so you can find new ways to connect with your audience.
In reality, most businesses are working with a finite budget and you have to find ways to stretch it as far as possible. So what happens when you actually need to cut down your marketing budget?
Here are 8 things you can do to cut down your marketing budget without losing everything you have already worked hard to accomplish.
Do a Marketing audit
You should never start by making cuts. You need to start by looking at what’s working and what isn’t working. This is something you should do every year so you can start fresh, but it also helps in times where you need to figure out where to save money.
Start by writing down all of the different marketing channels you have. Once you have that list, look at the metrics associated with each channel to see how well they are performing. Take note of the customer flow – from the point they learn about your brand to the point where they click buy. Identify the things that are helping you reach your overall goals and the things that aren’t.
Ask your customers
Unless you are starting from the very beginning, chances are you have at least a few customers. Ask them what attracted them to you in the first place. Ask them what they want from a business like yours when it comes to marketing. Equally important to finding out what made them make their final decision to buy is what was holding them back (if anything).
While you are at it, why not ask them where they like to get their information and hang out online. It will give you a better picture of your audience and how to connect with them on a deeper level.
Focus on what’s trending in marketing
While it can be hard to keep up with everything that is going on in the world of marketing, try to take advantage of things where you can. For example, now that video has become “the future of content,” try building it into your strategy. Or if a platform is favouring certain content over other types, consider adding that to your strategy where possible. Instagram Reels are a great example of this. Not only does the platform favour this type of content, if your audience is on Instagram they are likely watching Reels on a regular basis already.
Adjust your target audience niche
Make sure you are trying to reach the right people. Sometimes we can get ourselves off track thinking that we are marketing to the right audience, when in reality, there may be someone better we can connect with. This may require you to have a deeper look at your brand strategy and the buyer personas you have created. If you haven’t created those things yet… better late than never!
Create efficiencies across channels
BIG fan of this one. One of the reasons so many small businesses struggle is that the strategies that are being created are all separate pieces. If you are a solo entrepreneur or you are operating with a small team, then you will likely wear many different hats. It can be hard to stay on top of things. So, you have to work smarter, not harder with your marketing strategy. A great example of this is writing your blog content with your social media content in mind. One blog, written in the right way, can translate into multiple social media posts.
Focus on a referral or loyalty program
So nothing is ever really free, but word of mouth is pretty close to it. If you have to cut back on your marketing spend, why not get your customers who love you to spread the word? While it might cost you a discount or product for giveaways, you could also expand your customer base with your existing customers acting as brand ambassadors. Keep it simple. Don’t over-complicate it. You don’t need fancy technology to run a great referral or loyalty program!
Prioritize and then cut things
If you are, in fact, cutting things from your strategy, take everything you learned from your marketing audit and your conversations with customers and organize your list of marketing channels/tactics. Put the most effective ones at the top of the list and the least effective at the bottom. You also need to consider factors like timing. If you are looking to see faster results, then consider putting the longer-term strategies lower on the list.
Once you have your prioritized list, cut the things that are towards the bottom – or at least put them on hold (if they are long-term strategies).
Work WITH your agency
Find an agency or freelancer that understands tight budgets. There should always be a way to make it work to stretch your budget further. A great option would be to create a bit of a hybrid workflow situation where you can do some of the work and your agency can do some of it. That way you can cut back your budget, but not stop everything completely. And you still have the support of an expert team to help you get things done at a smaller budget.
If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that entrepreneurs can pivot – and we will pivot and adjust until there is nowhere to go anymore. The challenge is finding ways to work within your parameters. And that sometimes means cutting your marketing budget. So before you just blindly slash everything and burn the business you love to the ground, have a deeper look into where you should be cutting to do it with purpose.
Candace Huntly is Founding Partner at SongBird Marketing Communications, an award-winning agency working to take organizational and individual brands to the next level. With a passion for all things related to creativity and strategy, she specializes in business intelligence, marketing & branding, content strategy & development, media & influencer relations, and social media. Basically, if you need to put your brand, product, or cause in the public eye, she will find a way to do it, while making the approach unique to you.
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A version of this article was originally posted to the SongBird Marketing Communications blog.