Marketing Budget Slashed? How To Achieve Growth In A Post-Brexit World
None of us quite know what a post-Brexit world might look like, but what we do know is that the economy seems to be slowing and if we haven’t felt the effects of budget cuts yet, it's almost inevitable that they are on the way.
If you are facing a slashed marketing budget what do you do? It’s hard enough to make your digital marketing strategy have an impact when you have budget to spend, but what do you do when the cupboard is bare?
The trouble is there’s no such thing as free (or even cheap) marketing – whether you are paying for clicks or investing your time in writing content, are using an agency or have a big in-house team, marketing activity has a cost associated with it. Getting those costs down is a challenge no doubt but this blog contains a few ideas to help you cope with cuts.
How to approach a marketing budget cut:
1. Know your numbers - set SMART goals so you know what to achieve then measure your success
2. Focus, focus, focus - understand who your audience is and sell to the customers who offer the best opportunity
3. Do one thing well - don't spread your efforts thinly; find out what works and do it well
4. Repurpose - get the most out of your content by repurposing it for different channels and mediums
5. Utilise all your resources - your best material isn't always produced by your marketing team
6. Join it all up - invest in marketing automation and you'll save time and money longer term
Paying for clicks? Working with influencers? Writing blogs? Boosting your social posts?
If you are spending time and/or money on paid activity then its important to know if it’s successful. The first step is to work out what success means to your business – both in the short and long term – then benchmark and measure your activity.
When budgets are cut, the risk is that you focus on short term thinking:
- You can slash an AdWords budget by focusing on conversions not clicks if that’s what’s most important to you. But if you’ve got a brand awareness problem, then slashing your display ads just because they don’t convert would be a wasted opportunity.
- If building a long lasting community is important, then writing a broad range of content makes sense, but if selling is your focus without an eye for the long term, then you’d take a different approach.
There are two elements to knowing your numbers, firstly: knowing what you want to achieve, and the key performance indicators associated with this (this is about output activities). You can measure clicks, conversions, engagement. and so on.
Secondly, and of equal importance, is input measures – that’s the time and resource it takes to deliver those activities. Social media may seem ‘cheap’ but to do it well takes time. Paid ads may seem ‘expensive’ but can be a low input fix while your organic activity kicks in.
With these two measurement dimensions you can work out what activities have the best return on investment. In times of tight budgets the trick is to focus on digital marketing tasks with the maximum outputs for the minimum input.
Sometimes the best answer here can be to outsource activity. Doing things in-house can be a false economy as it takes you longer; it can be far cheaper and more effective to outsource to an expert freelancer or agency.
- Make sure you have Analytics set up, have measures and ways of analysing ROI of activity in place
- Understand the time/money it takes to do things; factor in your expertise level too. Without knowing the numbers you will never know how best to spend your time.
- Assess the risks of short term thinking. Most marketing efforts are about investing for long term gain, so by cutting spend you may be doing more harm than good. Sometimes the right response to a budget cut is to challenge it.
Most companies try to sell to a wide range of customers, with different motivations and requirements. But if needs must, focus down on just those customers that make you the most money or offer the best opportunity.
In marketing speak that means culling your personas so that you can focus on just one or two. Then write content they will love; engage with them. Create an emotional connection with them. And once this is flying, then move on to your next persona.
If your budgets are being cut, then most likely everyone is feeling it and selling becomes harder. Creating trust signals becomes vital as these remove the barriers for people choosing you rather than your competitors. Think about how you can utilise reviews, testimonials or case studies as social proof on your website. Make sure your online activity is up to scratch: no spelling mistakes or 404 errors...
Focus also means planning! If budgets have been cut then you’ve probably got more to do with less people. In times like this clear goals and priorities are even more important otherwise you’ll be running around like a headless chicken.
- Ensure you have a plan that sets out your goals and priorities that reflects the time and resource that is available. Stick to it.
- If appropriate just focus on the one persona that is your best customer. Make them love you.
- Audit how well your online presence reflects your brand reputation, and prioritise improvements where necessary.
On the same theme, chasing the next big digital thing is fine when you’ve got the resource to do it but if you are strapped for time or money, then it's just a wasteful distraction.
Trying to post amazing content across all the social channels is HARD – it can become mechanistic and repetitive as the impulse is to rely on automated posting. Rather than trying to do everything, take a good hard look at where your audience hangs out and do one thing really well.
You may blog consistently with excellent quality content and choose to opt out of social media. Or be a LinkedIn ninja, or just do Facebook.
The point is to find the sweet spot between what you love to do and what your customers love. If you are going through the motions and your efforts are spread thinly it shows.
- Find the channel that is the sweet spot between what you love to produce and what your target persona needs. Then work it baby.
If you invest your budget on something big or expensive think about how you can repurpose it for different channels.
For example, if you've filmed a short promotional film about your company:
- Take screengrabs and share them as stills on social media
- Use a snippet from the video and turn it into a GIF
- Use behind-the-scenes footage to create a 'making of' or bloopers video like we did in this blog
- Blog about it how you made the video, profiling the people in involved
Or if you've created a complex content download:
- Write blogs that relate to it and explain elements in more detail
- Add CTAs to it from older content that is still getting landing page clicks
- Pull out an illustration from your download and turn it into an infographic
- Video an interview that underpins it
- Rewrite old content that relates to it, so that its more relevant.
It's tempting to reinvent everything, but when resources are tight don’t forget to mine your past work and revive it.
- Invest in good quality imagery, visuals and content (taking into account the point above about focusing on your target customer).
- Get creative about how you repurpose your content for different channels and mediums.
Your best marketing materials aren’t always produced by the marketing team . . .
You have a whole company of people with expertise and insights on what you are trying to sell. How can you unleash this? You would be surprised at how many people enjoy writing and those that don’t enjoy writing often enjoy talking. If you don’t ask your team, you’ll never know what genius communicators you have in your midst.
For example, some of your best product content can come from sales or customer service teams. They might have amazing Q&A content just sitting in their emails waiting to be transformed into FAQs. Or a senior member of your team might be itching to be interviewed either for a vlog or podcast.
Ideally you would get professional companies in to create all this amazing content, but if marketing budgets are crazy tight you’d be surprised at what you can do on cheaply in-house with a smart phone and a clip-on mic. And if you do get a professional company in, talk to them about how you can repurpose that content and make it work harder!
- Hunt down the genius communicators lurking in your business and put them to work!
- Audit your sales materials and speak to customer service teams as a way to mine for great content ideas.
When budgets are tight, cool tools seem like the last thing you should be investing in. However, they can save you time and money through automation and joining up activity. We would recommend HubSpot wouldn’t we, but it has definitely enabled us to do more with less.
We particularly value functionality like automated workflows and a CRM that’s integrated with the website. This allows us to focus on the activity that really makes a difference, rather than routine admin.
- Explore automated tools to free up your time from routine admin and gain some extra hours in the day!
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it's certainly the way that Noisy Little Monkey focuses work for clients.
And looking on the bright side, many of the marketing teams we work with spend time on things they don’t need to, because they’ve fallen into a groove and stopped questioning the value of how they spend their time. A slashed budget can be a brilliant opportunity to re-evaluate what’s important and refocus what you do. Your marketing may even improve!