Promotion is a critical component of running a successful business of any size. You must get the word out about what makes your operation great — differentiating it from your competitors — to bring in new customers and keep current ones engaged.
Without regular marketing activity, no one outside your current client base will find out about your company, and over time most of your current customers will forget that it exists. They’ll move on to your competitors that keep their promotion engines running.
However, during times like these, with prices and interest rates climbing, you may want to cut marketing costs for your small business. This article explains how you can reduce promotional expenses without negatively impacting your marketing and sales results — and maybe even improve them.
1. Conduct a Marketing Audit
Review all of your marketing efforts, including how much you spend on them and the results they generate. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to determine the efficiency of your different strategies, campaigns, and tactics. You’ll likely find that you’re spending very little on certain activities but getting significant results, while others may be costing you a lot in time and effort but not generating much business. These trends may be even more apparent if you haven’t audited your marketing in a while.
You may find that you can cut out some of your promotional activities, redeploy the resources, and eventually find you’re spending less but bringing in more business.
2. Improve Customer Targeting
How much of your marketing budget is wasted on pitching to people who will never buy from you or purchase too little for what you’re spending to bring them in? Take time to review your sales results. Are certain customers better — or more valuable — than others? Perhaps they make larger-ticket purchases or do more repeat business.
Taking a few minutes to figure out the types of customers you prefer could help you target your marketing better. You’ll be able to eliminate waste, save money, and maybe even redeploy some of those savings toward more efficient marketing, earning you additional business for less.
3. Reduce the Number of Channels You Market In
What if you complete your marketing audit and discover a lot of your promotion is effective and efficient? It still may make sense to cut back on certain channels. Different media types (email, video, social media, blogging, and more) require their own creative executions – and that costs money. It might make more sense to concentrate your marketing efforts on fewer channels that need a smaller number of creative executions. Less spending on assets could improve your marketing efficiency.
4. Take Advantage of Marketing Automation
Leveraging marketing automation tools is a great way to truncate the time it takes to do marketing. You may need to invest money in automation software. However, doing so typically pays off quickly in time saved and improved results.
Some popular examples of marketing automation include:
Social media and email scheduling tools. Distributing social media and email one-off can be tedious and time-consuming. It’s easy to get busy and forget to do these things, which can negatively impact your engagement and results. Scheduling these things through tools like Hubspot or Mailchimp allows you to get ahead of the work when you actually have the time. Plus, these tools grant you access to metrics that will help you determine what’s working and not, so you can refine your marketing efforts over time.
Chatbots. Do you spend a lot of time answering the same customer questions over and over again? You can save time by using a chatbot. They can seem a bit stilted and artificial when it comes to responding to complex queries. However, they’re typically fine for answering simple and common questions. Most people today are aware they aren’t talking to a real person when interacting with a chatbot. Yet, they still appreciate the opportunity to get a fast and accurate answer to a simple question.
Digital widgets. Things like appointment scheduling widgets can help cut the number of phone calls you have to take from clients and prospects. Leverage any automation you can to stop having to do those tedious tasks that provide limited value to your customers.
5. Repurpose Existing Content
If you've published content to your company blog for a while, you likely have a considerable library. Instead of spending money solely on new content, why not repurpose some of what you already have at a lower cost?
Update and promote older content. If your older content is still valid, it could make sense to refresh it and promote it to a new audience.
Repurpose content in new media. If you have a great-performing blog article, it could make sense to transform it into a video, podcast, infographic, or other media type. You may find that many non-readers will engage with non-print material, opening up a whole new audience for a successful piece.
In both of these examples, you are getting fresh material that’s likely to resonate with people in your target market without the cost of conducting new research or creating entirely new material.
6. Consider Using Free Tools
Are you spending a lot on marketing automation subscriptions? This was probably a good idea in years past when free apps weren’t always up to snuff. However, these days many free tools — or complementary versions of the tools you’re already using — may provide all the dependable functionality you need.
If you haven’t reviewed all the marketing apps the people on your team subscribe to, now’s the time. You may find ones that are no longer being used or others with acceptable free versions. It could be a sound way to cut costs without reducing the amount of marketing you do.
7. Change Up Your In-House / Outsourced Work Mix
Saving money on marketing isn’t limited to the what and how of it – you can save money by considering who does it, too. Consider the following:
Do you use internal resources to do things like post on social media or send out emails that aren’t fully utilized?
Perhaps you can’t afford top marketing talent in your area.
Are you spending too much valuable time writing or doing other marketing tasks instead of managing and operating your business?
If you find that your staffing isn’t optimal or is costing you too much for too little, it could be time to rethink it. Consider outsourcing work that can be better handled by outside talent. Make certain positions part-time if it makes sense — many freelancers prefer flexibility (this gives you more control over pricing, too). Contract out work it doesn’t make sense for you to do. It may cost you more upfront, but it will provide you with additional bandwidth to expand your business.
8. Make Referral Marketing a Priority
Referral marketing is often the cheapest and easiest way to generate new business. Yet many small businesses forget to ask for referrals.
Happy customers are likely to recommend your business to friends and family members similar to them, especially if you offer an incentive for doing so (for instance, providing a special discount for each new customer referred).
People today are more likely to respond to a recommendation and referral from someone they trust than they are to standard marketing tactics. If you don’t have a referral program, make it a point to start one and ensure that everyone who interacts with customers asks for referrals. Always follow up with text messages or emails to remind customers to recommend you to others.
9. Request Ratings and Reviews
Ratings and reviews are essentially a free way to boost your business. Most people check them before contacting a company or deciding to purchase. Whenever you have a satisfied customer, ask for an online rating and review. Follow up with a text or email with a link to your preferred review site, such as Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business). Make it clear what they need to do, and ask them to be as personal, specific, and descriptive about their experience with your company as possible.
Cutting Marketing Costs: The Bottom Line
Spending less on marketing doesn’t mean that you have to do less promotion or generate inferior business results. On the contrary, leveraging the proven tactics in this article will help you think smarter about promoting your business, allowing you to accomplish more with less and save your company money while driving more quality business activity.
Have you created a marketing budget? Get tips on how to get your marketing dollars under control.