Cut Your Marketing Budget without Losing Customers

By Jeanette McMurtry

Part of Marketing For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Sometimes you’re forced to slash your marketing budget, whether you want to or not. But advertising less doesn’t have to mean pulling in fewer customers. Following are some ideas for cutting your marketing expenses with minimal damage to your customer base:

  • Eliminate advertising in media that don’t produce as well. One-half to two-thirds of the places where you advertise are probably relatively low producers. Analyze where your sales come from and then shift your budget to a handful of top-performing media buys.

  • Follow the media bargains. If network TV ads are expensive but local cable ads are cheap, go for the cheap option, which can still get you in front of customers while saving you some bucks. Look for relatively new magazines and ask for a special introductory price on full-page ads. You can always find bargains if you make a point of searching for them. (There are a growing number of marketing brokers and agencies that seek deals on the web, too.)

  • Bid on narrowly defined key terms on Google’s search engine. Pay-per-click ads are economical if you choose key terms carefully to avoid the most popular ones and favor narrow, highly specific terms (which usually cost less while also getting you to the top of a search result for consumers who know exactly what they want). Monitor your search engine advertising daily, and you can keep costs surprisingly low.

  • Reduce or eliminate expensive full-color catalogs and brochures. Use your website as a substitute for costly printed reference materials. If you really need a 20-page, full-color brochure to communicate detailed product information, make it a virtual brochure that can be read page by page on your website or on a portable device reader.

  • Explore viral marketing on the web. Start an expert blog to inform customers with how-to tips. Hold a contest for the funniest video featuring your product, and post the winning videos on YouTube. Send e-mail press releases to a hundred top bloggers every month. Ask employees and friends to help you build a popular page for your brand on Facebook.

  • Vow to never lose a good customer. Whenever you have a customer who’s upset or at risk, find out why and win him or her back. Finding new customers costs more than keeping the old ones, so customer retention keeps costs low.

  • Figure out how you lose the most prospects and then concentrate your marketing to convert more of your prospects into customers. For instance, you may be losing prospects by not following through well enough on initial inquiries. If so, shorten the response time and consider adding another salesperson. When you have a prospect in hand, closing the sale is cheaper than losing the prospect and having to go out and find another.