What marketing activities can’t you live without?

Katie Ashford - General Manager, Group Marketing & Communications, Ovato

As a marketer, it’s important to be ready for whatever situation is thrown at you. Change is inevitable, and one of the biggest changes you’ll need to deal with is a change in your budget.

Obviously, budgets change year in year out, but sometimes you’ll be caught flatfooted by a sudden adjustment.

When that happens, you’ll need to make changes, and fast. However, cutting everything you’re doing isn’t the answer. It’s important to properly consider what you can trim, and what you simply can’t live without to ensure their impact is minimised.

Where to begin?

So, the decision has been made and the fat needs to be trimmed a couple of months into your financial quarter. But where do you start?

Instead of thinking about what to throw away, look at the decision from the other direction – what must you keep? By putting your thing down, flipping it and reversing it (thank-you, Missy Elliott), you can discover the invaluable elements that you can’t do without – and work them.

Here are four areas to focus on.

1. Educate, don’t advertise

Your aim as a marketer is to make your business the top consideration for your customers. Speaking broadly, this will require a fair amount of your time and energy put into promoting your offerings, pushing your brand out and getting in front of plenty of eyes. However, with a newly diminished budget, you’re going to have to rein in your activity.

Rather than straight out advertising your products and services, maintain education and thought leadership campaigns by providing valuable content that offers useful information while highlighting some of your unique selling points. Education is a critical offering that works for most companies regardless of their lifecycle stage.

2. Focus on your measurable activity

Everything you do should be measurable. When you start looking at what you need to keep, you need to stick with what’s working. Let data lead the way.

If something isn’t delivering clear, quantifiable results, put it on the backburner and ramp up your efforts on the activities that allow you to easily prove success (depending on your organisation’s objectives), whether it’s social media, direct mail or email marketing.

It’s worth noting that you should still continue to test even with reduced spend - test less, but test nonetheless. This is where your metrics come in, as a properly constructed dashboard should show you where you’re winning, what tests have improved results, and therefore what’s worth continuing with.

That stuff around the edges might be nice to have, but if it isn’t generating business, then it’s time to drop it.

3. Maintain your brand

Regardless of the size of your spend, it’s critical to continue investing in your brand.

Established companies often stop spending money on brand and increase spending on product. Those that do this often experience a decrease in visibility to customers, which then shifts the perception of the products that they offer.

Aim for a 60/40 ratio of spend on brand/product to maintain your brand in the eyes of existing and potential customers, while still promoting your service offering and new products or offers.

If you can’t afford to do as much brand development as you did before, you’ll have to focus on doing what you can better than ever. Rather than churning things out, sit back, take a moment, and look at the craftsmanship of what you’re doing.

What can you change to make what you output as smart and effective as possible? Instead of seeking volume you’re seeking perfection. With less being produced, it will be more scrutinised, and there can’t be anything wrong with it when it goes out. Polish it to a brilliant shine.

4. Maintain your existing relationships

The number one focus of most marketing efforts is to attract new customers. However, you need to consider your existing ones too.

Even if a budget cut impacts your activities, it’s imperative that you keep in touch with existing customers and remind them why they chose you.

Reducing the amount of new business you’re chasing – with its high outlay and uncertainty of converting - and investing in your current relationships is a cost effective way of extending the share of wallet you get from each client. Research shows that acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining one, while the success rate of upselling or cross-selling to an existing customer is typically 60 to 70 per cent (compared to 5 to 20 per cent for selling to a new prospect).

It’s not the end of the world

Keep in mind that a budget change isn’t all bad news.

It’s an opportunity to get truly creative with your marketing opportunities. Look at ideas you might not have considered before. How can you stand out from an increasingly noisy crowd? Look to other businesses to get some ideas on successful campaigns and consider how you can use tried-and-tested tactics to get the most value out of your reduced spend. Additionally, once you’ve demonstrated your effectiveness, creativity and flexibility you’re in a stronger position to argue for additional spend in the next cycle.

Get creative, be smart and reap as much value out of your budget as possible.