How to Maximize Marketing on a Shoestring Budget

Whether you’re in construction, trucking, or basically any other competitive business milieu, marketing is important. We all know that.

Except, of course, for those crotchety, misinformed misanthropes of our world who cling to an outdated view of marketing as some sort of imprecise, ancillary business luxury.

Unfortunately, a lot of these people happen to be CEOs, and other pullers of purse strings. As a result, a lot of marketers end up with a measly, non-committal shoestring budget. Which leads to the inevitable one-man-band-balancing-act of juggling all responsibilities related to marketing, communications, social media, SEO, SEM, writing, editing, web content, print, digital, design, branding, and public relations.

Don’t forget demonstrating ROI for all of those things too…

There’s no sugar-coating this scenario. It’s hard being in a position where you have to wear a bunch of different hats and go into battle by yourself or with a small team.

But all is not lost!

Let’s review a few strategies that can keep you and your shoestring operation afloat, and hopefully help you establish enough credibility to merit more support.

Commit to Tracking ROI

 
One of the major disconnects between marketers and execs is confusion regarding ROI. Or at least the lack of syncopation between the two parties regarding how results are presented.

This is about more than just tracking impressions, email open rates, or downloads. You have to get to the bottom of what statistics and metrics your bosses care most about, and take strides to present those in meaningful, clear ways. If your CEO doesn’t know what Snapchat is, or could care less about display ad impressions or keyword rankings, your time is probably better spent monitoring other things. Preferably things they do care about and would like updates on.

Take the time to discuss key performance indicators with your colleagues as well. Ask them what marketing metrics matter to them, and what might help them in their job, and tailor your approach to accommodate them. Add a tab for the folks in recruiting, sales, or whoever else could potentially benefit from your marketing insights.

Another issue for some is in the format. Do you track figures in indecipherable, sleep-inducing spreadsheets? Try presenting the information in more appealing ways, perhaps through graphics or other more visual means. There are plenty of tools to help you visualize your data.

As much as you’re able, hone in on what most closely aligns to your company’s mission and helps drive growth. What are the brass tacks stats your CEO cares about, and closely related figures that pave the way to paydirt? Align your marketing efforts accordingly, and make a plan to meticulously track your ROI efforts along the way. That’s a great way to become indispensable.

Educate and Include Others to Increase Buy-In

 
CEOs often treat marketing how impatient football coaches treat their team’s running game. They tout the importance of establishing the run, and talk about it all week to the media. But the minute adversity hits and a few bad plays occur, they bail on the running game. Abandon ship.

A good running game, much like a solid marketing strategy, requires commitment and staying the course. You have to give it time to grow, gain momentum, and succeed. Which is why you need to educate the decision makers in your company, and get more inter-departmental buy-in into what you’re doing.

You’re bound to have rough months where you don’t have much tangible progress to present, so you need to inspire those around you to embrace a long-term view of success.

A major reason why marketers fail, or at least fail to generate successful momentum, is pretty simple: They try to go it alone. They don’t take the time to educate (or include) other departments and execs regarding goals, tactics, and milestones, and end up relegating themselves to a lonely island of sorts. That’s a vulnerable place to be.

It’s understandable for marketers with shoestring budgets to feel defensive, guarded, or insular — we often have to work harder to earn respect due to outdated perceptions and do more with less — but we need to be team players and make people aware of what we’re doing. Our co-workers can be a major boost to our success, but no one can help you if they don’t know what campaigns you’re running, or what goals you’re working toward. This is especially crucial for those on a small team with a tight budget.    

Expand Your Thrifty Toolbox

 
The good news is there are more avenues than ever to promote your business. Even if you are the marketing department, and there’s nothing in the kitty for events, commercials, or a new website, you have an array of cheap channels at your disposal to promote your company.

Affordable options include:

  • Blogging for your own company or guest posting for an industry site

  • Email marketing (newsletters are great)

  • Irresistible content people can’t help but download (infographics are great)

  • Practical, useful content (how-tos, guides, helpful compilations, etc.)

  • Scintillating social media that broadens your reach

  • Local community outreach (charitable activities, contributing articles to the local paper, etc.)

  • Network and collaborate with other local, non-competing businesses

  • Video (iPhone works just fine)

  • Join a LinkedIn group of peers

  • Performance or results-based marketing campaigns

  • Customer testimonials (written or video)

There is no shortage of affordable strategies for people in the shoestring marketing budget boat. Seriously. Though of course it’s how you use them that matters.

The real challenge before marketers dealing with a half-hearted budget or non-committal support from leadership is securing company-wide buy-in to your marketing objectives. That, in addition to seamlessly displaying ROI, is how you grow your team and earn a bigger marketing budget.   
 

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