As business owners and/or marketers, we're all under pressure to cut costs. Unfortunately, many business owners get so intent on reducing costs, they lose sight of what it's going to do to the business. It's hard to grow - or even survive - if you don't have any customers.
Reducing marketing costs without screwing up your ability to grow is easier than you might think.
Here are five ways to do that.
1. Eliminate waste
Over the years I've looked at hundreds of marketing programs, and I can tell you honestly that nearly all of them have some kind of hole that either drains money directly or allows leads to be lost.
Before you cut anything, take a good hard look at what you're doing. Are there programs that aren't delivering the results you anticipated? Fix them or get rid of them.
Is there anything that can't be traced to increasing sales opportunities? Unless you have a pile of extra money, now is not the time to be spending money on marketing efforts that don't generate more leads or develop the ones you have.
2. Make fewer mistakes
Another way to say this is: turn to people who know what they're doing.
Marketing - which has never been exactly simple - has changed a lot in the past few years. Customers and prospects are in charge now, and they're looking for you online. If you're not on the internet, you're not in the game.
While I admire business owners who try to figure marketing out for themselves, it wastes a lot of time and it leads to mistakes that could be avoided with some experience.
You may not need a proven marketing pro on staff, but if you don't have one somewhere on your team you're probably wasting money.
3. Nurture what you've got
Successful lead generation programs bring in people in different stages of the buying process. Some are ready to commit more to you than others are. Some are ready to talk to a sales person and some aren't.
Think of any lead generation activity you've ever done: search marketing, email, advertising, telemarketing, networking, trade shows - it doesn't matter. Were all of the people who responded ready to schedule a two-hour demo of your product? Of course not.
But that doesn't make those people any less likely to buy from you in the future as long as you maintain a relationship with them.
If you're one of those businesses that has a bunch of inactive prospects sitting in a database (or on your desk), you may be better off nurturing those people than paying to find new ones. And nurturing leads can be a lot less expensive than generating them in the first place.
4. Increase conversions - not just inbound leads or traffic
This point is similar to the one above it, but it's important enough to look at from a different angle.
Let's say you have 2000 visitors a month going to your website and 60% of them leave your homepage without going anywhere else. Which do you think would be cheaper, changing your website so that an additional 20% (400 visitors) stay on your site or doubling traffic to the site? The results are the same.
(Hint: if you picked the first option, you're right).
Complex purchases - such as technology, high ticket goods, and on-going services - are made up of many different conversion points where the buyer decides whether or not to spend any more time with you. Each of those conversion points can be tweaked to pass more prospects through and provide a better return on your investment.
5. Consider outsourcing
To have a successful marketing program today requires skills in multiple disciplines - some of which didn't even exist a decade or so ago. For example, you need:
Website strategy and development, search engine optimization, paid search marketing, prospect conversion optimization, lead nurturing and web marketing - just to name a few.
Staffing an in-house team with all of this expertise would cost more than most small to mid-sized businesses are willing or able to invest. Yet you can easily - and cost effectively - get this expertise from an outside firm or group of individuals.
It's worth looking into.
About the Author: Susan Pascal Tatum, co-founder and president of Tatum Marketing is a recognized expert in business-to-business internet marketing. She helps software, information technology and BtoB firms achieve greater online marketing results. She is a popular author and speaker, regularly publishes internet marketing strategies and actionable tips on the site's blog. Visit www.tatummarketing.com for a copy Technology Marketing 2008.