In this series so far, we have discussed why
- ‘Old school’ product marketing must change
- You should encourage buyers to pull your information in instead of ‘pushing’ out your marketing
- You want your customers to do the selling not you.
- Customer-centric marketing is more effective than product-centric marketing
- You want clear and natural writing not impressive professional martekese
Here, in part 6, we’ll look at marketing budgets, how big they should be and which types of marketing investment are the most effective.
- Don’t lazily spend out of habit e.g. on industry trade shows
- Do invest smartly e.g. engaging customer communities
If you could choose your own marketing budget, how big would it be? Well, obviously you want a bigger budget–or do you?
Every £1 spent on marketing should increase your bottom line. So in theory you should reinvest all your available cash into marketing and enjoy exponential growth.
Larger marketing budgets:
- Offer economies of scale
- Allow you to employ specialists
- Achieve multiplier effects by simultaneously reaching across multiple channels
But large budgets create lazy marketing.
Large Budget ⇒ Lazy Marketing
Large marketing budgets will help your business grow. As your business grows you will have more funds for marketing, and you will need to spend them to keep growing.
Almost every business will need to add higher value, more complex product lines to support continuing growth. These will have longer sales cycles, multiple decision makers and inevitably reduce the measurability of your marketing spend.
But reduced measurability is not the biggest problem–it’s the people.
Compared to tech resources, people scale horribly. You need to add managers and managers of managers… and HR, office space… Then all those people need to be kept in synch.
In a large organisation it can seem like your entire day is spent in
infernal internal meetings.
To get 10x work done you probably need to spend 25x on people.
You could use agencies to reduce the need for additional headcount, but their fees are far higher and you are not bringing the learning into your organisation.
The biggest problem is attitude. Large budgets and large organizations create a form of institutional laziness. The hunger of a new business desperate for customers fades. Employees gravitate towards stability, safety, and the status quo.
Teams become focused on “looking good”, internal politicking, ass covering, and vanity metrics. They lose contact with real customers, the actual products, and the market.
Lazy marketers may spend lots of hours working, but it’s busy work – work that is in front of them.
This is in complete contrast to the smart marketers who know they have to “get out of the building”.
Small Budget ⇒ Smart Marketing
So maybe your “small” marketing budget is not such a problem.
With a small marketing budget:
- You’re closer to customers, so you know what they want
- You can react, make decisions, and change direction quickly
- Less bureaucracy and fewer meeting means more productivity
- Without a huge brand you can be more adventurous
- Guerrilla marketing is usually more effective, fun, and rewarding
Let’s look at some examples where a smaller, smarter marketing team can outperform a lazy large-budget organization.
Events – the Lazy Way
The laziest approach to marketing strategy is to just do what you did last year but add on 20%. Clearly that is a stupid and wasteful approach, but it’s often used when budgeting for which events to exhibit at. “We have to be at this event, because we always go.”
With a large budget you have a lot of options to spend your money. You can be a platinum sponsor, splash your name on brochure, get a keynote speaker, larger booth space, comfortable meeting rooms…
If your boss attends the event and sees more visibility, gets preferential treatment… you get your pat on the back. Well done!
But does this visibility increase your profits or just massage your corporate ego?
Spending 20x more than the smallest exhibitors won’t bring in 20x the qualified opportunities. You may scan plenty of contacts, even get some press coverage but it’s rarely a wise investment.
The other justification used is that it’s “strategic”. What this usually boils down to is – vendors sponsoring each other’s events. “I will attend yours if you attend mine”. And the people who benefit most from this arrangement may well be the vendors’ alliances teams – especially if this helps them get their bonuses.
Smart marketers know that making noise, generating visibility for its own sake, and mutual back-scratching are not worthwhile objectives for your marketing budget. Their approach is completely different.
Events – the Smart Way
One of the advantages of a limited budget, is that your choices are simpler. All the big sponsorship packages are off the table. Choose from:
- Get the smallest booth / stand
- Go as an attendee
- Guerilla marketing
- Don’t go
First, you need to be really selective and strategic about which events to attend. It’s far better to tackle a few marketing campaigns well and not take a half-hearted scatter-gun approach.
Don’t accept organizers claims about event attendees at face value. Time for healthy scepticism as they are “selling” the event to both sponsors and attendees. Research what the event was like last year e.g. look for blog posts by attendees, they will give you a good flavour for what the event is really like and more importantly who goes.
And that’s the key factor – who goes. Select events to reach your target customers.
If you are taking a stand, plan your content: pre-event messages, unique landing pages, post-event follow-up. Ideally you want a unique content marketing plan for the event.
Plan and motivate your team well before the event. Dragging in local sales staff, away from making their quota is unpopular. Make it fun and rewarding for them, get their input in advance. If they help with planning and ideas, they will be twice as engaged and effective.
Or you can reach your audience without paying to be an exhibitor. The most effective way is getting selected to be a speaker.
Many events won’t pick you as a speaker as they want you to pay as a sponsor first. But talk to the organizers, talk to user groups and find out what customers really want. Try to discover which sessions were most popular last year.
Never submit topics that promote your company or even hint at that. Your best chance of being picked is to be purely educational and talk as a customer if possible.
The big advantage with speaking is that you will get the attendees coming to you for more information. So plan ahead and prepare a way you can get their details.
The easiest way to attend is just as a regular attendee. This can be great for product managers researching competitors and investigating customer demand.
But again preparation makes this more effective. Use social media to reach out to attendees in advance and during the event. Meet customers, listen to competitors, network as much as you can. Prepare draft blog posts in advance, include what you learn and people you meet, and publish the blog post while you are there.
There are also guerilla marketing stunts you can try. For example, WePay dropped off a huge ice block containing cash, that certainly got the attention of PayPal conference attendees in 2010.
Unless done well, guerilla stunts can come across as “cheesy”. So you have to balance any benefits against potential damage to your image.
No matter how you attend, get new business cards printed for the event with a landing page link. Offer something worth registering for and you get well-qualified leads and a measurable return on your marketing spend.
Events are not the only area where smart marketers can outshine their lazy counterparts.
Webinars – the Lazy Way
With a large marketing marketing budget, you can easily spend your money:
- Hiring a famous speaker or industry analyst
- Renting email lists from media outlets
- Inviting a senior customer executive
- Advertising your big webinar
- Adding a comprehensive registration form for lead capture
- Including a few high-level corporate positioning slides
- Getting inside sales teams to follow up
Webinars – the Smart Way
First the content should be educational and customer-focused. Instead of a customer talking about themselves, it should be teaching customers about the domain space. Showing them how they can solve common problems. Aim for users and demonstrate how you can address their real practical problems.
Don’t sell. Keep the tone relaxed and engaging. Show your personality. Attendees won’t remember your words, but they will remember whether you are someone they like and want to work with.
The most effective webinars are ongoing series. People keep coming back for more. Demonstrating your open attitude, willingness to help, your capability and knowledge are more effective than straight pitching or boring monologues.
You could remove the registration forms as well. Instead of placing a barrier in front of your content, invite everyone in… and then when they contact you, you are working with real sales opportunities, not harassing everyone with cold calls.
Re-use and recycle your content, use sections from your webinars in blog posts and other social media – especially YouTube.
Advertising – the Lazy Way
Advertising agencies are the easiest way to spend your marketing budget and stroke your corporate ego with lavish advertising across media. You will have a lot of fun, you might even win some awards as the agency includes beautiful, witty, creative work.
Media advertising can be sexy and memorable. It can dramatically increase your visibility and brand recognition. It can impress your boss and your customers.
But are you sure it is really increasing sales? Can you prove which adverts cause sales to increase? Or is it just coincidence that sales are increasing anyway?
Advertising – the Smart Way
Smarter advertising is harder work. Again it should always be measurable.
Google AdWords is the obvious example, there are others, but for most markets Adwords is #1.
You can precisely measure from initial keyword search to your goal (purchase, sign-up…). It takes a lot of time and effort to perfect but it can be a very smart way to use a limited marketing budget.
- People clicking on ads are more likely than general web surfers to be buying or needing help doing something.
- A/B testing is built-in. Keep deleting the worst ads and testing new ones.
- You will find and prove which keywords work best.
- You can test alternative messages and see which work best.
- You can discover which markets (geography) and interests (content network) work best.
Then Scale it.
- Which keywords to include in your copy to help SEO
- Which calls to action increase click through rates
- Which topics are people searching for
How Can You Make Your Marketing Smarter?
Embrace your puny marketing budget. Use it like a weapon against the bloated, ineffective, unremarkable marketing of your competitors. Trust me, they’ll never know what hit them.
— April Dunford
Use your small marketing budget smartly:
- Focus where your prospects and customers will be
- Integrate problem / solution knowledge not fluff
- Talk to customers, learn qualitatively from them
- Measure and test to learn quantitatively
- Get your sleeves rolled up and work hands-on
Next time in this series, we’ll look at tailoring your messages for different audiences.