With a little know-how, you could slash your marketing spend in 2013 with a few simple tweaks, writes Nina Hendy.
Finding ways to achieve greater bang for your marketing buck is always high on the agenda for those in business. If you're determined to make budget cuts, a brutal approach is the only way, says the author of zeromarketingbudget.com Kimberly Palmer.
"Work out what you are spending time on that isn't getting any measurable result and kill it," she advises. "If you are getting all your leads from networking, put more time and effort into that, rather than booking ads for example. If you are spending an hour every day updating your social media, but are not getting any business results from it, it is time to question whether it is really right for your business."
A tried and tested approach is to start by marketing to your own database, Palmer says. "These are people you already have a relationship with and don't have to spend any new funds to reach. Working out how to sell again or sell more to your existing customer base is the most cost-effective way to go. You want to be harnessing your database to help you spread the word, which is a cheap approach. No matter what your marketing budget, referral is still king, especially as social media becomes an even more dominant channel."
A mortgage broker, for example, doesn't sell something you buy every day, so could benefit greatly from sharing monthly updates on the state of the market, predictions for interest rate moves - the sort of things that are always of interest to their market, she says.
"I'm not talking about hitting them over the head with sales pitches, but sharing useful information, knowledge and content, with a touch of sale," Palmer says.
Partner marketing could also work well for some in business, she says. "Putting together a cross promotion is often free or cheap for both businesses and works very well. Combining two small marketing budgets will be better than trying to spread the word on one small budget."
This could be as simple as including an offer in your newsletter for a fellow retail business. Alternatively, several retailers might put together a local shopping voucher booklet.
When putting together a marketing plan, focus on lead generation, not sales, Palmer adds. "Marketing rarely delivers sales, it delivers leads. If you change this mindset to lead generation, your marketing will start to be more successful and less costly," she says.
Cutting the costs of PR also could save on marketing costs. Website handleyourownpr.com.au gives business owners all the tips and tricks to run a PR campaign for free. Site founder Jules Brooke says the site helps business owners build a relationship with the media. Given that the average PR retainer is around $3000 a month, an SME could save about $36,000 a year.
Start by asking your PR firm to break down what they're doing for their retainer. Whatever your marketing approach was last year, a different approach may well be needed in 2013, says Sydney advertising executive Jon Holloway.
He says that as consumers seek out brands they connect with, the emphasis will be on telling the story of the people who put the business together. "This is the year to give consumers solutions to their problems, which may not even be recognised as marketing," he says.
Holloway says online marketing will stay a vital tool. "The power of online marketing is peaking now and many SMEs are not being smart about marketing dollars in this area."