BUSINESS TIPS: Low-Cost Marketing Tactics for a Down Economy

Re-produced from the original article by M. H. McIntosh, please find below a set of useful tips for low-cost marketing. A useful reminder to even the most experienced marketeers, whether in a down economy or not…

Low-Cost Marketing Tactics for a Down Economy

In these difficult times, as the customer pool shrinks and budgets tighten, companies must fine-tune their marketing efforts. Here are tips on refining your marketing approach to maximize effectiveness and minimize costs.

Eliminate marginal investments
Interview your salespeople to identify which marketing tools have been most instrumental in successfully selling your products or services. Determine which marketing program has the biggest role in snaring recent sales and allocate your marketing budget toward those programs. Then take these steps:

  • Eliminate marketing communications projects you might never get around to anyway. These “wish list” projects can be added back to the marketing to-do list when the economy turns around and you have the money and resources needed to do them right.
  • Eliminate marketing designed only to enhance your brand. These marketing programs won’t have much affect on your short-term sales results. Instead, focus on generating leads and sales from a well-targeted group of prospects and let the quality of your marketing communications, response materials and website take care of enhancing your company’s image.
  • Eliminate marketing programs that have not shown a significant positive ROI, as measured by leads or sales. Determine which programs will have the biggest impact on generating qualified, sales-ready leads and short-term sales. Make sure these stay at the top of the list for funding and implementation.

Increase direct marketing
Increase your use of e-mail and postal mail to deliver targeted offers to your most desirable prospects.

Postal mail may get through when your e-mail gets blocked as spam. To cut costs, use laser-printed business letters rather than expensive full-color mailers. Rather than doing one-time postal mailings to rented lists, improve your results by sending repeat mailings targeted at known prospects (such as your own prospect database). Save money by sending expensive literature or materials only to those who request them — not to every prospect in your database.

If you don’t have your own e-mail lists to market to, consider having publishers send your e-mail to their lists for you, or placing ads in targeted e-newsletters or e-zines. These are economical ways to get past e-mail filters, reach your prospects directly and generate a quick response.

Negotiate discounts on trade publication advertising
In these difficult times, you will likely be better off with a high-frequency or high-impact presence in one or two key publications than with an occasional presence in several. Study circulation information to clearly understand what percentage of the magazine’s readership is really part of your target market. Ask your media rep to give you statistics on what percentage of their subscribers also read competitive magazines, and consider this information when calculating your true cost per thousand.

Be sure your print ads are benefit- or solution-focused (rather than emphasizing “features”) with strong calls-to-action designed to generate leads or drive sales.

When the economy is soft, trade publication advertising sales are often weak. This allows you to negotiate an attractive rate with publishers.

Use trade shows smartly
Trade shows can be expensive, so consider eliminating those that haven’t previously shown a favorable ROI. Instead, concentrate your investments in those shows and conferences which have proven effective in generating leads and driving sales.

Then look for ways to reduce your trade show costs and boost your ROI. For example, consider hosting a smaller exhibit. Ask your dealers, distributors or resellers to help you staff the booth. Eliminate expensive cocktail parties. Send pre-show mailings to increase the number of visitors to your booth and lower your overall cost per lead. Send post-show mailings and use telemarketing follow-up to convert casual inquiries into qualified leads.

Enhance your website
A few cost-effective changes can turn your website into a sales lead generation machine. Select and use keywords carefully so your site appears in the search results for your intended audience. Post keyword-rich articles and case studies on your site. To turn visitors into leads, place offers or calls-to-action on every page of your website. Back up your claims with proof, including certifications, awards and customer testimonials.

Move to virtual seminars and workshops
You can cut some of the cost of your seminars and workshops by hosting them online. Webinars, online product demonstrations and other virtual meetings eliminate travel expenses of presenters and staff. And virtual events sometimes enjoy better attendance than live events because attendees don’t need to leave their offices. You still need to spend some of your marketing funds promoting your virtual events, but you can save a bundle on travel, meeting rooms and refreshments.

Put marketing collateral online
My research shows that three in ten requesters still want printed materials to share with their bosses, colleagues or clients. This ratio also means seven in ten will be happy and instantly gratified to be directed to your website or sent PDF files.

You can also save on printed literature production costs by avoiding expensive metallic inks, or by taking advantage of excess paper supplies your printer is willing to discount. Die cuts can be costly, but not if you use a die the printer already has created. You can also make items in smaller sizes or print two-sided materials to reduce printing and shipping costs.

Publish articles on your subject of expertise
Take advantage of inexpensive opportunities such as writing or contributing articles to industry publications, business magazines, blogs, websites and even Vistage View. Articles showcase your expertise to a highly targeted audience of your prospective clients. They can learn more about your company if you put a short biography at the end of the article and a link to a free whitepaper or how-to guide.

Use your article to gain media attention by shortening it and distributing it as a press release with a newswire service. Make sure your release links back to the full version of the article posted on your site. Additionally, you can post comments on relevant online news stories or industry blogs, and in your comment include a link to your article.

You may also consider writing a more in-depth version of the article, a white paper or special report, and offering it to website visitors.

Use newsletters
Newsletters are another great way to provide customer value and keep your company’s name top-of-mind without spending a fortune. Consider using your newsletter to help you identify and qualify prospects. That is, make newsletter subscription involve filling out a brief survey which asks questions about people’s level of interest in your products, buying authority and purchasing horizon. This information can go into your database for immediate or future follow-up, as appropriate, by marketing or sales. Be sure to also publish your newsletter on your website.

Provide speakers to meetings and conferences
Another economical marketing tactic is to promote your company’s executives as potential speakers at key meetings and conferences. Speaking at prominent events positions those executives as experts. You can also use these events to generate leads by offering audience members a copy of the presentation, a free white paper or some other valuable information if they give you a business card.

Find a marketing partner
Stretch your marketing dollars by teaming up with a company whose products or services complement yours. By pooling your resources, you and your partner can get far more mileage from your respective investments than either of you could alone.

For example, consider jointly sponsoring a mailing to promote products and services of both partners to their mutual universe of prospects. Not only do you split the costs, but you also gain access to additional prospects.Create a referral programLeverage the power of your existing customers by creating a referral program that rewards customers for sending prospects to your company. Getting referrals from happy long-term customers may be as easy as simply asking for it. Additional incentives, although worth considering, may not be required.

These ideas may trigger additional ways to cut the fat in your marketing programs and better focus your marketing efforts on driving short-term leads and sales during these difficult economic times. Doing so will help enhance marketing’s reputation with senior management as a valuable contributor to the corporate mission.

M. H. “Mac” McIntosh is described by many as one of America’s leading business-to-business sales and marketing consultants and an expert on the subject of sales leads. For more information, or to request a free subscription to his newsletter, Sales Lead Report®, visit

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