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Social media makes sense for frugal CMOs

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CMOs should take advantage of the current trends in social media and apply them to their marketing mix. Whether or not your budget allows for more traditional spend in areas such as advertising, public relations and events, you'll get the most bang for your buck online. Social media and online marketing vehicles are transforming marketing in a cost-effective way by offering new means of collaboration in a virtual environment using an authentic voice—yours.

Here are five social media and online marketing tactics frugal marketers should adopt in 2009:

  • Digital content. Invest in the quality of your content and drive costs out of the production and distribution of your marketing materials. Tools such as videos, podcasts, webcasts and online newsletters have become ridiculously cheap. Leverage your customers—one of your greatest assets—whenever feasible to be your spokespeople. They are your most effective (and least expensive) advertising. Invest in a low-cost, in-house video studio and utilize talent within your organization; use qualified interns to fill the gaps.
  • Social networking/collaboration. Keep in touch with your customers, partners and co-workers using such free social networking sites as Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. Collaboration tools such as wikis are valuable for internal communications and many are free.
  • Blogs. Encourage your co-workers to blog on your company's Web site, create their own blogs or comment on industry blogs. Blogs are not only the most authentic voice of your business, they are also cheap to write and publish. Microblogs such as Twitter are beginning to find their way into the enterprise, so get familiar with them.
  • Virtual events. Travel and conference budgets will be one of the biggest victims of the current downturn. This represents a huge opportunity to reach your target audience through virtual trade shows and interactive webcasts. Additionally, conduct internal and external meetings remotely via videoconferencing.
  • Search engine marketing. This has emerged as one of the most cost-effective marketing tools. Optimizing your Web pages to your messaging/communication strategy is easy and cheap. Paid search is cost-effective. However, make sure you are purchasing the right terms for your business. The keywords that target your market and differentiate your products will have the highest ROI.

Economic downturns are blessings in disguise for the frugal marketer. An organization's marketing function plays an even larger role in recessionary times, as limited resources must be applied to the greatest opportunities to increase sales and achieve a sustainable competitive advantage. As a result, your organization will be in a much stronger position to capitalize during the economy's resurgence.

Mark Wilson is VP-corporate marketing at Sybase. He can be reached at mark.wilson@sybase.com.

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