As the fear of economic crisis looms on the horizon, companies have now had to cut back on their budgets. One of the first places that sees significant financial cuts is the marketing budget. As essential as these functions are for the growth and development of a business, a company needs to manage its marketing spending in line with what it earns. With less disposable income available in the broader economy, it makes sense for businesses to look at ways to shave budget demands that aren't critical to the company's basic operation.
Even with this marketing spend cut, companies still want to develop campaigns that keep their products and services within the public eye. The only way for that to happen is to be more efficient in their advertising spend. Getting the most value for the smaller ad budget available should be the most critical of a business’s marketing goals.
These entrepreneurs from Ad Age Collective are familiar with making the most of a shoestring budget. We asked them to share their insights on how businesses can get the most value out of tiny advertising budgets. Here's what they had to say.
1. Start with research.
You need to understand what your audience is going through before you launch any ad campaigns. Are they in a position to buy? Are all other systems such as logistics working? It only makes sense to advertise if people can still carry out normal buying activities. Learn about what's happening with your audience so that you can make better decisions. - Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
2. Focus on results.
This is a crucial time for many businesses and it has never been more important to focus on advertising spend that is directly attributable to a result. This may mean temporarily reducing your brand spend in favor of investments in performance-oriented marketing. Keep an eye on cost per acquisition -- it's everything right now. - Michael Lisovetsky, JUICE
3. Amplify earned media.
Find positive articles written about your company or the problems your solutions solve for customers and amplify those articles via social media. This way, you combine the credibility of third-party media with the precision targeting of digital advertising to get the most bang for your buck. By combining them in this way, you'll fully leverage your public relations efforts and your ad dollars. - Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)
4. Be flexible and listen.
During a crisis -- and before -- brands need to build in flexibility on their spend and be able to shift messaging quickly. Don't do something off-brand, but show you are listening and have empathy. Turn to social or earned media in times of crisis to reach your audience quickly and authentically. And if able, realign ad spend and messages to address consumer needs at that time and as they change. - Maggie O'Neill, Peppercomm
5. Invest more in acquisitions and SEO.
With many advertisers pulling back on ad spend and customers spending more time online, now’s the time to invest in acquisition efforts. CPMs are down with decreased demand and increased inventory, so prioritize high- and mid-funnel messages to build brand awareness, recall and trust. Also consider investing more in SEO. A high-quality, relevant online experience will help maximize sales potential. - Chad Robley, Mindgruve
6. Do fewer things and do them better.
Focus on a few things and choose them based on areas where you have the highest propensity to succeed. Build in the industries you already have built a reputation. Finally, go for one call to action and pour your heart into it. Remember, if you went on a first date and liked the person, all you'd want is a second date. What is your call-to-action equivalent of a second date? - Arjun Sen, ZenMango
7. Tie advertising efforts directly to revenue.
Marketers and advertisers often despise sales, preferring to live in the world of ROI based on impressions, awareness and engagement. As antithetical as it may feel, in a crisis you need to make your peace with sales. Tying your advertising efforts directly to revenue in the short term will benefit your organization and give you resources to invest in longer-term initiatives as the crisis subsides. - Patrick Ward, Rootstrap
8. Send the right message to the right people.
With several industries decreasing or eliminating their media spends, budgets can now go further than ever, so without sophisticated audience segmentation brands run the risk of hitting the same customers over and over or delivering ineffective messages to the wrong people (while results look better than before). It is time to segment your audiences more deeply to make the best use of the budget. - Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive
9. Seize the competitive advantage and connect emotionally.
To win during and after a crisis, brands do two things: 1) As others cut ad spend, they seize competitive advantage to assure their brand’s share of voice is higher than its share of market; 2) They shift messages to connect emotionally at scale, displaying true commitment to serving communities and customers. The lift in brand affinity, purchase intent and, ultimately, market share gains deliver peak ROI. - Sean Cunningham, VAB