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Marketing in a Recession: 3 Tips for Doing More with Less

Mike Sweeney | October 28, 2008

So your boss just dropped the following task on you – you need to cut marketing spend, and you also need to figure out how to make that spend work better from an ROI standpoint.  If it makes you feel any better, you’re not alone.  Marketing department heads are getting hit with that same task in every type of organization.

The better news is that this task is really not that difficult, especially if you are using the appropriate tracking mechanisms.  The potential solutions to this problem are endless, yet the implementation can seem complicated.  Here are 3 basic places to start:

1. Assuming you know which marketing vehicles are your most efficient performers from a lead generation or customer acquisition standpoint, cut out the poor performers for the time being and focus on the top performers. If search engine marketing drives leads at half the cost of direct mail (without sacrificing quality of course), then cut direct mail and focus on search engine marketing.  If your affiliate program drives new e-commerce customers at a $20 cost per acquisition while your email marketing program drives new e-commerce customers at a $75 cost per aquisition, cut the email marketing and focus in on the affiliate program.

2. Stop doing any form of mass marketing, and focus on microtargeting to particular audiences that you have produced results for you in the past. Marketers too often assume that the ideal audience for their product is a whole lot larger than it actually is.  The first thing I do when I hear the “do more with less” directive is to look at my current customer list, figure out some common characteristics within that customer base, and build campaigns around reaching similar businesses or consumers.  This seems like an obvious step, and yet it’s one that many marketers stumble on.

3. Focus on improving conversion rates, not just on building traffic. Building additional traffic can be expensive; improving conversion rates doesn’t have to be.  Marketers often spend a disproportionate amount of dollars driving people “in the door”, and then spend next to nothing on making sure that suspect becomes a prospect.   Don’t for a second think this concept of conversion rates is restricted to online marketing – conversion rates are impacted by a suspect’s experience in your store, their interaction with a landing page, a live chat experience, a phone call interaction with one of your sales reps, etc.

Just about every marketer I know is experiencing some type of “do more with less” scenario.  The marketers that will survive and flourish during this difficult economic period (and afterwards) are the ones that have stopped fighting the idea of budget and staffing cuts, but instead have embraced it and moved forward with creative, cost-efficient solutions to the problem.

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