Put Your Marketing Budget on a Diet in 2010

Updated: December 29, 2009

1. Combine PR and social media
Effective public relations has always been about building awareness and intent among your target audiences. Traditionally the best way to do that has been through third-party media. And many of those channels still exist.

But today, you can create and publish your own media. You can engage more of your targets directly, with and without the need for a media intermediary. With that in mind, why not combine PR and social media into a single cohesive strategy? I've seen this done many times in 2009 quite effectively.

2. Hire your customers into the marketing team
Are your best customers singing your praises to their own networks and communities? Are you using them as reference accounts for your best new prospects? Are their testimonials prominent on your Web site, and in a variety of formats - print, audio, video?

The more you can mobilize your customers to help tell your story for you, the less you have to do it yourself. Plus, your customers (let's face it) are far more credible than you are with your prospects. But even your best customers won't always talk about you unless you give them a reason to do so, and an occasional reminder to do so. Think about how you can more actively do that in the weeks ahead.

3. Use content to attract & engage inbound prospects
What are you offering prospects in exchange for lead registration? Are you paying each time for new leads? If so, why not switch to a lead offer that you pay for once, and that can scale across an unlimited number of new leads, prospects and other future customers and influencers for your business?

Most businesses are already successfully using packaged content (in a variety of formats) to attract the right kind of prospects to their business. If your content is relevant to the prospect, it can be more effective than thumb-drive giveaways and other offers that have an incremental cost each and every time a new prospect walks in the door.

This strategy works for online, retail and virtually any business. Think about what your customers need - not stuff, but information. That information is highly valuable, and is likely already in your head just looking for a way (and a format) to get out.

4. Join and participate in communities
Yes, you could pay to advertise in a trade publication's email newsletter. You could pay to rent a list from an industry association or consumer group. But most of those organizations also offer an opportunity to directly engage the same prospects in a community. For example, take that email newsletter. I bet the same trade publication you're spending money with today hosts an online discussion forum, or has a Facebook fan page, or a LinkedIn Group. Why not become a part of at least one of those, and start talking with community members?

Don't get up there and start selling. Talk about their needs, their issues. Answer their questions. Become a trusted expert and adviser, build credibility, then watch those same prospects start asking you want you do, and how you can help them.

This does take time to build and foster, but can be done at a fraction of the cost of for-free advertising to the same audiences, and with the same or better output in new leads and closed business.

5. Build and launch remarkable products
The best marketing is always a great product. It fills a clear customer need, does to in a remarkable way, and compels customers to tell others about it. No matter your role in your organization, you have a responsibility to your customers to ensure their voices are heard every day to affect how the product or service is created, serviced and improved upon over time.

You don't have to boil the ocean or completely reinvent your product to get this customer reaction. Change a policy, introduce a new feature, do something unexpected. Small things that delight your customer can have a bigger impact on impacting, mobilizing and converting new customers than a whole slew of paid advertising.

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