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Back in July, the Government was set to tell small businesses to rein in their spending on marketing to save money and survive the cost-of-living crisis. Marketers everywhere cried “No!” in unison, quoting Henry Ford’s “Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.” Analysis of data from the Great Depression of the 1930s has been widely cited, the gist of which is that, if you reduce your marketing budget during a recession, you’ll not only reduce sales during that time, but for up to three years afterwards.

But there’s no denying, things are tough and about to get tougher in the world of business. So, what should you do to keep ahead of the competition?

Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive

With a little time and effort, it is possible to keep your social media accounts up to date, write blogs or news stories for your website and get colleagues to help share the word – all without breaking the bank!

Here, we outline a number of ways you can streamline your marketing efforts when working with a tight budget.

Streamlining your marketing efforts

  1. Choose the right marketing team. If you have an in-house marketing team, do they have the right skills to do their job? There are lots of free and affordable online courses these days and getting up to speed with Google Ads, Digital Marketing or Copywriting might be all that is needed. Do you have other employees with time on their hands and an interest in marketing or skills in relevant activities, like photography, videography or podcasting? Redeploying their efforts elsewhere will not only fill a skills gap in your existing marketing team but will add variety and improve job satisfaction for those involved.
  2. Outsource to freelancers and agencies. Know when to admit you need outside help. Not all of us are SEO specialists or expert bloggers and you can waste a lot of time trying. Much like hiring in a fencing contractor or plumber, getting outside help, as and when you need it, is more efficient and cost effective in the long run.
  3. Review advertising spend. If you regularly run adverts on Facebook or Google, you’ll know that costs can mount up easily. Keep an eye on adverts that are running, look at how they are performing and don’t be afraid to test different budgets, imagery or audiences to get the most out of your advertising spend.
  4. Create brand ambassadors. Encourage colleagues to invest some time on platforms like LinkedIn to like, share and comment on your company’s content. Not only does it greatly improve the reach of each message, but it also increases their knowledge of the company and what you do – a win for customer service and brand reputation.
  5. Look at other digital options. Recording video or starting a podcast need not be costly. If you feel that your audience would engage well with these formats, they can be a more accessible way to explain what you do, compared to reading a web page or brochure.
  6. Use free tools. There are lots of online tools for graphic design, social media scheduling, video editing or improving your writing. While the free versions may be limited in terms of the features they offer, they can get you started and help you figure out if you need to upgrade to a paid version.
  7. Repurpose existing content. How long did it take you to write that magazine article or the content for your website? Long form content can be chopped up into smaller chunks for social media posts or form the basis of a more topical blog. Great if you’re struggling for inspiration or short on time!
  8. Grant funding. There are numerous programmes offering funding for specialist marketing training and consultancy, as well as for external help with one off marketing projects such as a new website or content generation such as video. Get in touch and we can signpost you to the relevant providers.

Relevance – ask yourself “why?”

With any marketing activity, keep asking yourself why you are doing it. Does it add value for your clients? Does it bolster your brand? Is it even necessary? For example, there are endless ‘awareness days’, including days set aside to recognise asparagus and odd socks (yes, honestly!). But not all of these will be relevant to your business. How do you decide what to highlight and what to let pass you by?

Spend some time developing brand guidelines for your business. Distinguish between what feels authentic and when you might just be jumping on a bandwagon. Do you celebrate religious festivals and, if so, which ones? Is mental health awareness important to your brand or company culture? Can you inject some relevant humour into your brand by highlighting the weird and wonderful awareness days out there?

Time is precious, so remember it’s OK not to post on social media every day – and absolutely OK not to post at all when you are on holiday! Schedule essential posts in advance, so you can get on with the day job or topping up the tan.

When the going gets tough, the tough get clever!

Cal Partners is a small, agile marketing agency working as an outsourced team for professional services and healthcare businesses. If you would like to speak to us about helping your business stand out from the crowd, please get in touch.

About the author

Alison O'Neill

Account Manager, Alison, is a former Forensic Scientist who moved into professional services marketing in 2008 and is a Chartered Marketer and Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (MCIM).

Marketing for Professional Services

Cal Partners

The go-to strategic marketing partner for ambitious professional services