Keeping Brand Integrity on a Shoestring Marketing Budget

shoestring marketing

With a tightening in the economy, marketing departments are being asked to find ways to cut expenses. While most marketing professionals would not advise drastically reducing marketing expenditures during an economic downturn, reality often dictates some budget cuts. What can you do if your marketing budget has been cut? Are there ways to do things less expensively and still maintain a high level of marketing and business development activity?

Absolutely!  First, don’t panic – go back to your strategic plan and evaluate where you can make adjustment and even cuts yet still meet your goals.  Second, stay calm – take a look at what areas will give you your biggest bang for your buck focus on those first.  Third, take a deep breath – put your critical-thinking, problem-solving cap on and find innovative ways to get your branded message out there.   

Here are some cost-saving tips to consider:

  • Use email to stay in contact with clients. Face it; email is a fixed cost in your business. Use it to your advantage by having regularly scheduled “blasts” of information to your clients. Not only is this inexpensive, but you can target specific client groups with specific information.
  • Make your newsletter electronic. Putting your newsletter on your website/BLOG/social media platform and/or emailing it to clients and prospects is much less expensive than traditional printing and mailing. If cutting your newsletter frequency is being considered, switch to an e-newsletter instead, and maintain frequency.
  • Use Social Media. Building a social media presence takes time and should be done strategically, but most sites like Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube and LinkedIn are free to use. Many of these sites will help with your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as well.
  • Make the Switch to Digital Advertising.  Online advertising has never been more affordable.  Sites like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google, to name a few, have perfected their advertising tools allowing for very targeted and specific, yet inexpensive, advertising. Weather you boost a post or drive traffic to your website, you can reach far more with a few clicks today than with any other advertising method available.   
  • Use free services for business development leads. There are several free websites that will email your leads, RFPs and other information. Join LinkedIn groups, connect with others in your industry and stay above the curve on any new trends. Check out sites like Alignable that allow you to set up a profile and connect with other businesses and provide referrals to your connections.  
  • Print color copies in-house. Investigate the cost of color prints versus the volume of color copying and/or printing you outsource. With today’s technologies, especially for short runs, there are many laser/ink jet printers and copiers that do an excellent job. And often it ends up saving money. With the right layout and paper selection no one will know it wasn’t produced professionally.
  • Get a free laser printer. Check out to see if your firm or non-profit qualifies for a free Xerox color laser printer. This program has helped numerous small and medium-sized businesses and non-profits upgrade the quality of their documents and save money.
  • Conduct client surveys for free. Go to or for more information. You can conduct basic email surveys for free, or in-depth surveys for a reasonable fee. It’s a quick, inexpensive way to do some marketing research.
  • Attend free networking events. Look for networking events (such as after-work socials) to mingle with clients and business associates. Word-of-mouth is still the best way to get business, regardless of the economy. Don’t neglect networking efforts.

Happy cost cuttin!  While you are making cuts – Don’t cut back on PR. It’s easy to decide to slash the public relations efforts; after all there are often no measurable results from these efforts. But that is the last place to cut back. Instead, look for ways to get in front of more of your clients/prospects at the same time. Instead of expensive direct mail, consider writing articles for journals/blogs, speaking at clients’ professional organizations or having a luncheon and tour of your facilities or recently completed project even consider hosting client seminars or workshops. While this costs money, it has the large potential payoff of having direct contact with several of your prospects at the same time.

Here are a few other ideas cost-savings ideas for your consideration:  

  • Outsourcing services. If your staff has been cut or your expansion plans put on hold, that doesn’t reduce your workload. One way to accomplish as much with fewer people is to outsource work. Consultants/contractors are not a fixed cost to the company (i.e. you don’t pay their benefits) and you can get someone with the specialized expertise that you need.
  • Hire interns. The flipside of outsourcing and hiring an experienced consultant, is to hire college interns. This is also an inexpensive way to get tasks done and gives the student real work experience. This works really well if your firm is trying to create/upgrade a database, launch a large mailing campaign or has other routine tasks that need to be done. Be sure that you’ve defined your expectations of this intern and that you or someone on your staff has the time and desire to supervise and train this person.

If you need help creating a marketing plan on a shoestring budget, we can help.