Splurge Vs Steal: A framework for your 2009 marketing budget

Ever read those pages in the fashion magazines where they point out what designer items to splurge on, and what to buy cheaply as a knockoff? Well, given the current economic climate and pressure on marketing budgets, everyone is taking a second look at what really gives you the best return on investment.

As a marketing SVP, I’ve been looking long and hard at everything, and have come up with my list of splurges vs steals. Every company’s different, but this framework may help marketers make the tough decisions:

Steal – Advertising: Noticed how skinny publications are these days? Media companies have tons of empty impressions, pages or dead time to fill. This is good for you. Negotiate hard with your advertising partners as most of them are ready to deal right now.  See about getting last minute filler pages for a fraction of the regular price, or even free! Whatever you do, don’t pay last year’s rates. If you are, you’re throwing money away.

Splurge – Design.  Great design is one of those investments that pays off long after your invoices have been taken care of.  And nothing does damage to a brand faster than bad design, poorly constructed logos or unappealing collateral. You don’t do it very often, so when you do refresh design do it well. Have a professional do it, and it will make you stand out, and pay dividends many times over.  The great news is that right now, you can get access to top designers in freelance mode through marketplace sites like www.blackturtlemedia.com, www.aquent.com, www.elance.com.

Steal – PR: Not everyone can afford a PR firm these days, and even PR individuals are costly. But there is another way — especially for smaller business — to get noticed. Start a blog.  You’ve heard this a thousand times, but a well-done blog is a PR goldmine. If you focus on topics that are relevant to your target audience but also current, controversial and being covered by traditional media, you may even be picked up by mainstream outlets.  One of the easiest blog tools I know, is free, its from Google and absolutely intuitive.  Check out www.blogger.com.

Splurge – Market Research and CRM: If there is one fact in this marketplace, it’s that the number one task before most established companies is to keep the customers they have first, before spending money pursuing new ones.  The only way to do this is to know your customer intimately, measure client satisfaction and continually communicate to them in meaningful and relevant ways. If you don’t know what they’re thinking, that’s hard to do.  Big corporations are investing heavily during this downturn in getting to ‘re-know’ their customers, and protect them from being poached.  Even a small business needs an adequate CRM system, and a way to stay in touch with what customers are thinking, feeling and likely to do next.  And it’s a lot cheaper than the cost of recruiting new customers, if you lose the ones you have!!

Steal – Event Sponsorship: If this is a line item in your marketing budget, take a long hard look.  Doing lot’s of small to medium sponsorships where you are just one of many chews through a lot of money when you add it all up.  For better cut through and to create something that really creates buzz in your industry, consolidate this budget and pick ONE event to be the super platinum major sponsor.  Negotiate with the event organizers to come up with ideas that may not even be on the table (eg can you sponsor a coffee cart? Can you brand the lobby of the hotel from top to toe?) Being the ‘loudest’ brand at one event rather than a whisper in the crowd at many events, will not only end up saving you money, but will give you more powerful brand impressions.

Oh, and while we are on the topic of splurging…there is always the area of shoes…

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