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When you work in marketing that whole money thing is often the elephant in the room.

Before we had online marketing and analytics tools, it was difficult to accurately measure the return on investment (ROI) gained from spending money on a marketing activity.

Even now, marketeers often don’t have the time (or the wherewithal) to gather the measurements needed to justify costs. And, without a measurable ROI, marketing is seen as an expensive drain on resources. A marketing team or budget are often the first to be hacked away in tough times.

To us, culling projects in an attempt to reduce the cost of marketing seems like a bum move.

As long as your marketing plan is thoroughly researched and the response to activities is measured, removing one or two elements that have been carefully included as part of an entire ‘architecture’ to save money, means the effect of the whole thing could be threatened. A marketing plan is like an ecosystem. Culling all the wasps might mean accidentally reducing the spider population too. (Forgive what I suspect is a hideously inaccurate analogy).

Not only that, but, (and I’m stating the obvious here) diminishing your marketing activity will adversely affect the number of leads coming in, and hence revenue. This means even less cash to spend on marketing in the future. (I could go all political here and compare this situation to governmental ‘austerity’ programmes, but I’m nervous of going near a political hot potato, so I’ll let you think about this by yourself.)

In smaller businesses and start-ups, the big issue is that marketing is not seen as an investment, requiring a ring-fenced budget in order to get the business off the ground.

Most entrepreneurs are comfortable with spending money on tangible things like a laptop or the physical equipment needed to manufacture their product, but they don’t put marketing items in the same ‘must-have’ category. We believe they should be. It’s critical to get off on the right foot with, for example, a professionally made website and logo. Make sure you can edit the content on the website yourself, instead of having to rely on a web developer, as it’s bound to evolve pretty quickly once you start working with clients.

A homemade, or cheaply created logo looks unprofessional, and is a false economy. Your brand identity sets the tone for your business and will have a huge impact on whether prospects want to know, like and trust you, and, hence, choose you as their supplier. (Extra reading credits: here’s a post about what your designer should include as well as your basic logo before you sign off the work.)

That said, if you already have these items in place, but you want to reduce the cost of marketing, there are areas where you can cut corners. Here are three simple ways to economise without sacrificing quality:

  • Save on photography

Having a set of images that represent your business (and, depending on the style of your business, these could be sketches, or cartoons rather than photographs) is crucial for social media, and will give your brand a rounded quality and communicate your values to your audience. Some firms invest in a set of bespoke images from a professional photographer, but that is not always necessary.

We recommend using a professional photographer for headshots and product shots, plus service delivery images or key locations (such as your office) if they are needed, but for everything else you can rely on cost effective stock images.

You can build up a unique and tailored set of photographs pretty quickly by trawling through the likes of Fotolia or Shutterstock for paid photographs or Unsplash for hundreds of high-quality royalty free images.

Stock images get a bad rap, but by putting aside an hour or two for a thorough trawl it is possible to find something original that fits within your brand identity (the image for this blog post was free, for example). Be careful not to choose anything too cheesy or overused, and try to select photographs that use a similar colour palette or add a filter, so that they look like a ‘family’ of images. Finding a tailored set of images is a service we provide. So, give us a call if you don’t feel confident ‘visually’ or simply don’t have the time to do the trawling required.

  • Save on graphic design

Use a high-quality professional graphic designer to research and create a brand identity, and make sure that they deliver a set of brand guidelines (find out what they should include here) so that you can keep the look and feel of your business consistent.

But… once you have the brand guidelines nailed, you don’t have to continue using the same expensive designer. You can take that document and ask a less skilled or experienced (cheaper) designer, or a skilled VA, to create the items you need, using the guidelines around specific fonts and colours so that you get a consistent finish. Using a stable of different graphic designers for different projects, depending on the skill required for each project, will significantly reduce your investment in graphic design.


  • Save on digital marketing

Digital marketing agencies are awesome. They think in a holistic way about the entire online marketing world and put together a campaign that uses diverse elements from it to deliver a result for their client. However, they are very expensive.

If you want to reduce the cost of marketing, you can get the same effect by using experienced freelancers. In fact, you might find that those same freelancers are delivering piecemeal work for their local digital marketing agencies. Freelancers often have the same (or more) experience than the employees inside an agency, but have chosen not to work as a full-time employee because of childcare issues, where they want to live, or the lifestyle they are after.

As soon as you stumble across the right person, you’ll find that, like birds, freelancers tend to flock together. They likely have a network of other types of marketeers with whom they collaborate to deliver the same effect as an agency, at a much cheaper price. This is well worth investigating, so ask around in your network or on LinkedIn for anyone who knows a great freelancer.

But, buyer beware, what you save in money, you’ll lose in time. All of a sudden, you, instead of an agency, will be project managing the project and this can be intense. We should know, it’s our day job.

Hopefully that’s given you food for thought on how to reduce the cost of marketing, without sacrificing your activity level.

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