Do’s and Don’ts for Your Marketing Dollars [Redux]

by Robin Ferrier on August 4, 2011

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[Ed: With minor changes, we republish one of our most popular posts though it's almost two years old (gasp!). Still good, still relevant.]

The economy is down. Budgets are even tighter than normal. But you know you still have to spend something to market your company, right? After all, what good is it having the “best” product or service if you don’t have customers to take advantage of it.

So with a tight budget, where should you — and where should you not — be putting your marketing dollars?

After more than a decade in marketing and communications for publicly traded companies, non profits, and higher education institutions, here are my thoughts…

Where to spend, spend, spend:

  • Web presence: I strongly advise putting the bulk of your marketing dollars in creating a strong web presence. What do I mean by strong? I mean a web site that is populated with a lot of good content… from day one! I mean a website that is interactive and updated on a regular basis. I mean a website that is easy-to-read and easy to navigate. And I mean a web site that looks professional and trustworthy.

The fact is, in this day and age, people expect you to be online. And websites are how most people — reporters included — find out about companies, products, services, etc. So you have to be there, and you have to be there in the right way … and not in a cheap way.

[ side note ]: Make sure you think through your web presence before you start working on it. Should you have an e-newsletter? A blog? Message boards? What do your customer needs and want?

  • One or two good collateral pieces: Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of professional design, especially since this piece should be your only leave-behind. And yes, you have to have something to leave behind … even if that something should direct people back to your professionally designed, content-rich website. So splurge on hiring a graphic designer to put together a nice piece. It doesn’t have to be full color if you can’t afford it. A well-designed two-color piece can be just as impactful.

[ side note ]: Think carefully about how many copies of your collateral piece you actually print. I’ve fallen victim to the “bulk” discount trick … spending more money and ordering a higher quantity because it lowered the “per piece” cost, a deal I couldn’t pass up. And I ended up with multiple boxes of an out-of-date print piece a little over a year later …

  • Business cards: And not just your average, run-of-the-mill business cards. You’ve created a new company. You don’t have to be bound by corporate rules and long-standing traditions. You can be creative. Fresh. Unique. You may want to check out a fun presentation about business cards by AppSolve’s Steven Fisher from the 2009 Grow Smart Business conference.

And don’t waste your $$$ on:

  • Media monitoring: Once you’re more established and have cash to spend, media monitoring may be worth the investment, but for now you can likely catch most of the media coverage about your company through free products like Google Alerts.
  • Media databases: Again once you’re more established,products like Vocus can be a helpful tool. But right now, when you’re just starting out, I’d encourage you to spend time instead of money when it comes to media research. Maybe you thought homework was something you left behind in high school, but I’m here to tell you it’s not. You can find the right reporters and bloggers to approach for media coverage just by visiting the websites for major newspapers, magazines, trade publications, etc. Read what people are writing.

Get to know what reporters are covering. Then approach those reporters … with the right story!

  • Fancy print media kits (hint: they’re old school): Reporters would rather find your media kit materials on your website so they can cut and paste what they need. And so that the only space it takes up is the one line when they bookmark it in their web browser. Though I have no proof of this, I’m convinced that most — if not all — media kits go right to the “circular file” when you leave the building.

How about you and your business? What marketing do’s and don’t have been effective to pursue (or not)?

Image Save Money Save the World by Candor, Creative Commons

Robin Ferrier is the editor of What’s Next, Gen Y? and Communications Manager for the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus. She is also the President of theCapital Communicators Group and the co-chair of the Marketing Committee for the Tech Council of Maryland. She has inadvertently become a frequent career / professional / job hunt resource for friends and colleagues due to a career path that has included five jobs in 12 years.

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