In December 2022, a survey of chief marketing officers by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) revealed that 18% were facing a year-on-year reduction to their annual budgets. While that may seem bleak, it’s still a significant improvement on the equivalent figure published by the CIM the year before: 47%.
“Marketing chiefs are actually more optimistic about the global economy than they were a year ago, according to our research,” reports the institute’s CEO, Chris Daly. “Tighter budgets are encouraging many to focus on below-the-line channels, which require a comprehensive understanding of customer needs – and that lies at the heart of professional marketing.”
If you’ve found yourself among the 18% or are simply keen to investigate ideas that might help you to spread your messages more efficiently, here’s a trio of methods that could work well over the coming months.
1. Nail your niche
Carefully defining your target audience can allow for more efficient expenditure, enabling you to maximise output across a range of channels. Focusing your efforts on a particular demographic might sound obvious, but it can be a daunting prospect for firms that have yet to embrace niche marketing.
“Businesses can be scared to ‘niche down’, because they believe that this would limit their pool of prospective customers,” says Allan Dib, founder of the Successwise consultancy and author of The 1-Page Marketing Plan. “But if you try to target everyone, you’re effectively targeting no one. Rather than attempting to be all things to all people, targeting a specific niche enables you to craft a message that resonates deeply with the recipients.”
Adopting a highly focused approach can help your brand to stand out in a sea of “generic marketing”, he suggests. “You need to know where your customers hang out, what drives their purchasing decisions and how to build their trust. What are their hopes, fears and desires? What do they dream about?”
If you invest enough time and money in understanding your core audience, the returns will be handsome, argues Dib, who adds: “Rather than trying to find people for your stuff, your job is to tell stuff to your people.”
2. Go for guerrilla
Guerrilla marketing – surprise campaigns using unconventional and innovative methods out in the real world – offers a high-impact way to capture the interest of potential customers.
Marvin Foster is MD of Love Creative Marketing, which has recently overseen campaigns for SpaceNK and The Gym Group. He says that “audiences are always looking for exciting new approaches. A good experience goes a long way and is remembered for a lifetime.”
Whether you’re aiming to reach a certain number of app downloads or planning to measure uptake of a discount code, it’s important to set realistic goals for a guerrilla campaign, Foster stresses.
“The main reason why this tactic can prove effective is that it enables you to interact with target audiences and create more buzz,” he adds. “Face-to-face guerrilla marketing and brand experiences will generate more conversion, social media awareness and word of mouth. These will in turn lead to more qualified leads and sales. You just need to make the follow-up connections.”
If you think that this approach could help you to achieve your desired outcomes, there’s value in consulting specialists, with details such as locations requiring careful planning.
“You might pay tens of thousands for advertising space in a shopping centre, whereas going out on the streets for a guerrilla campaign could cost a third of that amount,” Foster says. “But you’ll still need to know the limits of what you can do and where you can do it.”
3. Embrace email
It could be time to make your email database work harder.
“Email is a relatively inexpensive channel for promoting products and services, which makes it valuable for marketers with limited budgets,” says Matt Moorut, director and analyst at Gartner.
But he stresses that a ‘spray and pray’ approach won’t work when it comes to email marketing. Personalisation and segmentation are key.
“In an ideal world, you’d send a personalised message to every contact you have, but no brand has that sort of time,” Moorut says. “The knack is finding the sweet spot, where you’re tailoring messages at a level that truly improves business performance. A strong segmentation strategy is vital here, as it helps marketers to prioritise where and how they personalise. The good news for those with smaller budgets is that this work, if done well, can save you time and money in the long run. In essence, segmentation can be a way for marketers to punch above their weight.”
It’s also crucial to take the time to understand what your audience wants, says Molly Ploe, director of search-engine optimisation and demand generation at Brafton, a content marketing agency.
“Because email is such an intimate channel, it’s incredibly easy to turn people off,” she warns. “Too many emails, or the wrong tone of voice, can lead recipients to unsubscribe. The only way to overcome this is by planning your campaigns strategically and paying close attention to the response.”
Ploe adds that the task of standing out in a crowded inbox is a multifaceted challenge that starts with a great subject line. A/B testing will help you to understand the kinds of initial messages that are most likely to persuade people to open your emails. It ends with a user experience that considers factors such as the reading device being used and whether the email’s content lives up to the promise of the subject line.
Frustratingly – or perhaps reassuringly – instant wins are rare in email marketing. The method can require much initial experimentation and refinement to get it right. As Ploe says: “This is all about how the medium is wielded to capture the attention of your audience. Trial and error will be a huge part of figuring out what’s going to work for your brand.”