Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Top 13 Marketing Budget Wastes—and How to Avoid Them

This article was recently published in MarketingProfs.com.

Once again, it is that time of year... when marketing departments are busily preparing next year's budget. As we all know, chances are you won't be able to get everything you're asking for. But, believe it or not, this may actually be a good thing.

Take it as an opportunity to re-evaluate what you have been doing and how you have been investing your marketing dollars. There is always a way to do more with less.

To help you get started, here are some common marketing budget drainers to avoid.

Marketing Waste No. 1: Spending money to reach the wrong people

The biggest waste in marketing is spending money on activities that reach the wrong audience. This is especially an issue for B2B companies that have a limited target market (how many Global 2000 companies are there?). Advertising and large tradeshows tend to be the biggest budget items, yet much of the audience is often off target. You will get much higher return for your marketing dollars by going directly to the companies and individuals that can purchase your product.

Building a database of your target market prospects is not an overnight proposition, but it will be the best marketing investment you've ever made. See more about it in "Reverse-Engineer Your Marketing."

Marketing Waste No. 2: Generating leads that Sales doesn't want

The second-largest waste is generating leads that Sales will never follow up on. It is way too common to hear Marketing complain that Sales doesn't follow up on its leads, while Sales complains that Marketing leads are a waste of time. Both have to agree on what constitutes a good lead, and both sides have to be accountable for their share of the equation: Marketing for generating "good" leads, Sales for following up on them.

It's the CEO's job to make sure that Marketing and Sales are in synch, and lead follow-up is where the rubber meets the road.

Marketing Waste No. 3: Failing to follow up on leads

Invest in lead-development personnel. Some call them Inside Sales, others call them Telemarketing, but both fail to describe the role that will give you the most for your money. The lead-development function is the guardian of the agreement between Marketing and Sales. Its role is to make sure that every good lead generated by Marketing is passed to Sales, and save Sales from wasting time chasing leads that are not a good fit for the company.

Marketing Waste No. 4: Killing the conversation

Provide Sales with follow-up tools and templates. Even when Sales is willing to follow up on the leads it gets, the conversation often dies once the lead is handed over to the salesperson. The easiest thing for salespersons to do is copy an old email or use the same opening sentence they always use when calling on a prospect. This is like starting all over with a new pickup line rather than continuing the conversation that has already begun.

So don't leave it to chance: If you're putting together a campaign, make sure you provide Sales with the follow-up scripts and email templates they can use when the leads start coming their way.

Marketing Waste No. 5: Overemphasizing new leads

While Sales might dismiss some leads as "old," those are actually the best leads you can give them. Software buyers require multiple touches before they are ready to engage in a serious sales conversation, so your best chance to make a sale is to someone who has already been in touch with your company.

If you continue pursuing only new leads, you will soon find yourself out of companies to go after, and even sooner out of budget.

Marketing Waste No. 6: Targeting new leads with late-stage offers

While lead nurturing is crucial, you still need to acquire new leads that have not heard from your company yet. Since you have to buy access to these leads (in the form of list rental, newsletter sponsorships, tradeshow booth, etc.), lead acquisition is expensive.

Good lead-acquisition activities are those that appeal to a broad audience of early-stage prospects, such as whitepapers and webinars that are focused on industry issues, not on your product.

Marketing Waste No. 7: Direct mail and rental lists

Email promotions to your permission-based list will usually generate response rates that are 5-10 times higher than email to rental lists and 10-15 times higher than direct mail, at a fraction of the cost. As a result, cost per response from your email list can be over a hundred times lower than for any other method. In addition, turnaround time for email promotions is shorter, which means you can communicate in a more timely fashion.

A good permission-based email list is your company's biggest marketing asset and your best lead-nurturing vehicle. At the same time, if your email is not permission-based, you run the risk of breaking the law and alienating your audience.

Marketing Waste No. 8: Failing to use your permission-based list

You don't want to inundate your prospects with too much communication, but most software companies fail to communicate enough. Newsletters and blogs are great vehicles to keep the communication flowing.

Your customers are eager for knowledge; so, as long as you keep your content relevant to your audience and tone down the sales pitch, most of them will welcome your emails. For those who don't, offer ways to opt out of specific items so they don't have to remove themselves entirely from your list.

Marketing Waste No. 9: Failing to get the most out of your email marketing

A well-designed message (not necessarily a pretty one) can increase response to your emails by up to 50%! That's a huge difference in the return on your marketing dollars.

There is no magic formula for a good email message. To make sure your message is well designed, you have to test every element of the message—from the subject line to the placement of the links and the call to action.

Marketing Waste No. 10: In-person seminars

Webinars are much more effective than in-person seminars. They cost less—and you can draw a national and even an international audience to a single event. The typical seminar will draw 25-50 people, but it is not uncommon for a webinar to draw hundreds.

A webinar can also be easily recorded for future use as an on-demand presentation, extending the lifespan of the event months or even years beyond the initial take and generating up to twice the responses of the live broadcast.

Marketing Waste No. 11: Losing people on your Web site

All roads lead to your Web site. Any serious prospect will be looking at your Web site multiple times throughout the interaction with your company—before, during, and after the purchase decision.

The first thing you need to make sure is that your Web site content is of interest to your prospects. The second thing is to have calls to action that will get your Web site visitors to engage—view a webinar, download a whitepaper, fill out a survey.

Last, you need to make sure that you can track these interactions. With this information in hand, you can fine-tune your follow up to match your prospects' interests and avoid wasting valuable marketing and sales resources.

Marketing Waste No. 12: Failing to double (and triple) dip

Creating new content is often the bottleneck to new marketing initiatives. Once you have created some good content that will engage your customers, don't let it go to waste. Your prospects process information in different ways, so you can take the same content and repurpose it in multiple ways.

For example, turn your webinar into an article, post it in your newsletter and blog, pitch it as a PR placement, or offer it as a podcast.

Marketing Waste No. 13: Not knowing what you get for your money

Every marketing activity should be attached to a measurable goal. If it's not, you probably shouldn't be doing it. A measurable goal could be number of leads, number of new contacts, number of meetings, opportunities, deals, and all the way to revenue dollars. See more about it in "How to Measure Your Marketing" and "Measuring Marketing ROI—How Low Can You Go?"

The key to marketing optimization is continually weeding out the budget drainers while seeking new ways to deliver greater market impact at lower cost. If you're looking to do more with less, you must be willing to embrace change. As the saying goes, "You cannot continue doing the same things and expect different results."

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