Marketing on a Shoestring

A year ago I took up the challenge of launching a new business in the medical devices field. A few days in the role, I discovered that market opportunity for my franchise was huge but the funding in money to build the business was significantly less compared to the established businesses that I had handled in the past.

As the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. I was convinced that a successful marketing campaign is not about the size of the budget but about understanding your customers so well that you can engage them with creative ideas with minimum wastage.

As companies begin to prepare for an uncertain economic climate, it is key for marketers to understand the principles of “marketing on a shoestring” to maximize their ROI.

Let me share some ideas to get you started:

  • Know thy customer: My boss almost fell off his chair when I told him that I wanted to spend a quarter of the marketing budget on research to isolate the insight and test the response to the 4Ps. Since both the physicians and the patients had a key role to play in the decision-making process it was important to understand their drivers before we could develop a strategy.

We spent countless hours in focus groups with consumers and physicians in our attempt to figure out how our product could add value to their lives. At this stage, the role of the strategy director was crucial in distilling the information and helping us isolate the insight.

  • Sharpen your axe: When a marketing campaign has very little room for wastage, I like to spend a lot of time upfront in planning all the elements of the campaign.

I like to use the Big Picture Marketing framework to plan my campaigns. The framework starts with defining the business and marketing objectives and then narrows in on the source of volume before moving to segmentation, targeting, and positioning. The framework encourages you to be clear with your marketing objectives (customer acquisition or retention) and choose a clear source of volume (earn share or stimulate demand).

This groundwork is very helpful in developing the brief and aligning the agencies around a common vision.

  • Get back to basics: One of the advantages of a small marketing budget is that it forces you to think differently about the media mix. It gives you an opportunity to focus on what the customer wants rather than being attracted by the next best thing that comes out.

However, it is often useful to try a few tests and learn with one or two media channels if they are a good fit with your brand. The learnings from tests will be valuable as you refine your media mix and you never know whether your brand might end up becoming the next “Old Spice Man”!

  • Measure the right things: Measuring the right variables is important to close the loop. Sales, market share, likes, mentions, referrals are all valid metrics as long as they are linked to your business and marketing objectives. Measures like the Net Promoter Score (NPS) are good indicators of the potential of growth.

With economic uncertainty the new normal, the days of unaccounted big budget campaigns are numbered. Through a disciplined approach, we have an opportunity to make every invested dollar work harder. It’s up to marketers, whether we live in big budget land or decide to make every dollar count.

Related reading

Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.