When the Belt Tightens

Feel your belt being tightened? Most marketing communications professionals have experienced the squeeze — that look down the nose of a senior VP when you submit a $30,000 photo-shoot bill or, worse, an all-out slashing of your budget.

What can we expect from the big squeeze? A moratorium on four-color extravaganzas? The script for a $50,000 corporate video is shelved? A wacky television campaign never goes beyond storyboards? A poorly planned direct mail campaign never hits the mailboxes of 100,000 people who have a marginal interest in your product?

So what? I don’t mean to sound callous, but maybe — just maybe — some of those projects needed rethinking anyway. Why, in this age of amazing electronic communication, do we still pursue age-old tactics that often yield only minimal success?

Maybe it’s not so much belt-tightening as a reality check. Come on folks, we’re the so-called creatives. Let’s get creative with doing more for less. Ask the big questions: How much have you wasted on ineffective marketing in the past year? Was the waste traditional marketing or e-marketing? How could you have done better?

I’ve heard organizations report that one way to measure return on investment (ROI) for electronic marketing is to determine how much is saved by not indulging in traditional marketing. Of course, this calculation must be accompanied by tracking on the effectiveness of one’s e-marketing efforts, but it is an interesting way of assessing activities.

Think about it. How much can a content-rich Web site really save an organization? Consider the benefits of a well-targeted site over the $60,000 to $100,000 spent on a lavish, four-color print brochure or newsletter. How much will a streaming media display save compared to a pricey video production? At least $50,000. How about the cost of hiring so-called global marketing experts who trot around the world to deliver information that can be pulled up on an internationally savvy Web site?

There’s also making your site accessible to the media. A well-placed, positive news piece can provide fantastic marketing mileage. Are you setting up your site to accommodate media personnel, who need basic information to do their jobs? Time and again, I hear from journalists who complain about organizations spending incalculable dollars mailing out boring news releases that head straight into their wastebaskets. Yet those same organizations don’t think to use their Web sites for posting basic media relations information, such as the names and phone numbers of public relations representatives, a fact sheet on the company, and an updated tip sheet on interesting news leads.

Not to say that electronic media doesn’t have excesses as well. Why is BMW running those streaming media movies? Is it to show the world it has the Deutschmarks to hire Ang Lee and Guy Ritchie?

Then there are interactive toys. Fortunately, most of those useless Webcams have moved off the corporate sites and found homes on 14-year-olds’ Web pages (or those who just think like bored adolescents). Plenty of sites are still offering visitors the opportunity to personalize their home pages. Does anyone still use all these bells and whistles? Even if the “toys” don’t cost much, you’re better off posting only those tools people find useful.

Study your Web site tracking statistics. Watch users (not fellow employees) in action as they mouse around your site. Keep talking to and learning from your loyal customers. Buck trendy gadgets and software that give e-marketing a somewhat shady reputation.

Give all your marketing communications efforts a critical eye. Scrap the ones that aren’t working or waste marketing dollars. With a little introspection, we can tighten our own belts — a process that’s a lot less painful than when someone does it for you. Ouch.

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