The best advice I can give is that you need, truly, to clear some time for some strategic thinking. If your business has reached more than five or six employees, annual planning sessions are crucial. I spend a fair wad of money on this planning process. Estimated costs for our relatively small business are $5,000 to $8,000 for the meeting including the third party consultant/facilitator’s fees, travel costs and time.
So, if the meeting’s purpose is purely for marketing, it doesn’t qualify for the $5,000 frugal budget limit, even though we keep the costs under control — negotiating reduced rates with the facilitator, using free or inexpensive venues and airline points to bring out-of-town employees and contractors to the event. However, if you apportion, say, 25 per cent of the meeting’s cost specifically to marketing, it fits within the $5,000 maximum definition — of course gobbling up upwards of $1,250 to $2,000 of our overall frugal marketing budget.
I believe the meeting and planning expense is important to avoid mistakes down the line. When your organization sets out and co-ordinates the budget through the meeting and related planning, you can then frame specific marketing objectives and strategies within your budget.
Within this framework, you then need to decide how and where to spend your time and money. Here are some thoughts about minimizing waste.
1. If you don’t enjoy doing it, ask (a) if it needs to be done or (b) if there is a way you can begin enjoying the activity.
Hiring or contracting with someone else to handle the time-consuming responsibilities will of course quickly consume your frugal marketing resources. Worse, you may be tempted to rush to hire someone who appears to meet the credentials to get you out of a distasteful task, only to find you have an utterly unproductive employee/contractor or (worse) one who is draining your resources. However, doing work you hate will just demoralize you.
2. Have systems, processes and procedures in place — and consider carefully when and how you wish to go off line.
This is another basic, but it is important, especially for marketing. If you budget your initiatives with time and money considerations, you can decide if they qualify for “frugal” and whether you can sustain them.
3. Wherever possible, combine fun stuff with other tasks and your marketing.
We are going to the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) conference in Chicago later this month (August 2011). As a SMPS Foundation White Paper author, the association is paying me a $3,000 fee for writing the paper, and discounting my conference attendance. My family is looking forward to a late summer vacation. There are opportunities to meet some potential marketing colleagues and partners (outside of the obvious SMPS members) in Chicago. My son and I will enjoy two major league baseball games and so will see Wrigley Field. The total cash cost of the trip, allowing for hotel costs, creative use of airline points to manage airline costs and conference fees, offset by the white paper compensation, is about $0.00.