Smarter Strategies have Small Marketing Budgets

Spending More is Not a Strategy

By Tom Dougherty

If you have a marketing budget in excess of $80 million, you can sell just about anything — even Sunny Delight. You might even be able to convince some people that your product is good for them. And, as proof, point out that it has as much vitamin C as a small orange or tangerine. Most everyone has small marketing budgets these days.

Small marketing budgetsWhen you play with unlimited budgets, even a poor or generic product or service can sell. It would still help to have a brand but you can buy trial if all else fails. If you are willing and able to spend tremendous funds on advertising, there is no need to be different and better.

Why does this “non-strategy” work? You might have to go back to the days of Rosser Reeves to find the answer. He extolled, “Find a unique selling proposition and repeat it over and over again” ad nauseam. Such a marketing tactic sold us Excedrin and bubble gum.

While we all came to hate the Doublemint Twins, it is hard to find anyone over the age of 30 that can’t still parrot the inane and repetitive song of “Double you pleasure, double your fun with Doublemint, Doublemint — Doublemint Gum.” We may have gotten a headache from the repetitive commercials but we remembered the brand. The ROI of such an investment in this repetition and reach campaign would make even the deepest pockets in today’s marketing world shrink. However, you would be surprised how many products and companies today still think such rubbish is still how you build a brand.

Small marketing budgets. Out-Think vs. Out-Spend

For the rest of us, we have to be savvier in marketing our product as our stakeholders are looking for a greater return on the marketing investment rather than spending a boatload of money on building awareness. We realize that the provable difference between our product and those of our competitors is negligible, and that training customers to choose a brand because of efficacy alone is a slippery-slide that leaves our brands vulnerable to competitive claims of superiority and effectiveness.

Small marketing budgetsBrands that win with smaller marketing budgets get their messages through the target audience’s spam filters by announcing to the prospective customers that the message is important enough to notice. Marketers scoff at the amateur and unsophisticated TV commercials paraded about by personal injury lawyers, which start with an authoritative voice over corresponding type that says “Attention: Have you or anyone in your family been injured by…” We filter it out, pay no attention to it, unless a family member was just injured in the manner being discussed. When that is the case, the message gets through because it is about our present condition.

In the same manner, a brand that speaks to us in a manner in which we personally self-identify gets through the filters as well. If it speaks only of efficacy or category benefits, we will notice it only when we are in need of that benefit. The most effective brands develop a relationship of importance with the target audience before the actual need surfaces. They do this by building their brand around the customer’s sense-of-self and not the service, product or benefit alone.

In the absence of this equity, a brand must continually advertise (spend) so that when the category need arises, they will be visible and important. They will be in the considered set. This strategy is no different from the 1950’s and 60s repetitive ads that many of us remember (un-fondly). Who can afford such waste today? Yet most categories continue to believe they can reach the audience through reach, frequency, and demos of effectiveness.

What CRM can Teach Us

One of the great lessons of the CRM (customer relationship management) revolution a few years back was the value of specializing an individual message. When a message was delivered as important, it got through the filters and hit its target. CRM spent great resources in understanding the target audience and using that understanding to craft messages that were targeted to specific prospects and customers. This same skill set needs to be applied to your mass messages as well and, because of the marketers inability to see beyond the product itself, the tools to do so just this seem elusive.

Learn What They Believe

The secret to success in this endeavor can be found in our Preceptive Behavioral Model. When explaining our model, we make a compelling case that there is a direct relationship between what we want to have the prospect/customer do (like buy our product, use our additive, choose our brand) and the purposes to which they adhere.

It is easy to see that a purpose — as if “I need a car that keeps my family safe” can encourage a car buyer to choose a Volvo. This is Small marketing budgetsinferior to “I am a person who cares most about safety.” The Volvo strategy is about Volvo and the second is about the customer.

However, fulfilling needs and wants is where most marketing strategic thinking stops. They never go beyond purpose. They recognize that purposes control behaviors but they never get beyond the purpose that is category specific.

Therefore the brand message is only noticed when the decision has been made to buy something in the category. The same relationship that exists between purposes and behavior exists in a more powerful form between purposes and beliefs. The only difference is that beliefs, when understood properly and distilled to their essence, are never category specific. They affect the decision making process of the potential customer in many facets of their lives. When your brand incorporates these beliefs in its identity and is empowered to be important long before the need or want arises, it is invited to pass through the filters and it is remembered because it is deemed important.

You Can Always Spend More

However, if advertising funds are unlimited, there is no need to outsmart the competition. There is no need to discover and align your brand with the beliefs that drive your prospective customers to choose. Just spend freely on reach and repeat the message until the money runs out.