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Lean, Mean Marketing: Low-Cost, High-Impact Strategies

7 min read2023-04-04

This article isn’t for industrial firms with money to burn. It’s not for billion-dollar corporations that can afford to put their marketing on autopilot. It’s for all the underdogs running against big competitors amid a limited pool of prospects, with fewer resources and a fraction of their budget. Because being smaller requires a different marketing game plan—and it even gives you some advantages.

While you may not be able to outspend your competitors, you can outsmart them with some simple yet powerful marketing tactics.

Four Big Ideas for Small Budgets

All marketing requires some form of investment, just not necessarily a monetary one. If you’ve got a strong team, happy customers, and solid expertise in your industry, you’ve got the ingredients for a low-cost yet robust marketing strategy. The key is to set your priorities and build a plan that maximizes the resources you have.

Below are four tactics we’ve used to score marketing wins for up-and-coming industrial firms.

Call on your base

Lots of firms get so focused on new lead generation, they forget to go back to their existing customer base. Yet, one of the most effective tactics for driving more business is to start with those who know and trust you already.

When was the last time you connected with existing customers to ask if they need anything from you? Think about how busy you are and how easily you forget to reach out to people. The same thing is happening at your customers’ companies—and if you time things right, you may get in front of an existing opportunity. You’ll hear, “Your timing is perfect! I’ve been meaning to call you,” more often than you might think.

Don’t assume customers will reach out if they need something. Take the initiative and check in with them. It’s not about begging for business; just a simple “Hey, how are you?” is a great way to remind people you’re there. Ask if they have any challenges they need help with, or if they know about a new product or service you’re offering.

Doing this will help maintain important relationships and keep your name front and center. In turn, your customers will feel looked after and more willing to turn to you for their next project, because they’ll remember that you remembered them.

💡One way to ensure regular touchpoints with clients is to automate your communications through a customer relationship management (CRM) system. You can schedule periodic emails, track events that trigger responses or remind your team to reach out if someone hasn’t been contacted in a while.

Gather your proof

Another way to leverage your existing customer base is to collect endorsements and examples. Every new prospect is going to look for evidence that you’re worth doing business with, and seeing positive feedback from other customers will give them more confidence in you.

With a relatively small amount of effort, you can develop a library of powerful marketing resources:

  • Ask for referrals. Be sure to offer a tangible thank you, like a gift card or a discount off their next project. If they’re not in a position to refer anyone, try one of the next two tactics.
  • Ask for testimonials. These can be used across your marketing communications, including your website, print materials, and advertising. As you’re asking for quotes, aim to include every industry, company size, and type of target client you’re looking for.
  • Publish case studies. Highlighting work you’ve done for customers, along with the impact it had on their business, is a great way to show off your skills to prospects—not to mention spotlighting your customers, too.

Make it a habit to ask for recommendations as part of every customer relationship. (Creating email and case study templates will make this easier for your team.) This way, you’re mobilizing the power of your existing customer base to help close the next deal.

Squeeze All the Juice

You may not have to lay out a ton of money for effective marketing, but you still have to hustle. The key is to leverage every activity in a way that multiplies your overall impact.

All of the tactics mentioned above can work together as a force multiplier. Some examples:

  • Run the PR stunt and invite your customers to watch or participate. You’ll not only get media coverage, you’ll also have a fun reason to reconnect and stay top of mind with those customers.
  • Create a video about the PR stunt and use it in your newsletter for added exposure (just be sure to send it out after the media story is posted, so you don’t “scoop” them).
  • Repurpose content in other formats to share it in multiple ways. Write an SEO-friendly blog for Google searches, then turn it into a YouTube video. You can also condense it into an infographic, which is highly shareable on social media.
  • Post about everything on all the socials. If you get a bunch of good customer quotes, feature them in a series of social media posts—and be sure to tag your customers! Promote all of your original content and any news stories on your social channels. And don’t forget to interact with your customers’ social profiles, to remind them you’re there.

To squeeze all the juice out of your marketing efforts, don’t think of tactics in isolation; think of them as a suite of initiatives. With every activity, ask yourself, where else can I apply this to create other benefits?

Remember, too, that you don’t have to do something new and different every month. It takes a while for marketing messages to sink in with an audience, so it’s important to stick with the same messaging for at least a few months or longer to have an impact. Plus, what isn’t new to you might be new to others. Just because you’ve seen something a hundred times, you may have a perfect prospect out there who’s never seen it before.

Build a Roadmap

Smooth out your activities with a roadmap, so you’re not doing 15 things in Q1 and nothing in Q2. This will help your team maintain their current workload while working on special initiatives. And it lets you plan out ways your activities can build on each other (that force multiplier).

Start with what you can do this quarter, and then ask, what’s the most natural thing to do after that? Think of it as stratified layers, like this:

  • In Q1, we’re going to start contacting our customers to check in.
  • In Q2, now that we’ve got the rhythm of contacting customers, let’s aim to get at least one customer referral per month.
  • In Q3, we’ll launch the PR event, invite customers, write a blog, and promote all of it across our marketing channels.
  • In Q4, we’ve got the PR event coverage and a blog; what other content or promo opportunities can we create from those?

Every quarter you’ll have new tools to use, and likely new opportunities to use them. And here’s where you can truly disrupt the big dogs: Bigger companies typically move slower, with multiple decision-makers and longer iteration cycles. You, on the other hand, can test things in small batches, learn fast, and shift gears quickly if something isn’t working.

Lean on Your Partners

If you have a good, long-standing relationship with a B2B marketing agency, remember that they’re your partner in all of this. Most of the creative people we know (at least here at BlackBean) will happily take your call and kick around ideas to help you. No charge.

Side note: If your agency wants to charge you every time you pick up the phone and talk to them, maybe they’re not the agency for you.

As trusted advisors, your agency can be a great resource to make sure your marketing dollars are spent on initiatives that actually have value. Remember that you’re both experts from different perspectives with a ton of experience. You know your industry, and they know marketing. Together you can identify marketing tactics that will get the most bang for the buck.

In the end, everyone’s situation is unique, and not every marketing technique will work for you. And, while some tactics are low cost, they’re not necessarily low effort. But, you can do a lot with a little as long as you hustle—and reach out for help when you need it.

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