I have been reading a lot lately about the challenge of communicating on a small budget. A lot of what I’ve read has reminded me of the sport of hypermiling where dedicated enthusiasts apply tactics like drafting trucks or coasting through intersections to squeeze an additional fraction of mileage out of a gallon of gas. Using such tactics, they can achieve 59 miles per gallon.
So what does hypermiling have to do with communicating on a small budget? Well, I think the overlap is that to be successful you need to be a master of the craft. Hypermilers are successful because they know more about how a car burns gas than the average person. Similarly, to deliver effectively communicate on a limited promotional budget you need to be a master marketer. As the saying goes, you need to have forgotten more about marketing than the competition can ever hope to learn.
- You need to be a master at market segmentation and have an exceptionally clear target audience definition. Waste through an average job at targeting will cost you money with every time you send a message to your audience. Effective segmentation is not simple to master, it takes time and strategic thought.
- You need to be a master at understanding the real value proposition of your location and how to articulate it in a way your target will quickly grasp why there is no other option that should be considered for their capital investment. If your message is convoluted or difficult to understand, it will cost you more money to make your point. As it is, the statistics argue you need to deliver optimal frequency of messaging in order to see results. The more complex or convoluted your message, the greater frequency required.
- You need to be a master at creating a low cost media mix where each tactic is reinforcing. This means you really need to understand how to fully leverage electronic media to reach your target audience and how to take full advantage of “partner” communication efforts (e.g. regional and state promotion).
Branding is hard enough with adequate resources. With limited resources there is very little room for mistakes. The intriguing paradox is that to make small budgets work, you need a high degree of knowledge and experience to ensure minimal waste. It is sort of a twist on the classic “prisoner’s dilemma.” With limited dollars do you invest in the knowledge or the program?
The solution is to reach out to your community for help in the strategic design of your marketing plan. Use their expertise to help you create a program with a high probability of success. Then, and only then, invest in execution of the plan. With the right strategic foundation, and extreme discipline, a low budget communication plan can be effective. Without adequate strategic planning it will likely be a grand disappointment.