GUEST ARTICLE: Cutting down marketing budgets? How to maintain growth

Mumbai: "Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it's an ad." — Howard Luck Gossage

Being a performance marketer, it's a whammy to write about cutting down marketing budgets, but it's the need of the hour. 2022 has not been a great year when it comes to startups raising funds as compared to 2021, especially coming out of the pandemic with battle scars. If you as a company are riding this storm and are not able to sustain the spend vs. revenue mix, it's time to actually focus on cutting down some budgets and figuring out where the actual growth will come from.

Focus on branding - Airbnb would be the biggest example which got badly hit by the pandemic but have come out stronger. What did they do differently? They cut down spending drastically on search engine marketing & invested in branding campaigns & PR. This actually led them to post their most profitable quarter ending in September 2022. Branding can be paid or non-paid. Just like paid, non-paid branding also delivers results but not always instantly though. It can be done smartly by creating engaging visuals and piggybacking on current trends (sports, world events, & more). Branding needs to be thought through as a long-term investment that nonetheless delivers results. 

Content creation - Brands cannot rely on paid media these days, where CAC (the cost of acquiring a customer) is skyrocketing and definitely eating into the margins. The focus should also go towards building your organic content by either building a personal (founder-first) brand or creating organic content for your products. This includes creating product usage videos - Food brands can drive virality by recipe videos, beauty products can drive eyeballs by creating product usage & so on. A consistent voice needs to be maintained while creating content for different placements. Placements like Instagram reels and TikTok can deliver growth on the basis of how good the content is, and these channels also give priority to pages that post consistently over weeks and months.

Referral program - Referral program is a great, non-paid way to bring in new customers and keep growing with limited marketing budgets. A referral program should have three things to be successful: 1. Delight: The referral should bring delight to both the referrer and the person getting referred. 1 on 1; free product; and 50 per cent off are some of the examples. 2. Stickiness: If the referral offer is really good, it will create stickiness for the referrer and encourage him to refer more people. Uber grew successfully through customer referrals, in which both parties received a free Uber ride worth Rs 600. 3. Uniformity: It should appeal to the majority of your audience base and not a selected niche.

Partnerships - Building brand partnerships doesn't require a dime but can have huge potential as your brand can get exposed to a new set of customers without much cost. E-commerce brands have mastered this strategy wherein they sell complementary products of other brands along with their own products to improve the conversion rate on their website, in turn getting a purchase from the visitor. Marketplaces can actually build great partnerships with coupon or sweepstakes websites and scale their revenue based on these discounting offers. Partnerships with top influencers in the industry are also a huge win if you can crack a potential barter or equity deal.

Building communities - Community building is hard but doable. It has to fit in for long-term growth, be it having the top 100 super fans who buy every product as soon as it hits the shelf or getting new subscribers through WhatsApp. Channels to build the brand community need to be tried, tested, and scaled accordingly. Companies in Saas and gaming survive on building these super fan communities across Discord, Slack, Twitter, WhatsApp and other channels. if done well, it can be monetized without any effort. YouTubers & influencers are outdoing brands now as they have built massive communities who are monetised by merchandise and selling info products.

The author of this article is Growthpep founder Saajan Jain. 

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