The economy may not be plummeting, but it is certainly slowing down. The continual growth cycles we previously enjoyed have ceased and we are in a recession. Most of us are aware that best practice dictates that in a downturn you should, if anything, increase your marketing spend (not cut it).
However, within professional services, that doesn’t always happen, and the CFO or CEO may well have a different view on marketing spend. Indeed, in a partnership structure, it is questionable whether partners will take a cur in drawings to fund marketing spend on future growth.
Therefore, if this is your current reality, what levers in the world of marketing and BD can you pull to stay top of mind in your markets and lead to an increase in revenue or sales? Below are the 9 low-cost marketing and BD tactics you can employ to help build your future success.
The 9 efficient and low-cost marketing and BD tactics
1. Focus on your key digital marketing channels
If you don’t already know which channels are most effective for you, research and find out. Outside of your website and an effective SEO strategy, most B2B professional services firms and practitioners find that LinkedIn is the best platform to remain relevant and in front of their clients and target markets.
Without necessarily doing an update, or even investing in a new website, you can check your existing content and update what isn’t relevant. That is a great starting point. As a tip, you’ll often find that individual bios need an update. Make sure you have Google Analytics and Google My Business up and running, and if you have the capacity in-house, look at the analytics and see what works for you.
Alongside this, make sure you know which social media platforms perform well for you. Also look into the top performing external publications and target being published in them. If you need help targeting external publishers, this short article by Elizabeth Petersen will be useful.
2. Create a marketing schedule
You want to be efficient, which is why you’ll need a posting schedule. For example, what days and how often will you be posting stuff on LinkedIn? Do you have the content lined up, and can you pre-write the posts? Having a schedule at a firm, practice, and even individual level that you aim to stick to keeps your marketing regular and means you remain visible.
As a bonus tip, LinkedIn now allows you to schedule posts on your company page and individual LinkedIn profile. Use this feature. You may find you can post a month’s worth of material (assuming it isn’t time sensitive) in one 30-minute session at the start of the month.
3. Invest in quality content and provide articles with useful advice
You may well be doing this already. Your clients want to read practical articles that provide them with something useful. This means, upon reading it, they can take the idea and meaningfully apply it to their business. I’m not recommending you give away your IP or unique technical brilliance, but instead something practical linked to the services you provide.
The more you do this, and the more meaningful it is, the more likely your readers will come to you when they need your help.
4. Understand how you can leverage AI
In isolation, ChatGPT is not your marketing answer. However, it is a free and very powerful tool that can help you be more productive and consistent with your marketing. Just make sure you don’t trust all its answers completely!
ChatGPT is a great junior copywriter, it can provide useful initial content for your articles and a great structure for your posts. What you’ll then need to do is add your insights and personal perspectives to those initial drafts to make them meaningful.
The upside is, the more you use ChatGPT, the better you will get at using it. You’ll start to understand which questions to ask it to get the best possible responses. It also doesn’t require caffeine for inspiration and it can provide content for you to review in less time than it takes to watch a 100m race!
5. Continue doing webinars
Keep doing and promoting your webinars. Yes, face-to-face events are better for building relationships, but they can be costly. If you can afford to host in-person events, keep doing them.
However, in most cases, webinars are marketing gold. Firstly, you get a captive audience, with numbers higher than most seminar rooms can hold. Secondly, you are not limited by your physical location, so your geographic outreach is wider. Finally, with most webinar technology available, you can record these sessions. This means you can send recordings to those who missed out and post the videos to your website and ideally your YouTube channel.
Bonus tip: increasingly, audiences are looking for bite-sized information. Consider running some 10-15 minute webinars alongside your normal content.
6. Look at doing some short video marketing
The paragraph above gives you one simple idea on how you can produce video content via your webinar recordings. I also mentioned above that it is a good idea to use YouTube to host your videos. The reason for this is simple, putting videos here can work well with your SEO (search engine optimisation) strategies. Of all the video hosting platforms, YouTube is thought to be the best to use for this purpose.
Creating videos doesn’t need Sir Peter Jackson or Taika Waititi production values. Some of the highest performing videos are people talking and sharing open and honest information straight to a camera or smartphone. If you think about it, without the bells and whistles, this content is genuine and authentic. The more authentic, the better. We do a mix of videos at The BD Ladder, and our YouTube Shorts and BD Tips series have performed very well for us.
7. Have a BD discipline that you follow
Like marketing, BD is about consistency. Consistently doing an activity creates a habit, and once you’ve formed a BD habit you are on the road to success. The good news is, BD shouldn’t cost anything much more than focus, hard work, and dedication. It also absorbs some time, but it can be done effectively in as little as 18-minutes a day. To find out more on how to do it in 18-minutes you can either read this article I wrote or if you prefer you can watch this 5-6 minute video.
8. It doesn’t have to be lunch – put value on the meeting, not the setting
When booking a meeting, you may choose to take your client to lunch and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Although if you do a lot of them, it can hurt your budget and your waistline! If you have a clear agenda and things of interest to share with your client, you can be confident they will want to meet with you regardless of the setting.
9. Actively ask for referrals
Yes, referral marketing remains the cheapest and most effective way to win new work. Sadly, most people don’t ask their network for referrals. Best time to ask, is after a closed piece of work when the client is delighted. The other way is to ask your client if they would like any referrals, and if so, who to. They may respond, but they are also highly likely to ask you if you would like any referrals. Which gets you out of the awkwardness of asking for them directly.
BD and marketing doesn’t have to be expensive
The more you invest in marketing and BD, assuming you do it wisely, the greater your returns will be. However, if you don’t have that luxury there is still a great deal you can do to stay relevant and remain a consideration for your target market. If you have an internal BD and marketing team, utilise their expertise. If you don’t, the tips above will help you navigate through a lean marketing and BD budgeting period.