Many small-business owners face a counter-intuitive problem; having too much money available can lead to dumb decisions. During economic booms, many companies waste funds on thoughtless marketing campaigns, extravagant parties, Aeron chairs and gigantic Weber grills.
As the economy rebounds, make sure that your business doesn't fall prey to one of these 10 biggest marketing-budget busters.
1. Spending too much on the first company logo. It's called a startup for a reason. No one knows if it will succeed. Spend a small amount of money on a logo that will get the company through the first few years that still represents its brand promise. The alternative: Be patient. Logos evolve over time. Learn from Starbucks and its steadily changing logo.
2. Issuing a press release with a wire service. This can get expensive and has minimum search engine optimization impact. The alternative: Use the more directed approach of sending releases to personal press connections—not only is it cheaper, it also has a better chance of getting noticed.
3. Buying one single, large advertising insertion. Many small businesses save up to make one big splash with a display or banner ad. Unfortunately, it takes more than one impression to make a brand memorable. The alternative: Do display or banner advertising where the company can afford to do multiple insertions over many issues or a lengthy period of time. All advertising needs to be testable and trackable so the company knows what to repeat and what to drop.
4. Promotional pens and shirts. It may feel fun to have the company's name on these items, but most will get get thrown away by the recipient. The alternative: Put the company's name on a higher ticket item that the customer will use longer term. For example, leather-bound calendars or smartphone cases work well.
5. Trade shows attended only by vendors. These events can get expensive quickly with the cost of the booth, furniture, shipping, prizes, travel expenses, carpet and staffing. The alternative: Walk the trade show and set up appointments with prospects.
6. Marketing research. Forget broad focus groups from large independent companies. These are far too expensive and the data is too general to be valuable. The alternative: Survey your own customers or prospects with online tools such as Survey Monkey. Limit yourself to fewer than five questions and only ask questions with answers that are actionable.
7. Uninformed search engine marketing (SEM). Google Adwords can be expensive for the inexperienced. Many small business owners take the "free" $100 credit from Google to set up their accounts and then burn through it in a day. The search terms they use are typically too broad. The alternative: Use a narrow selection of search words and a specific landing page for any SEM campaign.
8. Generating leads that the sales team can’t handle or doesn't want. What is the purpose of generating leads that your sales team will not pursue? This frequently occurs. The alternative: Before starting, plan the entire process from lead generation until the close of the sale.
9. Websites that can’t update internally. Company websites that are launched, but can't be kept current internally with new content will quickly become stale (and drop in page rank). The alternative: Use a platform like Wordpress or Drupal that is easy to update with minimum training.
10. Printed stationery: Remember 1995? Enough said. The alternative. Distribute a stationery template electronically that can be used by all employees.
Kirsten Osolind, President of Re:Invention Marketing wisely advises that "every marketing activity should be attached to a measurable goal. If it's not, you probably shouldn't be doing it. A measurable goal could be number of leads, number of new contacts, number of meetings, opportunities, deals ... and revenue dollars."
Read more insights and advice from Barry Moltz.
Barry Moltz gets small business owners unstuck. He is the author of 4 small business books. The latest is Small Town Rules: How Big Brands and Small Businesses Can Prosper in a Connected Economy.