Is Your Marketing Budget Working Smarter, Not Harder?

“I want to work smarter, not harder in 2012,” a friend resolved at an annual New Years Day party where guests reflect on the past year and state intentions for the new one.

Working smarter often involves working harder at first, but not harder on the same old stuff. Working smarter means putting systems in place that conserve time, energy and money. But that work often means asking hard questions. Otherwise we would set up resource-saving systems more often!

Which brings me to marketing budgets. It’s easy to squander time and money, two equally valuable assets.

It’s hard not to; being organized and clear takes effort.

The problem is, we lament that we have little time or money to do the job the right way. This is a big disconnect.

I recently declined a proposal request because the organization lightheartedly confessed to having too many cooks in the kitchen. They asked me to estimate for 12 rounds of corrections! They also had a limited budget. Instead of putting their precious resources towards a great strategy and design, they put them towards poor planning, bureaucracy and mistakes. They were planning for failure instead of success.

I want to participate in your success, not failure.

Questions like the following can help:

(They might lead to even more questions. Savor that.)

Can this project or effort do double duty? Can your annual report function like a year-round marketing tool? Can a mailer be transformed by the recipient and reused in some way? The result could be extra kudos, new customers, more free time, or saved money. My approach is to discover overlooked opportunities.

Do you have a system for evaluating your efforts? Soft results like a compliment are just as valuable as hard results like numbers. But how are you getting them? Websites have user logs, but is someone reviewing them? What if it’s not a website? A simple analog system to track how people found you is better than nothing. Remember, you have a limited budget; you want to know how and why you’re successful…or not.

Are you meeting people where they are? Is your ideal client or customer really on Twitter? Or are they sitting in the waiting room of a yoga center? Are they at beer and wine festivals or are they on LinkedIn, or both? Sometimes you have to be in many places at once till you figure that out. And if you have to be in many places at once, what kind of strategy are you using to conserve your time while being interesting, useful and friendly?

Have you done your homework? Maybe you’re hiring a web designer, a business coach, a copywriter or a marketing person. Have you asked enough questions or are you blindly trusting? Is your selection process smart or is it taking more time and money? Don’t be afraid to ask a trusted colleague for opinions on how best to select a consultant.

Does your process respect everyone’s time? Get the most out of your hired consultants and your staff. Help them spend time on the right efforts. Delays, avoidable changes, skipped approvals all lead to costly time.

Do you know who you are and what you’re trying to achieve? I mean, do you really know? Are you on auto pilot? Are you doing things the way they’ve always been done? Do you post your values or goals on a wall or do regular check-ins about your vision?

Finally, what do you need help with and what can you do yourself? Where do you get the most stymied? Some of my clients need high-level thinking and strategy. Some need physical tools like a branding system or templates. Get clear on what you can do versus what you should invest in so you can get your systems in place.

So you can protect your resources.

So you can spread your magic.

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