It's Q4, and we are all slammed. We have goals ahead of us that resemble climbing Mt. Everest. The market is more flooded than ever with service providers and big agencies that want your partnership at a high cost. The need for content and creative is higher than ever. How do you weed through it all and save money easily without losing your mind?
In talking to a lot of other brand marketers and experimenting myself, I have been able to come up with a pretty hefty list of some great ways for brands to save on costs within internet marketing. Here are some of my secrets; some may be more obvious to you, and others you may not have thought of. Either way, make sure you are thinking about these because you will find that you can quickly take the savings, put it back into media, and -- voila -- ROI increases.
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Fast food menu style
When you are media planning, ask every publisher for a small bite-sized plan, a medium-sized plan, a mammoth max-effort plan, and maybe a few others in between. It may be more work for them to create and more work for you to read, but in the end you will see some pricing structures that you would not have otherwise seen.
Everyone knows that scale drives a lower cost, but we don't always think about it this way when working with multiple publishers. In some cases, when we asked for the $50,000 plan, we got the $50,000 plan and that was that. In others, when we asked for the small, medium, and high, the publisher was able to include pricing and added value that it otherwise would have not. When this happens, you can get tremendous value, and sometimes getting the incremental budget or taking the budget from somewhere else makes sense because of the value add.
A great way to do this is to find out how long you can spread the campaign. Sometimes you can spread it across multiple months or quarters, so you don't have to ask for an incremental budget; you are just driving savings. I talked to several brand colleagues at iMedia this year, and they all had found that when they kept their media plans more simple, the results were better. So fewer publishers on a plan is not always a bad thing. Fewer is more.
Bartering with publishers
If you are running CPA campaigns, you may not know this, but most publishers will cover your ad serving costs for your media buy. You can turn around and put that money right back into media. Their incentive is more media spend. Your incentive is money you would have spent anyways, but now you are putting it into working dollars. This won't work for everyone, but it is worth a try. I have also heard that publishers sometimes take on costs including rich media fees, verification services -- like DoubleVerify -- and even some video production fees. You will never know until you ask!
Taking media in-house
With agencies becoming more expensive and less effective, more and more brands are taking it all (or some elements) in house. From media planning to trafficking all the way to analysis and reporting, bringing these things in house can be greatly efficient and drive a ton of cost savings for your brand.
Seem obvious? Here are a couple things that are less obvious, if you decide to go this route. First: Hire a team of previous agency or publisher side marketers. They know the ins, outs, and secrets of how to get things done. Second: If you can't do this all at once, take bits and pieces of your plan (like ad serving) and experiment with a contract employee or current employee taking them on. You will realize the efficiency and cost savings quickly while testing the waters.
If taking media in-house may seem like a death wish to some brands, you can start with creative. There is a ton of ways to save on creative. Hire a freelancer to try out a few campaigns. Hire a project-based startup or small agency. Take inventory off all of the assets you have in-house and send them to your publishers or potential publishers to create amazing ads. Take finished assets from your agency and send it off to outsourced producers.
All of these tactics can save a lot on creative services work for your brand. I talked to one brand representative at an iMedia summit who wants to keep the media strategy with one agency to ensure the strategy is always in line. But the person felt that, when sending an RFP to different boutique agencies for every single creative project, money was saved, and better, more innovative work was done.
Be a user
I mean this in a nice way, I promise. In addition to the creative services mentioned above, your partners have access to things like research studies, statistics, creative examples, connections to other partners, and more. I often see very large scale awareness driving campaigns in which the client paid nothing for the brand awareness studies that came with it. That beats spending up to $50,000 on Dynamic Logic data out of the brand's pocket.
If you use an agency that likes to shelter you from your publishers, ask it for a contact and a meeting with each of them. Then have monthly or quarterly meetings in which you touch base with the publisher. This is how a lot of free stuff comes your way that may have never made it to you. If it is a new publisher asking for your business, ask for a free test. The worst thing you will ever hear is "no." And then you move on. Bottom line -- use your publishers.
Beyond publishers, you can use your customers as well. I talked to one brand that had a group of customers that it called its "brand advocacy team." The brand gave them nothing but a badge and title, but were able to tap into this group of enthusiasts as its social media street team -- for free.
As brands, there are a ton of things we can do to save money and prove value in strict times where the mantra is always "do more with less." If I had a one more tip to provide, it would be to go to iMedia events. That is where I got all of the above ideas, and I can take them straight to the bank within my media plans.
Have you tested any of these ideas? Do you have any to add? How do you cut costs for your brand while getting the same or more out of your media plans?
Katelyn Watson is senior manager of internet marketing for Shutterfly.
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