There are certain communications and marketing activities that we undertake year in, year out, without really thinking about it. We do them not because they add value to our businesses, but because conventional wisdom says we should, or because our competitors are doing it, or because the guys on the Sales team really enjoyed that event last year.
These “we do that every year” events and activities are often taken as a given, and rarely come in for any genuine attempts at calculating return on investment.
Trimming the fat from your Communications and Marketing budget
Scale back Corporate Hospitality
I’d put money on this – none of your clients or stakeholders are choosing whom to give vital business to based on rugby or F1 tickets. There are a few reasons why expensive corporate hospitality packages are popular; it gives your Sales or Account Management team an easy way to claim they are building a relationship with clients without ever really having to prove that it’s resulting in business decisions going their way. Also, they LOVE going to these high profile events themselves so they will always back them.
If you are sending a team to a big event with a group of clients of potential clients, set goals for what will come out of the event e.g. we’re going to get three meetings set up with Tier 1 clients in the next quarter out of this event.
Ban bullshit award ceremonies
I’ve written extensively about how most corporate award ceremonies are a sham here. If you have to pay a huge amount to enter or to attend, you’re essentially buying an award.
The justifications for this are often that these awards lend credibility in the market and that competitors are doing it so we really don’t have a choice. Stop.
For the first statement, ask yourself if that’s really true – is the award in question an industry-leading award, is it the Oscars of your sector? If so, go right ahead and try and win it.
Usually, though, it’s a make-y up-y award ceremony concocted by a marketing company two years ago. (One telltale sign of this is when a company’s sole business seems to be awards – this week they’ll be having an award ceremony for financial services, next week healthcare, the following week oil and gas)
As for your competitors, who cares what they’re doing. You’re a leader, not a follower, right? If they jumped off a bridge, would you. Ugh, you probably would. Stop being such a sheep.
Axe Exhibitions and Conferences
How many poorly organized, badly attended conferences, exhibitions and trade-shows must we attend before we say enough? We spend tens of thousands on them only to return tired, with maybe a handful of contacts and a general sense of how our competitors are doing, but little else. We convince ourselves that the team got a lot of networking done, when we know in our hearts that most of the people in attendance were too junior to be genuine decision-makers.
And while we’re on the topic, how much exactly did you spend on those tacky branded freebies? Trust me on this one – nobody is deciding where to spend their money based on that USB key with your logo on it. Sure, we’ll take it – everybody loves free stuff – but no, it didn’t do anything significant to raise your brand’s profile.
So, what should you be doing to build relationships with clients and customers?
Hold bespoke events where you won’t be fighting with 25 of your competitors for your clients’ attention. Sell on the quality of your products and services, not the tickets you can get them or the ‘awards’ you’ve won – clients see right through all that anyway.
If you’ve got decent offices, you can even consider the most budget-friendly option of all – having it in-house.
If that’s not an option, try something a bit different; an Afternoon Tea at a nice hotel might cost €25/head and it gives you a chance to actually sit down and speak to people, or find out what charities or causes are important to them and invite them to a Corporate Social Responsibility event that matches the profile so you can connect with them on a human level.
If all else fails and you’ve only got a small amount of money with which to make a big impact, stop over-complicating things and just stick it behind the bar. There’s a long history of rapport being built over beer and pizza; friendships can be formed, relationships can blossom and – yes – business can be won.
So, who’s in favour? Let me know in the comment section if you’re onboard with my no-BS approach to allocating your Communications and Marketing budget. Any other tips for trimming the fat?
Katie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Galway, Ireland. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
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