Ten Ways to Stretch Your Advertising Budget

by Robert W. Bly




Most business-to-business advertisers have smaller ad budgets than their counterparts in consumer marketing.  Here are 10 ways to get more out of your advertising dollars - without detracting from the quality and quantity of your ads and promotions. In some cases, these ideas can even enhance the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

ONE Use your ads for more than just space advertising.  Ads are expensive to produce and expensive to run.  But there are ways of getting your advertising message in your prospect’s hands at a fraction of the cost of space advertising.

The least expensive is to order an ample supply of reprints and distribute them to customers and prospects every chance you get.  When you send literature in response to an inquiry, include a copy of the ad in the package.  This reminds a prospect of the reason he responded in the first place and reinforces the original message.

Distribute ads internally to other departments - engineering, production, sales, customer service, and R&D - to keep them up to date on your latest marketing and promotional efforts.  Make sure your salespeople receive an extra supply of reprints and are encouraged to include a reprint when they write to or visit their customers.

Turn the ad into a product data sheet by adding technical specifications and additional product information to the back of the ad reprint. This eliminates the expense of creating a new layout from scratch.  And it makes good advertising sense, because the reader gets double exposure to your advertising message.

Ad reprints can be used an inexpensive direct mail pieces.  You can mail the reprints along with a reply card and a sales letter.  Unlike the ad, which is “cast in concrete,” the letter is easily and inexpensively tailored to specific markets and customer groups.

If you’ve created a series of ads on the same product or product line, publish bound reprints of the ads as a product brochure.  This tactic increases prospect exposure to the series and is less expensive than producing a brand new brochure.

If your ads provide valuable information of a general nature, you can offer reprints as free educational material to companies in your industry. Or, if the ad presents a striking visual, you can offer reprints that are suitable for framing.

Reuse your ads again and again.  You will save money - and increase frequency - in the process.

TWO If something works, stick with it.  Too many industrial marketers scrap their old ads and create new ones because they’re bored with their current campaign.

That’s a waste.  You shouldn’t create new ads or promotions if your existing ones are still accurate and effective.  You should run your ads for as long as your customers read and react to them.

How long can ads continue to get results?  The Ludlow Corp. Ran an ad for its erosion-preventing Soil Saver mesh 41 times in the same journal.  After 11 years it pulled more inquiries per issue than when it was first published in 1966.


If a concept still has selling power but the ad contains dated information, update the existing ad - don’t throw it out and start from scratch.  This approach isn’t fun for the ad manager or the agency, but it does save money.

THREE Don’t over-present yourself.  A strange thing happens to industrial advertisers when they get a little extra money in the ad budget: they see fancy four-color brochures, gold embossed mailers, and fat annual reports produced by Fortune 500 firms.  Then they say, “This stuff sure looks great - why don’t we do some brochures like this?”

That’s a mistake.  The look, tone, and image of your promotions should be dictated by your product and your market - not by what other companies in other businesses put out.

Producing literature that’s too fancy for its purpose and its audience is a waste of money.  And it can even hurt sales - your prospects will look at your overdone literature and wonder whether you really understand your market and its needs.

FOUR Use “modular” product literature.  One common advertising problem is how to promote a single product to many small, diverse markets.  Each market has different needs and will buy the product for different reasons.  But on your budget, you can’t afford to create a separate brochure for each of these tiny market segments.

The solution is “modular literature.”  This means creating a basic brochure layout that has sections capable of being tailored to meet specific market needs.

After all, most sections of the brochure - technical specifications, service, company background, product operation, product features - will be the same regardless of the audience.  Only a few sections, such as benefits of the product to the user and typical applications, need to be tailored to specific readers.

In a modular layout, standard sections remain the same, but new copy can be typeset and stripped in for each market-specific section of the brochure.  This way, you can create many different market-specific pieces of literature on the same product using the same basic layout, mechanicals, artwork and plates.

Significant savings in time and money will result.

FIVE Use article reprints as supplementary literature.  Ad managers are constantly bombarded by requests for “incidental” pieces of product literature.  Engineers want data sheets explaining some minor technical feature in great detail.  Reps selling to small, specialized markets, want special literature geared to their particular audience.  And each company salesperson wants support literature that fits his or her individual sales pitch.  But the ad budget can only handle the major pieces of product literature.  Not enough time or money exists to satisfy everybody’s requests for custom literature.

The solution is to use article reprints as supplementary sales literature.  Rather than spend a bundle producing highly technical or application-specific pieces, have your sales and technical staff write articles on these special topics.  Then, place the articles with the appropriate journals.

Article reprints can be used as inexpensive literature and carry more credibility than self-produced promotional pieces.  You don’t pay for typesetting or production of the article.  Best of all, the article is free advertising for you firm.

SIX Explore inexpensive alternatives for generating leads.  Many smaller firms judge ad effectiveness solely by the number of leads generated.  They are not concerned with building image or recognition; they simply count bingo-card inquiries.

If that describes your approach to advertising, perhaps you shouldn’t be advertising in the first place.  Not that lead-generating isn’t a legitimate use of space advertising.  But if leads are all you’re after, there are cheaper ways to get them.

New-product releases lead the list as the most economical method of generating leads.  Once, for less than $100, I wrote, printed, and distributed a new-product release to a hundred trade journals.  Within six moths, the release had been picked up by 35 magazines and generated 2,500 bingo-card inquiries.

Your second - best inquiry - generator is the direct-action postcard pack.  You can write and typeset your own postcard for less than $200. And running the card in a trade journal’s post-card pack generally costs from $800 to $1,200.  But that same $800 to $1,200 would probably buy only a sixth or a third of a page in the magazine.

I’ve seen a single postcard mailing pull nearly 500 inquiries, and you’d have a hard time doing that with the average one-third page ad.

SEVEN Don’t “overbook” outside creative talent.  Hire freelancers and consultants whose credentials - and fees - fit the job and the budget.

Top advertising photographers, for example, get $1,000 a day or more.  This may be worth the fee for a corporate ad running in Forbes or Business Week.  But it’s overkill for the employee newsletter or a publicity shot.  Many competent photographers can shoot a good black-and-white publicity photo for $200 or even less.

When you hire consultants, writers, artists, or photographers, you should look for someone whose level of expertise and cost fits the task at hand.

EIGHT Do it yourself.  Routine tasks, such as mailing publicity releases, duplicating slides, or retyping media schedules can be done cheaper in-house than outside.  Save the expensive agency or consultant for tasks that really require their expertise.

Even if you don’t have an in-house advertising department, consider hiring a full-time administrative assistant to handle the detail work involved in managing your company’s advertising.  This is a more economical solution than farming administrative work out to the agency or doing it yourself.

NINE Get the most of existing art, photography, and copy.  Photos, illustrations, layouts, and even copy created for one promotion can often be lifted and reused in other pieces to significantly reduce creative costs.  For example, copy created for a corporate image ad can be used as the introduction to the annual report.

Also, you can save rough layouts, thumbnail sketches, headlines, and concepts rejected for one project and use them in future ads, mailings, and promotions.

TEN Pay vendors on time.  You’ll save money by taking advantage of discounts and avoiding late charges when you pay vendor invoices on time.  And, you’ll gain goodwill that can result in better service and fairer prices on future projects.