A common misconception is that low-cost marketing is only for startups and early-stage companies. However, given the economic situation, it is extremely important for large companies as well to have a lean mindset. In addition, to achieving high ROI, you need to optimize your marketing spending too.
While there are cases where spending more money helps if you do it the right way (like paid ads for example), relying on low-cost marketing techniques that deliver a consistent flow of leads for your business sets you up for long-term success.
In this blog post, we explore how B2B businesses can adopt the lean methodology across the entire spectrum of marketing.
Building a system for low-cost B2B marketing
The first thing we need to understand here is that having a system for low-cost marketing is as important (if not more important) as choosing the right marketing techniques.
Following are the two criteria I follow in the context of building a repeatable system for low-cost marketing (this is something we follow at Skalegrow too):
- Don’t spread too thin. Pick only 3 to 4 channels that you think will work for your business – especially in the early years.
- Initiate a marketing program or channel only if you think you can run with it consistently over an extended period of time. This is because marketing takes time to work. Doing something for a couple of weeks and dropping it is not a good approach.
We will talk more about building a system for low-cost B2B marketing as we discuss the different tactics. I will also share a ton of additional resources that you can refer related to them.
Understanding low-cost marketing
Low-cost marketing doesn’t necessarily mean ‘cheap marketing’. While you have to work with a limited budget, getting results from a channel at a significantly lower cost than what it usually costs is also low-cost marketing.
For instance, assume that a competitor of yours is spending $5000 on LinkedIn ads per month, If you can achieve the same results they are getting at a much lower cost (say $2000), that is low-cost marketing.
So, today, we will look at low-cost marketing from that perspective too. With that in mind, let’s get started.
The ‘lean B2B marketing channels’
I wanted to give ‘zero-cost marketing’ as the title of this article. But I intentionally stayed away from it because that’s a gimmick. Marketing that costs zero money doesn’t exist in a practical sense. You need to spend money in some form or the other – such as tools, paid campaigns, travel, etc.
In addition, if you are a founder spending a lot of time on marketing, there is an opportunity cost that comes with it. In short, marketing cannot be FREE.
At the same time, there are marketing activities you can implement at very low cost – and I call them the lean marketing channels.
In this section, let’s discuss a few lean B2B marketing channels you can explore right away with a limited budget. We will also discuss a ton of tips and tricks for optimizing these channels for the maximum ROI with the least spending.
1. SEO-led content
I have always been so vocal about SEO-led content – because it works. And its potential for exponential growth is unmatched.
Interestingly, contrary to the popular opinion, you can get started with SEO-led content in as lass as 3 days. You can have a look at my article Getting Started With SEO-led Content In 3 Days to learn more about the approach.
Here, let’s dive deep into how you can leverage SEO-led content as a low-cost channel.
Following are the elements and people you need to have in place to get started with this channel:
- SEO analyst
- Content writer
Let’s start with tools,
My personal favorites are Ahrefs and SEMRush when it comes to an all-in-one SEO tool. But they start at a minimum of $99 per month for a paid subscription.
An alternative you can go with is Ubersuggest. Its pricing starts at $12 per month and comes with a similar set of features as that of Ahrefs and SEMRush (though not as exhaustive). The tool also offers lifetime access for individuals at $120 and businesses at $400.
You need to keep in mind that when it comes to accuracy, Ubersuggest is not as good as the other ones I mentioned. But it gets the job done for beginners.
You can also use Google Keyword Planner alongside it – the only limitation is that you might have to spend a few dollars on Google ads to get the exact keyword volume (instead of a range) on Keyword Planner.
In addition to SEO tools, you might need a grammar checker like Grammarly. It comes with all the necessary writing tools including a plagiarism checker. The paid plan of Grammarly starts at about $12 per month or $144 per year.
Following are the other tools that you will need for SEO-led content:
- Design: I suggest Canva for beginners (around $50 per year for the Pro version)
- Stock images: Shutterstock plans start from $29 per year (for 2 images). Other options include iStock (plans starting from around $20 per month) and Envato Elements (plans starting at $16.5 per month).
For tools, you could also consider purchasing from a group purchase website like Flikover where you get multiple tools with one subscription (which may cost around $15 per month or $180 per year). However, this subscription comes with limited usage credits for each tool.
Next, let us come to people.
You will need an SEO analyst and a content writer to meet your SEO-led content needs. You could also opt for an SEO content writer instead – who will bring to the table both SEO and writing skills.
In India, you will have to allocate a minimum budget of around $17K as salary if you have two resources. An SEO content writer can be hired at about $10 to $12K per year. A decent graphic designer and video editor would come at a cost of around $8K per year.
You could also consider outsourcing SEO-led content to an agency like Skalegrow (in which case the overall cost could be much lower taking into account both people and tool costs).
So in total, for SEO-led content, your minimum yearly investment would be around $20.7K (this could vary depending on the tools and roles you choose to go with).
2. LinkedIn organic marketing
LinkedIn is a goldmine for B2B businesses. If you are not leveraging LinkedIn in some form in 2023, you are losing out.
Following are the elements and resources you need for LinkedIn organic marketing:
- Content writer
If you are running tight on budget, you can have the content writer manage the LinkedIn page and write the content for it. The designer can also be shared between LinkedIn marketing and SEO-led content activities. So there is no additional cost for LinkedIn as a channel.
[If you hire a dedicated social media manager, that will come at a cost of about $ 8K per year].
3. B2B email marketing
For email marketing, there are plenty of options available when it comes to tools. If you are using ConvertKit, which is a popular choice among small businesses, the pricing starts at $9 per month or $108 per year.
The next requirement is an email database. Instead of going with an expensive database like ZoomInfo, to cut costs you can go with an all-in-one tool like Apollo that comes with multiple features such as B2B data, email marketing, calling software, etc. Its pricing starts at $49 per month or $588 per year.
You might still want to use an email tool like ConvertKit for creating website forms and other email features specific to marketing.
Next, you need to have an email marketing or demand generation manager to manage your email marketing campaigns. Such a resource in India would be available for around $10K per year.
So your total cost for email marketing per year is around $10.6K.
4. B2B video marketing
While most B2B companies tend to start with video marketing late, I believe it is something you should start from day 1, irrespective of the nature of the business you are running. There will always be something you can communicate using videos (that’s why Skalegrow has a YouTube channel already).
For videos, the most basic components you need are:
- A stock video database (which you have already subscribed to for SEO-led content, You might still need to allocate some additional budget here depending on the type and volume of videos you create).
- A video editing software (Canva is a good choice for basic editing and even advanced graphic designing. You can go with more advanced tools like Adobe Premiere and After Effects, which together would cost around $40 per month or $480 per year).
- A video editor (who doesn’t incur any additional cost since you already have a graphic designer and video editor)
- Professional voice-over (this depends on the number of videos you create per year. An average voice-over for a 3-minute video costs around $70. Assuming you create 12 videos that need voice-over a year, the total cost would be $840).
- Background music (if you use YouTube’s music library, you don’t need to spend anything extra for this).
- Hardware: If you operate lean, you can use a web camera (or your smartphone maybe?), a decent microphone, and headphones for producing videos. You can have all of these at about $200.
So the total additional cost for video marketing for a year is around $1500.
To learn in detail about how to implement lean video marketing, check out the article Lean B2B Video Marketing – Strategies And Approaches.
For further reading: The Only 3-Step Video Marketing Strategy You Need
5. Website management
Assuming you don’t need a dedicated website manager, following will be your website-related costs:
- Hosting, SSL, and domain (Hostinger’s plans start from about $24 per year).
- Website development and maintenance (let’s add around $2000 to this).
With these, your website-related costs for a year would be around $2100.
The lean B2B marketing team
I have covered the topic of building a lean marketing team in detail in one of my other articles. It discusses all the roles you need to hire to build a lean marketing team – which is along the lines of what we discussed today. It will be a useful read. Here is the link:
Your total low-cost marketing budget
In the early days of your business, you don’t in fact need too many channels. What we discussed today are the key ones. However, you might still want to set aside some money for standalone campaigns such as:
- Events & travel
- Other paid promotions
Let’s (conservatively) set aside around $10000 for these for a year.
Adding all the other elements to this, your approximate marketing expenditure for a year will be $52.9K.
Isn’t this low cost, considering that it includes people cost as well?
Outsourcing vs. building internal capability in B2B marketing
Outsourcing your marketing activities can most of the time be more cost-effective compared to building a marketing team internally. It also comes with the following advantages:
- The ability to tap into a wider expertise the agency brings to the table.
- You can get the ball rolling almost from day 1 without having to wait to hire or build a team.
- You can have parallel marketing activities going on without having a large marketing team.
- It gives your business or marketing team an extra helping hand when needed.
Though outsourcing marketing comes with these advantages, following are the disadvantages:
- There will be a dependency on the agency in getting things done. If the agency is not reliable and does not deliver on time, your plans might take a negative turn.
- You don’t have complete control of the people working on your tasks. Internal team members are easier to guide and manage.
Considering these, it’s a choice you need to make. If speed and bandwidth are your challenges, outsourcing can be extremely helpful.
We covered a lot today. And I know I couldn’t get to the details of everything. For the purpose of brevity, I had to refrain from explaining everything. If you have any questions or need help setting up a low-cost marketing engine, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at email@example.com.
Further, the exact cost of your marketing efforts might slightly vary depending on the tools you choose, the people you hire, and the campaigns and channels you choose to execute. However, a low-cost marketing budget should not be ideally more than $60 K to $70K per year. The objective of this article was to give you a direction so that you can design your marketing strategy in a lean manner.
About the author
Naseef KPO is the Founder and CEO of Skalegrow. He comes with rich experience across multiple areas of B2B marketing including content marketing, demand generation, SEO, account-based marketing, marketing analytics, revenue attribution, marketing technology, etc. He writes thought-provoking and relevant articles on The Skalegrow Blog and his weekly LinkedIn newsletter Elevate Your Marketing.
Prior to starting Skalegrow, Naseef led large marketing teams in multi-million dollar B2B organizations where he made significant contributions to the topline growth of the business. He has also appeared on numerous podcasts where he shared his thoughts on trending marketing topics such as the application of AI in marketing, startup marketing, ABM, and B2B content marketing, just to name a few. Being the founder of Skalegrow, he is currently focusing on helping its clients stay ahead of their competition by using innovative yet practical marketing tactics.
You can connect with Naseef KPO on LinkedIn.