How to deliver a successful communications plan on a small budget – Ten practical tips

“We don’t have a budget for the marketing/communications plan”.

Most marketers and campaigners will have heard this dread phrase in a new project meeting at some point in their careers. It’s at its worst when it comes about two weeks before launch. So here are a handful of tips to stop you from weeping.

  • Don’t let it happen again. Put in place a process that ensures that any new project has to go through a gateway where marketing and communications spend is considered. Without it, the project doesn’t pass go. You need never create a marketing plan on a small budget again.

    Projects with no marketing budget should not pass go
  • Be disciplined and strategic. Take the time to really bore down into who your target audience is. Don’t be distracted by easy wins that don’t hit them. Focus on how you reach the really important people.
  • If it’s really a really good project, and you’ve no chance of raising budget internally, look outside. Crowdfunding really works. And if it’s a campaign, tap into resources like 38 Degrees, which appeals to its huge membership and their collective resources.
  • Are there partners with resources and assets who you can join forces with? If you’re a not-for-profit, this could mean supporters or other organisations with similar aims. If you’re corporate, are there other departments or product teams who will benefit from making an investment?
  • If it’s a good project, is there budget you can move across from a campaign or product that has less potential?

    If it’s an exceptionally good project, take it upstairs
  • Take it upstairs. If you think this project or product has star potential, it can sometimes be worth some special pleading with the person who holds the purse strings. This one only tends to work occasionally though (and has its best chance of working at year-end when there might be some slack in the budgets).
  • Flog it. If you’re a campaign or not-for-profit, look for a commercial sponsor to support the project. Think about who else wants to reach the audiences you want to engage and start from there.
  • Borrow again. There are a host of marketing and PR tools available. Many of them are free. Others that are not offer free trials. Today looks like a good day to try some of them. (The people that own this project better be grateful). Here’s a good list of some of them available. Here are some more.
    When was the last time you got a proper letter? Buy stamps!

    “Go old school”

  • Go old school. In the midst of a sea of great digital tools, you can sometimes lose sight of the analogue shore. If you are delivering a comms plan on a small budget, how about putting some of it aside for stamps? Letters are impactful simply because few people actually use them anymore. What other good low-cost mediums can you use that don’t require an internet connection?
  • Appraise your assets. Still struggling? Conduct an audit of your assets and see what you can use to help market your product or campaign on a budget. This is a tactical approach, rather than a strategic one but it can still bear fruit. Think about everything from your people’s networks (who you all know), your organisation’s owned media (like the newsletter or the upcoming publication – or its stamps), the signed photo of Daley Thompson sitting in the stationery cupboard that could make a good competition prize, the unrelated event you’re running in a week where you can hand out flyers or the conference your boss is speaking at next month which she can use to plug.



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