6 Lessons for Developing Campaigns on a Shoestring Budget

Blog written by Lelde McCoy

Social marketers often operate in an environment of continual funding cuts but one which also has high expectations of a return on investment.

Last month I presented at the World Social Marketing Conference on how to develop low cost social marketing campaigns. Here are the top lessons I’ve learnt over the years on how to maximise impact for less money


Lesson 1 – A sound start is critical

Even if you have a small budget set realistic goals and have an approach which is research driven. It will help you to uncover insights that will drive your strategy. Research can be a big barrier for people, but if you are creative about it, research can be inexpensive. Some cheaper ways of doing research include using Survey Monkey; Facebook polls; interviewing experts and getting data from partner organisations. Reviewing case studies is also helpful in uncovering what works.

The insights will help you drill down to a single behaviour that you can impact.

Lesson 2 – Choose suppliers wisely

For low budget campaigns you need to deal with firms who have low cost structures, so you have more money for executing your campaign. My only proviso is that it should be a firm that keeps up with the latest knowledge.

Resources can be extended with interns, volunteers and partners. Many firms will work pro bono or at a reduced rate on issues that they have an interest in – in this regard a little research can go a long way to identify who might be able to support you.

Lesson 3 – Partner with those who care

Not everyone will want to partner with you. So much time can be wasted if you haven’t done your stakeholder mapping to see who is likely to be most interested and able to provide you with the connections, resources or involvement that you need. Focus on the quality of the relationship and reciprocity – there has to be mutual benefit for it to work.

Lesson 4 – Don’t just rely on communications

Mass media interventions alone are unlikely to change behaviour. You need to identify what “p” in the mix (product, price, place, promotion, partnerships, and politics) will give you the most bang for your buck and will incentivise your audience. That is to say, it could be a support service rather than an ad!

Lesson 5 – PR is powerful and low cost

Media publicity works well for social issues campaigns. There’s been an explosion of media outlets, especially online which can provide hyper local and cost effective targeting.

Editorial opportunities include:

·         Hard news: increases awareness

·         Opinion pieces: set the agenda

·         Features: stimulate conversation with family/peer groups

·         Magazine ‘how-to’ sections: build self-efficiency

·         Online: creates advocates and discussion communities

·         Community newsletters: gain grassroots involvement.

There’s always the chance that a media outlet will take up your social issue as a community service project.

Lesson 6 – Social media is storytelling at a low cost

Social media is one of the most powerful story-telling platforms. If you aim to develop content that tells a story that will resonate with your audience, the engagement on social media can be as powerful as word-of-mouth.

There are many free social media tools that help you to listen to your audience and identify trends and conversations that you should be a part of. Now-a-days, some social media platforms do require some money to reach your fans, but won’t cost a lot. Facebook has moved to become a commercial platform but it provides multiple ad solutions and hyper-targeting that will guarantee that your content is seen by the right people.

Other rapidly growing platforms such as Snapchat, Pinterest and Instagram are slowly integrating an advertising model, however still allow for relevant and innovate organic content to do well with your audiences.

Don’t put all the pressure on your internal resources to come up with ideas or the content either, encourage your fans to crowd-source ideas and motivate the most engaged users to become online ambassadors of your message.

Ingredients for Success

Although there is no formula or silver bullet for success, you’ll have more chance if you follow a rigorous and disciplined process. There has never been a better time for social marketing as the opportunities in our connected world are huge!