Shift Happens! Making Adjustments to Your Marketing Budget

Marketing Budget Covid

Marketing Alternatives to In-Person Event

Like most professionals, startup marketers are still adjusting their marketing budget to the effects of COVID-19. Perhaps the biggest impact of the global pandemic is the shift of everything online, including in-person events. As a result, marketing teams that once relied on trade shows for effective lead generation are scrambling to find alternatives that garner the same success. 

The good news is, you are never short of options when finding viable marketing programs for your startup. Many of which you can make use of that will fit in any marketing budget — or lack thereof. This is the perfect time to get creative, test out new lead generation initiatives, and focus on channels you haven’t tried before. 


The reason many startups exhibit or attend trade shows is to grow brand awareness with attendees who match their target audience. The same objectives can be met when shifting your marketing budget to focus on paid advertising spaces where this audience is now spending most of their time. 

Think beyond the obvious advertising platforms such as Google Ads or social media sites. There are several cost-effective alternatives that you might not have thought of before. For tech startups, consider online advertising opportunities such as:

  • Reddit/subreddits
  • Quora
  • Stack Overflow
  • BuySellAds (personal favorite!)
  • Podcast ads
  • Inbox ads
  • Publication email sponsorships
  • TechTarget

I wasn’t kidding when I said your options are endless. Insert your brand message where your audience is pursuing. 

Virtual Events

As social distancing guidelines continue to extend, people are becoming more comfortable with participating in virtual events. This can range from webinars to user groups, to AMAs to live demos to networking breakout rooms. As a bonus, you are likely to save costs on the facility rental, food, beverage, and other line items that come with hosting in-person events.

When creating your virtual event, consider your audience’s current challenges and what unique knowledge, tips, or solutions your company can offer. This is a great medium to engage with users and generate trust and credibility with new prospects. Reach out to another company that offers a complimentary product and co-host a virtual event — you’ll expand your reach and open up opportunities for further content creation.

Direct Mail

Sending a direct mailer to your prospects sounds a bit traditional, but it works. According to Compu-Mail, the direct mail household response rate is 5.1%. This is much higher than the response rate generated from cold sales emails.

Tip: Large envelopes have the highest response rate: 5%.

With most of your target customers working from home and tired of their computer screens, a physical mailer is a welcomed distraction from cold emails. Create a handwritten postcard or design a custom gift set with your company’s logo. Recipients will appreciate the gesture and are more likely to remember your brand when ready to buy.

Write a Book

Harness your thought leadership and expertise (or anyone in your company) by writing a downloadable eBook. Host the eBook on your website and promote the piece on social media, paid advertisements, email, and more. During the eBook download process, you can collect lead generating contact information such as name, company name, and email address. 

If your target audience cares about AI, data science, infrastructure, or software development and delivery, consider partnering with O’Reilly and authoring an “animal book or a mini-book. This is an opportunity to produce high-quality evergreen content and place your brand in front of key decision-makers. 

Outsource Lead Gen

Startups that want to save money often outsource their lead generation and sales development to achieve the best return on investment. Because new businesses cannot always afford a sales team with years of experience, outsourcing this task allows them to leverage vendors with advanced skills and expertise.

Go hard on your SDR efforts and use a service like InsideOut or AltiSales. Considering running a small pilot program with a smaller service that offers a pay-per-performance model.

Retargeting and Remarketing

With very similar goals, retargeting and remarketing allow you to reach the people that interacted with you on your website or within your application. In general, and with some crossover,  retargeting centers around paid advertising and remarketing concentrates more on email campaigns and making connections for upselling, cross-selling, and re-engagement.

The biggest benefit comes from combining the two together — one plays very nicely with the other. Use retargeting to nurture the top of the funnel and remarketing to convert the recipient at the bottom.

Double Down on SEO

If you do not already have a strategy in place for search engine optimization (SEO), now is the time. When mastering the art of SEO and inbound marketing, your brand is more likely to raise the ranks of Google’s search engine results page (SERP) — hello first page rankings!

As a result, when someone is searching for services or products you offer, they are more likely to visit your website. In short, publishing SEO-driven content can result in more quality and quantity traffic to your site, for free with tremendous compound interest.

Leverage an Experienced Marketing Contractor 

When it comes to creating out-of-the-box lead generating marketing strategies, sometimes it is best left to the experts. For the best results, hire a marketing contractor that has experience working with startup organizations. They understand what channels will deliver the best results based on your objectives, target audience, and budget. 

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again

The world of marketing is constantly evolving, but now more than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic caused many startup organizations to reevaluate their lead generation strategy and marketing budget to adjust to this new normal. However, with so many marketing opportunities available it is challenging to know what will offer the best return on investment. Chances are you will have to experiment and test out 2-3 programs to really determine what lead generation strategies work and what do not.

By Michelle Urban

Michelle Urban is the founder of Marketing 261, a digital agency for startups. With a hands-on, get-it-done attitude, she and her team focus on executing measurable plans to get real results. For over 15 years, she’s built scalable marketing programs for demand creation, lead generation, customer advocacy, and engagement. She’s also a wanna-be writer and weekend windsurfer who occasionally binge-watches Netflix. Ask her about the time she danced with Oprah and Beyoncé on live television.