Skip to content
Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistFri, Mar 27, 2015 10 min read

Five Marketing Budget Cuts Today To Fund Inbound Marketing Tomorrow

MarketingBudgetCutsYou love the idea of inbound marketing, but you hate the idea of paying for it. Not a huge challenge when you look at your budget. Without looking too hard, you’re going to find a handful of old-school marketing tactics that are costing you money and likely not providing a whole lot of return.

One of the most important questions you need to be asking is, “How much money do I need to find in my budget?” This isn’t easy to answer in a blog article, but let’s make two assumptions.

First, the bigger your marketing goals, say you want to grow your business from $5M in revenue to $10M in revenue, the bigger your budget should be, right? Makes sense. Next, the faster you want your inbound program to start kicking in leads, the bigger your budget.

If you’re like most of the people we talk to about inbound, you want results fast and have aggressive revenue goals. You should be looking at around $120,000 to $150,000 for the year. This should sound reasonable to you if you need an extra $5M in revenue.

So, let’s start looking for places to reallocate funds to help you invest in inbound.

Cold Calling Or Executive Appointment Setting

Believe it or not, a lot of companies still make cold calls and pay for executive appointment setting. Let me be clear: I’m sure in some situations these tactics make sense. But in the broad picture of marketing tactics that work and those that don’t, this might be at the top of the list. When was the last time you answered your phone and were happy to hear from an unsolicited sales person?

These programs might uncover a lead every now and then, but even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes. Such programs typically cost between $3,000 and $5,000 a month. If your sales team is making these calls, it might be harder to justify, but if you have internal telemarketing people making calls, then moving a single FTE from this role to something else would also save you $4,000 a month.

TOTAL ANNUAL SAVINGS for reallocation to inbound - $48,000 ($4,000 a month for 12 months)

Trade Shows

Almost every business with a marketing budget has at least one, but probably more like two or three, trade shows they go to year in and year out. After all, if they didn’t go, people would think they’re out of business, right? I like to think that if they didn’t go, people might assume they were smarter than everyone else, but that’s just my opinion.

Every year, you’re wondering why you go and what the ROI was. Less and less people show up each year, and these shows typically cost around $10,000 per show when you factor in all the costs. This includes everyone's T&E, the cost of being out of the office, materials, giveaways, booth setup, shipping costs, lighting, internet access, etc. By the way, $10,000 is a small show. When I ran marketing for a software company and when I was unaware of inbound, we spent more than $50,000 on two shows alone.

TOTAL ANNUAL SAVINGS for reallocation to inbound - $30,000 (three shows at $10,000 per show)

Print Advertising

I’m not thinking anyone is advertising in Forbes, Inc, Time or any of the big magazines. I once bought an ad in CFO magazine for $85,000, single insertion. What was I thinking? But I’m talking about smaller publications that might charge $10,000 for a series of three ads, so maybe you do this twice a year, taking a few months off in the middle. This doesn’t include the time to create the messages for the ads, design the ads, get the ads approved and other internal work.

TOTAL ANNUAL SAVINGS for reallocation to inbound - $25,000 (two campaigns for $20,000 plus $5,000 for the work to create the ads)


This might not be the biggest line item in the budget, but we’re looking to be highly efficient so we’re leaving no rock unturned. I know that trade shows use most of this stuff and we already cut that down dramatically, but I bet you still get SWAG printed. Some of it may be stuff for the office, so let’s not get rid of everything; however, let’s keep it to a minimum and look at other giveaway items, too.

For example, tickets to sporting events. Yes, these help with moral and no, you don’t have to give away all of your seats to every sports team, but cutting back here allows you to actually generate leads – as opposed to entertaining people who are already your customers.

There are other giveaways that should be cut, too. What do you do around the holidays? Send out cards? Gifts? Calendars? Baskets? You can admit it, no one is looking. As much as you think people love your wall calendar or your bucket of pistachios, you don’t need this and you’ll be happy when no one mentions it at the end of the year.

TOTAL ANNUAL SAVINGS for reallocation to inbound - $5,000 (a conservative estimate with money kept in the budget for some tickets and SWAG for the team in the office)

Pay Per Click

A lot of you think this is some kind of silver bullet. Pay Google and watch the leads come in. However, this is more like crack than a panacea for your marketing machine. If you don’t keep paying, you lose the leads and you actually have to start all over again, should you decide to restart the program at all. Plus, you’re actually competing against yourself: the more you bid, the more your competitors bid. If you are budgeting for this, budget for it to increase month over month, or watch the results slowly start to decline.

People typically spend between $2,000 and $4,000 a month on PPC programs. I’ve also seen people spend over $10,000 a month on PPC. The case can be made that if the cost per lead is reasonable, then why not continue it. That’s fine, except that the cost per lead on an inbound-generated lead from organic search is going to be a lot less and a lot more sustainable over time.

TOTAL ANNUAL SAVINGS for reallocation to inbound - $24,000 (estimated at the low end)

So how did we do? If you add up all the savings from this quick look at a typical marketing budget, we found $132,000 in savings that could easily be reallocated to fund a year-long inbound program. What would you get for that money? Another good question.

Some of the tactics might include a complete marketing strategy and plan that maps out all the inbound tactics you need for a year and actually predicts the number of leads to be created, an upgrade or redesign to your website to make it more prospect-friendly, a year’s worth of blog articles to help your site rise in the search rankings, a year’s worth of educational content (written and designed) to turn visitors into leads, social media upgrades to include content and better messaging, social site engagement to drive more new visitors to your site, email marketing to stay connected with all of your new clients and prospects, lead nurturing campaigns so when someone does download your content, you automatically stay in touch with them via email and much, much more.

If this comparison doesn’t help you see how you should be spending your precious marketing dollars, then you might want to consider looking into inbound marketing a little more and see how different it is from the traditional tactics outlined above.

Start Today Tip – You know there’s stuff in your marketing budget that just doesn’t work like you thought it would. You might not be cutting it because you don’t know what to replace it with or you  worry that if you cut it, results will drop even further. Push past that, be bold. The old-school tactics aren’t going to miraculously start working. Let’s pronounce them dead and start moving in a new direction. The inbound marketing direction.

 Convert Every Lead With This Inbound Sales Checklist

Square 2 Marketing – Leading the Reality Marketing, Inbound Marketing and Inbound Sales Revolutions!


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.