There are 2 very general ways of looking at marketing.
Marketers see it as a massively valuable activity. Non-marketers typically see it as a money suck that goes at the head of the line when budget cuts are necessary.
I won’t enter into the virtues of either point of view here – my purpose is to point out a type of marketing that frees marketers from the budgetary constraints others would impose.
Net Zero Marketing.
Marketing That Pays For Itself
As marketers, we operate in the context of the company.
We know what we do is the lifeblood of the organization. But we also have budgets.
When we can create marketing that pays for itself, we can give ourselves the freedom to scale our message as big as we want to, without being constrained by budgets.
Imagine – when you spend $1 on a campaign, that campaign makes $1 back. Not somewhere in some other part of the company – but right there, inside the campaign.
That customer/prospect who gave you that $1 can go on to purchase your company’s core products, contributing revenue to the sales organization…
But before that happens, you’ve broken even on your marketing.
Meaning you can go spend that $1 as many times as you want to. You can market as big as you want to. You can acquire customers at the most rapid rate possible.
Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Do you want to know how this works? Let me tell you.
2 Ways to Create Marketing That Pays For Itself
Any company can use either method I’m about to outline. But in practice, the first is typically more suited for startups and smaller companies, while the second is more suited to larger companies.
There are reasons for this that I can go into in another post.
For now, just know that you can really choose either one, but you might find it easier to use the approach that I say is suited to your company size.
Approach #1 – The Self-Liquidating Offer
This approach is used all the time in direct-response marketing companies. It’s been proven. It’s successful. It’s powerful.
Sometimes it’s hard for other types of companies to grasp, but if they do, it’s an amazing growth tool.
If your company is a typical product company, you probably have one primary product that you sell. Your marketing activities are bent on getting people to buy that product.
Your marketing budget is spent on things like creating qualified leads, nurturing, educating, and branding. It’s a long and expensive path to revenue, which leaves your marketing vulnerable to the criticism that it’s not creating value.
But if you can make an offer to your customers and your prospects during the early stages of your relationship…
An offer that they will take at a certain rate (i.e. 10% of prospects take this offer)…
And if the price of that offer is optimized to fit your volume and the cost of your marketing…
Those 10% of people can actually pay for your marketing to them AND the other 90%.
It’s hard to come up with an offer at first. Most companies I talk to don’t think they have anything to offer before customers buy their core product.
But there’s always something. Finding it requires you to step back and think about what your customer really wants from you. Not just a product, but a result. Not the features, the benefits. And then you have to create a list of ALL the ways you can provide that value, and choose one to offer.
It’s SO POWERFUL. This is one of the principles that my company, Conversion Box, is founded on.
Approach #2 – The Standalone Marketing Department
This approach revolves more around creating massively valuable content…
And then, rather than charging for it directly in a transactional way, capitalizing on that value through multiple streams of revenue.
Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose describe this approach in their book Killing Marketing, where they tell the stories of a handful of (mostly) large companies who are creating marketing that is no longer dependent on the larger organization for its funding.
At the top of this list is Red Bull, whose media arm has become an extremely profitable business in and of itself. Pulizzi and Rose’s own business, The Content Marketing Institute, runs on this model.
The basic premise is that your marketing is valuable. You’re not simply sending coupons in a Val Pack mailer. You’re educating, inspiring, and empowering those who consume your marketing. You’re giving them access to valuable information and experiences.
This value is monetizable outside of the sale of your core product in many ways – like the sale of content or training, advertising revenue on free content like podcasts, monetized experiences like conferences (virtual or in-person), or charging for access to training.
When You Should Start
The first approach is more accessible – you can start thinking of an offer for your customers right away.
The second approach requires you to really think about your strategy. You’ll probably have to create your marketing differently than you are today. It will require a larger investment in content, and it may also require a deeper focus on and understanding of what your customer really needs from you than you currently have as a self-identified product company.
But no matter which approach you want to pursue, the answer is clear – you should start now.
The rewards of creating this type of marketing is a larger share of voice on the channels you choose to advertise in, deeper relationships with your customers, and incredible scale.
Andrew Schultz is the founder of Conversion Box.
He is obsessed with insanely high conversion rates and customer acquisition.