Marketing Microsoft

Making the Most of Your Marketing Budget

Focus your marketing dollars in these two areas -- Web sites/search and database-driven marketing -- and the sales and leads will follow.

If you're like most Microsoft Partners, you've never got enough money for all the marketing you'd like to do. Following are tips for squeezing more from your marketing dollars.

Start with a change in mindset: Focus on driving leads and sales rather than on branding. Yes, brand image is important to your company's success. But unless you can spend a half-million dollars or so on brand advertising, such efforts probably won't move the sales needle much.

The good news: If you spend a fraction of that amount on marketing designed primarily to generate leads, you should see a big impact on sales. And responding quickly to inquiries while maintaining the quality of your Web site and marketing materials also helps enhance your company's image.

Next, consider dividing your marketing budget into thirds.

Invest one-third in your Web site and search marketing initiatives. Your Web site is probably the initial stop for prospects that are just becoming aware of your company. And search engines are, of course, the first place many prospective customers go to look for companies, solutions or services.

But before you spend a penny, try my free Web Site Design Checklist. This tool will help you enhance your Web site both in terms of search-engine results and in moving prospects from awareness to inquiry to consideration to purchase.

When it comes to your search-engine investments, consider search-engine optimization (SEO) before investing in sponsored links on search pages. Recent business-to-business research by Enquiro Search Solutions Inc., a search-engine marketing company, shows that search-engine results typically receive nearly 75 percent of clicks, with sponsored links getting the rest. If you want to do SEO in-house, consider investing in Planet Ocean's useful, and regularly updated, SEO resource package ($97 for a six-month subscription; go to If you don't want to do the job yourself, you can turn it over to a reputable SEO company.

Invest another third in database-driven direct marketing. Start by analyzing your existing customer base, identifying the most profitable companies and using them to create models for the best types of businesses to target with one-to-many marketing activities.

Next, acquire a database containing information on these kinds of companies. (For help with third-party list services, visit Microsoft's Marketing Services for Partners site at

Aim to communicate with your database contacts monthly so that you're in sight and in mind when they're thinking about their problems or needs. But don't rely solely on e-mail follow-ups; experts estimate that between 70 percent and 80 percent of opt-in messages are blocked before reaching the intended recipients.

If you don't have e-mail addresses, or don't have permission for e-mail contact, try contacting your best prospects via direct mail or even by telephone (see my column "Dialing for Dollars or Wasting Your Money," August 2006).

Provide multiple calls to action to reach prospects wherever they are in the consideration/purchase process. For instance, for those in the earliest stages, offer brochures, white papers, case studies and other introductory materials. For those midway through the process, provide checklists, how-to guides and invitations to live and Web-based briefings and other events. And for those close to purchasing, offer purchasing discounts, free phone consultations and custom quotes or proposals.

Invest the final third in everything else. Specifically, I recommend using your remaining funds to support the investments you've made in the first two-thirds of your budget. You might use the money to design, print and mail information kits, case studies or checklists for prospects seeking more information. Or you might spend it to create a monthly newsletter or a series of webinars or in-person events. You'll probably want to put part of it toward Web site improvements. And if there's anything left over, you might want to consider investing in a few sales tools as well.

About the Author

M.H. "Mac" McIntosh has been providing marketing and sales consulting services for Microsoft and many of its partners for more than seven years. More than 1,000 Microsoft Partners across the United States and Canada have attended his Marketing Boot Camps and Marketing for Leads (tm) live and Web seminars. You can contact Mac via