There are some activities that shouldn't ever be attempted unless they're adequately funded. Advertising is a good example. Unless a campaign can be adequately sustained, putting a few ads online or in print probably isn't going to buy you much. One email barrage probably won't either.
Rule No. 22 in marketing gurus Al Reis and Jack Trout's book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, is: "Without adequate funding an idea won't get off the ground." That says it all. Meanwhile, many tech companies' marketing budgets get cut or are essentially non-existent. So what can a tech company do without a real marketing budget? In fact, there's quite a bit.
First, make sure you have a marketing and communications strategy. Earlier posts on this site have discussed this in some detail. (See: Creating Effective Tech PR Strategies and Developing Messaging for Tech Marketers.) Not having a strategy and "just doing some" tactics are sure ways of wasting money. So study your competition, clearly differentiate your brand, and create two or three key messages that effectively and interestingly support your differentiated claim. Then your brand at least has a fighting chance of being recognized as valuable by prospects.
In technical marketing sectors, demonstrating your brand's special expertise can be a powerful way of creating content that's valuable and interesting to customers. Another of my earlier posts discusses how engineers can be an intimate part of the public relations effort. (See: Engineers Can Do Public Relations, Too.)
Call it "content marketing" or publicity, getting the technology creators talking or writing about how or why to use your technology is typically quite effective. The associated cost is time, not money. Technologists can write for publication in traditional media, blog on their own, or post ideas and information to appropriate blog sites followed by your customer base.
You've likely noticed EBN has a substantial cast of people doing exactly this. Writing for publication in existing outlets is more effective than self-publishing because of the typically far greater reach and credibility they offer versus your company's own Website. Link-backs from the article and re-use permissions provide even greater mileage. This kind of publicity generates search optimization results. It's a case of PR driving search and search creating benefits to PR.
Whitepapers are OK as long as whatever you develop is informative and not merely revised product literature. Whitepapers are supposed to be a brand-neutral discussion of a topic of general interest to your customer base. It can include your company's perspective on this topic but not a veiled sales pitch. Merchandising whitepapers is another article. They can be used to help create Web search results and as a way of driving and capturing customer responses -- if their content is perceived as valuable.
Plan consistent contact by building relationships with market analysts, journalists, and consultants who write about the market or affect purchase decisions. Seems logical, right? Your competition may already be doing it. If they're not, you'll have an advantage. Just make it a consistent habit. Talk to these people; don't just shoot occasional news releases at them. Have something interesting to say. Have a point of view on the business you're in. Talk as well as write about it.
Part of market engagement also involves connecting at key industry tradeshows. While exhibiting can be a heavy investment, coming to the show -- walking the floor, seeing who's there and what they're saying, meeting people, and attending some of the presentations -- typically is not. Great partnerships have resulted from planned or even chance meetings. Good things can happen on and off the show floor. Don't miss the opportunities.
Who markets alongside of you to the same prospects? What can you do together to increase awareness and build mutual value among your existing and prospective customers. Can you create something people will notice? I once had two clients who had little to say individually, but jointly they addressed a key technology problem that people were interested in. Initial joint PR efforts developed into cooperative sales and customer training programs that significantly benefitted all. Who can you dance with successfully?
These are a few of the potential ways of making limited marketing dollars work extra hard for your brand.