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The True Cost of Stop and Go Marketing

Stop and go marketing

By Dawn Wagenaar

In 1993, the State of Colorado eliminated its marketing function and cut its $12 million promotion budget to zero. Within two years, the state’s domestic market share dropped 30 percent.

The state reported $1.4 billion in lost annual tourism revenue. It took the industry seven years to get the legislature to provide a revised promotional budget. During that time, Colorado dropped from 1st to 17th among summer resort destinations and lost billions in tourism and related revenue.

People forgot about Colorado as a vacation spot. What?

Stop and go marketing, as I call it, is reactive and expensive. It’s like working out a few days a month. You might be ok, but not exactly fit. Then middle age hits and you’re 20 pounds overweight. How did that happen? The consequences happen slowly.

The world’s most successful companies (think Apple) are marketing machines. It’s not because they have big budgets. You can be very effective on a small marketing budget when you are strategic and consistent.


1. Establish and adjust a budget over time.

Marketing is a real cost of doing business. Newer and unknown businesses should spend a larger percentage of their budgets on marketing than an established company, but it depends on your industry and your competition.

The Small Business Administration sets a baseline marketing budget at 4-6 percent of sales, but some companies will spend as much as 20 percent to grow faster or earn a top market position.


2. Create a plan with accountability.

There are many marketing plan templates available online to help you create a plan that suits you. Determine your key audiences, your goals for increasing visibility and sales among these audiences, and the tactics you’ll use to attract them.

Strategy — a plan — is easier to create than do. The owner, the partner in charge or the marketing staffer gets diverted to other urgent business needs. There is also vacation time and unexpected or planned personal matters that crop up.

What happens when your primary marketer is distracted or unavailable for days, weeks or months? You lose momentum. You miss deadlines for key advertising, speaking or public relations opportunities. You don’t follow up consistently on leads or track your social analytics or make sure your website is still functioning at peak performance.

In this digital age, one person can’t be an expert at every aspect of traditional or online marketing. One person only has so much time.


3. Augment internal staff.

Even if you have a dynamite marketing director, the timing might not be right to add more internal staff. As a result, your highly skilled professional is spending time on tasks that could be handled by a junior marketer. Meanwhile, an entry-level marketing coordinator may be trying to handle too many tasks at once with varying levels of success.

Any task that requires additional training should be outsourced to experienced professionals who can implement efficiently while offering coaching or training to internal staff. Over time, marketing staff gains new skills, new hires are handled more strategically, and gaps in marketing capacity are consistently covered as the company grows.

You won’t notice the impact of stop and go marketing right away, but within a couple years many potential customers won’t know your company exists. You won’t know how many choose another company instead of yours, but you’ll notice your revenue start to slip.

Imagine if you lost just two potential customers this year from inconsistent marketing. It doesn’t seem like many, but what does that add up to in annual revenue? $20,000? $200,000?

Now multiply that average loss every year.

Dawn WagenaarDawn Wagenaar is principal of Ingenuity Marketing Group, LLC, in St. Paul, Minn., a full-service outsourced marketing agency that also takes on special projects to help professionals market consistently while they focus on serving clients year-round. Contact her at