As the new year begins, most companies (and certainly our clients) begin planning for the new year…. and one of the first things to be reviewed is the marketing budget.
Will it increase? Decrease? Where were the marketing dollars best spent? Are there new marketing avenues that we should invest in? How should the budget be divided among all our marketing initiatives?
Most advertising agencies would encourage a client to maintain or increase their marketing budget during an economic downturn for several reasons. However the primary reason to increase your marketing budget is to position yourself ahead of the competition when things get better – you will have continued your marketing presence while they (the competition) has not thereby increasing your visibility and establishing your brand’s presence in the market.
How Much to Invest in Marketing?
Traditional rules project that your marketing budget should be between 1 to 10 percent of sales, or possibly more depending on several factors including:
– How established is your business? (If no one had heard of you yet, then you should probably spend more)
– What industry are you in? (Consider your marketing budget in comparison of what your competition is spending)
– How much can you really afford? (Don’t spend yourself into a hole, be selective in the initiatives you invest in… you can always change your plan throughout the year)
Realistically, your marketing budget should be affordable and reasonable to you and your company’s overall expenditures.
Where and How to Promote Your Brand Message?
The next challenge is selecting the marketing initiatives that are best for your brand message and marketing objectives. The most common marketing communications programs include: Print/Radio/TV advertising; direct mail; trade shows; and online marketing strategies.
The key to allocating your marketing communications budget is to start with thinking about exactly whom you want to reach and where (what medium) to reach them. Creating objectives for your annual marketing communications will help define your target audience and message strategy.
Some of the most cost-effective marketing tools today are online – i.e. your website and social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter).
The best thing about your website is that potential customers have found you! You already have their attention and what they are seeking is additional information. It is important that you constantly improve your website, either by adding content or links or editing your services and products – it will help increase your search engine optimization (SEO) or ranking on search engines sites. Your website is also a key way to differentiate yourself from your competition by providing helpful, personal, and interesting content.
Social media is another excellent and affordable way to promote your products/services. While time intensive, you are able to reach your target audience and interact with them through blog posts, content sharing, video, etc. If you like small talk, consider Twitter. If you prefer in-depth conversations, perhaps blogging would be best. Or if you like to network, LinkedIn is a great way to reach new contacts.
No matter what social media channel you are communication through, always keep in mind the quality of what you’re writing and information you’re providing – it’s all about the conversation!
Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI)
Regardless of the marketing communications program you develop, it is crucial to track the performance of your marketing efforts closely.
One way is to be vigilant in asking new customers how they found out about you. Include the question on inquiry forms from your website or ask when a person calls or walks in the door.
Consider using those GoogleAnalytics everyone was pushing you to incorporate into your website. What are they saying about your visitors? If more customers are coming to your website or reading your blog and following tweets, then keep spending your time and money on those efforts. If more of your customers are finding you from print ads or because they heard about you on the radio/TV, then spend more there and less on other mediums.
It costs less to keep an existing customer then to get a new one or try to win that customer back, so if some part of your marketing plan is not working out well… tweak it. Your ability and willingness to change directions can be a huge competitive advantage with all the available avenues to promote your business.
Good luck with your promotions in 2012!