Keys to a Successful Marketing Budget

Marketing budgets can feel like a chore without a dedicated marketing team crunching the numbers, but every business needs one to succeed. Why?

Because every dollar spent differentiating your business from your competition can earn you five to ten dollars in revenue.

That’s how valuable having a marketing budget is, yet, most businesses find themselves marketing by the seat of their pants because budgeting is a challenge.

What’s The Challenge?

The time and resources required to develop an effective marketing budget are usually scarce, especially for small to mid-sized businesses. The budgeting process is more than just picking a dollar amount, choosing your marketing channels and then creating marketing pieces. It also has to account for research, personnel and tracking.

Before You Begin

It may be your first instinct, but marketing budgets should not begin with how much you are willing to spend. They begin with establishing who your target audience is and researching who can benefit from your product or service the most. Define what they look like, what they do for fun, where they go for information and what they value.Then ask yourself, “What about my brand will differentiate us from our competitors in the target audience’s eyes?”

With a clearer view of your target audience and vetted differentiators, you may research what marketing channels best communicate your differentiators to your customer. For example, if you’re marketing a professional service to other businesses, you might consider LinkedIn or a robust SEM strategy. If you’re marketing a product to millennials, you might consider Facebook or remarketing.

Set Your Goals

Set expectations and benchmarks to measure your progress, but be realistic. If your target audience is small, can you really achieve $5 million in new sales over the year? Can you truly convert 50% of leads when the industry average is 10%? This is not to say your goals shouldn’t be challenging, but make them achievable for the sake of your employee’s morale, your sanity and your bottom line – this is your opportunity to define what your success looks like.

Just having goals is not enough. You must establish tools and a process for tracking your success and making changes. Facebook provides HTML pixels to help you attribute website conversions to a specific Facebook ad. Landing pages or unique URL’s on your website will help you identify campaign related traffic and leads. Promotion or QR codes will help track the success of promotional offers. The key being, if you can’t measure it, don’t do it.

What’s Your Budget?

Traditionally, your marketing budget should be around 10% of your gross revenue. If you are a newer business with less brand awareness, that number could reach as much as 40%. If you are an established brand, that number may drop as low as 5%. No matter the case, your marketing budget should be built to meet the goals you previously set, and focused on reaching your target audience through the marketing channels you researched.

Luckily for businesses today, the digital age has made marketing much more cost effective. A Facebook ad can reach just as many customers as a newspaper ad for a fraction of the cost. A YouTube video can drive website traffic better than any ad buy for television or radio, and an optimized e-commerce website can move product faster than most high-traffic storefronts.

That being said, digital and social media marketing relies on your understanding of your target audience. If your target audience research is off the mark, your well crafted marketing will fall on deaf ears.

The Bottom Line

Building your marketing budget begins before you budget. Careful planning and thoughtful research will set your marketing up for success, and “(tracking) makes perfect.”

5 Digital Marketing Tools That Your Online Business Needs

Digital marketing tools are resources and techniques that you can use in your online business to attract, engage and convert large numbers of customers.

If you have just started your own online business, you may find yourself a little confused with all different digital marketing tools that are out there. Which do you use and which do you ignore? Or, if you have been running an online business for some time, you may not be getting the sort of results you want.

The digital marketing tools listed below are the ones that you must use in your business. Yes there others, but they should only be used once you have these 5 options in place.

1.Email Marketing

Email marketing is still the most effective online marketing tactic. When people have given you permission to email them about your products and services, they are definitely a warm prospect. Make the most of your digital marketing by placing an email address capture box on your website.

2. Content Marketing

The foundation of content marketing is that if you provide reliable and valuable information to potential buyers, they will inevitably become loyal and regular customers. Avoid the constant hard sell as this turns people off. Content does not just have to be words on a page. It can be videos, infographics, illustrations or photos, podcasts or online seminars.

3. Video Marketing

Video is used to entertain and educate. Millions of people use YouTube every month and this gives you the opportunity to reach a substantial audience who are looking to buy your products and services. If you’re not marketing on YouTube on a regular basis, put it at the top of your to-do list.

4. Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing is one of two types off digital marketing. One is when you spend money on a pay per click (PPC) campaign. This is where you pay each time your ad is clicked when it appears on a search engine result. The other is search engine optimization where you develop non-paid, or organic, results in search engines listings so that your business appears at, or near, the top of the results.

5. Social Media Marketing

Social media enables you to connect with your target market, boost your visibility, generate leads and make sales. It’s an effective medium to post valuable written content and great images to drive traffic back to your website. Don’t forget to market your best content on discussion boards, groups and forums, particularly in places like Facebook groups.

Small Business Marketing From Finish to Start

“Maybe the start line was supposed to be your finish line. Don’t be afraid to walk backwards.” Author:Tablo

Normally whenever we think of taking on a project, we lay out the plan and define the tasks necessary to accomplish the goal. Consider something as basic as building a house. The builder and the buyer agree on the basics – number and size of bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen layout – the eventual “footprint” of the house. It then becomes the responsibility of the architect to develop blueprints which will be submitted to the town or local authority for approval. Once approved, the builder will assign a project manager to move through the steps to completion.

Here’s where small business marketing works best, when the parties work in reverse order. The client (the internal marketing manager or the external business decision maker) needs to embrace the idea of where they want to end up. And unlike the house building example, there are many different choices to define success.

For example, success could simply be defined as a growth in revenue from an existing run-rate to a run-rate with a higher number. For example, lets say the business has been growing 10% a year for the last 5 years, and the goal and purpose of marketing is to improve that growth rate to 20% a year over a reasonable period of time.

Success can be the launch of a new product, a new service, a new solution with a return on investment higher than other launches of the past.

Now to achieve those goals, marketing begins to work, for lack of a better word – backwards. The marketing professional starts at the finish line, incorporating one or more goals that need to be achieved. Marketing looks holistically at the various components that can be engaged in order to handle those project steps similar to the building project manager. However, since marketing activities (also known as the marketing mix) can have varying costs, and different choices require more or less time to check it off as complete.

Here’s an example of a small business marketing process and plan.

Let’s begin with a goal: Grow the revenue by 20 percent over the next 18-24 months.

Why not a firm date? It’s foolish in an ever shifting set of marketing tools and popular formats to set a hard date. Imagine building a plan before Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn took off. Odds are good that the completion date would be considerably impacted by these “new” mediums of communicating with buyers and influencers.

In this author’s opinion, the center of the marketing universe is a good website. A great website is better, but should be a living tool that adapts to changes in the way people choose to search for information. So a good website will suffice as long as it provides slightly more than basics about the company, the product, the brand, the solution, and a place for visitors to go for information.

Landing Pages must be Clean and Simple (and Device Agnostic)

Inside the website is our landing page(s). A landing page is where, when someone does a search, and finds your ad (more about that later), clicking the ad link brings them to a specific page directly. Thus, they should not have to plow through the history of the principals, the location of offices, awards, past downloadable PDFs, webinar replays, etc., etc., etc. by bringing them to the home page.

Instead, they should go directly to the page on the website that speaks to the topic via keyword(s) that they searched for, and the “bait” used in an ad to get them to click the ad. Most people are smart enough to roam around the website on their own, to learn more about the company if they are interested. But the goal of that landing page is to respond to the SPECIFIC need, and the SPECIFIC solution, which brought them there to begin with.

OK. Let’s assume we’ve got that solid landing page (quite likely several for each of the solutions, products or campaign being run). How did people get there? In a world of literally MILLIONS of pages, how did they find yours?

The magic word is CONTENT.

Content should not be confused with advertising. In fact, advertising posing as content is quickly discovered as such, and harms the brand deeply. Content is education. It is sharing opinions, experiences, thoughts, ideas, successes, and without an obvious goal of getting something in return beyond an acknowledgement that the author is a subject matter expert, and is willing to provide information without a hidden agenda. The altruistic motivation is what buyers crave far more than clever jingles, surveys, puzzles, or quizzes.

Think about your Competitors

Now we move back some more. Who are your competitors and what do they know, do, offer, profess or otherwise claim that whether real or not, is intent in casting their goods in a more favorable light then your own. Often these claims (real or otherwise) are unchallenged, simply because they are crafted by expensive marketing research companies, whose lipstick is more attractive that the pig that’s wearing it.

Look back at who your competitors were not so long ago. Have they truly created something far better than yours, or have they simply done a better job of convincing buyers that you are yesterday’s news. Having been in the IT sales and marketing business for more than 25 years, there are some companies that come to mind that seemed to never be knocked from their throne – WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, Wang, Digital Equipment, and many other – gone or just consumed by other companies. So while others were innovating these companies rested on their laurels eventually being a footnote in the early days of PCs. And one need not go back 20 years to think about MySpace, the Zune, even Napster.

Take the time to evaluate your competitors and create a simple but honest SWOT analysis (S=Strengths, W=Weaknesses, O=Opportunities, T-Threats) so you the marketing efforts can identify the weak spots and attack them.

Putting it all together

The singular most important foundation a business has for marketing is its database. The database (whether in a sophisticated CRM tool, or an excel spreadsheet). In addition to current and/or former clients, it needs to be constantly fed, updated, parsed, and managed or every other dollar or hour spent will be sub-optimized. The database provides not only the contacts, but a history of business/client experiences – both good and bad. And it is the starting point to uncover any real or perceived “warts” potential clients might find, and an opportunity to address them before going live with campaigns.

Now we have all the parts, we need to converge all the actions to drive buyers and influencers to the landing page(s), where we can generate the dialogue and begin to turn clicks into customers. Addressing all of the nuances of email marketing, snail mail marketing, content marketing through blogs, and distribution through social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and (especially) Google+. Tie in a moderate budget to generate visits by using Google AdWords and follow up with participation in industry events where subject matter experts are sought out for their knowledge and ideas.