If you’re reading this blog, you probably already have a budget for marketing and a hunch that you need to find new ways to optimize your marketing budget. As an agency, we know that no matter the size of the budget, every dollar must bring value to the table.
But even after you’ve dotted your I’s and crossed your budget T’s, how can you stretch your marketing budget further? Here are some of our most practical tips for effectively using your marketing budget to get the best ROI on your investments.
1. Lay the Foundation for Your Optimal Marketing Budget
The key to any marketing budget is having a plan. You’ll want to analyze your company’s achievements, future goals, and areas for improvement. Asking these questions will help you lay a strategic foundation to effectively use your marketing budget.
It’s a general rule of thumb that your marketing budget on average should be 10% of your annual revenue. If you have more aggressive goals, you may want to consider adjusting to meet those objectives. More than half of that budget should be spent on digital marketing.
This can be nuanced, so comparing past years’ budgets and results with future goals can help you paint a more realistic picture of the means you’ll need to achieve that growth. If you’re still in this phase, here’s a tool to help you plan your budget.
Be S.M.A.R.T. About Your Goals
When talking with clients about their goals, we often hear the phrase, “I want to generate more leads” or “I want to increase revenue.” These are important goals, but on their own, they aren’t specific enough to your business to carry you through the day-to-day. Consider the S.M.A.R.T. goals you can make that lead to those wins.
As you paint your picture of success, consider including measurable goals – like gaining referrals, getting email signups, or increasing your organic web traffic each month. Now you know where to put the dollars in your budget.
How Will You Measure Your Goals?
In the words of Peter Drucker, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Sounds easy enough, right? But as marketers, we often find ourselves passionate about a new initiative or content strategy and not so passionate about the detailed measurement of all those initiatives after they launch. It’s easy to be excited about the next idea.
And it makes sense – analyzing marketing data can feel like a big hill to climb. When you use tracking (we’ll get to that later!), it can help illustrate the value of your investment and reduce marketing waste.
This is especially important if you need to stretch a tight marketing budget. Every business’ KPIs are different, but here are some to consider:
- Visitor-to-lead conversion rate
- Opportunities generated
- Revenue generated
- Website traffic to blogs
- Clicks generated from paid advertising
Consider the Season
If you’re using the same amount of ad spend or duplicate initiatives throughout every month of the year, you’re not optimizing your marketing budget. A great example of this is the tax industry.
As you ramp up and prepare for the busy season, increasing your ad spend or awareness efforts at a higher level makes sense. But once you’re in the new year (when people need to have their taxes done), your spending probably doesn’t need to be quite as high.
This shouldn’t be guesswork, however, which is why it’s so important to make sure you’re tracking what you do year-over-year and forecasting your digital marketing efforts for the future.
2. Invest Spend In Your Brand Equity
In marketing, large ticket efforts like social media or billboard ads are often top of mind. But what about your brand? What’s your reputation in your industry? Brand equity is based on the consumer’s perception of and experiences with your brand. And it’s important that your marketing spend supports your brand equity development.
Successful marketing should also translate to the customer’s attitude about your brand. This is helpful to your budget because organic digital marketing tactics will cost less over time compared to efforts like PPC.
Consider Factors Like Google E-A-T
Expertise. Authoritativeness. Trustworthiness. These three elements are essential to not only building brand equity online but achieving a great SEO ranking down the line.
Rich content that contains valuable information and insights, such as optimized blog posts or case studies, shows a level of expertise. Authoritativeness is what happens as you develop a content library, by demonstrating your expertise above others in your industry. Trustworthiness comes from several factors, like how secure your site is or the number of positive vs. negative reviews.
Invest In the Right Quality and Quantity of Content
What defines quality content? Rather than giving us a step-by-step guide, Yoast tells us that “the easy answer is: your users.” But is that an easy answer? Yes and no. Various elements go into creating great content, but the end-user is always the key perspective to keep in mind.
You’ll recall earlier we mentioned that at least 50% of your marketing budget should go towards digital marketing. When it comes to content marketing, we recommend at least 25% of that digital marketing umbrella be used towards the content budget.
Content marketing is a form of organic internet marketing. While this strategy is a long-term commitment, it can be a cost-efficient digital marketing effort because the actual costs are relatively low compared to efforts like billboards or TV ads.
To see success, you need to generate a lot of content, but it also needs to be high quality.
As you look to get started, take it back to the basics and make sure you’re using those dollars to invest in a strong foundation. That means optimizing the content on your existing web pages first and foremost.
Only after you’ve optimized your existing website pages to include SEO keywords and a greater wealth of quality content should you begin shifting your resources to producing new, quality content.
What does the breakdown of all that quality and quantity content look like for your budget? We’re about to take a look.
Let’s say you have 50 hours budgeted for your team to spend on content per month. You might consider using this strategy:
- 25 hours, about 50% of that time, on blog writing and / or whitepapers
- 2.5 hours, about 5% of the time, optimizing or rewriting one page on your website
- At least 12 hours, about 25% of the time, for email marketing
- Starting with 7 hours, about 15% of the time, each month depending on the season
- And lastly, 2.5 hours or about 5% of the time to plan your upcoming month’s content
If you’re still unsure how to work content into your overall strategy, take a few minutes to read our blog on creating a content marketing strategy.
3. Test and Track Your Marketing
Earlier in this post, we talked about setting up ways of measuring your marketing goals so that you can stretch your marketing budget. As you launch your efforts, you’ll also want to track, A/B test, and review what you find.
Track Organic & Paid Digital Marketing in Google Analytics
Thanks to tools like Google Analytics and integrated CRMs, certain ROI tracking is easy. Google Analytics will allow you to track the leads and conversions from a variety of paid and organic initiatives.
For example, tactfully tracking website visitors from your social media ad campaign and subsequent conversions helps put tangible value to your marketing spend.
Certain marketing initiatives, like a logo refresh or non-profit sponsorship, for example, are a little more difficult to track the ROI on.
Now, that’s not to say that those less trackable efforts are any less valuable – they’re very important. Nonetheless, some marketing efforts will never have a clear, trackable line, and that’s okay. It’s also one of the reasons why it’s so important to track the ones that do.
Ultimately, at the end of the year, you’ll likely be taking the analytics data and pairing it with your KPIs to present to your executive team, CEO, or CFO. Proof of ROI from the marketing budget will help advocate for your marketing budget to stay the same or even grow in the future.
A/B Test Your Advertising
New to A/B testing? Harvard Business Review has a great refresher on what this looks like. Essentially, it gives you room to be creative with your marketing and make small tweaks along the way that help you optimize your campaigns and spend your budget better. Here are some A/B testing examples:
- If you run a social ad, consider testing different verbiage with the same image or vice versa.
- In a PPC ad, consider the trends and test different keywords along with their subsequent combinations.
- If you’re utilizing email marketing, send one variation of the campaign to a subset of your audience and another variation to the other subset. This will help you to see which performs better.
We know that ad time during March Madness might seem like a great and glamorous idea, and it very well may be. Nonetheless, investing a significant portion of your marketing dollars in a singular effort can be risky. That’s why it’s important to use testing, tracking, and measuring to inform your decisions and select the right mix of marketing tactics.
4. Don’t Underestimate Public Relations
To effectively use your marketing budget, a holistic approach is important. A mix of both paid and free public relations can complement your marketing efforts in calculated ways.
Launching a new product? Consider a press release to accompany your campaign. Have a team member who’s great at public speaking? Check with your local chamber about doing a presentation on an area of your business’ expertise.
On the other hand, consider using your existing resources creatively towards a local non-profit’s fundraising campaign or by participating in a benefit golf tournament.
There are four primary types of sponsorships to consider.
- Financial Sponsorship: The business pays money in exchange for benefits outlined in the sponsor package.
- In-kind Sponsorship: The business donates goods or services instead of a monetary amount.
- Speaker Sponsor: The business pays the expense (travel/accommodations) for a speaker to present at an event.
- Venue or Location Sponsor: The business covers the venue fee or allows the use of a venue they own/occupy.
These various options allow you to find the perfect match for your resources. By donating something you already have, like a few hours in your venue, to an event with attendees that are your ideal client, you’ve been able to stretch a tight marketing budget in a creative way.
Since we already know that people talk to each other about their favorite – or not-so-favorite – products, brands, and experiences, why not ask your customers for a referral?
As you look at your budget, consider the cost per cold lead vs. the investment in rewarding your clients and the warm leads they refer. Is that reward a complimentary service? An upgrade? Make sure that whatever you choose has the potential to be good for you, your client, and the lead.
You might be fortunate enough to already see this happening organically, but if not, consider creating a referral program.
Awards and Recognition
If you need to stretch a tight marketing budget, awards and recognition within your community and industry can be a helpful complement to your traditional efforts. Consider checking with your local chamber of commerce, business journal, or reader’s choice awards for free entries while exploring industry awards for paid entries.
If you work with an agency or consultant, see if you can partner together on this initiative and share the entry fees.
Getting Started: Putting Your Budget In Place
Every business has different needs, strategies, and circumstances. This isn’t a hurdle, but a unique puzzle we as marketers get to pull out and put together. No marketing budget is one-size-fits-all, even a small marketing budget.
The ideas and strategies we just reviewed will help you consider your unique business needs and challenges so that you can save time, money, and produce results.
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