Fall is nearly upon us, which means that many of us in the business world are working on our 2018 budgets. For marketers, planning ahead isn’t always easy, even for the most experienced managers and directors. Digital marketing is a constantly revolving, sometimes cyclical, sometimes explosive world where the latest fad or tech development can turn a business plan on its head. But there’s no need to stress about the future. Creating the right plan for your available funds will give your team the tools needed to roll with any punches that come your way while generating the power to adapt and succeed.
In order to help you find the right path, we’ve put together an outline for creating the perfect marketing budget for 2018 and beyond.
Dig into the past. The first step to creating a great plan for the future is understanding your past marketing. What have you tried so far? What worked? What didn’t? Now is the time to review data and analyze your marketing department’s successes and challenges. Compiling accurate data on your past performance and conducting in-depth analysis will help you repeat successes where possible and allow you to either fix or ditch the less fruitful components of your past strategy. Great analysis can also help guide you in changing your marketing team’s structure to better support your best skills while filling in the gaps in your problem areas. Most importantly, good data will show you where you spent, and what gave you the highest ROI. Note: If you don’t have data available, then step one for your plan is to put a system in place to collect and analyze useful data on your marketing campaigns. Do not skip this step - without data, you’ll never know where you stand, making long-term marketing success incredibly difficult to attain.
Review the market. What are your competitors up to? What have they done throughout the past year, and how has it worked for them? What are they spending, and where? Finding out how the market has performed and how audiences have responded to campaigns throughout the past year is vital to creating the best possible marketing strategy. Sometimes the best research is just finding statistics: search for stats on different campaign types, channels, keywords, audiences, etc. to find out how the world is currently responding to different kinds of media. With this info, you can paint an accurate picture of the current market and find your place within that picture. Here's some great examples of useful stats from Statista:
Set goals. Determine your specific objectives. Are you looking to generate leads for your sales team? Are you just launching your brand and want to get your name out there? Are you trying to bring in new traffic to an existing site or page? By identifying the needs your company has as a whole, you can figure out exactly what your marketing should be targeting. Whether it’s growing your audience or establishing yourself as a thought leader, make sure that you know exactly what you want your marketing campaigns to achieve. Be sure these fit into a realistic budget for your team and your organization. Once you’ve set clear, achievable goals, your game plan will begin to naturally create itself.
Build a strategy. It’s time to create a path to your goals. By answering the following questions, you can outline each part of your strategy and create a workflow for your team.
- Who are you targeting? The best first step in creating an effective marketing strategy is to create personas that illustrate your ideal target audience. This will help your team understand exactly who they’re reaching out to and also help you answer the next few questions.
- What methods are you using? Are you looking for branding, performance-based, or thought leadership marketing? Based on the goals you set forth in the last step, this should be easy to answer. Remember that it’s likely that you may need to seek outside help for any of these methods, and that you should leave room in your budget for this.
- How are you delivering your marketing messages? What channels are you planning on using? Select those you’ve really got the time and bandwidth to maintain. For some, it might be a combination of social media and email blasts, while others might opt for lead generation, CPC, and in-person events. Whatever your method, be sure to pick one that not only shows market success for your specific audience, but also that you can manage with your current team. Just like with the methods mentioned above, you may need to set aside some of your budget for outside resources to assist with these channels.
- What is your timeframe? Be sure to balance short-term and long-term marketing methods. For example, you might need more clicks now but there’s no reason why you can’t start blogging to begin building thought leadership down the road. It’s important to think about the big picture and the snapshot in order to create the most accurate timeframe for your campaigns.
- How much do you REALLY have to spend? Too many marketers suffer from budgetary confusion when making their marketing strategy at the beginning of the year, and that ultimately means that their plans go to waste. It’s important to know exactly how much money you have in your budget and exactly how much you will need. Going extremely over or under budget is indicative of a half-baked or unrealistic plan. If it’s happened to you, that’s okay! It’s happened to all of us! Just make sure that this experience becomes part of your year-over-year data and analysis on your marketing efforts.
Note: Don’t spread yourself too thin—it’s okay to stop one strategy to focus on another, or to focus down on just a few specific strategies. You can even change goals on a yearly or quarterly basis. Just don’t try to do everything all at once; a marketing team of any size is more likely to fail when stretched too far.
Optimize, interact, and adjust. Time is money: be sure to set time aside to have conversations with your audience and make appropriate changes to your strategy throughout the year. Make sure there’s also room in your budget to cover the costs of these changes. You may find that a campaign that was swimming along has suddenly stalled, and it’s back to the drawing board for new creatives. Or a new campaign may just never take off, and it may have to be swapped out entirely for a different method and/or channel. Whatever the scenario, be prepared. Know that no successful marketer just turns on a series of campaigns and walks away for a year. Great marketing requires hard, constant work to generate positive results.
Collect data and analyze it. If you’ve followed along closely, you should see that we’ve just closed the circle and returned to #1. A great year should close out with a wealth of new data and analytics. Be sure that you appropriate funding to the collection, management, and analysis of important data about each of your campaigns.
The easiest way to save money and stretch each dollar is to make a solid game plan for your marketing strategy. By following these general guidelines, you’ll be able to set up the perfect budget for your 2018 campaign efforts. Even if you have a very small funding pool and/or marketing team, there’s ways to approach each of these steps in affordable, manageable ways. Give your marketing the attention it deserves by making a great plan for its future.
- Lindsay Jawor