Budget planning for any phase of marketing can be like a game of whack-a-mole these days. With new technologies emerging, luring consumers from one platform to another, it is hard to keep up with software, training, and even personnel. However, there are some hard and fast truths about digital and inbound marketing, lead generation and omni-channel execution which every manager can plan for in their annual marketing budgets.
Be sure to give some thought and resources to each of the following to ensure better growth in the coming year:
1) Planning: Plan to Do It
The novice marketer does not see it coming, then has to borrow from Peter to pay Paul in their budget. You gather your team and perhaps your agency partners together to plan, but you did not factor in what paying for that plan costs.
Strategic planning should, in some cases, be a significant investment for your marketing efforts. If done well, it prescribes the execution and activities your team must execute to make all that spend worthwhile.
More importantly, without a strategic plan, you are just shooting in the dark. Who wants to do that with their marketing dollars?
Incorporate Data-Driven Insights
We live in the land of data – that includes sales funnels, buyer intent, and advanced insights into consumer behaviors from many different sources. Better yet, REAL TIME data on the people you most want to connect, sell and retain. As you’re planning your annual strategy, know that ‘gut feelings’ and thoughts like “the competition is doing it” or “it’s all over my Facebook feed and sounds cool” are not the correct ways to operate. Your business, the buyer experience, and the digital and in-person sales funnels you have created are all unique. If necessary, hire someone who can come in, read the tea leaves of data, and find the magic to make your strategy different and personalized to the unique needs of your business and most importantly, YOUR PROSPECT & CUSTOMER.
Lay A Solid Foundation
The best strategy, idea, content, and even execution are no match for a house that is built on sand. If elements like the UX/UI of your website, landing pages, SEO, content, messaging, email marketing, or contact forms (to name a few) are not being monitored, tested and optimized — then you are basically burning money for warmth and still cold. The intent of your buyer, the device they find you on, and the sales funnels you’ve built for them must keep in mind at every click, swipe, and tap that it is your brand’s job to make it as easy and intuitive as possible for users to consume, convert or buy what you’re asking them to.
2) Content: It’s Not Just Blog Posts
Most managers understand now that content is critical for digital marketing success. But content can too often be thought of as blog posts alone. Think through all these various executions of content within your organization:
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
- Live Streaming
- Email newsletters
- Annual reports
- Presentations/Sales Decks
- Pay-Per-Click ad copy
- Online media creative
- Traditional advertising
- Point-of-Sale Advertising
… and more.
It is no longer good enough to fire off a few blog posts, share the link on social media, and you have checked that box. You need to plan for a coordinated content strategy that ties together multiple content channels to reach consumers at various touchpoints throughout the buying process. So be inclusive when you plan resources there.
3) Optimization: Once It is Done, It is Not Done
Another critical marketing activity not often accounted for in annual budgets is optimization. Again, it is not enough to throw content out there. You have to also continually monitor its progress to ensure each piece is being maximized for optimal effectiveness, with an eye toward trends and adjustments that will make the next content more likely to be more successful too.
Many people plan for optimization regarding search engine rankings; but your content, your advertisements, and even your messaging needs optimization, too.
And don’t forget voice search – if you haven’t already adapted for it, know that its new technology is already becoming mainstream in some circles.
4) Distribution: Or, If You Build It, They May Not Come
So you have your content; it’s been optimized. However, you are not getting the response you thought. That is probably because you failed to plan for distribution. The internet is not a Field of Dreams. If you build it, they probably won’t come unless they are persuaded to do so by either a friend or you.
That means you are going to need to plan for paid social spend, online media spend, pay-per-click spent and even traditional advertising spend in some cases to get eyeballs to your content.
The bottom line is that if you do everything else right, but don’t plan for distribution, the same dozen or so people you talked to this year will be about all you connect with next year.
Planning for lead generation at any time requires much more than just a budget and a staff. You have to consider the complexity of planning, content, optimization, and distribution to land on a cohesive approach that will move your reporting metrics up and to the right.
Nicole Hudson is an engaging thought leader in marketing strategy development, branding, demand generation, content marketing, SEO, social media, storytelling, social selling, marketing technology and lead generation. Her firm, Inbound Lead Solutions, focuses on sales, communications and marketing alignment with B2B companies, franchising, professional services, keynote speakers, authors, and consultants. Hudson’s marketing strategies have been recognized by Franchise Media Group in two consecutive years with Star Awards for social media lead generation, and by a Dbusiness Magazine award in 2016 for Marketing Consulting. Her work has been featured in multiple LinkedIn case studies on SEO, content marketing and lead generation. She published a book collaboration with Bulldog Reporter (Infocom), The Advanced LinkedIn PR Handbook. Hudson has developed social media strategies for three national television appearances: Be the Boss, Shark Tank and Undercover Boss. Nicole is a member of the International Franchise Association, Detroit Women in Digital, and AMA Detroit. She is a board advisor for Mother Honestly, a collective of women CEOs, executives, investors and career professionals; and a board member and marketing chair for Community Home Supports, a Detroit non-profit. Hudson is a recurring columnist in Career Mastered Magazine and a regular keynote speaker, content contributor, and trainer on sales, marketing, and communication topics.