It’s December, which means two things: you’re already behind on your holiday shopping and you’re also probably scrambling to get your 2019 marketing budget together before Jim from finance comes knocking at your office door again. Unfortunately, we can’t help you with your shopping, but we can simplify your 2019 marketing budget planning to give you a little bit more time to sit in traffic at the mall or to wait impatiently for the UPS guy to deliver your shipments.
In order to maximize your time when planning your marketing budget, you’ll want to keep things as simple as possible. A few years ago, we wrote about specific items you should include in your digital marketing budget. To really keep things simple this time, we’re taking a step back to look more broadly at five key areas:
- Marketing strategy
- Content creation and promotion
- Advertising management
- Website strategy
- Marketing tools
Let’s dive a little deeper on each.
The widely shared understanding in marketing is that every two years you should consider updating your website, and while that timing is acceptable for a website, waiting 24 months to evaluate your marketing strategy is a surefire way to set your business up for failure. Realistically, you want to be reevaluating your strategy after (or even during) each campaign, but at the least you should be taking a hard look at your performance data and updating your strategy and tactics once per year.
When planning your marketing budget for a new year, this means blocking off time for your marketing manager or director to focus solely on evaluating performance and for the marketing team to strategize and deliver tactical recommendations. It’s a task that could very well take most of January for your marketing team to complete, which could delay the production of other marketing assets. Since that’s likely not realistic, it may be that your strategy can’t be evaluated, updated, and put into action until the end of Q1 or even later, meaning that you’re already two to three months behind your competitors.
When you work with a marketing agency like Raka to evaluate and update your marketing strategy, the work can typically be done much more quickly, depending on the involvement and responsiveness of your marketing team.
Commitment (in-house): 2-3 months or more.
Commitment (agency): 100 hours, 1-2 months.
Content creation and promotion
Once your strategy is defined, creating content to support that strategy is priority number one. This content may be created for use in only one channel or in multiple channels, but it can’t be used anywhere if it isn’t created. Your marketing efforts don’t fuel themselves, so while it’s possible that some team members may be capable of wearing multiple hats (for example, you may only need one analyst for all efforts, and your video producer may also be your designer), successful teams often see results because they’re able to specialize and work efficiently together, which gets more difficult when you task team members with additional work that’s outside their area of expertise.
Regardless of how well staffed your team is, what’s most important is that you build a content calendar and stick to it. What that schedule is depends upon your industry and target audience, but you need to set it and stick to it. Blog posts should go out most frequently, with new video content arriving only less frequently. Content offers, webinars and podcasts don’t need to be published as often, but should always be supported by email, social media, and display and search advertising campaigns.
When planning your marketing budget for next year (or just your next campaign), it’s important to remember that the time spent creating content should be roughly equivalent to the time spent promoting it, and that this often means lots of hours devoted to community management on social platforms. Blocking time for your producers and managers to stay on top of this is an important and frequently overlooked item, and it too may result in the reshuffling of other priorities if you don’t plan ahead for it.
Commitment (in-house): Up to 8-12 full-time staff.
Commitment (agency): 80-100 hours per month.
Even if you’re just getting started in digital advertising, you’ve probably done enough research to know which advertising channels and approaches are best for beginners. What you may not know is that there are two big things to consider when budgeting for digital advertising: media budget and management budget.
Your advertising budget (we refer to it as “media spend”) should be based upon need and expected return. Your need will depend heavily on a number of things, chief among them your competitive market share and any major product launches or expansions in the year ahead. Because advertising is a proven way to get new information about your brand in front of users who wouldn’t be searching for or otherwise demanding it, it’s important to budget more for occasions where this may be the case.
Your projected return will vary wildly based upon the strength of your message and targeting, the quality of your creatives and the allocation of your budget. Before you begin planning an advertising budget, refer to Raka’s ad spend calculator to help you figure out your return by inputting your budget and breaking it out among different channels (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.) to determine the optimal breakout of your spend.
More than any other part of your marketing mix, advertising needs dedicated staff to monitor and optimize performance. Once you’ve established your advertising baselines, you should be testing campaign variables (landing pages, headlines, images, forms, colors, calls to action, description copy, etc.) at every opportunity, and this may result in needing design or development resources to create or update existing assets. In addition, you’ll need resources committed to managing dynamic spends across channels or implementing evolved A/B tests to drive the strongest performance.
When planning your marketing budget for next year, it’s imperative that you keep this in mind. It’s not enough to commit to an advertising budget, you also have to commit to the resources to ensure that you’re able to optimize campaigns on the fly and to meet any production deadlines that may be needed.
Commitment (in-house): 2-3 full-time staff, plus design and development resources
Commitment (agency): 40-60 hours per month, design and development resources as needed
Website performance and SEO audit
Even if you’re planning to update your website once every two years, you’ll want to audit its performance at least once every 90 days. Thankfully, there are a lot of (free!) tools out there that make this process pretty easy. They include Google’s PageSpeed Insights, Mobile-Friendly test, Search Console and Google Analytics, as well as SEO-focused tools like Moz and SEMRush, and UX tools like Hotjar.
Using these tools can make it easier to determine how healthy your site is, but you still need someone who’s able to analyze the data and create an action plan from it. And with so many different platforms providing different types of analysis, you’ll likely need someone who’s had a few years of experience working with them.
When planning your marketing budget for next year, be sure to include the costs for any of the above tools (most can be used for free, although SEMRush, Moz and Hotjar have paid versions that are much more robust), but also to consider the time your team will need to conduct these regular audits, and the work that may result from them.
Commitment (in-house): 1-2 weeks, 4 times per year.
Commitment (agency): 30-40 hours, 4 times per year.
Each new year brings a new array of tools marketers can use to measure, report, and improve on our digital marketing efforts. Some of the industry-standard tools like Google Analytics and Search Console are free to use, but the tools that can really help to monetize your web presence (and make your whole team look good in the process) have a cost in both actual dollars as well as ramp-up and training time.
Marketing automation tools, such as HubSpot, are among the most important of these tools because they allow you to set up workflows that make marketing to users who match a particular profile a breeze. (Note: There’s a lot of setup time needed to get these started, but once they’re in place, they run almost autonomously.) Of course, if your business is going to make use of marketing automation, it’s wise to have a customer relationship management (CRM) tool such as HubSpot or SalesForce that helps to track the behavior of your audience and to augment your automation efforts.
Because so much selling takes place outside of email and face-to-face meetings, investing in a call tracking tool like CallRail or Invoca can be helpful as well. Some of these tools even allow you to transcribe outbound sales calls so that you can isolate key phrases or questions that prospects have, creating a spring of content inspiration. We also recommend considering having a conversational marketing tool as part of your toolkit so that you can monitor and respond to user questions from text messages, Facebook Messenger, web chat platforms and other text-based messaging systems.
We recommend always including a slush fund in your marketing budgets when planning ahead for an entire year, because you never know what types of tools you may need to implement, and having a little extra money to cover them could be a lifesaver later in the year.
Commitment: Varies by tool and need.
That’s a lot, huh? Planning marketing budgets for an entire year can be a very involved process, but with these pointers you should be equipped to set your team up for success. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about all of the things that you should have lined up for a new year, contact Raka today and let us help you set the stage for a successful 2019!