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Best Ways to Spend Your Online Marketing Budget

Posted on: 03 Mar 2017

spending your online marketing-budget

What’s the Best Use of my Marketing Budget?

We all know that if you want to have a successful business in today’s marketplace, you need a website, but not only that, you need great inbound marketing to drive potential customers from a variety of different channels. However, breaking into the space for the first time or trying to crank out heavily positive ROI can be a Herculean task, especially if you don’t have much experience handling an online marketing budget.

I’ll be 100% honest with you, there are a bunch of different ways you can spend your money, but not all of them are going to be a good use of your time and resources. Some may not jive with your sales cycle, others may not be a good fit for your business model, and you may have to outsource others because your in-house team lacks the necessary experience, expertise, or time to take on additional tasks.

So, where should you spend your marketing budget?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a straight forward answer since every business is different, has a different starting place, and has different short & long term goals. The truth is that what works for company A could be the opposite of what B needs and vice versa. So to say that your business (which I know nothing about right now) should do x, y, and z to grow is not only , it’s completely irresponsible.

However, there is a bright side. We can help you figure out the best place to put your marketing dollars by following the steps below.

Identify Your Short & Long Term Goals

Too often do we get clients that come to us saying, “We need ‘x’ and we’re willing to spend ‘y’ on it to get this moving tomorrow. Can you help us?” 9 times out of 10, they just read an article espousing how “this marketing tactic is the future of your business and you’re a dummy for not investing in it 3 years ago when no one knew about it” and are looking to jump on the wagon.

While the tactic is probably not a bad thing, the questions you should be asking yourself are whether or not it resonates with your audience and if it will actually help your business grow before setting aside a portion of your marketing budget.

Side note: if you say this while you’re shopping around for an online marketing company / agency / freelancer and they 1) don’t question it, 2) don’t look at or discuss your needs, and 3) they’re willing to just take your money and do the thing, this is an enormous red flag and you should run away from them as fast as you can.

Define What Success is For Your Campaign

Before you even think about writing a check, you need to identify what your short and long term goals are outside of “make more money” (i.e. growing an email marketing contact list, expanding your brand awareness, generating more phone / email leads, generating buzz for a new product launch, etc.) and then find the best avenue to achieve said goals with your in-house team or outsourcing the work to an agency. While this sounds like a “no-brainer”, you’d be surprised how many times we run into companies with marketing teams that are operating without clearly defined goals, road maps, or knowledge about what their marketing efforts are producing.

The absolute last thing you should do is throw hundreds (or thousands) of dollars at a traffic stream or tactic because a random article said you should, and that includes this one.

Bottom line: you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish before you start slinging around wads of cash. If you don’t, you’ll end up wasting money, time, talent, and opportunities working on the wrong thing.

Set Yourself Up For Success

The best way to get the biggest bang for your buck is to match your goals to a traffic stream’s particular strengths. I’ve seen too many businesses suffer from putting their marketing dollars in the wrong places and just plain doing the wrong thing to promote their business.

So let’s say that your business is running a limited time sale on your most popular product. Trying to make the page rank higher in Google in the few days before it goes live is not a good use of your time / money for the sale, nor will it actually happen. You would be better off putting together an e-mail ad and posting on social media to tell your customers about the sale. Going this route will drive more sales and have a much higher ROI than investing in organic search.

Go to Your Audience

With the surge and popularity of social media in the online marketing space, companies have been scrambling hand over fist to establish an audience on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. without asking themselves if their business resonates on those platforms.

At the end of the day, some businesses just aren’t a good fit for social media and others take a LOT more work to turn a “profit” or see throughput on depending on your goals and value proposition. If you have a product or service that people don’t like talking about or sharing with their friends and family, you’re going to have a real tough time making headway on those platforms.

The finest example I have of this is a video surveillance firm I used to work for where our customers 1) simply would not talk about having or buying security cameras from us in any capacity whatsoever (we tried it all) and 2) weren’t on social media. We did get some traction in the way of followers and post-engagement, but it didn’t develop into a valuable traffic or revenue stream because the company’s audience simply wasn’t there.

Bottom line: investing in marketing where you audience already is will net a greater return than trying to squeeze blood from a stone.

You Don’t Need to do Everything

Like the cliched saying goes, you shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

Think of online marketing in the same vein as investing for your retirement. Sure, you can put all of your money into a 401k or a Roth IRA and you’ll see your accounts grow, but it’ll be a slow burn with long-term return. The healthiest portfolio is a diverse one (but not too diverse that it becomes unmanageable) and the same is true about your marketing efforts, but you need to make sure that your tactics are well-thought out, intentional, and effective.

Too many companies get caught in the mentality that they have to do on-page SEO, social media marketing, email marketing, PPC advertising on AdWords / Bing Ads / Facebook, building an Instagram account, building an inbound link profile, getting blogs out every day / week, building a YouTube channel, and a dozen other things and they lose sight on whether or not they’re actually working or resonating with their customers.

Now, with that said, are those things important? Absolutely. Do they all need to be done at once? Absolutely not.

Digital Marketing in a Post-Panda World

The nuts and bolts of SEO will always be important and should never be overlooked, but they won’t be changing all that much moving forward so once you’ve marked them off of the To Do List, you won’t have to worry about them again for a long time (if ever).

What’s going to make the biggest difference in your website’s performance is going to be the content on your website and how your user’s interact with it.

Focus on Quality Over Quantity

Every piece of content you create and every marketing effort you do is a touch point with your customers that has the potential of being their first impression of your business that will set the tone for the rest of your relationship, however long it lasts.

In this post-Panda era, it is far more important to spend the extra time to create content that is informative, valuable, and relevant to your audience rather than hastily throwing something together so you can mark it off your To Do List. This is because Google not only looks at the SEO & keyword targeting of the content, they look at how your users engage with it to gauge its quality.

How do I know if my content is high quality?

  • Do visitors stick around after landing on your site?
  • Does your content adequately answer a question / fulfill a need or do visitors bounce back to the search engine to continue their search?
  • Do visitors navigate further than that first page of content?
  • Do visitors find your content / site trustworthy?
  • Was your content created for human beings or a search engine?

While these examples are more geared towards ranking well organically, these principles should be transferred throughout all of your marketing efforts to hold your teams to a high standard for quality of work. If you find that your PPC efforts aren’t doing well because your team doesn’t have the time to properly maintain the accounts, turn it off and save yourself a ton of money.

If you’re dumping a ton of your budget and resources into SEO and you aren’t seeing a consistently positive change in your SERP (after an appropriate amount of time of course), put those projects on the back burner.

Bottom Line: Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. Focus on quality of work rather than quantity of work. Focus on doing what helps your company grow and better serve your customers.

Measuring ROI with your marketing spend

Your bottom line’s important, especially if you’re a small business. You probably don’t have a big marketing budget to work with so you have to make every dollar count.

No matter where you’re looking to invest your online marketing budget, there is a desired outcome and it may not always generate revenue. Too many clients get bogged down in thinking that ROI deals with only dollars and cents.

Have a Clear Idea of the Desired Action

If you’re looking to build a contact list for email marketing, a sign up is your conversion. If you’re looking to expand your brand awareness, impressions and / or clicks would be your conversions. These conversions don’t generate revenue by themselves so their ROI is going to be deep in the red on paper so you can’t always gauge their performance on how much money they bring in upfront.

Using the brand awareness example from earlier, the goal with any campaign like that is to be more present in your audience’s minds which should in turn increase the amount of traffic you get from branded (your company name) keyword searches.

If the campaign is working, you’ll see an increase in new users and you can easily get a projected / estimated initial revenue generation by applying your site’s direct traffic conversion rate (branded traffic is direct traffic) and AOV to the amount of new branded users you saw during that time frame.

Attribute ROI Based on Actual KPIs

Before you cast judgment on whether a campaign is working or not, you’ll have to dig into your analytics and manually correlate the ROI. Sometimes that ROI isn’t readily visible (or quantifiable depending on the tactic) so you’ll have to make some educated associations based on your Analytics data.

Disclaimer: this assumes that you have a solid handle on your site’s conversion rates, AOV, and lifetime customer value. If you don’t know what those are for your company, figure it out. They’re important.

What should I be looking for?

  • Organic: Climbing SERP ranks and increased organic traffic.
  • PPC: More conversions, low cost / conversion (or CPA), and high conversion rates.
  • Brand Awareness: Increased direct traffic and branded keyword searches / clicks.
  • Social Media: Increased follower counts, high post engagement, and referral traffic to your domain.
  • Content Marketing: Increased organic traffic and inbound links.

While this is a short list of what you can do for your business online, these are (generally) the staples that all websites need to be successful. Whether you do one or all, you definitely need to have eyes on their associated KPIs to make sure that your marketing budget is actually being put to use and not wasted.

Bottom line: Don’t lose sight of long-term growth by only focusing on how to make money today. This will cripple your company if you keep the blinders on.

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