November and December are filled with holidays, food and fun. But, in the agency world, this is also budget frenzy time. There is a flurry of activity to use up any remaining funds, submit final invoices and pre-bill work yet to be done. There is also a level of agency participation to help clients create their budget for the new year – providing cost estimates and recommendations. One way or another, our clients usually have their budgets firmly in place before the start of the new year.
Some of our clients have detailed plans with forecasts and budgeted marketing dollars that they share with us. Other clients hold their cards close to their vest. But, the one thing most clients seem to have in common is that they “want to do more with less this year”. Unfortunately, that sometimes translates into a client’s desire to do the same marketing as the previous year, but with less money. You can see why that is not a helpful statement for marketing agencies. First of all, we are actually a business too. As much as we love achieving great results and seeing our clients succeed, we simply cannot give away our time or resources. So, in most instances, less actually means less. Secondly, you may be doing yourself a disservice by not re-thinking your marketing strategy and plan to get the most return on investment (ROI).
But again, we want to see our clients succeed and we can help you. Here are some suggestions to help you maximize your marketing dollars:
Prioritize your marketing goals and objectives
Not all marketing initiatives are equal. Many organizations are quite good at setting goals and objectives and outlining a tactical plan to achieve them. Most often these plans are built around a calendar schedule, which is quite logical for planning purposes and critical for hitting time sensitive deadlines. However, what is often missing is the prioritization. What happens when there are unforeseen expenses causing something to go over budget? What happens when budgets are further reduced at some point during the year? Without prioritizing your top initiatives, you could come up short on important campaigns that occur later in the year. Consider ranking your marketing campaigns and working on them using a combination of order of importance and time sensitivity/seasonality.
Stop allocating budget based on cost only
Metrics are necessary to establish a budget – estimated costs and projected ROI. But in addition to reducing quantities or frequency, or cutting back on new creative development, each individual campaign should be evaluated more critically. This takes the prioritization to the next level. For example, asking questions such as the following to maximize results with limited resources:
- What has changed? If your product/service, competition or audience has remained relatively stable, it may be acceptable to repeat your message and leverage existing marketing materials in order to save development costs. However, if not, you may need to create new materials, branch out into other channels or tap into new markets, which requires more of your budget for a particular campaign. On the flip side, are you doing too much? Sometimes trying to do everything results in something less meaningful and there may be opportunity to scale back on particular tactics.
- What do we need to learn? Re-using existing messaging and formats is cost effective. But what might you be missing by not testing something new? Allocate more of your budget to areas that need more attention or have greater potential.
- How does marketing fatigue play into the equation? Again, re-use and recycle is great in many aspects, but not if your message has gone stale or your customers and prospects have seen it too many times. Rather than repeating the same pattern, here is where you may want to reduce frequency, eliminate certain audience segments or marketing channels, change formats etc. so that you can create something fresh and use your budget dollars most effectively.
Spending the extra time to fine-tune your marketing plan and corresponding budget will help you to get the most for your money. And, if you can’t see the forest through the trees, talk to your agency and let them help you. It will be worth it.