The outlook is improving for much of the economy, but many businesses are still recovering from a downturn in cash flow during the pandemic.
When demand declines and revenue dwindles, marketing is one of the first things on the chopping block. But you have other options for making sure you continue to make a return on that marketing investment. Marketing cannot create demand, but it can help you tap what is already present.
And that’s precisely what you need to avoid slipping into a destructive cycle of more lost business.
Let’s take a closer look at the pillars of marketing budget management:
1. Resist the Urge to Slash Your Marketing Budget
It might seem like marketing is naturally less important than payroll and operational costs. To a point, this is true. However, business leaders in Central Florida need to be careful. Neglecting marketing can lead to long-term damage to your prospects, even as the recovery begins.
Your competitors who continue marketing through a downturn will naturally be in a stronger position.
When you cut your marketing budget to the bone, what you are really saying is that you plan to play defensively until broader market conditions improve. The trouble here is obvious. You have virtually zero influence over the “broader market” – only over your own interface to that market.
Marketing is precisely how you change things for the better.
That doesn’t mean there’s nothing in your marketing budget that could stand a trim. But you should go through a rigorous process to determine whether and where extraneous costs are found. Luckily, there are highly effective ways to do exactly that within a short period of time.
For now, put down the scissors and spend a week following the rest of these steps.
2. Review Your Marketing and Determine What’s Working
One reason digital marketing is so powerful is because it provides a wealth of data for your business to make use of. You can see exactly what is working and what isn’t at any given time. Of course, this can be a bit overwhelming if you are doing it for the first time or haven’t done it in a while.
The easiest place to start is with your online advertising. Online advertising is becoming more difficult by the day as ad prices continue to climb. Even if your ads were delivering significant value in the past, you might find they are underperforming today. This is true on Facebook, Google, and elsewhere.
When ad campaigns go awry, they can sometimes be optimized. Often, though, the situation requires you to start over with a concept that resonates with your audience. A Central Florida marketing team can help you revise your ads and get them producing for you again.
After you understand the status of your paid traffic, go through each platform you invest money and time in. Analytics software – on your website or the platform itself – should support you in learning which platforms are bringing you traffic that converts into leads and customers.
During a marketing downturn, you can safely pause investments on any channel where you are giving more than you get. It may take time to get to the root of the problem, so you don’t need to throw good money after bad while you get the advice you need to sort it out.
3. Target Your Investment in Digital Marketing Methods that Already Produce Value
For each channel and marketing tactic, you want to understand the cost of acquisition, the amount you spend on average to acquire one customer using that approach. Some will be higher than others, and you might reveal that some generate no value at all.
When you identify the techniques with the lowest cost of acquisition, you’ve found the most efficient tools in your marketing arsenal. It is a wise idea to highlight these. Look at what kind of content you’re sharing on those platforms and how your audience reacts. Could you be doing more of what works?
4. Bring in Sales and Marketing Stakeholders to Discuss the Way Forward
Once you know what your top marketing approaches are, bring in your sales and marketing stakeholders for a discussion. While marketing teams are on point when it comes to developing new online content, sales pros have a role, too – they get to see changes in customer thought processes as they happen.
Align sales and marketing and you will have the best of both worlds:
- Sales teams tell you what customers ask about and what objections they raise along the way
- Marketing teams act on that feedback to design content that meets customers where they are
When you bring diverse perspectives together, you’ll come up with ideas that wouldn’t arise otherwise. It is crucial for sales and marketing to work together as allies. Both sides are necessary to the process of converting customers, and each one has a unique point of view.
If your marketing hasn’t been proving value for a while now, there might be basics that aren’t in place yet. For example, check to be sure you have formal, written buyer personas. Every piece of marketing is for someone, so these assets help you ensure you are on the right track at every step of a campaign.
By the end of your discussion, you will have further clarity on areas for marketing you can cut back on – or cut out entirely. That said, it’s vital to make sure you are attacking costs, not the idea of marketing itself. For everything you cut, the time freed should be shifted to a different marketing endeavor.
5. Introduce More Customer Surveys and Direct Feedback into Your Mix
While you’re retooling your marketing mix, it’s a sound idea to add the customer’s voice. Use whatever marketing resources you’ve already deployed to focus your customers’ attention on a short survey. If you don’t have email marketing or social media in place, get your sales team to follow up instead.
One way to get valuable feedback from customers to use a Net Promoter Score survey. However, this isn’t the most targeted approach when you want specific input on the effectiveness of your marketing.
Whenever customers are asked to provide feedback, there are two conflicting impulses at play:
- On the whole, people love having their voice heard and feeling their input makes a difference
- Most people do not have much time to fill out surveys and will easily tune out any longer ones
With that in mind, be sure to keep your surveys short and to the point. Know exactly what information you want to collect. If you need to ask open-ended questions to get detailed responses, be sure you are only asking a maximum of about three such questions – more than that and fill-out rates will decline.
Getting as many responses as possible is critical. If you only have five responses, all five people may have radically different experiences and ideas to share. On the other hand, you will start to see real patterns emerge as you end up with 50 responses or more.
Incentivize your respondents in some way so they are galvanized to revisit your website and deepen their brand relationship with you. Just be sure you are following any rules about raffles, contests, and giveaways in your state – even something as simple as this can be covered by regulations.
6. Emphasize Low-Cost, High-Value Digital Marketing – and Stick With It
Once you’ve gone through this process, you have identified a set of low-cost, high-value marketing tactics with a history of connection with your customers. This is where you want to divert the bulk of your marketing budget, even if you decide to spend less overall.
Remember, only online advertising has the power to create overnight traffic – and in order to do that, your whole website needs to be set up appropriately beforehand. Because digital advertising is so risky, most Central Florida businesses should focus on a “slow and steady” approach based on search traffic.
That begins with search engine optimization (SEO), aligning your website with best practices in design, technology, and user experience to make it more visible in search. From there, you can use professional blogging to publish helpful, informative content that gets the right traffic to your website.
Ideally, your website’s content marketing funnel should cover the entire buyer journey:
- Awareness: The buyer becomes aware of a problem or opportunity and needs the facts
- Consideration: The buyer develops their criteria and learns about the potential solutions
- Decision: The buyer selects a specific solution based on its fit with their particular context
As buyers progress through the journey, they become more sophisticated and their informational needs change. Since there’s no telling how much a user will know when first arriving at your website – or what competitors they’ve also heard of – your content must cover the whole spectrum of needs.
This is the essential, yet often overlooked engine behind modern marketing success.
7. Consider Managed Marketing Services to Save More Money
Marketing should deliver far more in business than it adds in overhead. If marketing fails, it is money lost. Many businesses start out in this situation, even if they have excellent value to offer. Your goal should be to reach a state of consistent, robust results.
Sometimes, that means bringing in the experts.
We crunched the numbers and realized many small Central Florida businesses are spending thousands building an in-house team. Instead, they could get the benefit of proven digital marketing expertise for about $3,000 a month – a fraction of their current spend, with no in-house hiring.
Working with a Central Florida marketing agency might seem like a big commitment, but it makes sense. The right agency proves value every month, while it can take six months or more for an in-house team to consistently deliver… and potentially even longer to prove it.
When you work with an agency, you’re getting more than just the hours they spend on your campaigns. You’re also realizing the benefits of a set of best practices proven to work for other companies like yours.
On top of that, you don’t have to worry about spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in licensing fees for the kind of software tools your internal marketing team wouldn’t be able to function without.
Sometimes, a downturn means it’s time to make cuts. Other times, you need to shift – focusing your assets where they can produce the most value. Contact New York Ave to find out more or get started with marketing that really works.