How to set an effective marketing budget for your small business

marketing budgetSetting a realistic marketing budget is essential for SME’s

If you are a small business owner and haven’t yet got around to planning your marketing and marketing spend for the year ahead then now is the time to get started.

You may feel that creating a marketing plan and setting a marketing budget is a time-consuming exercise and only really useful for  businesses with extensive marketing departments and large budgets. On the contrary, taking the time to put together a marketing plan and marketing budget now will save you time, money and potential headaches later on in the year.

It is just as important that as a small business owner you plan the best way to spend your budget and that will mean putting precious time aside to do just that. A smart budget will help you make the most of a small pool of money by planning and tracking spend to ensure wastage is kept to a minimum – essential, if like most small businesses owners you need to make every penny count.

What should I set as my marketing budget?

According to the SBA (US Small Business Administration) the average marketing budget for small businesses lies somewhere between:

2-3% of sales for an up and running business

3-5% of sales for a start-up business

Essentially though it comes down to your own individual business. An effective marketing budget will be a combination of the following factors:

  • What you can afford?
  • What time you can give (are you planning to outsource or will all the marketing be done by you)?
  • Accurate reflection of a well thought out marketing plan

So before coming up with a figure, first take some time out to plan and think about the following questions: How is your business performing at the moment? What could you do better? What is it you want to achieve in the year ahead?

smart budgetThe importance of marketing planning

Planning is absolutely essentially to creating an effective, controlled marketing budget. It will eliminate waste and ensure you are making the most of your marketing spend.

A simple model to help get you started planning is the  SOSTAC model (Situation Analysis, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics, Actions and Control)which essentially helps you plan by looking at the following questions in regard to your business:

  1. Where are you now
  2. Where do you want to be?
  3. How do you get there (strategy)?
  4. How exactly do you get there (tactics)?
  5. Details of Tactics – who is doing what and when
  6. How will you monitor performance? 

Of course how detailed you go in your marketing plan is up to you and will probably depend on how much time and resources you have available. But by following a marketing planning model such as this and thinking about the questions it raises will help you focus on the best way to drive your business forward.

setting a marketing budgetHow to put together an effective marketing budget

An effective marketing budget is essentially a smart budget that gives you flexibility, keeps you in control of your spend and results in very little wastage.  Your marketing budget is an integral part of your marketing plan and helps you outline the costs of achieving the goals you have laid out within the timeframe you have planned.

Of course the budget you set will depend on what you have to spend and what you are trying to accomplish as a business. A marketing plan and marketing budget will help you stay savvy and smart in the way you spend you money. Monitoring and maintaining your budget will help give you flexibility in terms of spending by enabling you to cross check your results against spend. For example if a promotion isn’t working you can stop it and quickly move your spend over to a more effective activity.

Considerations: What should you include in your marketing budget?

This is why marketing planning is so critical, if you’ve properly planned for the year ahead then you should have everything covered. Your marketing budget should be broken down to reflect the details of your marketing plan. Here is a bit of a checklist to help get you started. It is in no way exhaustive and some activities won’t be relevant to your business but it will get you thinking of all the different areas you may need to cover to avoid any nasty surprises from unexpected costs.

  • Marketing promotions
  1. Email
  2. Mobile
  3. SEO – paid and organic
  4. Advertising (online and offline)
  5. PR
  6. Sales promotions
  7. Blogs
  8. Social Media
  9. Direct Mail (printing and postage costs)
  10. Sponsorship
  11. Affiliate marketing
  • Outsourcing copywriting, agencies, freelancers, fulfilment bureaus
  • Events – do you intend to attend any exhibitions or trade shows
  • Market research
  • Design (designers, photos and images)
  • Sales promotions (discounts offers , promotional mugs etc)
  • Website Design and maintenance

And remember there are always unexpected costs that crop up so putting some contingency aside is not a bad idea.

Marketing Budget Templates

There are plenty of useful marketing budget templates you can find online to use as a guide – from basic to all singing all dancing spreadsheets. I’ve added a few links below to templates I have come across online that you may find useful.

Microsoft Office Marketing Budget Template

Hubspot 8 Free Budget Templates

Entrepeneur Marketing Budget Excel Template and  Guide

Brandeo Marketing Budget Template

Sharpmind Marketing Budget Template

Alternatively create a  simple excel spreadsheet yourself outlining your planned marketing spend for the year ahead. A simple, effective way to monitor and control spend is to have a monthly breakdown of planned marketing activities with estimated costs against actual costs. This way you can have a clear analysis of spend against activity and can quickly see where you have overspent , underspent and enable you to monitor your potential ROI for each activity.

Don’t forget an effective, well thought out marketing budget enables you to spend smartly and get the most from your hard-earned money.

 We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this subject, so please do leave a comment. 

  1. Budget image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  2. Calculator image courtesy of Pong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  3. Brain Thinking image courtesy of samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Marketing Metrics for Modern Strategies: Three Basics for Measuring Your Marketing Investment

ROI Marketing Metrics

You know you should be measuring the value of your marketing, but youre not sure how to go about doing that, exactly. Fortunately, marketing is a science, not a guessing game. You can measure it like you would anything else. Heres how. 

 

Identify Your Revenue Attribution

Marketing companies, like Yodle.com, recommend that you focus on your revenue attribution when tracking and measuring sales and marketing investment. In other words, where do your sales come from? If you pump a lot of money into your Adwords platform, do you know whether its paying off? It is paying for itself? If you dont know this, you should.

Likewise, you should have an understanding of the weighted-average ROI for all marketing and sales initiatives. So, If 60 percent of your marketing dollars are spent on pay-per-click, you should have a system in place to measure the total efficacy of your marketing dollars, with 60 percent weight given to the PPC platform.

You’ll also need to make sure that your shopping cart software is capable of integrating third party tracking scripts into the order completed web page to pass back sales metrics to your Adwords marketing platform to accurately track ROI.

Does all of this sound complicated? It can be, and thats often why small businesses hire a marketing firm to do this for them. Marketing is a skill – a vastly under-appreciated skill. Its not something that most people can successfully do all by themselves.

Coordinate Your Sales Team

Sales and marketing departments rarely talk to each other, even though theyre on the same team. Heck, their jobs depend on each other. So, show them exactly how dependent they are on each otherssuccesses. Tie compensation and bonuses to their counterparts success.

Show the sales department the impact they have on their marketing brothers, and vice-versa. Once each department fully understands the impact on the other, you can then better coordinate marketing dollars between the both of them. Instead of competing against one another, they will trade off finite marketing dollars and work together to allocate those dollars for maximum revenue and profits, regardless of how much each department gets.

Use Data To Drive Marketing

Sometimes, its hard to know what the data is telling you. It is, after all, just numbers on a screen. But, with that in mind, there are some things you can glean from your data sets. One of those things is the click-through rates on links, open rates of emails, sales, and visitor flow.

Of these, visitor flow is the least understood, but possibly the most helpful analytic you could measure and analyze. Visitor flow means how visitors move through your site. So, for example, if a visitor lands on your homepage, and goes to your Aboutpage, and then stops at your order page without ordering anything, something between the homepage and the Aboutpage prevented the sale.

Of course, theres always the possibility that the price was too much for the customer, but that raises the question: why was the prospect not sold?Maybe you need to sculpt your Aboutpage and homepage to better anticipate shopping cart abandonment or bouncing on the sales page. Maybe you could take the links to the sales page off the Aboutpage, if theyre there. Or, dont allow people to click directly to the order page if theyre on the home page. Or, create a pre-sellon both pages or at least one of those pages.

Guest Author: Loretta Martinez Loretta has decades of experience in marketing. With innovations and trends keeping her busy, she often blogs about the basic tips and tricks to successful marketing plans.

Small business guide to marketing plannning Part 5: Implementing and measuring performance

triple jumpMaking it happen and measuring your performance

To conclude our ‘Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning’ series, we look at the final two stages of the SOSTAC marketing planning process – Action and Control. Action is the who does what and when of the Tactics (examined in Part 4 of this series). Control is how you measure your performance. How successfully have you achieved what you set out to do in your objectives?

Action – Who does what and when

The ‘Action’ element of the SOSTAC  is essentially the details of your tactics. It involves thinking about the specifics and practicalities of implementing your plans. You need to think about:

  • Tasks: What actually needs to be done? Think about all the tasks that need to be implemented in order for you to roll out your plans. For example, if you were planning  a series of traffic driving promotions in order to grow your prospects database, then what development needs to take place on your website first in order for you to data-capture the new names coming in? You need to think about all the tasks that your plans entail.
  • Resources: Who is going to be responsible for what? Will you need to outsource or bring in any external agencies?
  • Timescale: What timescale are you working to? What are achievable and realistic deadlines for your tasks?
  • Budget: Make sure you are aware of all the potential  costs – website development, promotions, design and so on.

There is no use having a wonderful strategy and great tactics if you haven’t looked at how and when you are going to get your plans underway. You need to think about your available resources and consider what is a realistic timeframe. Outlining exactly who will be responsible for what and setting agreed deadlines will help ensure your plans are rolled out successfully and within the timeframe dictated by your objectives.

desk calendarSchedule

Creating a schedule is the best way to ensure everybody is clear about who is responsible for what and what the agreed timeframes are. Remember, if  a task falls behind schedule it is likely to have a knock-on effect on all your other deadlines.

You can easily put together a perfectly adequate schedule on excel – just remember that it is a working document and should be kept updated, referred to and amended accordingly as your plan progresses. Outline each task, who is responsible and what the deadline is. Circulate your schedule to everyone involved (this includes external resources if you are outsourcing) as it will ensure there is no confusion about who is taking responsibility for what. And, even if you are a one-man-band and planning on doing it all yourself, creating a schedule is still important as it provides a useful and detailed action plan for you to work to.

Control: How do you measure your performance?

It is really important to be able to ascertain whether you achieved what you set out to in your objectives. And, if you haven’t achieved specific targets then it is essential you understand why. Otherwise, you risk repeating unsuccessful tactics over and over again wasting valuable time and money. It is only through measurement and analysis that you can understand how to improve on your performance.

So, first you need to decide upon how you intend to measure your performance. What KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) do you intend to use? Of course this will depend on what your objectives were, but could include analysing  RoI, number of new leads, conversion rates, traffic sources, new visitors to your site, page impressions and so on. Think about what are the most suitable metrics and measurements to enable you to assess the success of what you have undertaken.

Web Analytics

As an e-commerce site it is inevitable that some of the measurements you will be using will be web analytics. This is why it is important to get to grips with some of the common metrics – they can tell you an awful lot about your business!

“Web analytics is essentially about monitoring how visitors are using different pages and features on your website” (EConsultancy, Web Analytics: A Beginner’s Guide)

Web analytics are useful metrics to help you better understand your performance – in terms of both your website and response to specific campaigns. There are many useful metrics but if you are just starting out then the ones listed below are probably the ones to familiarise yourself with first.

  • Traffic source: This tells you where your traffic is coming from – through direct traffic (existing customers, offline campaigns), search engines, referring sites or campaigns (email, banner ads, social media campaigns and so on)
  • Visits: Basically how many visitors are coming to your site. You can find out the percentage of new and repeat visitors.
  • Page views: Number of page views can be an indication of how engaged your visitors are by telling you an average of how many pages they visited. You can also find out the average duration of visits.
  • Bounce rates: This is often used to measure the quality of traffic coming to your website. It tells you who visited only one page of your site and then left immediately. Take a look at Avinash Kaushik’s article on just how useful bounce rate can be.

If you are just starting with web analytics then there are a lots of helpful free resources available. We like:

Customer satisfaction

Of course don’t forget there are other more qualitative ways to measure your performance. Customer feedback can be invaluable. Monitoring customer satisfaction through taking note of customers views and opinions can tell you a lot about how your performance through the eyes of your customers.

ShopIntegrator’s Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning

This is the final part of our Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning. Hopefully we’ve been able to show you that by using a simple marketing planning framework like SOSTAC, you can create a useful and relevant working document. We really believe that investing time and effort into putting together a marketing plan for the year ahead will pay dividends in the long run by helping give your business clear direction and focused objectives  in order to move your online business forward.

  • Part 1 : Introduction to Marketing Planning and the SOSTAC framework
  • Part 2 : Situational Analysis: Where are you now?
  • Part 3:  Setting Objectives and formulating Strategy: Where do you want to be and how do you get there?
  • Part 4: Tactics: How exactly do you get there?

Triple Jump © Denys Kuvaiev | Dreamstime.com

3D desktop calendar image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’d love to hear your thoughts in this post, so please do leave a comment.

Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning Part 4: Tactics

Soccer tactics on chalkboardOur Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning has been looking at how using a simple marketing framework like SOSTAC can help guide you through all the elements needed to make a marketing plan a useful and relevant tool for your business.

  • Part 1 discussed the value of marketing planning for small businesses and looked at SOSTAC as a planning system.
  • Part 2 examined situational analysis and the importance of understanding where your business currently stands.
  • Part 3 talked about how to write SMART objectives and formulate your marketing strategy.

In Part 4 of our marketing planning guide we look at tactics and the communication tools we can use to achieve the targets we have set our business for the year ahead.

Tactics: How EXACTLY are you going to get there?

So, the market analysis you’ve undertaken means you know where your business currently stands and consequently, you have formulated your goals and objectives. You should have good idea of where it is you want to be. Your strategy has looked at how you are going to achieve your objectives. So the next step is tactics – how exactly are you going to get there? What digital communication tools are you going to use to support your strategy in order to achieve your objectives? The tactics element of your marketing plan is really the detail of your strategy;  it is here you outline the tools you are going to use.

Benefits of digital marketing tools

Digital marketing has brought with it a number of benefits for small online businesses, making it possible (with a bit of investment in both time and effort) to market on a more level playing field with some of the bigger competitors. Digital marketing offers SME’s the benefit of:

  • Lower costs: there are a number of digital tools that small online businesses can utilise without the cost associated with some of the more traditional marketing methods. For example social media, SEO and email  are all tools that smaller business can use without having to incur high marketing costs.
  • Creativity: digital marketing has made it easy to be creative with your marketing – social media, video, games etc. can all be used to pull in potential customers through engaging online content.
  • Interaction with customers: the interactive nature of the web has provided an excellent environment for developing customer relationships. For example, blogs, discussion forums and customer reviews have all made two-way dialogue with customers far easier. Rather than just throwing out messages,  digital tools enable you to pull customers into your site and engage in more meaningful communications.
  • Easier measurement: the digital environment has meant the introduction of online tools like web analytics that can help you measure your performance with more accuracy. Web analytics are simply the tools we can use to measure, collect and  analyse data to better understand our online presence. By using metrics such as traffic source, conversions, bounce rates and so on, small business can more effectively measure the performance of their marketing activity.
  • Immediacy: if you’ve got something exciting to say, you don’t have to wait to shout about it to your customers. Email and social media can be instantaneous. For example if you have something that is time sensitive sending an email promotion to a customer is far quicker (and lower cost), then its offline direct mail counterpart.

Digital Marketing Tools

Obviously the digital communication tools you decide to use will depend on your objectives and strategy alongside available budget and resources. But as a small online business, the key digital tools you may want to consider are likely to include:

  1. Search Engine Marketing (SEM):  the process you go through to increase your page ranking on search engines in order for you to increase you business’ visibility and drive traffic to your site. SEM essentially divides into two,  increasing your ranking through SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and through paid advertising (PPC). Search engine optimisation requires time, effort and commitment but is an essential part of building your business’ presence online.
  2. Online PR: sending out press releases to relevant media can be a great way not only to promote your latest news and developments, but also keeps fresh content coming into your website for SEO purposes, increases inbound links to and builds brand awareness.
  3. Online advertising: interactive online advertising essentially means you advertise your business on a third-party site through a banner ad. Although there are likely to be costs associated with online display advertising, it can be a useful way to increase awareness of your brand and generate direct response from potential customers.
  4. Email Marketing: email is an essential channel for both acquiring new customers and retaining existing customers. Despite worries over the increase in spam, email remains an effective marketing tool. The costs are low (in comparison to direct mail), response can be immediate, it can be quick to deploy, and can be tailored to specific customer segments easily.
  5. Social Media: Engaging with your customers though social media is a great way to give your business and brand a personality. Used thoughtfully, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites can help promote your products, help you gain valuable customer insight and help drive new traffic and increase inbound links to your site.
  6. Online sales promotion: Online vouchers, discount codes and e-coupons can be a great sales promotion tool. They can help increase sales, drive traffic and reward customer loyalty.
  7. Content Marketing:  We’ve mentioned it over and over again in previous blogs, but content is the cornerstone of online marketing – it is absolutely central to everything you do. Think about ways to keep content on your site fresh, up-to-date, relevant and interesting. Perhaps look at ways you can increase your content such as through blogging, video demonstrations, customer reviews and competitions. For ideas, I suggest you take a look at a The Content Marketing Matrix from Smart Insights.
  8. Online partnerships: Identifying ways in which you can work in partnership with a third-party to promote your online services can pay dividends by opening your business up to a stream of new and relevant customers. This could be with affiliates, suppliers or complementary businesses and associations.

The final part of our marketing planning guide will be looking at Actions and Control the final two elements of the SOSTAC marketing planning framework.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment.

Soccer Game Strategy image by Kromkrathog at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

Small business guide to marketing planning : part 1

marketing plan conceptWelcome to 2014. It’s the start of a brand new year and now is the time to start planning your marketing activity for the year ahead.  

We realise it’s not always easy to discipline yourself to put time aside for planning. Small business owners often have to juggle multiple roles, and planning can feel like it’s just one more thing to add to the bottom of a long of list of priorities – and before you know it you’re already halfway through the year. However, we firmly believe that putting some time aside now to plan your small business marketing strategy for the year ahead is well and truly worth the time and effort you put in.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at each of the elements that make up a successful marketing plan in more detail. First though we’ll look at why creating a marketing plan is so important for SME’s.

Why a usable marketing plan is so important for small businesses

Spending time planning your year ahead will actually help you focus on the areas that will help drive your business forward. By the end of the process you should have a relevant, useful working document that you can refer to time and time again over the course of the year. A good marketing plan will:

  • give your business direction through creating clear goals and objectives
  • help you to better understand your customers, online environment and competitors
  • help you put your resources and budget in the right places
  • provide a marketing strategy and plan of action for the year ahead
  • give you benchmarks by which to measure your performance.

How to write a marketing plan

How formal and structured you maker your marketing plan is  up to you. It  will depend on your business and the time and resources you have available. However at the very least you should consider and each of the areas we’ve outlined below as they’ll help you formulate your strategy and marketing activity for the coming year.

There are plenty of useful marketing planning models – marketers all  have their own particular favourites. In this post we’ll be using SOSTAC as it is a simple, useable framework to structure your plan around.  The SOSTAC model was created by Paul Smith in the 1990’s and is still one of the most widely used and popular models for marketing planning.

SOSTAC marketing planning model:

Situation Analysis – where are we now?  This is where you review your current environment to give you a better idea of where your business currently stands – what the current opportunities and threats are.  Situation analysis involves undertaking some marketplace, customer and competitor analysis enabling you to gain a better insight into your current situation and help you focus on where you want to be.

Objectiveswhere do we want to be? Setting clearly defined goals and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) objectives will enable you to focus your marketing strategy to support your overall business strategy and business objectives. For example, if growing your online sales by x% is one of your business objectives this year then a key marketing objectives is likely to focusing on increasing traffic to your website.

Strategyhow do we get there? Your marketing  strategy essentially defines how you will achieve the marketing objectives you have set out. For example how you will position yourself in the market place and differentiate yourself from your competitors, and how you will segment and target your market.

Tactics exactly how do we get there? Tactics are simply the tools you use to achieve your objectives and support your marketing strategy. Tactics are essentially based around the 7ps of the marketing mix (product, promotion, price, place, people, process and physical)

ActionsWhat is our plan? Actions are the specific details of the tactics you have decided upon –  essentially who, when and how you intend to implement them. This often involves putting together of schedule of actions, budgets, timeframes and responsibilities.

Controlmeasuring success?  Control is how you intend to monitor the performance and evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing, using measurements like web analytics, customer feedback, sales, conversion rates and so on.

We’ll be looking at each of these elements in more depth over the coming few weeks so by the end of the process you should be able to create a useful marketing plan that supports your overall business objectives and gives direction to your marketing activity over the coming year.

Marketing Plan Book image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 

We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment

Online objectives – drive traffic, generate new customers,  retain existing customers,