‘Tis the season for annual budgeting and planning, and it’s a perfect time to set the stage for success, or to set yourself up for failure. We’ve been talking to a lot of people who are frustrated with the results they got from their 2015 Marketing Budget, and are now working with us to avoid making the same mistakes in 2016.
Here are the most common issues we see—and how you can fix them!
Top 3 Ways To Waste Your Marketing Budget
1. Exclude your sales team from planning
Most people think that the marketing plan should be developed by the marketing team, so they go off in a magic conference room to brainstorm ideas—and fail to ask their most important customer for input. What results is a plan to spend most of the year’s marketing budget on a beautiful new logo or a shiny new website that fails to attract more ideal prospects or generate new sales to help your company achieve its goals. Meanwhile, the sales team is still slogging through requests from unqualified leads, spending hours educating prospects, or struggling to close deals with poorly written proposals and ugly presentations.
Solution: Get your sales team involved
Who better to give you input about what’s working and what’s not working than the sales team? Invite them to participate in your planning—from documenting and refining your buyer personas, to brainstorming blog and content ideas, to identifying ways to automate and shorten the sales cycle.
Listen to what the sales team struggles with on a daily basis, then help them remove those obstacles with great content, a usable website designed to educate visitors and convert them to customers, and automation to eliminate repetitive tasks. Not only will you come up with a better plan, but you’ll also get more cooperation and buy-in throughout the year if sales understands what you’re trying to accomplish—and how they can help!
Solution: Start thinking about your SMARKETING budget
While you’re at it, stop thinking of your marketing budget as the money you spend to raise brand awareness and drive leads to your sales team. Instead, start thinking of it as your Sales+Marketing (SMARKETING) budget—the money you spend to attract more qualified leads, and enable your sales team to convert more of those leads into sales.
This means spending money on tools and tactics that will help your sales team:
- collect lead intelligence
- research prospects
- automate communication
- track data
- continuously improve your sales process
It also means budgeting for your marketing and sales teams to:
- spend time together reviewing results
- collaborating on content to educate your prospects and customers
- developing new ways to improve your process
What you invest here will directly impact the results you see at the end of the year, so don’t be stingy. You’ll only handcuff your team and leave them feeling frustrated and disempowered—bad for your culture, and your bottom line.
As someone who would LOVE to hire a team of marketing unicorns, I can tell you that these people don’t really exist. And if they did, you couldn’t afford them 🙂
Solution: Build a team of specialists
What you really need is a team of specialists who are truly great at a couple of these skills. You can find coders who also design, writers who can optimize for SEO, project managers who can write, etc. But it’s rare to find someone who can do more than two or three of these things REALLY WELL. You’ll also need someone to lead the team who has solid marketing, sales, and general business expertise who can set the strategy, hold people accountable, coordinate with sales, remove obstacles, and communicate with your company’s leadership team.
Many companies can’t afford this whole team, so they hire marketing agencies that put together a team of people tailored to their needs. This team may be shared with multiple clients, so you’re getting a set of skills you couldn’t ordinarily afford—and the agency can apply the knowledge they’ve gained on other client accounts to yours.
Some companies can get by with a couple of internal people and an outsourced team of freelancers—it all depends on your needs and long-term goals, and how much you want to DIY.
3. Try to do too much and then run out of steam (or money!)
Lots of people start the year with renewed energy and resolve, pouring a substantial portion of their time and budget into rebranding, or a large website redesign project. Or they blog like maniacs, launch a weekly webinar, and commit to exhibit at 10 trade shows in the first two quarters. After working madly for the first few months, they start to run out of energy and budget mid-year, disappear over the summer, and then wonder why their sales suck when September rolls around.
Solution: Establish discipline and maintain a consistent pulse
The key to avoiding this cycle is to establish discipline and maintain laser focus on realistic goals and consistent activity levels. We like to help our clients get crystal clear on what they’re trying to accomplish, and to pick 2-3 strategic priorities to focus on (and COMPLETE) each quarter. This establishes a predictable monthly budget, paces the team’s energy, and produces more consistent results. Because we also stop to take our pulse every month, we can adjust our course when tactics aren’t working as planned.
We’d rather launch a simple and elegant 10-page website in 2 months, and then add a couple more pages per month, instead of waiting 6 months to launch the perfect site (thus wasting 4 months of opportunity to see results). We’d also leave some budget to drive traffic to your awesome new site, instead of letting it sit there like a beautiful house that nobody lives in or visits. Consider launching 4 AMAZING content offers that are perfectly tailored to your ideal customer’s needs, instead of cranking out 12 so-so offers that don’t impress anyone. Or write 8 compelling blog posts that actually educate your visitors, instead of 20 blah articles full of fluff content that nobody reads or shares.
Stop Wasting Budget, Start Seeing Results
Take a look at your previous year Marketing:
- What worked, and what didn’t?
- What got accomplished, and what did you abandon?
- What opportunity did you miss because you spent time and money on the wrong stuff?
Now pick the 3-7 most important marketing & sales issues to solve in the next year, and come up with a plan to knock them off your list—for good.