There's a lot more to budget planning than deciding how much to spend where. For some, it's setting a right-sized investment in marketing to match their growth goals. For others, it's optimizing their marketing budgets by shifting resources to what's working best today—namely, online channels. This shift involves a broadened focus on bringing in leads through websites, targeted social media, regular blogging, opt-in email subscribers, etc.
If you don’t believe that your digital marketing deserves a commanding share of your total marketing budget allocation, consider this:
70% of the buyer’s journey is completed before they directly contact your company for a quote, demo, or other request.
Today’s buyers like to do their own research first. If you don’t have a solid online presence, you have a much smaller chance of grabbing a piece of that pre-70% mindshare.
With so much “solution vetting” happening in the digital space, commanding—or at least leading—the conversation online is paramount to your long-term success. With this mind, we are strongly encouraging our clients to shift more of their budget to inbound marketing activities or content marketing—a strategy for helping customers find you and creating value and loyalty, even before the sale.
There are many factors that will determine what strategies will work best for your business. Answering the following questions can provide a basic idea of what you'll need to succeed.
1. Do your budget and resources match your goals?
Marketing spend for small to mid-sized tech companies has typically represented 1-6% of planned revenue. To ensure that you’re allocating the right amount of your budget to marketing, it is important to consider both major endeavors and smaller commitments and goals that might impact your needs. Will you be going through a rebrand or acquisition? Launching a new product launch? Upgrading your infrastructure? What are your plans for advertising, trade shows, or market research? All of these investments will factor into your plan, and into the balance between traditional and inbound marketing.
Are you focusing on the right activities to support your growth? Download our Marketing Budget Guide & Worksheet
2. Do you have the foundation in place?
Before you jump into an inbound marketing strategy, you must consider: Is your website inbound-ready? Does it support lead generation forms and calls to action (CTAs)? How does it use keywords and metadata? What percentage of your web traffic is from organic search? By taking a look at your current setup and the analytics behind it, you’ll have a benchmark by which to set goals and move forward.
A solid foundation also includes people. Does your in-house team know how to plan and execute inbound marketing best practices? To create and effectively promote content? If not, you’ll likely want to outsource these activities.
Here are some resources that can help:
3. What does your current tool set look like?
What platform, if any, do you use for email marketing, customer relationship management (aka your email list), content management, etc? If you don't have a formal contact database, start with your inbound leads. Use your inbound platform's lead management capabilities. If you have an existing contact database, consider adding those contacts with email addresses to your inbound database for email marketing.
The availability of data is a critical part of inbound marketing, so you should make sure the tools you use provide easy-to-access metrics. Choosing CRM and CMS systems that can interconnect will help you measure the success of all your activities.
Assess your Marketing Automation Readiness with our quick tip sheet.
4. Is your company undergoing a change in messaging, strategy, or goals?
If your company is going through a major change, your branding will likely need a tune-up. You’ll need to consider what your message is before deciding how to disseminate it. You’ll also want to re-evaluate your logo, website, and other visual elements to make sure they still reflect the tone you want to present.
5. Once you start generating leads online, how will you handle follow-up?
As your inbound activities start to pick up, will your team be able to keep up? It is important to have a follow-up strategy in place so that the leads coming in aren’t left idle in your database. Automated email nurture campaigns triggered by specific lead characteristics and activities are a helpful tactic for keeping your company top of mind.
You can also use lead scoring to single out leads that merit a phone call. Contacts earn points based on preselected qualifications and interactions with your site, and those that reach a certain number are sent to sales; this is an instance where integrated sales and marketing platforms come in handy. If you don’t have the salespeople necessary to handle an increased volume of leads, you might consider outsourcing this task.
Want to learn how your company can improve its digital presence? Sign up for our Free Inbound Marketing Assessment. We'll evaluate your website design and optimization, content, messaging, email marketing, and social media channels, and suggest ways to improve them.
Editor’s note: This blog post was originally published in December 2014 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and to reflect current best practices.