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Midsized Company Marketing Communications Budget Planning

This is the time of year when most companies, brands and nonprofits are involved with developing their marketing communications plans and budgets for next year. This is not an easy task in any year but, whether you’re already deeply involved in the process, or just starting, the task is even more challenging this year given the continuing global and economic uncertainties.

More than ever, increased accountability and scrutiny of the decision-making process is a necessity for improving marketing communications ROI. Customers, whether existing or new, have a multitude of choices for evaluating and selecting a product or service, so it’s extremely important to be on the same page with them.

What follows recommends a three-pronged approach to help you develop a budget and plan to profitably impact your marketplace.

Understand Your Customer Target Audience
Like most managers, you probably believe you fully understand the wants and needs of your customers, as well as their knowledge of your brand. But with so many new methods available to customers for comparing your brand to competition, are you really sure?

Is it smart to plan and commit your precious marketing communication dollars to what you think you know about customers? Maybe it would be a lot smarter to learn directly from them what they want, and how you stack up to their needs.

Ultimately, that means market research. Whether you’re a B2B, B2C or a nonprofit marketer, now is the time to learn from your customer.

  • What attributes or qualities are important to them in selecting a brand? Beyond price, what other factors influence their purchase decision?
  • How do they rate your brand versus competition? What are your strongest and weakest attributes, and what do you need to improve?

Wouldn’t you feel more secure in your decision making if you had concrete answers to these questions before you develop, much less commit to, budgets? And don’t forget about making sure you understand your employees or distributors. They’re your first line of brand advocacy. Their beliefs may not line up with your customers’ beliefs, and could lead to lost opportunities or lost sales. Look before you leap.

A Marketing Communications Audit Can Sharpen Your Message
Once you completely understand your customer, the next step is to focus on your message. The single greatest source of leverage you have is the quality of messaging, whether it’s a television commercial, a post on a Facebook page, your website, articles, blogs or whitepapers. When messaging fails to deliver, it’s usually not the platforms that fail, but rather the lack of integrated focused brand communications.

A marketing communications audit, conducted by outside consultants who don’t have a vested interest or an ax to grind, can – like a financial audit – be an enormous benefit. It will tell you whether all of the creative elements you employ – subject matter, graphics, copy, and tone and manner – are working together with one clear and meaningful message to your customers, as well as your employees.

An additional benefit of a marketing communications audit is its ability to help determine your communications mix and resulting budgets. For instance, based on customer needs, perhaps more should be spent in content marketing, with articles and blogs, and less in paid advertising, consumer promotions or coupons. Just make sure all of your messaging is saying the same thing to meet those customer needs. It’s a matter of reinforcing the image you want to convey and trust in your brand.

Consider Marketing Communications Consultants
No one is doubting that smart, dedicated people have been involved in developing your marketing communications budget and plan. But, if you’re like most midsized companies, your people are probably stretched to the limit.

Consider partnering with an established, senior level consultant to help your team develop, refine and, if appropriate, implement your programs. Above all, make sure a consultant has extensive experience across disciplines, industries and brands, and isn’t trapped by “this is the way we’ve always done it” thinking. An apolitical team, with a willingness to “tell it like it is”, with fresh eyes can be a major asset to your profitable growth.

In today’s unsettled environment, an upfront focus on developing budgets and plans can go a long way to improving marketing communications ROI.

Internet Marketing Services Are Using These Same Techniques

With the multitude of internet marketing services and techniques that you hear about daily as you get bombarded with promotional material after promotional material in our emails you come to realize two things. The rationalization of these two main focal points are what lead many online marketers to their doom.

The first thing you come to terms with as you start to focus is how truly overwhelming all of this is! You can’t possibly learn all of these new internet marketing techniques fast enough, master them and implement them effectively all at one time so that you can begin to promote your products, services or affiliate programs.

This brings you to the second realization. You need help! So you decide to hire internet marketing services that are provided by outside experts and so called gurus that promise to help you bring in more traffic, help you build your email list and ultimately increase your monthly sales volume. Don’t worry we’ve all made this mistake, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Take One Day To Evaluate All Of Your Resources

I can’t stress how important this is. Internet marketing services FEED on your frustrations! They know that you are bombarded daily by emails that you get from other internet marketing veterans that want to sell you their own products and services. In fact they’re counting on the fact that you’ve actually bought and paid for several of these and that at this point you’re so way beyond frustrated that you’ll do anything, even PAY THEM MONEY to provide you their own internet marketing services that are using the same internet marketing techniques that you could be using yourself for free.

Cancel The Majority Of Your Subscriptions

This is hard for most of us to do. We’ve grown to depend on the advice of these so called internet marketing services, experts and gurus. There is a symbiotic co-dependent relationship formed that has gotten you in the rut you’re in. I’m sure that most of the people you get all these emails are nice, but their bottom line is NOT to be you’re friend. They want to make money online just like YOU want to make money online. The key thing to consider here is that you need to STOP giving them your money and STOP spending all that time reading the tons and tons of emails, so that you can focus on what works and take action.

Stop Paying Internet Marketing Service Providers

This is often the hardest link in your chain to break. What little success that you’ve achieved thus far is only there because of your internet marketing efforts. In that back of your mind you’re telling yourself that the internet marketing services that are provided by online providers are working, just not quite as well as you want them too. The truth is that their using the exact same internet marketing techniques that everyone else is and these techniques are NOT hard to learn! When you stop paying for all the internet marketing services and start focusing your time and money more directly on taking ACTION you’ll notice that you’re paying out less money and yet at the same time your monthly income and website page ranks are still increasing.

Now Is The Time To Take Action And Start Profiting

I realize that things are still very overwhelming, especially if you’re just getting started or if you’ve have a history of trial and error which has brought you in little or no success. Take a deep breath, relax, relate, release and let go of that past that has haunted you. Let go of the overwhelming frustration that comes from inexperience if that is the problem. Internet marketing services and all these so called new internet marketing techniques are NOT the answer. Here’s a clue to get you started;

Social Networking & Social Marketing Is Not New

From the early days of the internet there have been internet marketing services that provided advertising services on bulletin boards, which later lead people to going online using dial up connections and creating social networks of their own through their AOL or other ISP connections. This is how things were done in the early days. What has changed isn’t the concept of social networking & marketing or internet marketing services. The real change that people are talking so much about with the whole buzz of the Web 2.0 craze isn’t social networking & marketing at all, it’s the fact that it’s become so incredibly easy!

With WYSIWYG The Learning Curve Is No Longer Steep

Social Networking & Marketing is definitely getting more popular with the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interfaces that we see on MySpace, Squidoo, YouTube, Facebook and the “groups” that you can join through Yahoo, MSN and the almighty Google. The new advancements make things easy to customize, add video and in many cases create your own “squeeze page” that you can publish and then use to promote your products, services and affiliate programs.

This is the secret to the internet marketing services that many of you are already paying for. Using these same principals there are online blogs and forums that you can use as well and these are no secret either. The only thing that makes it harder for newbies and people who have failed in the past is that they either don’t know HOW, they don’t know WHERE or they don’t fully understand WHY certain things are done the way they are.

One last thing to give you something to think about before I go

Please bare in mind that this is solely based on my own biased opinion, which comes from years of experience as a web designer, web host and internet marketing promoter. My thoughts on all of this are simple if you would like to save an incredible amount of time, energy and money. Try by focusing on ONE THING at a time and learn everything you can. There are video, audio and pdf style tutorials readily available at reasonable prices. All you need to do is find ONE SOURCE that you can get as much material from as possible at a reasonable price and then begin your learning experience.

Go in to this with an open mind. Often you may think that YOU KNOW something, when in truth you are familiar with what it is and the basics of how it works, but you’re not yet proficient enough to be called an “expert”…..yet. I add that last little bit because I believe that with the right tutoring you can and will be one!

Seeing Your Web Market As A Resource

Is your market like an iceberg?
I see a picture of my web market and it looks like an iceberg. The small portion above the water line is a group of individuals that are ready to purchase. This is the portion of the market that advertising is aimed at because these people are ready to purchase. It is this ‘ready market’ that consumer advertising feeds on. And because this ready market is constantly renewed as decisions to purchase are made it is like a feeding frenzy for all business owners.

As business owners we want to harvest our share of this ready market, but some companies take the lion share because they have deep pockets. Small business owners mostly get the scraps, or they find a better way to reach their market.

The greater resource
Like an iceberg the greater portion of our whole market is undecided and not ready to be scooped up. We tend to ignore them until they become a ready and mature market. Even our financial resources dictate that we focus on the ready market.

When we are hunting or trapping our markets and attempting to capture that market then this is how we think. And we are all hunting or trapping. Our marketing language tells us that much when we say things like “our TARGET market” and “CAPTURING our market.”

It is in this way that we define our marketing and it says a lot about our own business and the nature of our business. Hunters and trappers have an aggressive mind set, but not all business owners want to be aggressive and spear or trap their markets. But we all want more business.

Are there alternatives to hunting and trapping?
A history of civilizations shows us that cultivation works better in many instances that either hunting or trapping.

It is a wonder that marketing people do not think much about cultivating the greater market share instead of hunting down the smaller market portion that is the ready market.

Your whole market as a resource
It is a simple and practical matter for a web page to cultivate the whole market. There is no limit on the space and content of a web page, but there are necessary considerations on how to deliver information to the whole of the market.

People, which make up your market, simply do not read volumes of information. We cannot know just what stage of the buying cycle a single visitor is at, yet we need to cultivate that member of our market.

From the very beginning of the buying cycle, where members of our market are becoming aware that they have a problem, all the way through research and then comparison shopping until finally they are close to making a decision, takes in the whole of the market our web site needs to cultivate.

No other marketing medium can provide the tools and the affordable means of cultivating a market. In the past it was always the material store and sales people that cultivated the walk-in customer. It was even possible for a talented salesperson to walk a potential customer all of the way through the buying cycle and finally make a sale.

No one does that for a pack of gum
Even in a material reality there are limitations to resources and time spent. Salespeople do not really want to talk to a potential customer that doesn’t see their own problem, let alone talking them through research. Only if the sale represented enough profit is it worth the effort.

Your web site has a onetime effort, for the most part. It is as simple as writing up the content to include every step of the buying cycle. A single page may seem like a mile long and no one is going to scroll down through a wall of text, but the web offers tools for hiding information until it is wanted. A much shorter page without sacrificing needed information is the result.

Farming your web page
Instead of writing content to spear customers in the small ready portion of your market you can farm the much larger portion of that same market. And in doing so you are also including that ready market.

From top to bottom your web page can attract your whole market wherever they are at. And while those that are ready to purchase put an item in the shopping cart others are being fed the information they need take their next step.

When you feed your market and raise them up to be knowledgeable shoppers you have also built a relationship based on honesty and trust. Your web site has helped them and nurture them and in turn most will reward you with their business.

No longer strangers
Marketing people know that the toughest sale is always the first sale. Once that barrier has been broken more sales can be made. Sharing and being helpful builds relationships and in this way you and your market are no longer stranger – even before the first sale.

A web page designed to help your market with useful information is like the farmer fertilizing his farmland. First you put in and then you take out.

Helping and supporting is not a marketing strategy when it comes to skimming off the surface where you bump into all of your competition. Web marketers, for the most part, teach you how to get your elbows out and muscle your way past your competition just to get a line in the water.

And once more you are fooled
Even before we think about marketing we need to think about search engines. The picture of a feeding frenzy on ready buyers doesn’t apply when it comes to search engines. That place where every business is hunting or trapping the ready market is diluted with traffic from search engines.

Your web designer said they would send you tones of web traffic and – even though this is faulty thinking – if they do meet their promise it won’t be what you were expecting.

Search engines are not just available to the ready buyers in your market, they are available to the whole length and breadth of your market. Right off the bat the ready buyer traffic you receive is going to be dwarfed by about 9 to 1 where 1 is the tip of the iceberg.

Your whole market is searching for your solutions, but only a small portion are ready to purchase. This is good and bad.

It’s bad because you need a good portion of the ready buyers. It’s good because you can cultivate all the rest and turn many of them into your own resource.

If you want all of your market you must cultivate that market and make it your own. If you want to know how to cultivate that market look for my article titled, “Farming Your Web Market.”