Making the Most of Your Marketing Budget

How to Make an Impact Without Overextending Your Team or Your Budget

In today’s digital age, there are nearly unlimited options for where and how to market your business.  The internet and smartphones have given way to about a million different channels that both businesses and consumers utilize on a daily basis, and marketers can sometimes feel pressured to develop a presence on as many as possible.  However, unless you’re a juggernaut of a company, this probably isn’t possible and it probably isn’t the best strategy.

Quality Over Quantity

At the risk of sounding cliché, sometimes less really is more.  Especially if you are at a small or early stage company, your budget and resources are probably limited.  When your choices are to make small investments in a large number of campaigns or larger investments in a small number of campaigns, typically the latter will yield better results.  Of course, it’s still important to diversify and market your products over a variety of channels, but by trying to utilize every medium within every channel you often end up stretching yourself too thin and failing to see sufficient return.

For example, let’s say you are making allocations for your marketing budget at a B2B startup. Your industry and target market consistently subscribe to four digital publications that you’d like to include in your marketing strategy, but their advertising opportunities can be costly.  You can afford to place a small ad with each, but it will be at the very bottom of their e-newsletters where it may not be noticed. Alternatively, you can afford to invest in a more expensive ad campaign with the most widely read publication, which allows you to host content on the publication’s website as well as promote it in the prominent banner image of their e-newsletter.  You would indefinitely sacrifice any readership that did not subscribe to that particular publication; however, you could very well miss out on that audience with a poorly placed ad anyway. Twenty leads from one campaign is far more valuable than one lead from each of four campaigns.

The same applies on a larger scale.  You don’t necessarily need to stretch your resources between email, and social, and print, and TV, and trade shows, and direct mail, and paid search, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  Choose those in which you can make the biggest impact on your target market without risking more capital than you can spare or running your team ragged. Remember, even inexpensive marketing requires personnel support, so you should always think critically about whether something is worth the manpower required for execution and campaign management.

Know Your Audience

Of course, focused marketing efforts can only be successful if you know your target market well.  If you can narrow down the buying cycle and behaviors of your audience, you know how and where to focus your efforts and how to avoid gaps.  Sometimes it’s an obvious choice, like opting to skip direct mail marketing for a digital product sold to techies. Other times it may require a bit more thought and knowledge.

Be realistic about what you know.  If you are not confident enough in your firsthand knowledge and what your existing customer data shows, consider conducting market research or testing.  Otherwise, you’re just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it sticks.

Measure and Refine

Measuring your results and then acting accordingly is key to your success, particularly when you focus your resources on a smaller number of tactics.  If you’re using significant resources on a campaign, you’d better be sure it’s delivering quality results before you continue. If you have a series of paid search ads up and one particular tagline isn’t pulling it’s weight, it should get the axe.  If you sponsor an industry event and are blown away by the number of leads you leave with, sign up for the next one and consider even more visibility.

Grow as You Go

Over time as your business grows your marketing plan should too…but that still doesn’t mean you should try to do everything!  It’s always wise to think critically about each tactic and have a scoring system in place that accounts for the needs of your brand.  The goal in this strategy is to make the most of your resources, avoid burning out your team, and gain the marketing results you need.

Photo by Damian Zaleski

Seven Tips for Working at Home With Young Kids

How to Separate Business from Personal When You Work at Home

When I first became a mom I was completely consumed by it.  My every waking thought was of my son, and even though I was lucky enough to work for a company that allowed me to work remotely, I basically cried through the last two weeks of my maternity leave.  I couldn’t imagine having another priority outside of parenting.

Once I actually went back I found that it really wasn’t so bad…and then I had another baby and I had to figure it out all over again.  It can be tough to find the right balance, but for many of us, working from home feels much less daunting than having to commute to work and leave our kids every day.  I’ve learned a lot along the way, so without further adieu, here are some musts for working at home with your kids.

Take Advantage of Flexible Hours

One of the greatest benefits of working remotely is that it often does not require adherence to a strict schedule.  Make the most of the hours your kids are asleep or most content, and don’t focus too much on the usual 9-5. The lack of a commute frees up morning and evening time you otherwise wouldn’t have.  If you’re up before your kids, get some work done early in the morning. If they nap for two scheduled hours in the afternoon, schedule calls within that window when possible. If they get particularly rowdy later on, take them to the park and get back to work later on.

Have Trustworthy Childcare

I’m not saying you need a full-time nanny on staff, although it’s worth considering if you have a rigorous and inflexible job.  However, most of us that work from home will run into an issue at some point where there’s an important call during your kid’s lunchtime or you have to go to an in-person meeting.  You also still need to be able to get work done and meet your deadlines even if your kid is having one of those days. For those instances, it’s advantageous to have someone you trust that can step in and handle the childcare while you attend to your work responsibilities.  This is often a great job for friends and relatives if you have some that are willing and able!

Limit Multi-Tasking

Multi-tasking at work is great, but toggling between work and kids, while sometimes necessary, tends to leave you half assing both.  Try to commit 100% to what you’re doing whenever possible. When the kids are occupied by someone else, grab your computer and get to work – they’ll let you know if they need you.  When you’re playing with your kids, walk away from the computer and put down the phone. Give both the attention they need.

Be Transparent With Your Partner

If you live with a spouse or partner, make sure they understand what you need in order to be successful.  If they’re not used to working from home they may not quite understand the blurred lines that come along with it.  On the other hand, if they also work from home it’s critical that you agree on how to share responsibilities. If your partner leaves for work, perhaps you ask him or her to take the kids out for a walk when they get home, or if they work at home also maybe you decide to split the day in half.  This probably looks different for every family and may change often, but regardless, communication and transparency are key.

Set Aside Time for Your Kids

If you’re anything like me, you’ll sometimes find yourself missing your kids while you’re working.  They’re also likely not to understand why you’re home but not available. You’ll all spend less time pining for each other if you set aside a little time to be with your kids.  I always try to spend lunchtime with my kids. I have to eat anyway, so we spend that time together and then I can get back to work.

Save Time for Yourself

At the end of the day it can feel like you haven’t had a moment to yourself…and that’s because you probably haven’t.  Once you’ve finally put the kids to bed and shut down your laptop for the night, take a little time for yourself. It’s important to recharge and maintain your mental health.  I tend to take about an hour at the end of each day to eat ice cream and mindlessly watch reruns on Netflix.

Working from home with young kids isn’t easy, but the benefits can make up for it in spades.  No commute, plus I can work in my PJs and see my kids whenever I want? Sign me up!

Photo by Nicole Honeywill / Sincerely Media

Five Reasons You Need a Marketing Consultant

Consultants as a whole have gotten a bad rap over the years.  Some of it is probably deserved, but I swear, most of us are not overpaid, overeducated underperformers with a bloated egos.  We might even be able to help you! If you’re considering bringing a consultant on board to help with your marketing strategy and tactics, here are five reasons you should…and I’ll even throw in some reasons you shouldn’t.

1. Your team is small or short on bandwidth.

If you are working with a small marketing team or if your team is busy on certain tasks that are keeping you from accomplishing others, a consultant could really come in handy.  Consultants can be especially helpful if you’re dealing with some temporary responsibilities or short-term projects, or if what you really need help with is strategy and planning.

2.  You could use a fresh perspective.

Sometimes you just need a fresh pair of eyes to take a look at something – someone who isn’t necessarily loyal to your current practices.  Objectivity diminishes the longer you are with a company and bringing in a consultant to weigh in combats that, particularly if you have a long-standing team of employees or if you’re struggling to figure out why something is not working.  Having a consultant come in and look things over can make big improvements to your marketing and your bottom line.

3.  You need an expert in something particular.

If your team does not have the expertise needed to accomplish a specific task, odds are there’s a great consultant out there that can step in to assist.  Perhaps you’re in need of a marketing plan to suit a particular objective you’re not experienced in, or you just want someone to craft collateral from soup to nuts but you’re not experienced in design.  Hiring a consultant with the expertise you lack gets the job done well and makes you look competent for acknowledging your limitations, especially if you learn from them in the process.

4.  You need to avoid increasing headcount.

If hiring additional full-time employees to fill gaps isn’t in your budget or isn’t the best strategic move for your company, bringing on a consultant to fill gaps is a great way to accomplish that.  Your consultant(s) can own specific long or short term projects while the rest of your team manages a reasonable workload.

5.  You’re facing a project you don’t enjoy.

Ok, so this sounds petty, but we’ve all been assigned projects we don’t want to complete.  If this is where you stand at the moment and you have the budget to account for it, push the crappy job off to a consultant.  Of course, you’ll want to replace it on your to do list with something worthwhile if you need the support of management.

But, you might not need a consultant if…

If you don’t expect the workload to slow down anytime soon and your team already has the expertise, you may want to consider adding another full-time employee to your team.  If your team has the bandwidth but lacks the know-how to do a specific long-term or recurring project, it could be more beneficial to get them training instead.

It isn’t always ideal to bring in a consultant, but in most cases, if there’s a gap that needs filling and you adequately screen and then set measurable expectations with a marketing consultant, they can deliver meaningful results.

 

Photo by John Schnobrich