Maximising the Marketing Communications Budget

Probably the hardest task that every senior marketing manager regularly faces is planning to maximise budget efficiency. Nowhere is this more challenging than when deciding on where to spend the marketing communications budget.

The exponential growth of new media covers every aspect of life from the second your (digital of course) radio alarm goes off in the morning through all the traditional offline media you’re exposed to over the course of the day. Once we go online and explore the huge demands on the budget related to email marketing, search engine optimisation, pay per click, web design and a plethora of other online marketing opportunities, the budget dilemma seems to become impossible. Various studies indicate the average person living in a developed country is exposed to anywhere between 3000 and 7000 differing advertising messages per day. If you’re targeting that person, then how do you choose the one or two messages that are going to grab their attention and generate the right response? Even for highly experienced marketers these are not easy decisions. Some will claim to take a highly scientific approach but in this article we will treat the budgeting exercise as a combination of art and science.

The answers can be found in a few key areas: The size of your brand and business, the nature of your target market, the relative size of your competitors, the level of experience you have gained from previous marketing activity and your personal predisposition to believe in a particular approach. I’ve packaged that into

Ten golden rules for planning an integrated advertising campaign:

1 Repetition builds awareness builds response

Don’t spread your budget too thin. It’s better to repeat your message three or four times to the same person in the same media than to spread your message to a wider audience that may only see it once or twice

2 Online marketing is fashionable but that doesn’t make it right for your business

If you know you can build your business by increasing your web visits then online expenditure makes sense. But if your business model is not dependent on your website be careful about throwing all your money online

3 The smaller your budget the more benefit Public Relations can provide

Public Relations takes time and effort but the results can be amazing and the monthly fee often equates to just one advertisement

4 The bigger your business the more important brand building

As a massive generalisation, small businesses need to focus on building response and every penny they spend on marketing is looking for a short-term return. In the long run it’s the budgets that invest in brand building that win but there’s no point in worrying about that when your budget is small.

5 Direct Mail and e-shots are the starting point for most small businesses

You can directly compare costs with return.

6 No more than 50% of your budget online

OK that’s not really a golden rule as some businesses can prosper never appearing outside the virtual world. But it’s rare to find a target market that is not responsive to offline communications and on average over 50% of ‘commercial’ web visits are driven by traditional media.

7 Information Is Power

Quite simply the more you understand your target market and their media consumption the better you can plan campaigns that connect with them. Also if something has worked before it will probably work again, but not in quite the same way. So learn from your successes as well as your mistakes.

8 Don’t swim with the big fish

If you’re a small fish then swim upstream or downstream of the big ones Taken from Adam Morgan’s book ‘Eating the Big Fish’ this rule simply says that challenger brands need to do things differently to the competition

9 Sponsorship is for laughs

If you have many millions of pounds or dollars to spend then sponsor a premiership football club. If your budget is smaller avoid spending too much money on simple brand awareness and make sure your brand values, unique selling points and call to action are built into your marketing communications

10 Integrated communications are impressive

Even better than repeating your message to one person in the same medium is getting that message across to that person through different marketing communications. A direct mail piece, an e-shot, a press ad combined with a PR article come together to make your budget look much bigger than it is

Finally, there’s an 11th rule too! If you can’t afford it then that rules it out. It seems obvious but a lot of highly experienced marketers make the mistake of wanting to try media they perceive to be prestigious such as National TV that soak up more than 50% of their budget and leave a lot of the more hard working, cost effective, demand driving media unaffordable.

To summarise, it’s art and science coming together, there are no definite right answers but there are a lot of obviously bad ones. If in doubt get an integrated marketing agencyto help you decide. Specialist agencies will always try to get as much of your budget as they can. An integrated agency might want almost your entire budget but it will work with you to maximise its effectiveness!