How to Get the Most Out of Your 2016 Marketing Budget

Successful marketers typically greet each new year with both excitement and trepidation. A new year means a new marketing budget, a clean slate that provides an opportunity to learn from the previous years’ successes and failures. But, more often than not, the actual approved budget number falls short of expectations while the ROI forecast increases. It’s no wonder that HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2015 report finds that the biggest budgeting challenge marketers face is proving the ROI of their marketing activities.

So how do you improve upon past performance metrics with a limited budget and in a crowded marketplace? Get creative. Make your 2016 budget work hard for you by focusing your core messaging so it really resonates and gains the attention of your target audience. Allocate funds to proven distribution vehicles. By taking the time to evaluate past performance and optimize future results, you may find your marketing dollars can stretch further than you thought.

Get to know your audience

You need to understand your customer pain points to create effective messaging. Consider using your in-house marketing automation platform, or a tool such as Survey Monkey, to poll both your current— and past—customers. Search for current secondary data for additional insight into your target market. Focus on those insights that are going to benefit your customers and allow for differentiation from the competition. Ask questions:

  • What issues are important to my audience?
  • What problems are they trying to solve?
  • How can I make their job easier?
  • What is their preferred method of communication?
  • What is the frequency of communication they prefer?

Don’t assume you know what your core audience wants without asking them first.


Reflect on 2015 successes—and failures

Review your lead sources from last year. Where did they come from? Determine which marketing programs yielded the largest amount of quality leads. Perhaps high-quality content or a targeted telemarketing campaign proved especially effective. Maybe sponsoring a live event or investing in Google AdWords campaigns resulted in numerous lead conversions. Evaluate the reach effectiveness of your social media networks. Are you utilizing enough viable platforms, or are you tapping into networks that your installed base is not? Understanding what worked last year—and what did not—will provide valuable insight as to what distribution vehicles you should continue to invest in and those that should be abandoned.

Work smarter, not harder

Evaluate your existing content assets. Are there any showstoppers? You may have pieces that are still driving qualified leads. Don’t abandon high-quality content because you feel you have to reinvent the wheel. Consider refreshing an existing piece—or creating a logical sequel (to a successful blog post, webinar, infographic, etc.). Releasing a few knock your socks off content assets versus average and frequent new materials will make a bigger impact on your audience and ensure your brand is memorable.

Leverage your professional network

Don’t overlook your professional connections when forming your annual marketing plan. Consider partnering with a complementary business with a strong following to create an outbound email campaign, co-hosting a webinar or publishing a new white paper. Engage in a mutually beneficial program that would otherwise come at a premium. Consider tapping your installed base to gather new testimonials or data that would translate well into a new infographic. Leveraging existing relationships you—and your colleagues—have to secure dynamic content can be a real budget-saver.

Evaluate needs versus wants

Having glossy brochures, sell sheets and other marketing materials on hand is nice, but is it necessary? Printing and shipping collateral to trade shows and sales staff can add up quickly. Consider investing in digital assets instead. Delivering marketing collateral via email and providing qualified tradeshow attendees with collateral preloaded on USBs eliminates version control problems and is a more cost-effective option.

When all is said and done, be resourceful and think outside the box. There is no tried-and-true formula that will result in flawless marketing programs and result in record-breaking ROI. Be flexible. Optimize campaigns in real time and continue to re-evaluate programs for your best chance of success.