November 27th, 2018

How to Understand Your Digital Marketing Budget Breakdown

Author: Laura Lynch
Laura Lynch
Director of Marketing

Plan a better marketing budget for your business by considering all the factors.

Your business needs to grow, but to bring in new sales, you need to work harder at your digital marketing. The question is: how do you know how much to spend, and where to spend it?

Providing a meaningful estimate that encompasses every business is difficult, because each will have different markets and needs. However, almost every business will have some common line items. By focusing our digital marketing budget breakdown on these key points, we hope to give you a fuller picture, so that you know what expenses to plan for.

1. Discovery

Most marketing plans start with a discovery phase, in which your marketing team researches the field and formulates a strategy. While the bulk of this is done early on in a project, you will want to plan for recurring research and strategy sessions throughout the year.

The danger many business run into is that they create a marketing plan in January, but never revisit their strategy—sometimes running on autopilot for years at a time.

No matter what strategy you choose, it will take time to gather meaningful results from your data. However, the whole purpose behind collecting that data in the first place is to adjust and improve your strategy. So while you should plan for most of your discovery work to happen up-front, don’t remove this from your budget altogether.

2. Content

Digital marketing runs on content—whether email content, video content, blog posts, podcasts, or downloadables, these are the core deliverables of any marketing plan.

Your content budget will vary depending on what mix of the above content items you choose. A single blog post is inexpensive, but a comprehensive blogging strategy, enacted over the course of a year, takes time and dedication. Videos can be pricey, but they are also versatile and highly engaging. Choose your mixture well.

3. Design

If you focus most of your marketing strategy on blog posts, then your design load is relatively light. Larger design elements would include downloadables, landing pages, and email templates.

Design can be a hefty budget item, but it’s also one of the most satisfying. A professionally-designed sales sheet establishes the legitimacy of your business, and showcases the hard work done by your content writers. It’s no secret why: presentation matters.

4. SEO

SEO can be a hard item to calculate, because it overlaps with so many other fields. For instance: your discover phase usually requires some keyword research so that you can understand how to position your business in the online space. Your content writers need to use that same research to write the right pieces to target high-volume phrases. And those same content writers are often also in charge of on-page optimizations to make sure those pages rank.

However, a lot of SEO work goes into technical, back-end tasks, such as optimizing product descriptions for an ecommerce store, running audits of local directories to ensure listing information is accurate, and cleaning up broken links. While a lot of this work happens behind the scenes, it’s nonetheless critical for the healthy marketing maintenance. Keep at it, and you’ll see the results in better organic rankings and higher website traffic.

5. Social Media

A key component of most digital marketing strategies, social media is a great way to keep your brand in front of customers, even when they are off your site. It’s also a secondary source for metrics, which will help your measure your marketing success.

Most social media channels also require you to have an account before you can run ads on their platforms. And if you have an account, you want to keep it updated. As for the actual content you produce, you may want to create separate line item budget for content creating and design specifically for your social media channels, so that you can assess their success separate from the work you do on your website.

6. Ad Spend

You can grow a lot of traffic organically, using tried-and-true content marketing techniques. However, almost every business will benefit from the boost they receive with a budget for ad spend. In fact, we have some clients who have such success with AdWords that they have almost no upper limit to the ROI they achieve on their ad spend.

Facebook, Instagram, and placement ads are another excellent way to get your brand in front of new audiences. Like always, measure your spending against sales, and adjust your strategy to follow what works.

7. Marketing Software

This is a quick one: if you’re spending money on marketing, you should invest in good automated marketing software to make your process more efficient. As an inbound marketing agency, our software of choice is SharpSpring. It costs a few hundred dollars a month for most businesses, but delivers higher-quality leads to our sales team, and it helps us better serve our customers by responding to their interests rather than flooding them with generic messaging.

8. Reporting

Remember that first discovery line item? Remember how we discussed the importance of metrics for informing your strategy?

Well, those metrics don’t come out of nowhere. Your marketing team needs time to dig into the numbers and report their findings. Like the discovery phase, this is a critical step necessary for keeping your marketing machine in good working order.

Don’t forget to account for non-digital or non-recurring factors.

A few items don’t fit neatly into our marketing budget breakdown, and that’s because they’re either too large to be a regular line item, or not digital methods. Nonetheless, it’s important to account for them. They include:

  • Custom Development. Does your website need work? What about a piece of custom functionality that will help bring in new marketing leads? These tend to be capital expenditures rather than recurring budget items. However, they can expand your capabilities enough to achieve a healthy ROI in a relatively short timeframe.
  • Branding. Another capital expenditure, but one that often needs to happen early in the game for businesses to position themselves in their markets.
  • Print Collateral. We often work with our clients on small print pieces, such as business cards or sales sheets. These can extend to much larger projects, especially if customers frequently attend business conferences.
  • Traditional Marketing. Depending on your business, you may spend much more in traditional marketing (billboards, print ads, TV spots) than you do on digital. It’s a whole different ball game, and unfortunately, the ROI is harder to calculate without the metrics provided by digital campaigns. The good news is, digital marketing is almost always more affordable, and usually yields higher-quality leads. Just something to consider when you start planning your traditional advertising budget.

Finally, remember that marketing is an expense that should generate more revenue in sales than whatever you spend in advertising. If it doesn’t, then it’s time to reassess your strategy. And if your campaign is marvelously successful? Save some of your revenues to invest right back into your digital marketing.

Marketing is like fuel for your sales engine. You won’t get farther by cutting off your supply.

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