making the most of your marketing budget

It is the time of year again for you to begin outlining your budget for the new year. Included in these figures is your annual marketing budget. In a sluggish economy, your marketing budget may see cuts. However, there are a few simple steps you can take to make the most of your marketing dollars.

1. Keep marketing.

This sounds simple enough, but many of your competitors are slashing their marketing budgets or doing away with them all together. If you continue your marketing efforts, you will stand out from the competition. If your market is shrinking, you must increase your market share just to stay even on sales. Now is not the time to sit back and be complacent.

2. Make a plan.

Without a well thought out plan, you will be reacting, which could lead to additional spending that is not aligned strategically with your sales objectives and goals for the year. Make sure your plan has a timeline, assigned responsibilities with deadlines, a budget and specific objectives. Include anticipated outcomes so that you can track and measure your results. If you keep track of what works best, you will have the data to make even better decisions of where to spend your marketing budget in the future.

3. Be consistent.

Stay centered on your key messages and be consistent with the way you position and use your brand identity. If your budget is tight this year, consistency in design across all media and well-written communication are your best bet for a good return on your marketing dollar. However, if you have the capital to invest in more creative and innovative marketing, you will definitely have a greater opportunity for market domination, since many competitors will be conserving cash this year.

4. Evaluate your brand.

Do you have a strong trademark or logo? Do you have the right materials and interactive media in place to support your sales and marketing initiatives and staff in 2010? A simple evaluation or even an audit from a brand or marketing consultant can help you spot gaps and prioritize to get it all on track.

5. Check out social media.

While social media may not be the answer for everyone, it could be an untapped asset for your company (because it is growing and is not going away). And while it will take some time, it won’t cost much money. Find out how to tie social media into your strategic marketing plan and then be consistent with implementation.

6. Update. Update. Update.

One of the first places you should look at updating is your website. If the technology has not been upgraded within the last 3 years, it is probably outdated and not working for you as it should. Updating your site will help with SEO (search engine optimization) which will help send prospective clients to your website.

You should also ensure you have fresh sales support materials on hand to encourage new business development.

In today’s economy your marketing dollars are a precious resource. Make them count.

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