When to Spend on Marketing

September 10, 2013

When should I spend?  In a world of unlimited resources, you’d probably market you company on full throttle 24/7. But we’re not in that world, and often budgets need to be made months in advance. So how can you determine when you should invest more in marketing? The percent of your annual budget you spend on marketing should be determined by business development, not your bottom line — meaning that when times get tough, it’s not the time to cut. So without wanting to be on full speed year-around, when is the time to push a campaign?

1) When you launch something new

I recently took on a client who is just starting his personal brand. Less than 24 hours after I’d sent the first-ever press release from his brand, he emailed me to say he felt like the effort was a flop because he hadn’t gone viral. (He had, however, already had several press interviews.) I giggled a bit, and told him to relax.

Even the most quality product will fail without a thought-out marketing campaign to get the word out – and not just for a launch party. An initial marketing strategy takes a lot of time and relationship building, so work with an experienced marketer to determine realistic goals for at least several months. Like my client, most business owners think their baby is fresh and exciting and should catch on instantaneously, but the fact is that viral internet sensations around products are rarely overnight, though many act like they are.  

 2) When there are substantial changes to your product or service

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is the most critical time to launch a campaign. Regardless of your field, customer retention is always easier and less costly than customer acquisition, so it is critical to handhold those already supporting you with business.

I joined a membership organization that had undergone substantial changes to membership, but no marketing campaign had been focused on addressing the changes. The result? The help@ account was clogged with questions and confusion and – even worse – some members were trashing membership on message boards because they didn’t know what the value was anymore. There was plenty of value in membership – much more than when most members had originally joined – but without making the change clear through a multi-faceted campaign, membership suffered. It took a full reactivation campaign that was undoubtedly more expensive and time-consuming than communicating the changes appropriately by updating current members would have been.

3) When you aren’t seeing new traffic

You’ve had your dream business for a few years. Your customers are generally happy, your online reviews are good, but you aren’t seeing new customers.

Even quality businesses will lose customers – people move, find a new hobby, have a shift in personal finances – so if you aren’t seeing new clients, you will see dwindling revenue. That’s when it’s time to do some marketing. Having a quality product doesn’t help with acquisition unless accompanied by marketing. 

 4) When you’re having an event – ESPECIALLY if it’s a repeat

Putting on events is a great way to stir up excitement about your brand, even if it isn’t just focused on your company, and you should treat these as marketing opportunities. Unfortunately, even the most fun annual events begin to feel trite, so use a fresh marketing campaign to remind users about things that they’ve always loved while sprinkling in some fresh stuff to get them excited.

For instance, I used to work for an organization that hosted a week-long conference. Attendance was strong, but relatively stagnant, and the program struggled to attract high-level attendees on all days. So what did I do? I started reminder emails six months out, except I didn’t slug them “Reminder: Insert Boring Event Here is in May.” Each email had “news” – things that I intentionally would not allow to be announced outside the newsletter, even if that meant holding out details – so we could encourage people to open each reminder. I watched as the click through rate (CTR) rose with each email, as opposed to dropping as it had in years past, and the attendance, especially by VIPs was higher than ever before.

Still nervous about spending the cash? Keep in mind the saying: the difference between small business and big business is marketing

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