Despite the fact that we are already a month into the new year, and that you probably made a valiant effort in putting together your 2009 marketing budget, you just might want to revisit it. Why? Because given the current economic conditions, it’s more important than ever to get the most out of your marketing dollars, and you could very well be headed for trouble if in your process you either assumed a similar media allocation as previous years, or created your search budget and strategy without factoring in other channels.
Why last year’s allocation won’t work
While it may have worked for you in the past, basing your 2009 budget upon the previous year’s allocation is ill advised. In fact, in this economy doing so is sure to lead to failure. I’d be willing to bet that if you spent any advertising dollars on TV or print in 2008, that you – like many others – are thinking about shifting some of these dollars online. Why? ROI of course! In many areas, digital continues to be more cost efficient. Considering that, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that many of your competitors are already making the shift in an effort to reduce costs and improve ROI. If you don’t re-evaluate your marketing spend, not only will your competitors leave you in the dust, but your ROI is also sure to suffer.
Avoiding the dangers of isolation
Moreover, formulating your search budget in isolation – without really factoring in the impact of other channels – is a dangerous proposition at best. Instead, you have to think holistically and strategically across the entire marketing mix, as search has the potential to boost the efficacy of all of your other channels and improve your overall marketing ROI. For example, according to recent iProspect research, two-thirds of online searchers are driven to perform a search as a result of exposure to some offline channel, with both television and word of mouth influencing over one-third. Clearly, it is paramount to understand the influence of other channels when carving out your search budget.
Taking action now
If you made either/both of these budgeting faux pas this year, it’s not too late – you can make the necessary changes now. What you need to do is strategically carve-out your search budget from your overall marketing expenditure to ensure that you have sufficient coverage to capture the demand that your other marketing efforts will generate. Doing so will allow you to protect the investment you’ve made in these other channels, create a more holistic marketing plan, and in the end, help you get a leg up on your competition.
Below are three areas that underscore why search needs to be carved out from your overall budget, and why you may want to revisit yours.
1. Increased costs:
This year it’s highly likely that you’ll need to plan for increased costs due to a number of factors such as increased competition within the paid search auction. Additionally, as you look to expand your campaigns and efforts with new keywords, it can inherently drive up your costs. But don’t get too worried about it because they can be minimized. The good news is that the engines are getting more sophisticated at ensuring relevancy within their algorithms. This can actually work to your advantage as the stronger your ad copy and landing pages, the easier it is to keep costs down.
To capitalize on this, make sure that each keyword you bid on is relevant and targeted to the ad copy and the landing page. However, be mindful that if you don’t focus on showing relevant ads and landing pages, it can cause your costs to increase. You also need to pay attention to the auctions and monitor your competition. As more and more advertisers enter the auction, the influx has the ability to drive up costs. To combat this effect, identify opportunities to write more compelling ad copy, or offer more appealing calls to action over your competitors. Doing so will help mitigate the rising CPCs that result from more advertisers entering the auction.
2. Learning from the past:
Past performance can inform future decisions, yet all too often history has a way of repeating itself. Why? Because people don’t look at the data that’s right in front of them. This is a huge mistake, as there is just as much – if not more – to be learned from your failures as there is to be learned from your successes. Given that, take the time to review your keywords, ad copy, and landing pages to understand what’s been working and what hasn’t, then work to identify areas of testing.
This not only includes the three components just mentioned, but also testing expansion into new engines, new programs within engines, and contextual and site targeting within the major search engines. This will help you set aside the necessary 2009 funds. And don’t be afraid to re-test. I have seen B2B clients run a test that netted a poor performance, and two years later they still deem that particular engine or offering a failure. This is another big mistake as the search landscape is extremely dynamic, and engines are continually improving their offerings. If something didn’t work two years ago, it makes sense to try it again.
3. Honing in on the right opportunities
As a B2B marketer, you probably spend a lot of time working with your media planning agency to understand your target audience and how/where they can be reached. Well, search is no different. In your planning, think about where your prime customers are spending their time online, then identify how you can best reach them. For example, running a national campaign within the major search engines sounds like a great strategy because it will allow you to achieve significant volume and reach.
However, keep in mind that search is not TV. It isn’t necessarily cheaper or more effective to run a national campaign than it would be to target your audience locally. In search, you can set-up a geo-specific campaign and market your products in 25 of the 50 states quite easily and effectively. Given that, take the time to really think about what’s right for you. For instance, it might make sense for you to think beyond the major search engines, especially if your customers are spending time within social networking sites or are using vertical search engines such as Business.com. Don’t limit your playing field. Work to identify the right opportunities and plan accordingly.
While revisiting your overall marketing budget doesn’t sound like much fun, it could definitely be worth your while. Remember, search has the power to boost your other channels’ performance and improve your overall marketing ROI, but only if its allocation isn’t lacking. Smart marketers will take the time to carve-out their search budget from their overall marketing expenditure and build a holistic marketing strategy.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.