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What you should be spending your marketing budget on in 2012?

The temptation is to just make it through 2011 have a Christmas break and think about 2012 later. But for most small businesses thinking about how they spend their marketing budget early will prevent costly errors in judgement.

Here are my top hints about where you should be spending your budget in 2012.

1. Make sure it can be measured or don’t do it. If you can’t measure it then don’t even bother. You need to ensure you know what the return will be on your investment every time. Coupon deals seem like a good idea at the time especially if you are a small business desperately scrambling to draw in new customers, but these deals are often very costly mistakes. They can tie up your stock or staff in a promotion that rarely results in repeat customers. Think carefully and plan. Here are some of the measurements that matter.

  • Traffic to your store, website, Facebook page. It is not the be all and end all but even to know if any one is visiting your online site is a start. Go deeper  and use google analytics to understand what key words they used to find you, where they looked and how long they stayed.
  • Leads refers to how many people you captured the name and email address of so you can have an ongoing relationship with over time. If you had 3000 people visit your website in 1 month and you collected no names and email addresses and had no enquiries something has to change.
  • Customers – how many do you have are they profitable and are they happy or delighted with your service. This requires asking some questions and finding out the answers but your business will be at less risk if you know this information.

2. Online presence is essential. More of us are looking online to buy or review what we are thinking of purchasing. Ensuring you have a online presence that is integrated is important. It is more than a well functioning website. A website is the hub of your communication but an online presence where your customers are is essential. If your customers are on Facebook then you need a presence there. If they are more a LinkedIn crowd then go there. Where ever you decide to invest you need to commit to updating and providing information that will generate leads.

3. Map out the customer lifecycle of you ideal client or customer. By spending some time really thinking about your ideal customer and the problem that you solve for them you can make some better decisions about where to spend your marketing budget. Every touch point with your customer is a marketing opportunity. So if your receptionist is not friendly and hasn’t got a customer orientated mindset start there! How can you be more useful to your customers. Aussie Farmers sent me this week a useful tool about the storage of fruit. As my online supermarket it is doing a great job about thinking of tips and ideas of how to be more useful and thus keep me a loyal customer.

How can you provide some information to your customers to show you care and serve them better? I say this is money well spent.

4. Invest in Just in Time Software Applications. Technology is changing so quickly and there are so many types of software apps that will assist a small business run it’s marketing dept affordably. I say rather than lock yourself into a fixed capital cost pay by the month for different software options giving you the opportunity to upgrade and change as your customers needs change and new technologies come on board. Just about every marketing tool, website, email software, survey software, customer service applications and much more can be purchased as a fee per month service.

5. Grow your database. There isn’t a business that I have found that says “I don’t want to grow”. Stop growing and you can die. Growing a list of interested key customers is always a good idea. The way we do this today has changed. According to Forrester Research in 2012 50% of all purchases will be made or influenced by online activity. This means that the way we engage with our prospects is largely online. Having a helpful tip sheet, how too, or competition might be a great way for you to grow the list of potential customers for 2012.

If it is an offer that is really attractive and to your ideal customers and affordable for you then that could be an effective use of your marketing spend.

6. Integrate online and offline. It is important to use both online and offline marketing strategies together. Sometimes a physical Christmas card works better than an e-card. SMSing might be more appropriate than ringing to confirm an appointment. You need to know your customers and their preferences. If you do an inshore promotion it makes sense to do it online as well and use the distribution channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, PR etc) to communicate it. It makes sense to have an offer on your Facebook welcome page to collect emails just as much as it is to have a FB like on your website. Think about how you can maximise the leverage between these tools and the online and offline world of your customers to get the maximum bang for your marketing dollar.

7. Get some good marketing advice. If you are running your small business it is likely you have some good ideas about what works to attract customers but bother surpasses a marketing expert that has experience in the field of marketing both online and offline. Some of the best money spent should be on getting the right advice to plan your 2012 strategy so that you know it is based on sound reasoning.

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