Finding the right mix for your marketing budget requires ongoing vigilance and regular adjustments. The shift toward digital media has pushed many organizations into a significant learning curve that can result in smart marketing. Much of the decision-making ends up being a wrestling match between "what we’ve always done" and attractive new opportunities. Beyond the tactical decisions over how much to allocate to various media, there lies a bigger opportunity.
We have the chance to re-think how we view marketing entirely, and to move our company or nonprofit into a marketing asset position. Smart marketing is discovering where you can invest marketing dollars with a long-term return on investment, shifting from rented marketing or advertising to owned marketing that will serve as an asset.
While accountants may view websites and digital properties as intangible assets, they don’t feel very intangible when they have the power to impact our company's revenues.
We tend to treat marketing and advertising as an expense, separate from our sales efforts which - in our minds - are tied more directly to revenues. What if we were to rethink a portion of our marketing budget as an investment into marketing assets that we own and that continue to grow in value? Could a growing portion of our marketing become an income-producing asset? (To satisfy those with accounting backgrounds, check out this article from the Columbia School of Business.)
We already know that marketing and other assets that aren’t physical are still capable of producing income. The value of hundreds of well known brand names don't show up on their corporate income statements, yet their earnings are certainly producing income. We tend to view marketing as a throw-away expense that has some hard-to-find connection to our revenue. When it works well, it’s like magic; too often, however, most of it will float off into the air. In that sense, it is intangible, as if we were investing in cloud seeding with the hope that it will rain on our crops.
Do You Rent or Own Your Marketing?
When you purchase advertising or pay for marketing using rented lists or social network “boosts,” you are renting another person's asset. Even businesses with thousands of "Likes" on Facebook can't reach those consumers without paying an advertising fee. You don’t own those consumer connections and, as a result, you have to buy that access over and over again. But that is not true of all marketing. Here are some investments that you can make in marketing that seem like real assets because they build value, belong to you, and can produce income year after year.
Smart Marketing that You Can Own
Asset #1: Your Website
Think of your website as digital real estate, the primary place where your brand is experienced by customers. For some businesses, it is also the digital location where commerce is transacted and can become a place where leads are identified, qualified, and nurtured. Like all real estate, though, the value is based on location, location, location--and, your ranking on a variety of search platforms determines its value. Optimizing for search (SEO) puts your digital real estate in a key location: the top 3 rankings for the search terms your customers use most. A strong visual impression on customers, who often have one of their first brand experience on your website, builds additional value for your business.
How to Invest in Your Website:
- Bring it into compliance with mobile requirements
- Invest in the user experience both technologically and visually
- Optimize the site for high search rankings
- Keep the content fresh and valuable
Asset #2: Email Lists
Social media has become a major focus for many organizations because it offers engagement opportunity. An important reality check is ownership; you don’t own your fans, or even your fan list, and Facebook can restrict access any time and any way they choose.
None of those things are true about your email list. Email continues to be one of the most cost-effective marketing tools. If used properly, email can offer a $44 return for every dollar of investment. By integrating email capture and responses (as well as regular email updates) into your marketing, you will see consistent results. It is also important not to overlook the use of email to nurture and build connections with customers who may have a longer buying cycle.
How smart marketing leaders invest in Email:
- Use an effective email management system
- Track your email use and how it interacts with your website
- Connect your email to a CRM
- Use trigger and nurture emails (immediate response and series)
Asset #3: Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing is the process of providing valuable content to people who are already looking for what you offer. It includes optimization for search (SEO), education content, and action response opportunities tied to lead management or CRM. It makes you easier to find online and brings people back to your website, social media, and email consistently. This approach to smart marketing builds up over time as you create and publish digital assets that offer value to your prospective customers.
Inbound marketing builds up the value of your website as a place where people discover and return for valuable information which also fuels email and social networking with attractive content.
Using a good inbound marketing strategy, your website becomes more valuable year after year, building higher and broader search rankings (meaning more people find you using a greater variety of search terms) and you effectively engage with each one. Email and social networking extend the value that you are creating and customers find that your organization is a great resource offering the solutions for the problem they need to solve.
How to Invest in Inbound Marketing:
- Start making a list of the websites your customers frequent, the magazines they read, and key challenges they face
- Refresh your thinking on how much a new customer is worth to you in dollars and how many you want to win this year
- Build personas about your customers to better define their needs and interests (free tool below)