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Tips for marketing budget planning in 2021 and beyond

How to plan your marketing budget for 2021

Tips for adjusting your marketing budget to our new economic climate

2020 was a year where just about everything went a different direction than anyone had expected. Did your business utilize its marketing budget to its full extent? Do you have your budget set for 2021? Any other year, using the previous year’s outline would be a great start. But this year, copying and pasting 2020’s plan just won’t cut it.

Looking back to plan for the future

Which strategies have proven most effective for your business since March 2020? If your marketing plans and tactics haven’t made increases to your profitability with the budget you started with, you are not alone. Less than three full months into the year, many businesses had to cut costs, which – for many – started with marketing budgets. This is a path to be wary of, and if you have started to shift this way, proceed with caution. According to Forrester, study after study shows that discontinuing marketing altogether hurts your chances of successfully recovering from a downturn like we’re currently experiencing.

Of those businesses that did not cut marketing budgets, many had to shift money around and re-allocate dollars from offline marketing, into digital. One of the greatest impacts since March has been in events and tradeshows, which typically have the largest allocation (especially for B2B businesses). According to a survey conducted by Statista in March 2020, of the B2B marketing professionals that responded, the top three areas companies plan to divert tradeshow and events budgets to are: content creation, hosting webinars, and search advertising. See their full survey response results in the chart below.

The good, the bad and the ineffective

What marketing efforts haven’t been working since the start of the pandemic – other than in-person conferences and tradeshows? Radio Ads have seen a large decrease in effectiveness due to the decrease in potential customers making their daily commutes. For this same reason, many billboards and outdoor advertising are also not gaining the attention they had in previous years. With that said however, this also means that demand is lower for these mediums – and if your customer is still receptive to them, it could be a great time to get a good price. 

What has been working for businesses since March? Almost all digital-based marketing strategies have seen a greater amount of traffic resulting in leads when executed properly.

People are seeing more ads. Online traffic is up 25%, and website ad banners and e-newsletters are seeing three times higher click-through rates than previous years. More on this later!

More people are working from home or remote learning and ultimately spending more time watching TV.

Email marketing is proving to be very effective with updated messaging. Simply sending the same marketing messages as last year will not result in customer loyalty. You need to change your message to stay with the times and voice your expertise on what you are selling and how your business operations have adjusted to keep staff and customers safe and healthy.

Digital marketing tactics are KING

As you read in the previous section, almost all of the marketing strategies that have been effective since March have been through digital channels. This current trend will extend well beyond Covid and for years to come.

Digital advertising has proven to be one of the most successful budget spends since Q1 of 2020. If you have been advertising, it is important to keep it going, as long as you have the money to do so, so that you stay in mind for your past and prospective customers. If you haven’t been advertising digitally, now is the time to start! The current economic climate presents your business with a window of opportunity to grab previously high-demand advertising space. Those top page banners and sponsored ads currently have less competition due to companies restricting marketing budgets and business closings. Since local competition is dropping ad campaigns, your business has a chance to boost brand awareness and gain market-share from closing big-box stores and other competitors. Advertising during this time displays to customers and prospects that you have a strong brand that is financially stable and will last through the pandemic and beyond, which allows prospects to view your brand as something they can be loyal to.

Just as, or even more important than the placement and audience of your ad, is the message you are conveying. The message should display the company’s expertise in whatever product or service your business sells and teach your customer something. At the same time, all marketing messages need to be sensitive, especially as the pandemic continues. See the video below for other best practices to keep in mind while developing your digital advertising strategy.

Hear more on the topic from Joshua Pearson, Senior Marketing Strategist with Commcreative, as he outlined how businesses can adjust their marketing budgets at CCA Global Partner’s Digital Convention: LIFT2020

Investing in Marketing Automation is another recommendation to include within your marketing budget for 2021. Large companies have been using automation for decades in many aspects of business from production lines to hiring processes, but more recently businesses have been including marketing automation into their mix and greatly benefiting.  In fact, more than half of companies in the United States currently use marketing automation in one or more of their processes. When used properly, marketing automation saves your team time and resources to focus on tasks that cannot be automated.

The most common uses of automation are to reach and retain customers – which has grown profoundly in importance throughout 2020. You’ll often see automation in the form of advertisements, email follow-ups, and review requests. Automation combined with the right messaging helps nurture your customer base and creates brand loyalty, hands free!

Does the present moment pose new opportunities?

In the midst of darkness, light persists”

-Mahatma Gandhi

As Gandhi reminds us, it’s not unheard of to find some good in difficult circumstances. We are in a unique time in business where markets can and should take a step back and reassess marketing efforts throughout this year and years past. 

Frank Chiera, Senior Vice President of Marketing & Advertising for Flooring America highlights key takeaways on adjusting your marketing mix for 2021 at CCA Global Partner’s Lift2020 Digital Convention.

Large technology companies have gone beyond their normal scope to provide additional tools and resources to support small businesses impacted by COVID-19. At the end of March, Google announced an $800+ Million commitment, which was broken into $340M advertising grants specifically for small-to-medium sized businesses (SMB’s). Another program Google has developed during this time can help business owners learn new skills and tactics to build their businesses back up through webinars, virtual events, and 1-on-1 coaching offered through Grow with Google OnAir.

​But that’s not all. Now is the time to get creative! Assessing how you are marketing, who you are marketing to, and which challenges you need to overcome can help identify new ways to get attention. If you are in an industry where product inventory is low and lead times are long, consider one of the following strategies to keep your customers buying. 

When you have long lead times, presales are a great strategy to implement to get money flowing into your business and your customers eagerly awaiting their purchase. Offering presales provides you an entirely new customer segment to market to. For one example from 2020: presales are currently being used by many bike shops and other specialty retailers across the country.  With production times so delayed, stores are able to gain a customer and sell accessory items in-store and online so the customer will have everything they need when their new purchase is available. Of course, this is no new concept. For over a decade the tactic’s been perfected by tech companies like Apple and Google – creating early sales and demand prior to a new product launch. But presales don’t require an over-produced product expo or even a new product. All it takes is a concise presale message, an incentive to buy now, and a reasonable timeline.

Shelf and rack space whether customer-facing or in a warehouse is precious and you never want items sitting around longer than a typical sales cycle. If your typical ‘hot sellers’ are having longer lead times than normal, start promoting comparable items that you already have on hand. By selling off static shelf items, you free up the cash to purchase products with higher demand, greater availability, and faster inventory turnaround.

Rather than spending the money on acquiring a larger customer base, many businesses are using this time to nurture their new and existing customers. Current customers have already interacted with your business before or during covid, so they know your brand and have decided to be your customer. Be sure you are showing them appreciation and keeping them informed as needed so they know what to expect the next time they interact with you. Operational changes, product and service limitations, or local efforts you’re supporting are just a few general topics to include in your communications with current customers to make them feel appreciated and confident about their decision to be your customer.

Who are you marketing to? Hear about best practices from CCA Global’s LIFT2020 Digital Convention.

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