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What comes first: the budget or the plan?

Why a test fund should be in your 2019 budget request

It’s hard to believe 2019 budgeting and planning efforts are already underway. Unfortunately, the state of business today often means budgets are due before planning even starts. That can make it difficult to significantly change a marketing program from year to year because it’s hard to request a budget without knowing what you’re requesting a budget for.

How to combat that challenge? I’d advocate for building in a “test fund” for 2019, which will allow your team to try new things – say, an emerging social media platform or a new customer engagement technique – even if you haven’t fully scoped what those activities look like yet. That said, it might be easier for you to get a test fund approved if you have at least a high-level idea of how the budget might be used. Here are a couple of ideas you might want to build into your 2019 plans (and budgets):

INFLUENCER MARKETING – No matter what kind of organization you work at, influencer marketing programs are becoming a critical tactic in an effective marketing program. Think about your own habits – you probably seek recommendations from friends or colleagues when you are making purchase decisions (oftentimes, using social media to gather recommendations). The relevancy of influencer marketing is pretty easy to understand for B2C brands, but I would contend B2B organizations have the most to gain by using this technique. It’s the modern version of customer testimonials, which B2B companies have long embraced. But very few B2B organizations are using influencer marketing programs right now. If your brand wants to differentiate itself in the market, this is a technique to consider. When budgeting, be sure to factor in all of the associated costs, including whatever incentive/payment you plan to offer your influencers and any agency support you may need. You also might want to consider contracting with an attorney who specializes in this area to ensure your influencer contracts are up to snuff.  

PAID SOCIAL MEDIA – If your organization isn’t already allocating funds to paid social media efforts, 2019 is the year to start. Constant algorithm changes are making it nearly impossible to get your message in front of your target audiences without putting dollars behind the message. Think about how much time your team spends developing, approving and posting content to your social media channels, to get in front of only a few hundred eyeballs (if that!). In more traditional marketing terms, that’d be like pouring hours into a customer newsletter, only to have it sent to a handful of valid email addresses. I’d suggest starting with a social media audit to learn where your customers are most active, then allocate test funds to that social network in 2019. You don’t have to go big to be effective. Smart B2B marketers can be extremely successful using targeted paid social media, which can help promote a new product, drive trade show booth traffic or position you as a thought leader (by driving customers to download white papers, visit your blog, etc.). Build in a modest budget for 2019, test (and measure!) a few pilots, then use those learnings to build out a bigger budget and plan next year.

These are only a couple of ideas to consider as you work through 2019 budgets and plans. The important thing is to give yourself some wiggle room to ensure you are reaching your audiences where they are by testing new (and sometimes uncharted) tactics. Are you willing to submit a “test fund” in your 2019 budget request? And, if so, what tactics are you considering? Comment below or shoot me an email if you’d like to bounce some ideas around.

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