The following is a guest post by Aimee Schuster, CEO and founder at Bandwidth Strategy. Opinions are the author’s own.
The inherent difficulty in setting a marketing budget is knowing that it’s almost never set. As I’ve experienced throughout my career, marketing dollars are the first to be pulled back as revenue comes up short. Or, the CEO decides a pet project should be funded and pulls resources from a different department to run with the idea. Despite the situation often being fluid throughout the year, you have to start somewhere, and that somewhere is now: budget season!
Amidst global, local and industry swirl — elections, supply-chain disasters, stock market crash predictions and pandemic realities — CMOs must predict what channels will succeed in an highly unstable, unique business environment. With so many channels evolving, how do you bet on marketing budgets when the game keeps changing?
Based on my years of planning and advising on global budgets, and with this coming year’s market nuances in mind, here are some traps to avoid when budget planning for 2022.
Stop Trying to Hire
The Great Resignation has changed everything about the working environment and especially marketing. The mass exodus from jobs finally broke location barriers and made work-anywhere a reality. It also created a salary frenzy unlike anything I’ve seen in 20 years. As a manager of the budget, I’d advise pausing all hiring for the first six months of 2022. Paying astronomical rates for marketing talent coupled with long ramp-up times can be difficult in a good economy, let alone an unstable one. Instead, tap into freelance, fractional and agency resources to help fill gaps.
These skilled professionals know how to jump in quickly and get the work done without your having to evaluate them for culture fit and long-term potential.
Pull Back from Online Advertising
The digital-ad marketplace is rapidly evolving. We’ve known for some time that Google plans to phase out third-party cookies for Chrome, and though it has pushed it to 2023, that reality is coming. Plus, the effectiveness of digital ads is wildly oversold, according to an article in Harvard Business Review that cites a large-scale analysis of Facebook ads and reports that brand-search ad effectiveness was overestimated by 4,000%. As these ads become less and less effective, it can take more skilled experts to navigate the medium.
I recently vetted a growth organization specializing in online ads that charges $6,000 in administrative fees with a $25,000 minimum spend on the ad platforms. To me, those numbers seem fair, given their skills and the dollars needed to make the campaigns successful. But that type of advertising money is way out of reach of many smaller and mid-sized companies.
Advertising can and should be a part of the marketing mix and a portion of the budget, but for 2022, I would scale that down considerably to drive first-party data acquisition for a more diversified digital portfolio.
Don’t Ignore the New SEO
A good SEO strategy is the bedrock of every content plan. Trying to help searchers find answers in the moments they have questions is the best way to get the right traffic to your site and the right leads to your sales organization.
There is no secret recipe for SEO; good back-end structure and solid content makes for a successful lead-driven website. That said, there is a new element to consider: It’s not just fingers doing the searches anymore. Voice search is growing faster for the e-commerce market than the B2B space, but it should not be ignored. These keywords will be more conversational and less robotic than the first generation of SEO.
Consider using some of your advertising dollars to engage with an SEO expert and work to tweak and optimize your existing site with things like a solid FAQ page, long-tail keywords and a refocus on mobile optimization, where a large part of voice search occurs.
Don’t Invest Only in Long-Form Video
In a B2B world, the webinar often reigns supreme. The company may gather experts in its own hosted forum or participate in another organization’s event. Regardless, the 45 to 60 minutes is often considered one of the gold standards for establishing and creating thought leadership.
Where many companies fall down is slapping the uncut video up on their YouTube page and driving a bunch of traffic there. Long-form video is great, but to get the most out of that investment, marketers need to recruit and spend dollars on video editors to create additional short form assets: 20-, 30- and 45-second teasers that can be used on social media; splices of individuals speaking for them to share with their own networks; putting together a two-minute teaser reel that highlights the whole piece; adding subtitles so viewers can understand without sound.
All of these elements require the skills of an editor who is comfortable creating professional introductions and fadeouts, adding music or improving sound quality. Using all of these assets effectively will create great first-party data and engaged leads.
Avoid Assuming Events Will Return or Be the Same
This one is a wild card, as most of us have assumed the pandemic was “almost over” only to have our plans dashed. For events not hosted by your company, I would advise putting those dollars toward Q3 and Q4, and assume you may have to pivot to web. If your organization is very bullish on hosting events in the first part of the year, make sure it’s a true hybrid model.
This means more than just placing a laptop in a conference room and meeting via Zoom. Engage with a production crew, invest in lighting, multiple cameras and high-end sets to make the experience excellent for those in the room and online. You may have to spend more for the hybrid, but you know that you can host it no matter the circumstances.
Recent years have been tumultuous, and next year’s landscape is sure to be unique in its own right. If we’ve learned anything, it’s to assume that things will not stay the same. But fluidity is where marketing shines: avoid the pitfalls, set the budget, review, adapt and keep going!