As the final quarter of 2013 draws to a close, businesses are assessing their progress this past year and planning for 2014. Designing your marketing budget for the year ahead provides the opportunity to make critical strategic choices on where to spend your time and money. Digital marketing is one area where many businesses intend to make bigger investments. According to WebMarketing123’s State of Digital Marketing 2014 report, the majority of businesses expect to increase their marketing budgets in strategic areas such as SEO, social media marketing, and content marketing. Here’s a closer look at some priority marketing activities to consider when developing your company’s plan for the year ahead.
Choosing Your Investments
It’s important to ask yourself the following three questions about every potential digital marketing investment within the context of your own company’s goals, objectives, and available resources prior to finalizing your budget decisions:
1. Will this action help me reach my audience?
The best marketing investments put you in front of as many highly qualified buyers of your products or services as possible. It’s important to assess both quantity and quality of leads. The more highly qualified the prospects, the higher your conversion rates will be. The more general the audience, the more important overall numbers are to ensure your investments yield a high ROI.
2. Is this a force multiplier? When you’re evaluating potential marketing activities, it’s important to understand how each investment gives you leverage. Look for activities where it’s possible to make inroads toward multiple goals from the same activity. For example, a newsworthy press release might get your name in front of potential customers, while at the same time attracting links that help you grow your SEO profile. These kinds of marketing investments help you punch above your weight.
3. Does this help me achieve my most urgent goal – leads and revenue? Marketing efforts can be broken down into two categories. Direct marketing activities drive leads, make sales, and grow revenues and profits. Indirect marketing helps build brand awareness and thought leadership in your industry. Both are important, but tight marketing budgets should always prioritize direct marketing activities. Digital marketing is a high ROI, low investment form of direct marketing for small and medium sized companies.
Investing in SEO
The last year has been a lively one for algorithm updates from Google. The search engine giant continues to make important changes to how it ranks websites. All this activity is occurring against the backdrop of the increasing importance of the web in our lives: even for local brick and mortars, a solid online presence is more critical than ever.
Updates such as Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird are requiring that businesses have well-designed sites that are optimized for mobile devices, that feature regularly updated high-quality content, and most importantly, that are linked to and from authoritative sites. Coordinating this effort requires dedicated, knowledgeable staff or a trusted outsource SEO agency to partner with. SEO will continue to be the most important marketing investment for most businesses in the year ahead.
Developing a Social Media Presence
Social media is important for business marketing for several reasons. One reason links back to SEO. Search engines are increasingly looking at social media signals to determine search ranking. Other considerations tie to buying behavior: Consumers are connecting with brands online and making purchases as a result.
According to VisionCritical’s Social to Sale report, 4 in 10 social media users have purchased an item online or in-store after sharing or liking it on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. Social media provides businesses with the opportunity to build relationships with customers at scale. Successful social media marketing requires developing a strategy, creating content, and dedicating the time necessary for engaging with fans and measuring your progress.
Implementing a High Converting Website
As your investments drive more traffic to your site, it’s important that you’re capturing the most value from those visitors. Is your site design professional, and conferring a sense of trust to your customers? Is it easy to navigate, and simple for visitors to find what they’re looking for? Instilling faith in your business in the digital realm requires a solid online presence.
It’s equally important that your website is configured to drive conversions. Does your design focus on your most important objectives, such as making sales or capturing email addresses? Does your content feature clear calls to action? Ease and a clear path to the sale need to be priorities for your web design and copywriting.
As the economy improves, 2014 promises to be an exciting year for many businesses. Digital marketing will be the centerpiece of marketing plans designed to generate leads and make sales for businesses across endless industries. What are your digital marketing priorities for 2014? Let us know in the comments below.