Smart Budget Planning for Effective Marketing

There are many things to worry about when your company is an SME. With a tighter budget, smaller workforce, and a modest presence, SMEs are usually hit the hardest when economic downturns occur. It pretty much goes without saying that nearly every, if not all, SMEs have been negatively impacted by the recent COVID pandemic: decreased revenue, unfortunate employee layoffs, and a reduced budget.

But this is when working smart comes into play. Now is in fact not the time to cut down on your marketing budget. COVID surprisingly saw an increased advertising and marketing spend; the worldwide lockdown has forced people to be more present on digital platforms, and companies are jumping at the opportunity to connect with potential and current customers. Regardless if you are one of those who increased their marketing spending or not, a budget planned smartly will be a budget well spent. In fact, a study shows that 30% of SMEs in Singapore don’t have a monthly budget set aside for digital marketing, while 50% are not confident in developing and executing a digital marketing campaign. If you’re one of the 30%, now is the time to start doing so. Understandably, cost is a major concern for SMEs – one reason why many are not spending on marketing or marketing effectively. However, new leads and business revenue aren’t just going to fall into your lap.

If you are still hesitant about planning a marketing budget, think of it as an investment. Planning a marketing budget will help you stay on track of your finances, clear your vision for your company’s journey, and help you in setting well-defined, reachable goals.

Here are four key factors that every SME should take note of to maximise their marketing budget:

First, Set Your Business Goals

If there is no end goal in sight, it can be hard to plan for the journey ahead. Ask yourself: what is the next big step for your company? For example, if you’re still a relatively new company or one that’s simply new to a digital presence with a few loyal customers but no leads, perhaps your goal would be increasing awareness before trying to convert people to sales. This comes down to taking a good look at your sales funnel and pinpointing where your business is at right now, then where you want to be. And yes, by pinpoint, that means specifics. Set a target for your website traffic or a percentage increase in sales. Having a real number to work towards makes the process feel more tangible and easier to analyse once results start churning in.

Know Your Place

Harsh as it sounds, you need to be aware of where you stand in the market. How well known is your brand within the industry? As an SME, it may be unlikely that (for now) you’ll ever be as big of a name as large companies which already have firm footholds high up in the mountainous climb to the industry top, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If your company is at a stage where it is struggling to maintain a balanced relationship between revenue and expenses, your marketing priorities may be different from a company that has achieved above average profits and is doing fairly well in the economy.

So sure, now you know that you have to analyse your position in the market. But just how do you go about doing that?

A Tactical Battle

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” The famous quote by Sun Tzu – while written as a literal military tactic – is now well known as an English proverb that pretty much means what it says. And while marketing and brand competitors might not deserve such severity to be regarded as enemies in a war per se, it still is a good reminder of how you can gain an upper hand in the long game of business growth.

Competitor analysis is commonly done and perfectly legal. Unless you’re in a truly niche area of business where you are the only company providing such services, list down the companies in your industry that are doing well, as well as the ones who are around your level of competition. Looking into their statistics such as website visits, social media follows, backlinks, and marketing strategies can provide insights of what works and what doesn’t. There are plenty of free tools that allow you to analyse competitor data such as Google Trends, semrush, similarweb and Ubersuggest. It’s a little like playing detective and analysing data to find answers. In this case, the answers you’re looking for are how your competitors market successfully, and the tools needed to analyse the data are free and legal for the taking.

Where Are Your Audiences?

One of the most important factors – the most basic yet overlooked factor that many companies forget to analyse and think about – is your target audience. If you’re selling health products marketed towards older folks aged 55 and above, you aren’t likely to gain much traction by throwing out advertisement after advertisement on Instagram, whose users are mainly within 18-34 age group.

Smart spending of money means knowing where the most effective spending goes, and this also means understanding the strategies you want to use. Search engine optimization (SEO), though lengthy, still remains a great way to boost your website’s traffic and awareness. Want to improve your SEO? Put your marketing budget towards creating a well-designed website with relevant keywords! Want to generate more leads? Shift the budget towards pay-per-click advertising! Want to connect with audiences in a personal way? Invest in social media marketing and start building relationships!

Get where this is going?

Budget Smart, Work Hard, Earn…Profits?

Marketing doesn’t have to be a huge, expensive, scary thing. SMEs may have a harder time handling finances, especially during this trying time; but marketing – digital or otherwise – is an investment that when done correctly will yield good results. It may not be smooth sailing all the way, with failed campaigns or disappointing results, but mistakes are there to be learned from. These four key factors will pave the way for clearer goals and help you realise other important considerations to your overall finances such as operational costs and the tools you can afford to spend on. In the long run, a smarter plan will make for higher return on your investments and a steady path to achievable business goals.

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