David vs. Goliath Advertising Budgets: Three Simple Yet Effective Ways to Compete

david_goliath_giantReaching consumers in Houston can seem difficult or even impossible for the average small business. Large online and offline companies such as Amazon and Wal-Mart have so much money to spend on advertising that it seems there is nothing a small business based in Sugar Land could do to compete with these corporate giants. Even some of your local competitors might seem like they’ve got endless budgets, far beyond your means.

However, there are some simple, cheap (or even free) and very effective ways in which a small company can effectively reach its target market, generate more leads, and close more business in Houston.

Here are a few tips on how to compete with the advertising Goliath’s of the world:

Team Up with a Local Business

Networking with a local business is one of the best ways to reach more local clients. For instance, a veterinarian can offer discount coupons for a local pet store; in turn, the local pet store can offer coupons and/or recommend customers to the veterinarian.

Such agreements are not hard to work out and offer a win-win advertising solution to both parties involved while doubling your efforts. This form of marketing is extremely effective because it targets people who are almost certain to be interested in what you have to offer.

Consider Different Online Advertising Options

Google and Facebook ads reach millions of people, but they are not necessarily the most effective form of Houston marketing. These ads are expensive and the price tag is extremely fluid, making it difficult for a local business to keep tabs on its advertising budget.

Thankfully, there are effective advertising options that are quite reasonably priced. Companies that deal in wholesale rather than retail will find that LinkedIn ads are quite effective, as they reach owners and managers of companies that would be likely to want to do business with you.

Another great form of advertising is to pay for ad space on a local, industry-related, highly-popular blog or website. You pay a certain price per month for these ads and the ads reach local people who are very likely to be interested in what you have to offer. While you might not be reaching the masses, you know that your ads are being seen by people more qualified and targeted for your message.

Stay Abreast of Marketing Options

As technology advances, Houston small business marketing options change all the time. A form of advertising that was not feasible before may be a great option now. Conversely, a form of advertising that was effective in the past may now be a waste of your hard-earned cash. Stay abreast of marketing developments, keep a close eye on how you spend your advertising budget and note the results. Doing so will enable you to do more with less money.

A small company may not be able to compete with large corporations when it comes to prime time, network advertising during the Super Bowl, but it can effectively reach a local niche market in a way that even a multi-national company would not be able to.

A Houston business owner who follows the above mentioned points will find that it does not necessarily cost a lot of money to promote a business, product or service. In fact, sometimes less expensive advertising methods lead to more creativity, which in turn can lead to better results.

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Your Houston Online Marketing Estimate: What Does it All Mean?

online_marketing_termsFor your business’s online advertising you might find yourself working with a local media group or a Houston online marketing company to facilitate the purchase of different marketing assets. While it’s critical to have a solid strategy in place before launching any type of campaign, it’s also important to be sure you understand what is being presented to you by a third party so you can make an educated decision.

We don’t want your possible lack of knowledge of the internet marketing world to negatively impact your purchasing power, so we’ve compiled some of the most popular terms and language you’ll find in an online marketing estimate. Fully understanding these terms will also help ensure you are able to properly measure and track your results online.

Above the Fold:

Ideally, any time you place an ad on a website, you want to be above the fold. This references to being on the top part of a webpage so you are visible without a person having to scroll further down the page.

Analytics:

Any Houston marketing campaign should provide you with analytics. This is a form of metrics to tell you about the performance of your marketing so you can check on the effectiveness.

Behavioral Targeting:

This is a great marketing tool as it will put the ads in front of people who are more likely to take action. If your marketing estimate doesn’t have this, you want to find out who your ads are being placed in front of.

CTR:

This is known as the click through rate. You need to know this number so you know how many people are clicking on the ad to go to your website.

Conversion Rate:

This is the rate that tells you how many people are becoming customers or taking action on your site instead of actually visiting. You want a high conversion rate with any marketing campaign as it will bring you more business and/or leads.

CPA:

This is the cost per acquisition. Instead of just getting a click, this is the cost per actionable event, such as a purchase or filling out a lead form.

CPC:

This is the cost per click. You would pay a pre-determined rate for each click that you get to your website. You need to be cautious of this rate because you want a good location and behavioral targeting on the higher priced clicks.

Day Parting:

You need to know if your campaign is subject to day parting. Similar to how you would market with a commercial, your ads would only be visible during certain times of the day or week based upon your agreements and settings.

Impressions:

This is the number of times someone has viewed a page with your ad on it. It may not be your ad, but they have the chance to view your ad. Many times, an estimate will include the cost per 1,000 impressions.

Paid Search:

This is another form of pay per click or search engine marketing where you pay to be listed in the search engine result pages.

PPC:

Pay per click, otherwise known as cost per click.

ROI:

Return on investment – you want a high ROI to have a successful marketing campaign and you want to make sure the company you’re working with has a plan in place to track and measure your ROI.

SERPs:

Search engine result pages. When someone searches in a search engine, the results or links that show up on that page are known as SERPs.

All of these terms should have you well on your way to talking the lingo and understanding how your Houston online marketing estimate and campaign is made up. And any Houston online marketing company you’re working with should be more than willing to explain terms and make sure your proposal and estimate is 100% clear.

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Top Mistakes Made in Houston Paid Search Ad Campaigns

ppcIn the digital age, getting to the top of search results and competing online has become increasingly more difficult. But paying for search ads (or pay per click ads) on search engines such as Google or Bing allows you to have a prominent location for your desired keywords, and ultimately drive more traffic to your website when prospects are searching online. However, these types of paid search advertising campaigns should be carefully planned to ensure that you’re getting your money’s worth rather than throwing it down the drain.

We’ve compiled the top mistakes that Houston businesses often make when placing a paid search campaign for their business. Be sure to avoid the following fatal flaws and you’ll be well on your way to search engine marketing success!

1. Only utilizing paid search and ignoring organic search

Many businesses spend a lot of time and money focusing on paid search, which can be incredibly effective when done right, but you shouldn’t ignore search engine optimization (SEO) opportunities. Online searches are all different and when targeting specific keywords you want to have a solid SEO and search engine marketing (SEM) plan in place to make sure you’re covering all of your bases. In our experience, Houston companies are most successful with search when they implement both tactics into their online marketing plan.

2. Going too big

Remember the old adage about not putting all your eggs in one basket? This extends to paid search campaigns, and frankly, any advertising tactics in general. We suggest you never run a single campaign around just one keyword. Several smaller campaigns might provide you with the greater payoff in the end, as well as the ability to test and optimize your efforts.

3. Having one creative message across all online marketing

The ads that appear directly on the search results may not be the best option for Facebook or Google’s Display Network, which includes other sites and non-text advertising options. You should absolutely have different creative messages and campaigns for the different sites you advertise on, as well as the uses of those sites. Think about the target audience, the placement, the way users interact with these different sites, and always plan on testing your creative.

4. Not thinking local

Marketing to Houstonians is a big job because Houston is a top market with a lot of competition. It’s also full of many different neighborhoods and some people rarely leave their work and home “bubble.” You might want to ask yourself if your business caters to specific neighborhoods like The Heights, Bellaire or Spring Branch? Not only does thinking about smaller areas open up new keywords for Houston online marketing campaigns, but it also attracts more potential customers by speaking directly to them in a way that you can’t do when targeting Houston as a whole.

5. Ignoring long-tail keywords

Long phrases, also known as “long-tail keywords”, are less frequently searched but they are often much more targeted and effective in reaching your ideal prospects. Plus, long-tail keywords tend to have a better conversion rate due to their focus and can ultimately provide better results.

Research shows that more online users are searching by asking questions or typing in more detailed queries. This is why Google recently updated their search algorithm to reflect this type of activity. As a whole, consumers are become more and more savvy in fine-tuning their online search to help deliver exactly what they’re looking for in the shortest amount of time.

6. No customer benefit

Yes, your company might be 80 years old and trusted, but what can you do for consumers right now? Are you available 24/7? Do you have a money-back guarantee? Maybe you make house calls. Any way you can guarantee effectiveness and/or promote your convenience to customers makes your company look desirable and sets you apart from the competition.

7. Lacking call to action

Internet users want to know what they should do next. Should they click here? Call now? Buy this product? Whatever it is, add that call to action to any online advertising including paid search copy and encourage browsers to become buyers.

8. Not testing your ads

After you create a paid search ad campaign, take the time to compare your efforts. Some keywords may not perform as well as others… or maybe some keywords deliver lower conversion rates but more qualified leads. This is the kind of datathat you want to be sure you’re tracking. If you don’t have the expertise or time to properly track and manage your paid search campaign then make sure you hire an expert who can.

9. Skipping paid search advertising all together

Just because you have a small budget doesn’t mean that purchasing paid search ads isn’t possible. You might not have the dollars to compete for the most targeted keywords but with the right research and long-tail keyword strategy in place you can effectively reach consumers early on in the sales process by showing up for the right search results.

10.  Bad website or landing page

Once someone clicks on your ad you want to make sure they’re directed to the exact page their expecting to get. If you provided a special offer in your copy, then they should be sent to a landing page that reflects this exact promotion… not just your homepage.

Also, it’s critical that your website is updated and user-friendly. This could be a consumer’s first impression of your brand and getting the click is only half the battle, they need to be happy with where they ended up or you’ll immediately lose them and probably not have the chance to win them back.

11. Starting SEM campaigns over repeatedly

Google rewards businesses with relevancy and history. The longer you’re out there with an SEM campaign – the better your quality score will be with Google – and the higher you’ll pull up in search results. Every time you pull your campaign, you pull your history and momentum. Have some faith and keep your SEM campaigns alive. There will always be peaks and valleys – especially in the start. Ride the wave to the upswing and you’ll see it will have been worth the time.

A Houston Marketer’s Top 15 Tips on Giving Effective Speeches

fearIn my career I’ve been honored (or not – depends on how you feel about public speaking) with opportunities to present on a variety of topics. And I find solace in a few helpful tips that effectively help me prepare for a two minute pitch or the marathon monologue. Perhaps a Houston business professional (or two) might find them useful as well?

But before diving in – there’s something that you should be reminded of first and foremost. It’s simply this…

Bravery, gumption and a reputation for having somewhat of a clue on the subject matter is why you won the gig in the first place. That’s a big deal. Someone picked you when they could’ve picked someone else. Congrats.

Which leads me to my first point…

1. Humbleness. You’re good. But not THAT good. Subject matter on just about anything evolves as fast as a ten minute segment of Homeland. Encourage the audience members to raise hands and participate throughout. Maybe they’ll have ideas to add that you hadn’t thought of – nor even knew about. They’re likely experts on the subject just like you and will respect you even more for respecting their intelligence as well.

2. Ask the audience for insights. They’re all there because they may have specific questions/topics to have addressed that may not be in your presentation plan. Ensuring your audience walks away with exactly what they want not only helps amplify your post-speech survey results (everyone loves a 5/5) – but it gives you more credibility as a subject matter expert. (Hint: If you can’t deviate subjects mid-presentation, park their questions somewhere you can refer to at the end. A large memo pad + easel works great.)

3. Warm up. Then play hard. Translation? Get to know your audience members. Let them get to know you. Try some (work-appropriate) humor on them. Starting an especially long presentation with a segment that’s irrelevant to your overall speech topic but relevant for your audience can be a great way to build momentum. And contrary to what you may have been taught…

4. …humor isn’t a bad thing. Some will argue that it hinders your credibility. But I’ve found that an appropriate amount of humor gets and keeps people interested in what you’re saying. Smart phones and devices compete for your audience’s attention – engaging listeners is 90% of the battle. Humor will also put the room at ease – demonstrating that you’re not some sort of dull, business robot. You’re real. You’re authentic. You’re not a know-it-all. You’re like them.

5. Find out who is in your audience beforehand so you can tailor your speech. If you can’t obtain a list of job titles, companies and/or industries represented – ask for the info yourself. Request a show of hands on some of these questions up front. This mini-survey can let you know how to customize your message on the fly.

6. Establish the right time for Q & A. It’s important that you establish how you want to approach the Q & A before you start. My preference is to address questions as they arise a during the presentation. Regardless, give them a heads up so they know in advance whether to jot a question down for the end or simply raise a hand at any time.

7. Be flexible to altering the path of your speech on the fly. Perhaps you have mostly B2B owners in the room and you had designed the presentation for a B2C audience? Or maybe a question turns into a conversation you hadn’t anticipated but your audience seems to be very passionate about it? Time to quickly evaluate the time you have remaining with this captive audience and how you can convey your key points and be responsive to their hot buttons.

8. Avoid writing specific talking points (and reading them) verbatim. While having some notes to refer to throughout the presentation is acceptable – reading a ‘book report’ verbatim is hard for an audience to connect with. They’ll be focused on the fact that you’re supposed to be an “expert”, but how can you be if you need to read it straight from a script? If you can’t speak fluidly about subject – you may want to reconsider presenting on it in the first place. (Not an option? Maybe throw in a little joke about your inability to memorize. Self-deprecation works to the advantage of many speakers who find themselves in awkward situations!)

9. Less info = more impact. When it comes to building a PowerPoint to support your presentation – think ‘less is more’ when it comes to each individual slide.

10. Did someone say PowerPoint? A few suggestions: 

  • Images should complement your main point…and I’ve found that Clip Art rarely does a presentation any justice. (Hint.)
  • Avoid placing hard-to-read charts and graphs on the screen. If it’s that important…print it out and walk ’em through it.
  • Doubble and tripple check speling and grammer. Errers can distract you’re audeince beyond repare. (Hang with me here. Those blips were for effect.)
  • Know what comes next. Build a natural flow to your presentation – so it’s easy for you to anticipate what’s coming next and there are minimal, mini-surprises for you when you’ve got your groove.
  • Avoid reading content from the slides verbatim. They got the reading thing down for themselves. Consider using single words/descriptors as bullet points for key ideas and then elaborate on in your speech.
  • Time yourself giving the presentation in concert with your slides. Make sure you stay within your alloted time and always save from for Q&A.
  • More slides with less content is typically more effective than less slides with more content on them.
  • Always cite and source. Our high-school paper-writing days are over, but the rules we learned about integrity and honesty are timeless. It doesn’t take someone more than a Google search to find out you’re a phony.

11. Say ‘thank you’. At the beginning…and definitely at the end. Your audience members decided to come listen to your schpeel when they could’ve put out about 12 fires (each) at work.

12. Call in a life line. Ask an informed colleague to co-present. Two presenters can be more effective than one – depending on speech length and scope. Changing up voice and tone helps keep the audience engaged.

13. Consider hosting a webinar. If the idea of presenting in front of a live group makes your stomach churn – see if you can host a webinar instead. There may be a sense of comfort being able to host it from the safety of your office.

14. Google some ‘top 10’ lists related to your subject. Not only are ‘top 10’ lists a great way to get ideas for what to present about – these types of lists can assist in building an effective outline for your speech. (Don’t forget to cite!)

15. Find ways to give your speech again and again. You’ve worked hard on putting it together. May as well make that effort work hard for you. There are likely many organizations and audiences who could benefit from your expertise. Plus – the more times you give it – the easier it gets and the more fluid and natural it becomes.

When you’re standing in front of all those suits – you are certifiably, 100% the bravest person in the room. Everyone else gets to sit, drink coffee and eat (day-old carbs). Where is the valor in that?

You’ll do great. Best of luck.

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3 Great Reasons You Might Want To Hire A Houston Advertising Agency

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Anyone running a Houston small business has a lot of responsibility, far beyond managing just advertising and marketing efforts. You might have a marketing director on your team, but business owners still need to be involved in the process and sometimes a marketing director can’t do it all alone.

In order to be successful, it’s important to rely on experts for different aspects of your business. This includes hiring an accountant or a lawyer if needed, and it also might mean hiring a Houston advertising agency to plan and implement your marketing strategy.

There are many great reasons why you should seek the help of an advertising agency, but we’ve put together three that tend to be the most common. While not every business needs (or can afford) to hire an advertising agency, it can be a great investment if it fits your unique needs.

Here are the three reasons you might want to hire a Houston advertising agency:

1. You Need Help with Your Marketing Strategy Planning

The most important steps to getting started with a marketing plan is identifying your target audience and understanding the places where you can best reach them. Whether that means radio, print ads, website banners, ppc marketing, or direct mail – it all comes down to audience and budget. Who do you need to reach and how much money do you have to spread across different platforms?

An advertising agency is able to provide you with in-depth research on your customer, a plan with various options, and a marketing strategy that fits your budget. You will be guided in the right direction, and most importantly you’ll save valuable time having someone else do all of these steps for you.

2. You Have No Idea What Your Creative Should Be

Maybe you know exactly where you want to advertise or maybe you’ve got a great marketing director that’s done the due diligence to research properly and develop a marketing strategy plan for your next campaign. But do you have the resources and level of expertise to create unique creative for your advertising?

Questions you’ll want to answer include:

  • Who is the exact audience for this campaign?
  • What is our call to action and is it clear?
  • What approach are we going to take? Funny, informative, educational, emotional… ?
  • What is our voice?

Then you’ll need to think about the costs associated with creating copy and designing ads – whether it’s radio, TV, print, or digital advertising… there is always a need for creative production.

The prices and investment can vary drastically depending on the medium and concept but any type of Houston marketing firm should be able to guide you in the right direction for your budget and brand.

3. Analytics and Measuring Your ROI Just Doesn’t Make Sense to You

Maybe you’ve been able to capture leads but your conversion rate isn’t as high as you’d like it to be.. Or maybe you have no idea whether the results you’re getting are standard, below average, or above average. If measuring your ROI and evaluating analytics and data seems like a foreign language to you, then you might benefit from hiring an advertising agency here in Houston.

By choosing someone from the outside to examine the problem and the analytics, you won’t have to worry about any prejudice going on. It may be something as simple as failing to follow up in a timely manner or something more intricate as no call to action in your creative or poor ad placement. Either way, an expert should be able to identify the problem and help you plan out your next steps.

There are many reasons why hiring a Houston advertising agency is a good idea. You need to do all you can for your business to succeed. If you are not marketing oriented or you simply cannot see the forest through the trees, you need to hire someone who can. Just as you hire an accountant for your taxes and an IT professional for your networking, you may need an advertising agency to help with your marketing in various regards.

The Most Important Question: What is Your Call-to-Action?

dreamstime_xs_31479123As a Houston business owner, what is the most important question you have to ask yourself before you start marketing? Well….it’s not “Who am I talking to (aka: targeting)?” Although that is an important question, it’s not the most important. It’s also not “What am I selling?” nor is it “Why is my product/service better than the competitor?” These are also important – just not the most important.

The most important question… the question that will lead to all the others and will ultimately make your print, digital, radio, or tv creative effective is: “WHAT DO YOU WANT THE PERSON WATCHING/LISTENING TO DO?”

The call-to-action will not only help you craft a great advertising message – something I know a lot about – but will also help your Houston business identify how successful your advertising really is. Having a clear picture of the precise action that you desire from a potential customer is essential for any commercial. More than one answer? That’s easy, it just means you need more than one commercial!

The action that you want depends on what kind of company you have and what your product/service is. Your goal might be to get the phone ringing… to increase website hits… or to get more walk-up customers to your store(s) in Houston. Having a specific goal up-front for each advertising tactic helps both you and your creative team. It ensures a clear message and keeps everyone from your copywriter to your media buyer focused on the same results. In the end, it will also help you, as an owner or marketing manager, evaluate how effective your marketing is and which type of advertising works best for each desired result.

Before jumping into any advertising campaigns, Houston business owners should brainstorm the “most important question” with their teams and set some simple goals. The answer(s) should come from within, and once you have answered the “most important question”, you will have a solid foundation on which to build your next advertising campaign for the Houston market.

 

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Dear Rookie Sales and Marketing Professionals….


One of my younger cousins is about to embark upon her first marketing internship experience. As I guided her through some of those beginner questions over the phone last week – a whole slew of pointers started coming to mind. Rather than overwhelming her with the “what I wish I would’ve known then” diatribe over the phone…I put it in a letter. (Sometimes writing one actually works.)

To be honest, I wish someone would’ve written this same list for me about 12 years ago. I literally blush as I type this…those rookie-move moments flooding back into memory…ugh. 

Alas – while I had to learn the hard way in some instances (we all do) – i’m hoping I can help a few young marketing souls avoid making the same mistakes. And if I’ve at least accomplished that…well…then…you’re welcome.
(ahem)

Dear Cuz –

Congrats on the new gig. A few extra pieces of advice popped into my mind as ‘Day One’ approaches. So I thought I’d share with you in random order and in numbered bullet points, of course.

Suffice it to say that some things I learned the hard way…

1. Spell check and re-read EVERYTHING. You’re the marketer…which means your communication skills (written and verbal) should be a good example.

2. Re-read your (important) business emails out loud and see if they make sense verbally. If not – you may want to consider revising.

3. Punctuation is just as important. A sentence missing a “,” or a “-“ can completely change the meaning of what you’re trying to say.

4. This all said – don’t rush your emails. Take the time to put thoughts together clearly, succinctly. A good email takes more time to write but it’s worth it. It’s a reflection on you professionally and it instantly gains the trust of others in your skillsets. (Much of your work will be conducted via emails and other electronic communication – you could apply these suggestions to any channel.)

5. Since you’re new and young – I’d stay away from Facebook all together while at work. You’re supposed to be busy. Don’t let it be ammo for anyone at the office who is adjusting to you and your style.

6. Think twice about adding colleagues you barely know as “friends”

7. Suggest you immediately turn on the feature that allows you to review/approve any posts or tagging done by friends and make sure if you approve of them – that they are a positive, professional reflection on you and your life. (People can be quick to judge that “the new chick is on FB all day” when they see you “like” something at 10a on a Tuesday. That’s all it takes.)

8. If you accept colleagues into your social spaces – you may want to limit the access they have to photo albums, etc.

9. Dress for the job you want – not the one you have. Keep those skirts close to knee length. Avoid cleavage, etc…

10. You won’t believe how attire can change how you’re perceived – and especially by women.

11. Don’t ever engage in office drama/gossip. Take the high road. You never know who can be trusted or not – especially this early into a gig.

12. Never complain about work on Facebook or any other place.

13. Network as much as you can. Attend company functions. Get to know people and their responsibilities in other types of positions at the company. The more you learn about them and respect their disciplines – the more they’ll appreciate and listen to you. (eg. Spend a half day with an accountant. It’s quite interesting for a marketer.)

14. Listen. Listen. Listen. Hear it. Then talk.

15. Never “REPLY ALL” on mass company emails…or emails sent to a large group of people. (It’s a classic rookie move. You WILL get made fun of.)

16. EVERYTHING you do or email is traceable. Careful what you send/receive.

17. If you’re bored…proactively find something (relevant to your job) to do. Make something better…create a process…make a plan. Do some research. Show your value.

18. Find mentors and keep in touch with them – even when you don’t need anything. They’ll be there for you if you show you care about what they’re doing on an ongoing basis. It’s lame to only reach out when you need something. They enjoy providing insights – always.

19. Handwritten “thank yous” go a LONG way. If someone does a favor for you at the office…let him/her know you appreciate it with a note of thanks.

20. Ask for a deadline so you can prioritize what someone needs. Never not respond b/c you don’t have an update. Simply let them know you’re working on it and/or give an ETA. A response with an update is BETTER than no response. (Unless they give you a preference.)

21. Before working collaboratively with someone – ask him/her how they prefer to communicate…via email?  Text  messages?  Phone calls? (I hate voice mails. I tell every colleague, friend, agency, etc…not to leave me a vmail. They stress me out.)

22. Before jumping into any conversation with ANYone…ask them if they have a minute or two to chat. You may need them now, but they may need to wrap something up before they can help you and may not tell you that. Respect their time.

23. Set goals for your career/development with your supervisor. Make sure they are attainable and you measure your results along the way.

24. Google is going to be your best friend/tutor/coach/resource.

25. Admins and assistants aren’t below you. They have more clout than you think.

26. Don’t get schnockered at work HHs.

27. Bullet points

28. Bullet points

29. Bullet points

30. Respond to emails from your leaders with urgency.

Knock ‘em dead.

~AM

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5 Ways to Get Your Boss to Say “Yes” to Your Marketing Budget

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Anyone who has ever worked in marketing understands that Houston businesses have to spend money to make money. Unfortunately, bosses may not want to hear it – especially if you’re asking them to invest in a new advertising strategy that is outside of their “comfort zones.” So how can you get over this hurdle and start building a marketing budget that will help your business to become more successful than ever? Here are a five tips and tricks that can help sell your marketing plan to your boss and (finally) getting your budget approved.

1. Treat Your Boss as Your Client

Building a marketing budget is very similar to the sales process. By viewing your boss as your “client,” you can effectively create a sales pitch that is strategically designed to address his/her problems, offer solutions and overcome objectives. Using this model, you can help your superior(s) understand why they need to invest in a new advertising plan and why your strategy is the best way for the company to meet its revenue goals.

2. Present the Facts

Although your boss may be comfortable with more traditional advertising tactics like print ads or direct mail, he/she may shy away from the “unknown.” Because of this, it may challenging for you to get your approvers to give the green light on newer strategies like content marketing, social media, etc. As a case-in-point, B2B marketing insider Michael Brenner has observed that, “The real problem … isn’t to get funding to get something new, but to get people to stop doing what isn’t working.” In other words, your task isn’t necessarily to convince your boss to try something new, but rather, to stop spending money on tactics that aren’t yielding results. To accomplish this, you must be prepared with facts like this *:

  • 44% of direct mail is never opened
  • 86% of people skip television ads
  • 70% of customers prefer electronic marketing to paper ads

* Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing [INFOGRAPHIC]

3. Get SMART

When building a marketing budget and presenting it to your boss, you need to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. Unless your objectives are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound, he/she won’t understand how or why it is that your plan will be able to solve any of the company’s problems. Be sure to identify specific needs that can be addressed in a realistic and relevant approach. At the same time, you must come up with a way to track and measure the success of these tactics, and provide a (tentative) for when the plan will come to fruition and what types of results can be expected.

4. Respect the Money

Have you truly come up with the most cost-effective way to meet your company’s objectives? When building a marketing budget, you must consider company money as your own. If you wouldn’t spend your hard-earned cash on your advertising recommendation and might seek out a cheaper way to do it, find and present an approach that you would spend your hard-earned money on. That’s what your boss will expect and will support.

5. Prove Yourself

Results are what really count. Start small by requesting a three month “pilot” program that will allow you to prove your plan for generating qualified leads, converting them to customers and thus, boosting revenue. Once you’ve proven your methods for a sales quarter, move on to another phase of your strategy. Through quarterly updates, continue building a marketing budget and updating your plan to meet the needs of your now growing business.

Building a marketing budget is an on-going process, but it doesn’t have to be tedious. By following this five-step guide, you can continuously win your boss’s approval and help to improve the efficiency of your company’s marketing budget.

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Video Advertising vs. Banner Ads

dreamstime_xs_24565535Spending just a little bit of time online will show you one thing – video marketing is becoming increasingly popular. Sites across the Internet will open with a video advertisement on the sidebar, which may cause you to wonder whether or not banner display advertising is on its way out. While video is becoming quite popular, it is by no means the end all for modern advertising. Here’s what you need to know…

Consider the Cost of Video

Video advertising seems flashy and modern, and it can be effective. In fact, several studies have shown that video can gather a higher click through rate (CTR) than other forms of display advertising. However, this form of advertising is only effective if it is done well. It will only work for you if you have the budget and skills to create quality, targeted videos.

If you do not have in-house video production capabilities, then you will need to spend money to hire someone who can do it for you. Quality video production services are able to charge a premium price for their services. This cost is something many businesses don’t have in their advertising budgets. More importantly than video production is – of course – your message. You can make the coolest looking video but if your message if so off target that your audience does not understand it, or worse yet, won’t remember it when they need your product or service, than you have lost valuable time and money. So, if you do take the video route, spend some time and effort writing a script.

Can Banner Advertising Be More Cost Effective?

The fact is that banner display advertising is a more cost effective solution for most businesses. Yes, video might bring clicks, so it’s worth considering if you have the ability to do it in-house, but the cost of producing a quality video with outside services may quickly overshadow any benefit you receive from these additional clicks. Also, banner ads can be seen on almost every computer and every website, so you are getting your message to more people. These benefits point to the reason that banner display advertising is the best option for many businesses, particularly when advertising budgets are tight.

Banner advertising is far from dead. Yes, video may be the newly popular medium, but you need to ensure that you are making the most out of your advertising dollars. For many companies, this means a renewed focus on banner ads, rather than a jump to video advertising.

How to Market On A Shoestring Budget

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Many Houston small and medium-sized businesses on shoestring budgets are concerned about investing in marketing. They hesitate to invest creatively, because they think it is a risky proposition and are worried that the costs will eat up way more of their budget than they can afford to spare. When promotional dollars are scarce, planning a marketing campaign can be a daunting task. However, effective marketing can make the difference between a ho-hum sales year and a fantastic one.

It might feel like a bit of a gamble to invest a lot of money in marketing, but not only is
marketing less expensive than many business owners may imagine – it is also vitally important in helping to grow a business. Even when working with small marketing budgets, creative promotion is one of those gambles that could pay off with significant investment returns. With the internet age, it is easier to instantly get pertinent information and feedback from your marketing campaigns than in the past. This reduces marketing dollar waste by providing the ability to quickly switch gears, to maximize and replicate successes.

Rather than treating an investment in marketing and advertising as a gamble for his/her business, a savvy, forward-thinking business owner recognizes that the right approach will turn their efforts into more of a calculated risk. Here are some creative marketing ideas for Houston business owners and marketers working with tight marketing budgets:

Think Small:  Start with a bare-bones budget. When dividends from your initial marketing campaigns roll in, re-invest those returns into further marketing

Constantly Analyze Results:  Examining your marketing results will help you formulate an effective strategy going forward. Assessing your website traffic reports, search engine rankings, your social media following and the social communities you participate in will be useful information for future marketing efforts.

Shop for Freebies, Discounts and Coupons:  Many impressive marketing tools and programs offer free trials. A good example of this type of “dangling carrot” is Google AdWords. Google often offers businesses an AdWords coupon as an incentive to commit to a paid search engine campaign.

Overall, there are many free online tools and social media resources to leverage and help you efficiently spend your marketing dollars. Here are a few examples:

  • Leverage local online business directories via their free business listings.
  • Create a free business profile on a professional business site, and build a following on free social sites, forums and bulletin boards.
  • Build an interactive Facebook page and update it daily.
  • Reward customers for product reviews, testimonials and referrals.
  • Advertise for free by offering guest posts on industry blogs.
  • Develop videos for promotion through YouTube and other video hosts.
  • Design and build a website and blog. Write interesting content relevant to your industry for your blog daily.

One of the first mistakes many small businesses make is to downsize their marketing budgets when money is tight. However, the right marketing approach can make or break a business. If you are experiencing financial belt-tightening, vary your approach, compare the results and adjust your marketing focus to continue successful business growth.