It’s finally here; November 8th!
It has been an exhausting year that has consumed much of our attention, stirred up concerns, and caused many to take a “wait and see” approach to important business investment decisions.
The time has come to start moving forward, regardless of the outcome. Your 2017 planning can no longer wait. It’s time to move forward on important decisions.
To help provide some direction and stimulate proactive action, I want to address five common business development decisions many practices and firms face in the coming year.
Should I hire staff to do my marketing or hire an agency?
This is the one question I hear most often and the answer is not the same for every practice. The decision to hire designated marketing staff or hire an agency should be based on a number of variables and considerations and the right answer may not necessarily be an either/or solution.
Market and Competition – The complexity of your competitive situation should influence the resources that you choose to address the situation. In more competitive metropolitan markets, you probably need to invest in marketing focused staff, even if you work with an effective agency.
Scope of Digital Marketing – The variety of campaigns and the depth in which you engage each will dictate the amount of work and expertise needed to execute effectively.
Recruiting Talent – Selecting the staff to manage your digital marketing will determine your success. Designating an existing staff member to take over additional responsibilities or hiring a young, low-cost “millennial” may work for minimal competition situations and basic campaigns, but more seasoned and experienced professionals would be recommended for more complex marketing needs.
Resources and Control – Keep in mind, the decision to hire marketing staff also includes investing in the resources they will need to accomplish your marketing goals – tracking, content development, design support, marketing platforms/apps, automation technology, etc. If you do not have any agency support, you will need to budget for these as well.
Risks – Like hiring all staff, there are inherent risks with marketing staff regarding effectiveness, accountability, as well as turnover. However, doing it yourself is no longer a viable option in most practice situations.
A recent study conducted by Street Fight Magazine and ProspectWise identified small businesses in a major metropolitan market (Los Angeles) and reported that the majority of local business owners conduct most of their digital marketing internally (either do it themselves or hire staff), but get better results when they delegate to their staff. The results were even greater when staff was combined with an agency.
What digital marketing opportunities should I invest more, and which ones should I cut back or eliminate?
Marketing investment options also vary greatly from practice to practice and market to market. However, there are some considerations that can help point you in the right direction.
Website: Update or Redesign? In most cases, if you are seriously contemplating redesigning your website, you probably already realize you need one. The question of considering updates or modifications as an alternative is typically an attempt to delay the inevitable. Other considerations include evaluation of site performance, including 1) user experience and engagement (Google Analytics), 2) site speed, 3) mobile-specific user statistics, 4) organic search engine rankings, 5) lead generation and conversion effectiveness, and 6) how it compares from a credibility and design standpoint to your biggest competitors. The investment in a new website can vary greatly based on needs (fully custom desktop and mobile design, new content, custom photography, video production, interactive design features, number of pages and photos to migrate, etc.): $7K - $20K
SEO: In most cases, updating the website can be the first step to improving your SEO ranking. If your marketing goals include improving your organic exposure here are some items to keep in mind. First, organic search drives the highest quality traffic, but competition is intense in most medium to large markets and top listings will require a significant amount of time. The cost for quality providers can range from $1,000/month on the low end to more than $5,000/month. More comprehensive campaigns will include things such as Google Local Maps marketing, social media support, linking strategies, text blogging, video blogging, visual content (infographics, interactive slide share presentations, quizzes, etc.), mobile SEO strategies, and long-form content.
PPC: Changes in how Google displays its paid listings and the growing volume of mobile searches provide an opportunity to revisit pay-per-click advertising if you are not already leveraging it. Unlike SEO, this investment has more direct response-type of exposure and lead generation. There are greater targeting capabilities today, but the cost will range from $1,500 for smaller markets targeting less competitive services, to over $10,000/month for larger markets and competitive search phrases.
Social Media Marketing: Social media marketing today is as essential as having a website was 5 years ago; it’s not longer an option, but a must. Although an agency can magnify your results, having designated staff helping to contribute and engage with your online audience has shown to be essential for high producing social media efforts.
Digital Display Advertising: Conducting outreach to highly targeted audiences is a growing strategy to drive quality traffic, build awareness, brand your practice, and even generate leads. Display ads that target specific consumer demographics, location, interests, and behaviors can appear on websites that are part of the Google Ad Network (reaches over 80 percent of all online users).
- Social Media Display Advertising – Display advertising is not limited to the Google Ad Network and is highly effective with social media, particularly Facebook. Targeted click-to-website display advertising campaigns (different than paying for a boosted post) can be very cost efficient, drive substantial quality traffic and build your online audience and community.
- Retargeting – Display advertising on GDN and FB can also be limited to your most qualified audience – people that visit your website. Staying in front of your most interested prospects that may not have contacted you yet, is a proven exposure that generates results. The key will be to use good judgment in your messaging to avoid issues and project credibility and authority.
Reviews and Ratings Marketing: Review marketing is part of your social media and internal marketing efforts. If your practice is not fully engaged in stimulating and marketing positive customer reviews, you are falling farther and farther behind. Not only do consumers use reviews to compare, search engines and directories incorporate them as part of delivering credible results for their users. This is a must for 2017.
Database Marketing and Automation: Internal marketing has typically been a commonly overlooked opportunity by a majority of practices. In addition, more automated data collection and effective distribution have made email marketing to leads, and website visitors a no-brainer for more practices. Commonly referred to as Inbound Marketing Automation, this type of email marketing campaign continues to grow.
How do I determine an appropriate budget?
The biggest question every year is how much should I budget? Of course, it must be based on the needs and goals of your practice. It should take into consideration:
Market Area – Determine if you are targeting state-wide, metro-wide, towns/cities, suburbs, or even neighborhoods
Competition – Based on your market area, determine your most successful competitors and assess the digital marketing they are conducting. Evaluate them as comprehensively as possible.
Revenue Opportunity – Budgets and strategies need to incorporate the revenue generating opportunities and sales cycle. This includes identifying target services that have varying consumer demand and revenue potential.
Goal-based Budget: Ultimately, your budget should not be base purely on what you spent last year. It needs to incorporate all the above variables and be measured in terms of cost per lead, costs for new customer consultation and goals for new customers and revenue. In addition, the timing for results should be part of your campaign plans. Some strategies will require longer periods of time (such as organic SEO), where others gain more immediate exposure and traffic. At the same time, some campaigns can focus more on credibility and brand messaging, where others can be more promotion-driven and direct-response driven. Ideally, your campaign will incorporate multi-channel marketing to address a variety of options for new business development.
Call us today for a free 2017 Digital Marketing Planning Guide for your practice: (303) 233-3886