Budgeting for Digital Marketing in 2016

In 2015, we saw many changes in the digital marketing landscape. We witnessed the emergence of live streaming applications such as Periscope and Meerkat and found infographics around every corner. The terms mobile-first and multi-glass outgrew their reputation as buzzwords and instead became established requirements in the industry. Lastly, automation became standard, instead of cutting edge.

As we wrap up the first month of 2016, we can only wonder, what will this year bring us? What new innovations will come our way? While there’s no way to tell for sure – of course there are trend predictions, but nobody predicted the rise of Periscope before it was announced – marketers must still solidify their budgets for the upcoming quarter. Because of the nature of our industry, new tools can rise in popularity overnight, which begs the question: how can you financially plan for something that doesn’t exist yet?

1. Set an overarching goal for the quarter, and for the year

Before thinking of what platforms you’d like to incorporate in your campaigns, first decide on your top three goals and make sure they’re S.M.A.R.T. – specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound.

Put these goals into a document that’s accessible by the entire team. By referencing your decision over time, you’ll be able to not only stay on track, but also resist the temptation to use the “hot new thing” without really evaluating if it caters to your target audience. While it’s great to try out new things and take risks, make sure that it’s still catering to your audience.

2. Use the Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle is the observation that, generally speaking, 20% of effort garners 80% of results. When setting your budget – and again, before looking at specific platforms – evaluate where you’ve had the most success in the past (proven wins), and focus 80% of your budget on those platforms.

If you’re a brand new company, and therefore don’t have a history of strategies that have worked for your brand, now’s the time to do some online investigation of your competitors. Spend a few days with your team tracking where brands that are the most similar to you emphasize their efforts (focus more on audience than product if you’re in a very niche industry).

And now you have 20% of your budget to spend on risky new campaigns. Calculate that number, and then move to the next step…

3. Don’t Spend It All In One Place – or Do

Now that you have your “risk budget,” it’s time to evaluate if it should be spread across multiple risky campaigns, spent on one big blitz on a particular platform, or saved in case of an event that your company could respond to.

The first factor in determining this is to look at the size of your budget. If 20% of your budget is under a few thousand dollars, it’s likely going to be more cost effective to try out one platform you’re reasonably sure about – such as Snapchat, Yext, or another burgeoning but still relatively young marketing publisher or tool.

Lastly, if your company is just getting started in digital marketing, or if your tactics haven’t been updated in awhile, it may be prudent to spend more than 20% of your budget updating. For example, if you’re still using pay-per-click or pay-per-impression advertisements, consider updating your campaign to include automated and optimized advertisements. If you’re not sure where to start, it’s wise to use a ratings and reviews firm that specializes in vendor recommendations, such as Clutch.co, which has a dedicated ranking page of digital marketing agencies.