We have a hunch you have a love/hate relationship with your budget. It allows you to get the job done, yet it can prevent you from doing some of the things you want to implement. Because Modern Modern marketers are agile, marketing budgets are often rearranged throughout the year. This probably means you’re in one of two situations right now. One, you’re eagerly anticipating the new year and the fresh budget that comes with a January 1 calendar date. Or, you’re scrambling to figure out what to use all of the extra cash on so it doesn’t go to waste when the books reset. If it’s the latter, we’re talking to you. If it’s the first one, you may have to wait a couple of months to put all of these great suggestions to good use. Whether you have $50 or $15,000 left in your budget, there’s plenty of potential to make a meaningful impact on your marketing. Here are 11 ways to strategically spend your remaining marketing budget before the year is up.
You’ve spent the year writing blog posts and promoting your campaigns. Why not give your past year’s successes one last boost before you flip over to a new editorial calendar? Google AdWords PPC ads are the perfect way to use up the rest of your budget, because you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. And, you can set up a budget before you run the ad, so you can put every last cent to good use without going over budget. If you have access to analytics insights, take a look at your most successful blog post (or top few, if your audience had multiple favorites) and feature that one. Or, answer the seasonal needs of your customers by featuring a timely post. If you spent the past year promoting your yearly campaign, give it one last time in the spotlight.
Promoting or boosting your social media posts or running a social media ad at the end of the year has perks similar to Google AdWords. You can give popular social posts or profiles some extra visibility and you can set the budget to use only what you have to spare. Another social option is to hire a strategic agency to write social posts and/or monitor your following through the end of the year. If you’re debating whether you want to hire an external resource to manage your social media next year, try someone out for a few months. It’s a great way to test the waters with a potential new partner.
Go into the new year with confidence and clarity around the state of your brand. Hire a strategic agency to perform a full brand audit or, if you’re working with a smaller budget, have them audit an element of your brand, such as blog content, flagship brochures, or social efforts. An external agency will be able to take a look at your brand and marketing from a new perspective. A full audit will help you understand where your brand’s strengths and weaknesses lie and will help you understand what you can improve in the coming year. A brand audit will also help you strategically allocate next year’s budget, which could, in-turn, save you from unnecessary spending.
If your gears are turning after the last recommendation, but you want to focus on your website only, a Website Blueprint is an even better option for you. A Website Blueprint is essentially a report on the current state of your website and how it can be improved. It also includes detailed cost parameters around key recommendations so you can adjust next year’s budget, accordingly. The average time to complete a website redesign is more than five months, which means there’s no time to waste if you want a new website next year. A Website Blueprint will allow you to get started on your redesign immediately. Even if you don’t believe a full redesign is right for your brand, the Website Blueprint will give you a more in-depth understanding of your goals, the elements of a successful website, and the small tweaks that could make a big difference next year.
If you want to understand a little bit more about how your audience perceives your website without investing in a full Website Blueprint, UX testing is notable option for you. Have users navigate your website and answer questions about their experience. Try a website like UserTesting, which provides a video of a user interacting with your site and their reactions. Watching these videos will help you pinpoint areas or elements of your website users are struggling with. UX testing varies in cost to the point where you could spend as little as $100 or as much as $10,000+. Spend depends on the depth of analysis and insight you’d like to gain.
A/B testing is another option that could soak up as little as a couple hundred dollars to a large chunk of your remaining budget. A/B testing will help you improve your website, campaign deliverables, emails, or other marketing efforts one element at a time. There are tons of tools that can aid in the testing process. You could toy with a new website headline, experiment with service benefits copy, or explore a fresh color scheme. The results of these tests can help inform any brand, messaging, or website decisions you have to make in the next year.
Consider using your remaining budget to test a soft launch of your next campaign. Getting a glimpse at the preferences of a segment of your target audience could help you optimize your campaign before the official launch so it can be better targeted and, ultimately, more successful. Like many of the above recommendations, getting insights before the year is up will help you prioritize your budget for next year and maybe even save you time and money as a result.
If one of your goals for next year is to ramp up your content marketing or simply organize your approach, using your remaining budget on content could be the way to go. Partnering with with the right writer or strategist could take a huge weight off of your shoulders before the new year even begins, whether it’s planning out your entire editorial calendar for next year or writing a slew of posts to fill that calendar. A strategic marketing agency or freelancer will determine what type of content to produce, how often to publish that content, and how to integrate it with your full marketing strategy.
Another way your remaining budget could help propel you into next year is strategic research. Exploring your audience, your competitors, or your brand will help you gain a deeper knowledge of your industry and those you serve. Investing in knowledge will help you build a strategy, create content, optimize your marketing, and deliver the right messages to the right audience. Time moves forward. People change. Culture shifts. Industries adjust. And you must move forward, change, shift, and adjust along with them. To keep up with the world we live in and your audience’s likes, dislikes, needs, pain points, preferences, and more, you must continuously learn.
There are a few areas of research that are perfect for your end-of-year spend: audience, competition, and internal. Get a handle on your audience and the personas that fuel your marketing by investing in some audience interviews. Use what you learn to tweak or completely change the personas you use to lead, market, and sell to your customers. If you already have a handle on your audience, you can have someone perform a competitor analysis to get a handle on how the landscape has changed in recent years. Knowing where you stand in your industry will help you understand what other offers and brand promises your audience is on the receiving end of. A strategic agency can also take your audience and competitive findings, conduct some internal stakeholder interviews, and glean actionable insights from all of the above with a SWOT analysis. The information from this SWOT analysis can act as a launching point for next year’s marketing plan.
Technology is another element of marketing that constantly evolves. It’s a good idea to occasionally evaluate the technology you use and determine if it’s (still) the best option for your brand. Talk to your team and ask about their tech pain points. One piece of technology that’s particularly important to a marketing team is your content management system (CMS). If you evaluate your current CMS and find there are more features you could benefit from, or an altogether different CMS that could better answer your needs, it may be time to make a change. A perk of many SaaS pricing models, which many CMSs fall under, is that you can get a discount if you pay for an entire year at once. Allocating your remaining budget to a new or improved CMS could benefit you for a whole year and save you money in the long run.
If you haven’t already started thinking about your holiday campaign, the time is now. Especially if you’re going to pour your last bit of budget into spreading cheer. Holiday campaigns are often a little bit more fun and festive than an average campaign, so they can increase excitement among your team and audience alike. From emails to landing pages to mobile to social there are so many ways you can use up your budget to share your expertise in a seasonal way.
Another holiday-centric option is to focus on your brand’s holiday card and/or gift. Many brands already have a holiday card and gift in the budget, so consider using the extra bit to go the extra mile this year. Hire a design agency to create a beautiful or creative custom card. Or create a branded gift your clients and customers will really use and enjoy. Another option is to have a little fun and throw a holiday party for your team and clients that will help build a friendly rapport going into the new year. An event marketing agency can help you come up with entertaining and strategic ideas.
You don’t have to wait until the first of the year to start brainstorming or concepting your yearly campaigns. Hiring an external resource to concept for you can take pressure off of your internal team, put new eyes on your brand, and potentially help you come up with an amazing way to showcase your brand, products, or services next year. Plus, if you put this year’s budget toward next year’s concepts, you can use next year’s budget to implement and promote the finalized campaigns. You’ll also be able to start creating the deliverables and pushing the campaign live the moment the ball drops. All of the back and forth brainstorming and decision making will already be done, so you can focus on introducing an eager audience to your new campaigns.
You’ll probably notice a trend throughout all 11 recommendations. Most of them guide you to use your remaining marketing budget on something that benefits your brand well into next year. This ensures your last bit of budget isn’t hastily used simply for the purpose of spending it. Allocating your final marketing dollars toward one of these strategies will keep you moving forward and set you up for an even better year to come.