What to Consider When Planning Your 2015 Local Marketing Budget

As the year winds down to a close and 2014’s marketing plan becomes an historical document to be analyzed and evaluated, savvy local business owners are already contemplating changes and additions to their 2015 local marketing budget. And with so many different and constantly evolving marketing channels available, it’s difficult to decide where to spend one’s limited marketing dollars.

Analyzing the previous year’s wins and losses plays a crucial part in determining next year’s allocations. With a limited marketing budget, it’s key to select marketing channels that provide the highest return on investment (ROI) at the lowest cost per acquisition (CPA). It may be time to weed out some of the older, more traditional marketing channels in favor of a more modern marketing mix. As technological advancements trigger complex societal shifts, marketing methods that once worked well for your company may no longer be as effective.

New Marketing Trends to Consider

According to Forbes Magazine, 2015 will bring to bear a greater focus on thought leadership and inbound marketing. These two concepts form the core of a powerful marketing strategy, elevating brand awareness and business credibility while attracting a higher quality of customer to your content.

What is Thought Leadership?

More than just a marketing buzzword, thought leadership means serving as a helpful resource for your customers. Companies establish themselves as thought leaders through blogs, white papers, directed forums, newsletters, e-books, webinars, videos and more. The format is less important than the content, which must be highly relevant and provide value to the customer.

Thought leadership has two important benefits for a company. The most obvious one is building brand awareness; attracting new customers and establishing a reputation as a knowledgeable and trustworthy entity. The second, less obvious benefit is the enormous boost in SEO that results from regularly posting thoughtful, relevant content linked back to your company website. Google is increasingly rewarding relevant content with higher search rankings, especially in the local search arena.

What is Inbound Marketing?

As opposed to traditional, or outbound marketing, which uses poorly targeted techniques that irritate people such as sales calls, television ads, print advertising, junk mail, email spam and the like, inbound marketing uses interesting content to draw customers in. Often referred to as content marketing, inbound marketing seeks to cultivate a higher value of customer, one that is interested in your product and your brand.

Inbound Marketing Channels

There are a wide variety of inbound marketing channels, from blogs, newsletters and social media posts to videos, webinars and white papers or e-books that are offered in exchange for providing an email address. The Internet offers many different forums in which to post useful, relevant content, including pre-established blogs and social media group sites and forums. It’s not enough simply to start your own blog, you need to generate interest by posting guest blogs and commentary on other popular sites and linking back to yours.

Contrary to popular belief, inbound marketing is not synonymous with “free” marketing, as pay-per-click advertising is another way to get customers to come to your site. The difference is that instead of coming to your site to see an advertisement, they’re coming to read the blog that you’ve posted there.

The channels you select, like the budget allocations that you make, should depend largely on the habits and preferences of your target audience. It might be useful to do a survey of your current customers to find out which social media sites they use and where they most commonly search online for information. (Consider offering registration for an end-of-year giveaway in exchange for their participation.)