3 marketing and branding must-haves for 2014In my last several posts, I’ve concentrated on social media marketing, and the importance of having a social media strategy. Keep in mind that social media is just one part of your overall marketing and branding plan. If you’ve taken the time to consider how social media can help your business, it may also be a good time to look at the bigger marketing picture for your company.

Marketing and branding are year-round activities

Identify specific goals. To make sure you’re getting the most from your entire marketing plan, identify a few specific marketing and branding goals. Whether it’s increased name-recognition, reaching out to new markets or demographics, making a certain number of appearances, making website design updates, using social media marketing, using professional graphic design services or something else, identify what you want to accomplish and how you will know when you have achieved your goals. Measure your marketing efforts to see how they’re impacting your business.

Set a marketing budget you can stick with. Establishing a marketing and branding budget can be difficult. There’s no absolute rule of thumb because some businesses encounter more marketing and branding expenses than others do. Having a budget will help you decide how much you can spend, when you can spend it and how best to spend it to achieve the marketing goals you’ve established. It will help you avoid impulse spending that may sound great but won’t actually help you reach your goals.

Generally, most businesses spend somewhere between 2% and 20% of their gross revenues on marketing and branding activities. Unless your products and services literally “sell themselves,” or your business is wildly successful and your margins are very high, 2% of your revenue will probably not provide enough of a budget to ensure that you can meet your marketing goals. If your business is new or you’re trying to break into new markets, plan a marketing budget that reflects 8%-10% of your gross revenues. Do this for one year and then adjust your budget up or down based on your marketing experiences.

Virtually all of your marketing and branding activities will come out of your marketing budget, so be sure to research what’s required to meet your marketing goals. If your marketing plan calls for a new website design, a print advertising campaign, 4-color brochures or appearances at 3 major trade shows complete with promotional products, your marketing budget must be large enough to cover all of these expenses.

Track your progress throughout the year and adjust. Take time each month or quarter to account for your actual marketing and branding expenses and compare them to your budget. Act immediately if your actual expenses exceed your budget at any point. Avoid impulse purchases or purchases you didn’t plan for, even if they seem like they’re a “great deal.” Especially with advertising, you’ll get a lot of end-of-quarter or end-of-month offers with short decision windows, but they may not support your marketing plan very well.

If you would like more information about marketing and branding for your small business, contact our creative director, Dave Ramsell or give Dave a call at (330) 243-0651 for a consultation.

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