Making Budget Dollars Work Harder and Smarter
The other day, the VitbergLLC team was talking about the state of inbound marketing at CPA firms, and we came to a consensus that this year, we’re going to see more firms put more money into their digital marketing programs than ever before. We also agreed that we’re still not at that critical tipping point where inbound marketing is THE preferred marketing approach for accounting, consulting and other professional services firms, but being the old guy in the firm, I regaled them with stories (that they all laughed at) of a time when CPA firms questioned the value of even having a website.
Truth be told, I wasn’t sure if they were laughing at the lack of foresight of firms of yore, or the fact that I was telling them an “old guy” story. Hmmm....
So for a lot of firms, it’s now budget season and marketers throughout the land are putting together their 2015 wish list. Under the assumption that 10 years from now they’ll be the old people and their staff will be laughing at them about the time remembered when firms hadn’t made the move to digital marketing, I present some ideas for what needs to be built into the 2015 budget.
5 Must Have Items in Your Digital Marketing Budget
Here are 5 items you’ll need to include in your 2015 digital marketing budget:
Because websites are now the hub of the firm’s marketing program, they’re no longer a “set it and forget it” on line brochure. In order to get found and for purposes of search engine rankings, more and more of the marketing budget needs to be devoted to the site. This can range from a complete overhaul for making the site consistent with best inbound marketing practices to minor (and consistent) SEO tweaks accomplished by adding fresh content.
(2) Marketing Technology
You simply can’t run a professional services marketing function without marketing technology, be it a simple email program to a more sophisticated marketing automation capability. The sheer number of ways that marketing technology can be infused into a marketing program is staggering, and what’s even more staggering is the number of vendors and choices you have – all at different price points.
Let me cut to the chase: you won’t find a more powerful, more capable, more credible marketing technology vendor than HubSpot. Check them out.
If you’re not aware of the role that content marketing plays in growing a professional services firm, then start here, with our Partner’s Guide to Content Marketing.
You’ll see that content marketing is at the very heart of a modern, functional professional services firm marketing function. Content can take many different forms; from blogs to videos to email alerts a whole lot more (get the Guide). But, content comes at a price, be it for outsourced services or an in-house content manager.
(4) Paid Media (digital)
It’s likely that a strong move into digital marketing means that your firm is moving towards integrated lead generation campaigns and an emphasis on using the marketing budget for lead generation. If so, you’ll want to build pay per click into your budget as one of the tactics for reaching your target markets
Here’s my prediction: the skill sets and types of people that will be necessary to run a professional services firm marketing program is going to change quite dramatically. You’ll need human resources to manage social media and content marketing programs. It’s going to take person-hours to manage the website and do SEO. You might even need an individual that can take responsibility for developing and executing integrated lead generation programs.
The budge implications are pretty dramatic. You can bring these capabilities in house, or subcontract them. Today, most firms building their digital marketing capabilities do so on an outsourced basis, but in the future, it’s likely that some or all of a firm’s digital marketing program will be done in house.
How Much Does It Cost?
My guess is that there’s not a professional services marketer alive that jumps up and down with joy when it comes time to prepare and present the annual marketing budget.
Yes, I know. Been there. Done that.
One of the first questions that the firm’s partners are going to ask when it comes to installing a digital marketing program is “how much does it cost?”. It’s likely that the firm’s leadership will be more interested in expenses than ROI potential, but here’s the good news: if the program is successful – and you can prove it with metrics - then getting ever increasing level of budget will be less and less of an issue.
Like any other marketing expense, budgets can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands - it all depends on firm growth objectives and digital marketing infrastructure that’s in place.
But it starts with this one question: are you happy with the results achieved from the existing marketing program? If the answer is YES, then your investment will tend to be lower than an answer of “NO”, which means that it’s probably time for a new game plan... and a bigger and more productive digital marketing budget.