September always feels like a fresh start for me.

I suppose it’s related to memories of “Back to School,” with its pristine notebooks and newly sharpened pencils. It’s a “clean slate” sort of feeling, and it’s exciting to contemplate what can be written in the pages of that notebook in the upcoming months.

Speaking of sharpening our pencils, how’s your 2011 marketing budget holding up?

By this time in the year, it’s not unusual for businesses to be adjusting marketing budgets for the 4th quarter, in order to weed out what’s not working and make the most of what’s available to close out the year.

I know …. I used to find myself in the same position every year.

But since I’ve been utilizing social media, online, and email marketing to reach my past, present, and future clients, you know what I’ve found? That I don’t have to adjust much – if at all! It’s a relief to know that the budgets I set in December last me through the following year!

The reason for that is simple: I’m no longer spending as much on offline marketing that just wasn’t producing the ROI I needed. Offline marketing is now an adjunct to my online efforts, not the other way around.

Now, not every business can utilize the exact same online-to-offline ratios I use – and I don’t recommend anyone completely forego their offline efforts. The key is to balance those two sides of the marketing coin in a way that makes sense for your business.

What I do know, however, is that I’ve yet to find a specific type of business that can’t benefit from the cost effectiveness of online marketing, whether combined with more traditional marketing and advertising efforts or not.

So, if you’re looking at your fourth quarter marketing budget and wondering how you’re going to make it last through December, there are a few things you can do right now:

Shift a portion of your 4Q2011 marketing budget to online efforts

… especially those that are targeted to reach your past and present customers as well as those currently in your pipeline. It is less expensive to convince someone who knows you to purchase your goods or services than it is to find new interested, qualified prospects. (Yes, you still need to attract new people to your pipeline, but think about how many are already there, just waiting for a reason to buy from you! Save some cash in the 4th quarter by concentrating your efforts on the low-hanging fruit.)

Work with a social media, online, and email marketing specialist

… to, first, determine your online marketing strategy and then, second, put together a 4Q eMarketing plan to be integrated into and complement your existing marketing plan.

Put some analytics in place

… and resolve to review and analyze them on a monthly and quarterly basis. Don’t assume something is or is not working because your sales team says so. Objective analytics are the most valuable aspect of your marketing program.

Finally, take a moment now to block out time in your late November/early December calendar to …

Start working on a 2012 budget

… that will allow for a predictable and sustainable monthly investment in the marketing initiatives that work, based on your analytics.

You will be glad every day next year that you took the time now to position yourself for success in 2012!

 

Make a Difference Monday, Week 38: Be a Leader
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