An illustration of an arrow hitting the middle of a very big target surrounded by very impressed looking people.

I’m gonna start with some great news for you.  You can keep your head above water or nice and clear (whichever way you want it) and not have to worry about your marketing. In fact, I’m gonna say if you take the right steps now you could potentially spend less and get more.  Stay with me, I’m sure you’re as fed up as I am with people promising that you can have your cake and eat it…

OK, first and foremost, ask yourself two questions: 

  1. What did we spend on marketing (including salaries and agency) fees last year?
  2. What return did we get?

Thank you.  

Now I am gonna let you into a little secret.  In the 13 years since Fuel started up, we have asked those two questions of business owners and/or senior marketing professionals, less than 5% of the thousands of people we have spoken with can answer both those questions with a good degree of certainty.  In the rung below that, most of them will know roughly what they spent but can’t really define what it delivered.  They’ll be able to point to a particular campaign and say it worked well but not much more. The majority can’t answer both questions.

Whatever your answers are, you can improve.  After a year when all of the balls have been chucked it the air for every organisation, just try to put in place some measurements and reporting to answer those two questions. Get some order and some peace of mind.  I’ve worn both the hats of Managing Director and Marketing Director, it doesn’t matter which one you are wearing.  Go back and answer those two simple questions (don’t let other people make it complex and try to tell you “it isn’t as easy as that”, it is!).  It is a great starting point.  Then pinpoint what you are aiming for this year. For example, a 5% increase in profitability… 10% increase in sales…launch of a new product or service.

Then commit to a budget.  If you are aiming for stability, look to spend about 3% of your projected revenue on marketing. The percentage does vary from sector to sector but just try it.  If you spent less last year (and the previous years) you are under investing.  If you spent more, you’ve got a chance to cut it.

When it comes to answering the “What return did we get?”  Ask yourself some very simple questions like:

  • Did we talk to more people? The answers will be in your website analytics, database and social media stats.
  • Did we engage them in what we are saying? Again, use the above tools.
  • Did we get more enquiries and sales? Interestingly, plenty of businesses don’t keep a record of enquiries but when you think about it it is a really important piece of the sales funnel.  If you are getting less enquiries, take a look at whether you are talking and engaging with less people. If you are getting more enquiries and less sales there is something wrong in the sales process.

Once you’ve taken a good look through, the chances are you’ll find a winning formula or two.  Cut the spend on the stuff that isn’t working and perhaps invest it in some new tactics based on what the business is trying to achieve.

The other important thing to say here is ask yourself: “Is my marketing out of date?” In the ever-changing, complex and uncertain world of rising consumer expectations and disruptive technology, brands need to move at the speed of culture.  The reality is, very few do.  Two years ago, I posed the question: “Is your marketing out of date?” in an edition of Mark Holt & Co’s ‘Great Ideas’ publication. The past year has only intensified the pace of change which actually presents more opportunities to answer those two simple questions.

Keeping up with trends and the latest technology will bring you better results.  For instance, did you know that the average person will spend 100 minutes every day watching online videos in 2021?  92% of marketers say that video content is an important part of their strategy, so how are you utilising video content? I am conscious that this article should be about survival/stability but that doesn’t mean you can’t do more video content.  One positive from the pandemic is that people are much more tolerant of communicating on Zoom or Teams so there is no reason why you can’t record marketing videos on one of these platforms which makes it really affordable.  You can also mix it up a bit by subscribing to systems like Biteable or Promo for little or no cost. 

Another thing businesses often overlook here is what the value of an enquiry or sale is.  Say for instance you are a law firm and you are spending a few hundred pounds a month on Google Adwords.  You can track the cost of the click that brought in a new enquiry for some conveyancing, say £5.50. You go on to charge £1500 in fees for the work but it doesn’t (shouldn’t) end there.  That client that you spent £5.50 on acquiring goes on to do a will, moves house again, sets up a business… you get the picture. Before you know it they’ve spent thousands with you.  This applies to any kind of business. The cost of customer acquisition should be an area of real focus. Too often energy and budget is exhausted on trying to talk to more and more people when you should be asking, “Are we sealing the deal?”

This year, you’ve got a great opportunity to bring a return on investment approach to your marketing.  If you’re big enough to have a marketing team, they can sort all that out easily with a little external support. If you don’t have a team, feel free to throw that refined budget at us and ask us to take care of it.  We work with many owner managed businesses on a rolling monthly contract – low risk, plenty of reward.  Of course, if you have a good relationship with your existing agency, just get some clear KPIs in place this year and get them to keep you informed on whether you are winning or losing.  That way, you can concentrate on the bigger challenges in other areas.  On behalf of all the team here at Fuel, I wish you well.

This content was written by Martyn King for Mark Holt & Co accountants as part of their Business Success campaign to help companies emerge from the pandemic.