Spend on marketing and advertising initiatives has generally been on the rise, and the end of 2015 brought predictions of a solid new year for Marketing budgets.

The good news – marketing activities are still on track to see increases in spend moving ahead. Marketing did see budget increases leading into 2016 as organizations planned to find that next big win in terms of scoring additional market share. The bad news? Not all initiatives are created equal, and revenue doesn’t always follow a big investment. Money spent without sound strategy just to keep up with the Joneses could easily get you outmaneuvered, with less cash to invest elsewhere.

There are Winners…
Ask where budget increases will find a home, and you’ll likely hear resounding cries of “digital!” Search engines, social media, digital video, and desktop/mobile apps are where your audience is – expect to focus here moving forward.

Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing (SEO/SEM) will of course be at the forefront of spending. Organizations should expect to put up a good portion of their budgets to go toe to toe with competitors in terms of capturing eyes searching the web. Whether devoting money towards pulling in more organic traffic or competing directly with paid search, organizations are seeing good returns on these investments. If you haven’t already done so, read up on programmatic buying to stay current on where digital dollars are going.

Social media is still getting a lot of attention from Marketing budgets, although pulling a strong ROI from Facebook and Twitter (two of the heavier hitters in terms of spend) is something that not all organizations have a firm hold on yet. Although social isn’t the slam dunk that other digital outlets are, devoting time to planning a social strategy is critical to keeping up. Knowing what your social goals are (it isn’t just about “likes”) is good, targeting and testing to find the right audience is better, and forming clear paths to converting traffic into customers is your best bet for winning over the social crowd.

Email marketing, as well, is going to be a big contender moving ahead. Organizations are looking to leverage their email marketing initiatives to help drive and support both social media and customer engagement. Money flowing into email will go towards refining and improving email targeting. Greater integration with customer data and analytics will serve to make email more and more personal.

… And Losers
So who is getting the short end of the stick? Several areas of spend seem to be going out not with a bang but a whimper. Direct mail, print advertising, and trade shows aren’t going away, but they may not see much growth, either. There’s a good chance many organizations will put budget towards these outlets as more of a maintenance move than to truly grow market share.
Television, historically king, is losing ground to the aforementioned digital push. A wider array of devices and an increased push for digital video are certainly eating away at traditional TV spend. However, 2016 is an interesting year for TV, given a US election and the Olympic Games drawing eyes to screens in the second half of the year. Digital video is certainly a growing area, but Marketing will likely rely on traditional TV to tap into big events.

The Year Ahead
The key takeaway? Customer engagement through a digital strategy is and will remain important, but throwing money in any one direction without differentiating your strategy from traditional models will kill any budget increase you were given. Spend time understanding how to leverage digital to build your brand and 2016 will be your year.
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Brian Seipel

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