Tag Archives: marketing plan

Developing A Solid And BUDGETED Marketing Plan

Image: https://rboa.com/


At its core, an effective marketing budget focuses on reaching strategic business goals. So before you start trying to estimate costs, it pays to set goals for exactly what you are trying to accomplish with your marketing.


“As we rapidly move toward 2020, it is critical to build your marketing budget and plan for the year ahead. Here’s a step-by-step guide.

Step 1. Identify your business goals

If you want your firm to growfor example, try to get specific about such questions as by how much, and by when? Your goals can also clarify which practice areas are the best targets for growth, based on such factors as where you’re already experiencing growth, and where you’re able to deliver the most value.

Step 2. Conduct target audience research

One of your key decisions is what type of research you need. Secondary research means locating studies that have already been done by other organizations on relevant industries, markets or trends. One example is the marketing budget research my firm does for professional services firms, but there are many other choices out there as well. Primary research, on the other hand, involves commissioning a study of your target audiences, and is more expensive.

Step 3. Establish your marketing strategy

This involves doing high-level planning to set the overall direction for your marketing. These decisions will help guide how you position your firm in the marketplace and deliver key messages about your firm to individual audiences. In general, an effective marketing strategy should have four key elements:

  • Findings about target audiences, including which of your services they value most, and why.
  • Your firm’s differentiators. This is one of the most elusive goals for many firms, but it’s worth every minute you can spend on it! Each of your differentiators must be true, provable and relevant to clients.
  • Your market positioning. Incorporating your differentiators, your positioning provides a cohesive and compelling story that helps you stand out from competitors.
  • Messages for each audience. These should be customized for each audience, and must support your overall market positioning.

Step 4. Identify your marketing techniques

Your research into your target audiences will reveal the preferred communications channels for each audience. Based on those preferences, try to find a balance between offline and online marketing techniques. Traditional (offline) marketing techniques have many parallels with similar efforts in the digital space.

Our research has found that the fastest growing and most profitable firms tend to use a mix of both traditional and digital marketing techniques. These techniques vary in effectiveness, so be careful about your selection.

Step 5. Decide where and how you’ll measure success

Most professional services firms track marketing result in three broad areas:

Business Outcomes — based on such metrics as revenue growth, new clients and leads, and profitability, all of which are typically tracked in one’s financial or CRM systems.

MarketVisibility — the most useful metrics usually focus on external website traffic, and more specifically the traffic to such places as your careers section and social media pages.

Subject MatterExpertise — useful indicators can include such metrics as number of white paper downloads, blog post views, or speaking event attendance.

Metrics can also include performance on deliverables and milestones, such as whether webinars events are happening on schedule, articles/posts being published, and others.

Step 6. Set expectations for effort and resources needed

Another aspect of your plan is setting goals for the level of effort that will be required from various sources. These considerations can range from how frequently you publish blogs or offer webinars, to what sort of external resources, training, software or website development services you need. Ideally, your marketing team will work together with your billable professionals and external resources to produce the desired result. Coordinating all of these activities can be quite a challenge, too — so consider using a marketing calendar.

Step 7. Establish budgets

The final step is to create your “bottom-up” marketing plan budget based on your decisions about the assumptions discussed above. Asking your vendors to estimate on specific projects and tools is fairly straightforward. However, estimating the cost of such ongoing activities as blogging or placing articles can be more complex. For example, managing the involvement of busy subject matter experts in the marketing process can be time-consuming, and estimating the costs involved can be a challenge.

Now compare your overall spending benchmark to your detailed “bottom-up” budget. If they are relatively close, that’s a good sign. If not, you may need to sharpen your pencil and recheck your assumptions. If you find that you need to reduce your budget, consider eliminating an entire technique or initiative, rather than an across-the-board reduction. Based on our experience, doing fewer things, and doing them better, delivers better results.

Best wishes on your marketing budget journey! “

Elizabeth Harr

About the Author

Elizabeth Harr is a partner at Hinge, [http://www.hingemarketing.com/] a marketing and branding firm for professional services. Elizabeth is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive with a background in strategic planning, brand building, and communications. She is the coauthor of Inside the Buyer’s Brain, How Buyers Buy: Technology Services Edition; and Online Marketing for Professional Services: Technology Services Edition.


The 7-Step Marketing Planning Process

Image: “Engineering News Record


A systematic marketing planning process can be adapted to a wide variety of challenges, from launching a new firm or practice area to repositioning an existing firm. Here is a brief overview of the most essential parts of the process.”


“1. Understand the business situation you are facing.

To gain a clear understanding of your business goals and any related constraints, look closely at such factors as:

  • Have new competitors slowed your growth?
  • Is price sensitivity limiting your margins?
  • Has your market become commoditized?

Base your planning process on regular, systematic marketplace research. To name just a couple of types of research that may be applicable, a SWOT analysis can help you organize and evaluate your business drivers, categorized by strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, or threats, while opportunity research studies the viability of different markets or target audiences.

2. Research to gain insights into your target clients.

In my firm’s experience, practicing professionals almost always have some misunderstandings or blind spots about key elements of how their clients make decisions. Fortunately, client or persona research provides insights into target clients and their process for selecting a firm.

For example, many marketing professionals correctly understand that their customers value them as trusted advisors; but what they may miss, however, is that few prospects are simply looking for a trusted advisor. Rather, they’re almost always seeking a firm to solve a specific business problem.

If you do research to understand this basic distinction — and develop your marketing plan accordingly — you will win more new customers … and then evolve into their trusted advisor.

3. Be smart about positioning your brand.

At its most effective, positioning elevates a brand to the point where people can’t help but take notice. A brand that is different and unexpected stands out from the competition and has a distinct marketplace advantage.

This starts with identifying differentiators — which is easier said than done. To truly be effective, a differentiator must be:

  • True — You can’t simply make it up; rather, you must live up to your promise every day.
  • Provable — You must be able to prove it, especially to skeptical prospects.
  • Relevant — It must be important to prospects during the firm selection process.

Next, use your differentiator(s) to draft a focused, user-friendly positioning statement: a short paragraph summarizing what your firm does and for whom — and why clients prefer you over competitors. Your various audiences (e.g., potential clients, referral sources, and employees) are interested in different aspects of your firm, so develop targeted messaging for each.

4. Define your service offerings — and then refine them.

Service offerings can get stale over time, so it’s a smart strategy to update them to keep your competitive advantage.

For example, as customers’ needs change, you may want to introduce new services. Your research might uncover issues many customers are not even aware of yet, such as an impending regulatory change, suggesting a range of possible service offerings.

Whatever changes you decide to make to your service descriptions, they should be informed by your analysis and research into your clients and competitors.

5. Identify your preferred marketing techniques.

Once you have gathered insights into how, where, and when your prospects are looking for information about firms like yours, your next goal is to make your expertise more visible and tangible to them — a result that we call Visible Expertise.

Achieving this requires a balanced marketing plan. What works best, according to our research, is a 50/50 blend of offline (traditional) and online (digital) techniques, as shown in Figure 1.

NetworkingSocial Media
Print PublicationsBlogs/Online Publications
Direct MailEmail
Cold CallsSearch
Print AdvertisingOnline Advertising
Associations/Trade ShowsGroups/Online Conferences

Figure 1. Traditional and Digital Marketing Techniques

6. Identify any new skills, tools, and infrastructure you will require.

If you’re considering new marketing techniques, you may also need new tools and infrastructure. Some of the most common are:

  • Website
  • Marketing Collateral
  • Marketing Automation
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Social Media
  • Video
  • Email
  • Speaker Kits
  • Proposal Templates

To keep your marketing teams up-to-date on today’s ever-changing digital tools, your choices are to learn, retain or hire. The fastest growing firms, according to our research, tend to use more outside talent.

7. Document your operational schedule and budget.

Be sure to include specific timelines and deadlines so you can measure your progress. Develop a marketing calendar that includes every tactic you will be using (blog posts, emails, tradeshows, and webinars) during the upcoming quarter or even the entire year. You may need to adjust this calendar — possibly as often as weekly. Build in consistency and predictability, but leave room for last-minute changes.

To build a budget, start with the tools and infrastructure mentioned above. Use benchmarks when available, and don’t forget to allow for contingencies (usually 5-10% of overall budget).

The next step is yours!

Of course, doing all this is often easier said than done — so my advice is to gather your team, do your research, and get started on your marketing!”


About the Author

Elizabeth Harr

Elizabeth Harr is a partner at Hinge, [http://www.hingemarketing.com/] a marketing and branding firm for professional services. Elizabeth is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive with a background in strategic planning, brand building, and communications. She is the coauthor of Inside the Buyer’s Brain, How Buyers Buy: Technology Services Edition; and Online Marketing for Professional Services: Technology Services Edition.