Does this sound like you? It’s almost February and your firm has yet to approve your marketing budget.  Worse yet, you don’t even have a marketing plan to work from. 

Let me give you some advice. Don’t fall into the trap of running with the same marketing approach you used last year.  The market is changing at warp speed. Check out our Marketing Planning Guide for some solid guidance. In the meantime, here's a short list of tactics you should and shouldn’t be spending your budget on.

1. Print Ads

Your audience is rarely looking through association newsletters, trade journals or conference programs to find their next business partner. Ads are best for generating awareness over the long term (think years). If you are looking for business next month, spend your money elsewhere.  

Best Bang for Your $$
If you want to advertise, experiment with Pay-Per-Click advertising. But be sure you have a strategy. Determine a budget to spend monthly, daily or weekly, then track and report on your successes and failures. Adjust. Repeat.

Free Marketing Planning Guide for Professional Services Firms

2. Direct Mail

Direct mail is a triple threat, and not in a good way!  Pieces are expensive to print, expensive to mail and extremely difficult to measure and evaluate. While there is less competition in the direct mail arena today, its effectiveness has gone down in recent years.

Best Bang for Your $$
Save some trees and look at email marketing.  There are plenty of marketing automation software options that can help you deploy and track response rate of your campaigns.  Additionally, the turnaround time for email marketing is much shorter, meaning you can reach your audience sooner with a more targeted message.

3. Only Attending Tradeshows

Business deals are rarely made on the expo hall floor, so I would think twice about spending your precious marketing dollars on something with a very low rate of return. (Note: some industries are better suited to trade shows than others, so balance this guidance with your past experience.)

Best Bang for Your $$
Instead of exhibiting, try landing a spot as a speaker at the tradeshow or conference. You enhance your visibility and are more likely to be perceived as an expert. Since people like to hire experts over generalists, your business development opportunities are greater. Bonus Buck: If you land a speaking engagement, often your registration rate will be drastically reduced, or even free! (For more insights, read our free guide, Becoming a Visible Expert℠.)

4. Non-targeted Sponsorships

Note the key word in this budget waster… “non-targeted.”  If the sponsorship isn’t directly related to your target market, don’t waste your money.  If you’re going to sponsor an event, say a hole at a golf tournament, and don't plan to attend the event, definitely don’t waste your money. 

Best Bang for Your $$
Find out which events your audiences attend and find out how to get involved actually planning the event on top of being a sponsor.  You’ll get to connect with decision makers and thought leaders from other firms who are also volunteering their time to make the event successful.  And make sure to attend!

SEE ALSO: 7 Offline Marketing Strategies that Support Your Online Brand

5. Passive Association Membership

Avoid joining an industry association or organization just to add it to your resume. Unless you’re going to be an active member, don’t waste your money.

Best Bang for Your $$
Once you find the right association or organization, join a committee. Or better yet, get yourself on the board of directors.  It’s a little more extra-curricular effort on your part, but the investment will reap far greater rewards then simply being a member.

6. No CRM Follow-up

Most client relationship management (CRM) systems aren’t cheap, so it’s probably not worth your time or money to invest in implementing one if you’re not going to follow up on leads and/or nurture existing clients within your database.

Best Bang for Your $$
Invest in lead-development personnel and develop a systematic approach for them to follow.  Their responsibility should be to ensure that all incoming leads are qualified and then contacted promptly by an appropriate staff member to begin developing a long-lasting relationship. Use your CRM to manage the entire process.

7. No strategy

“So what are you doing today as it relates to marketing?” 

“Well, we tried social media for a little while but it didn’t work.  Then we decided to start blogging but no one was reading our posts.  Oh, and we did a webinar at the beginning of the year, but no one showed, so we’ve stopped doing those.”

How can you expect to see a high ROI on your marketing spend if you are dabbling with several different marketing tactics? 

Best Bang for Your $$
Create a marketing plan, allocate the resources necessary to achieving your goals, then stick with it and track your results.  You won’t see a change overnight, so be patient.  There’s nothing wrong with re-evaluating your plan in six months if you feel it’s not working. It's how all successful companies manage their marketing.

8. Do nothing!

On occasion, we hear a client say something like this: “Our sales are down so we’re going to have to cut our marketing spend and sit tight for a bit. I’m not really wasting my budget if I don’t spend it on anything.”  Big mistake.

Best Bang for Your $$
When sales are down, you actually need to increase your marketing spend. Marketing is essential to your firm’s livelihood. Think about it, if you cut your marketing, what do you think will happen to your revenues? 

To wrap things up, when looking at your marketing budget, start with a clear and targeted strategy.  It’s not about spending the most money to see the most results.  It’s about looking at opportunities more wisely.  You might be surprised to see that the $200 a month you spend on PPC might just bring you more qualified leads than that $5,000 conference sponsorship!  And if I can offer one last piece of advice, be consistent and committed to your marketing. 

Additional Resources

How Hinge Can Help

Creating a comprehensive marketing plan is key to success in 2016. Hinge has developed The Visible Firm℠ program to help you create a marketing strategy and more. It is the leading marketing program for delivering greater visibility, growth, and profits. This customized program will identify the most practical offline and online marketing tools your firm will need to gain new clients and reach new heights.