Your Marketing Plan Is Meaningless Until You Assign A Budget

Oh, how you love to talk about planning—your business plan, financial plan, vacation plan and what I think is most often discussed—your marketing plan.  Congratulations to you if you’ve drawn up an official marketing plan for your venture.  But if you intend to transfer your plan from the page to reality, you must assign it a budget.  Somehow, that practical reality is sometimes glossed over.  Ask a Freelancer or business owner what the company’s annual marketing budget is and you’re likely to be met with a blank stare or incoherent stammering.  That is not the ideal response, my friend! So today, let’s learn how to estimate a reasonable budget for a B2B annual marketing plan.

Laurel Mintz, founder and CEO of Elevate My Brand, a Los Angeles digital marketing agency, has developed what she calls “marketing math,” to help her clients determine what would be  a realistic B2B marketing budget range for their organizations.  According to Ms. Mintz:

New companies in business for one to five years would be wise to allot 12 – 20 % of  gross or projected revenues on marketing activities.

Established companies in business for more than five years are advised to commit 6 – 12 % of gross or projected revenues to marketing activities.

Those figures seemed rather hefty, at least they did to me and maybe you agree.   According to Laurel Mintz,  if a new business generates just $35,000 in after-tax bottom line revenues, she nevertheless feels that the owner should devote $4,200 – $7,000 annually to a marketing budget.  Ouch! I mean, how does one pay the living expenses and taxes and health insurance when in the salad days of a start-up?

Think of it like this—no one said that self-employment, whether Freelance solopreneur or entrepreneur, was going to be either easy or inexpensive.  Just like you set aside money for other vital expenses, marketing deserves a budget, too, because without marketing you could wind up presiding over a stunted venture that never gains traction and never fulfills its potential.

Marketing activities, whether innovative or predictable, give the venture a needed push into target markets.  Marketing promotes the expansion of prospective clients who will flow into the sales funnel, distinguishes the organization from competitors, establishes and promotes the brand, justifies the pricing structure and keeps the enterprise at top of mind and positioned to beckon clients and referrers.

Now for the cold water—there are no guarantees in marketing and the ROI is notoriously tricky to quantify.  But realize that marketing is all about testing and that means (calculated) risk.  If you approve a certain sum of money to devote to the year’s marketing activities, you might achieve all of your marketing campaign goals, or do twice as well, or only half as well as you projected

Risk is real in marketing, but it’s mitigated by your awareness of how your clients have been known to respond to the marketing tactics that you can afford.  Research shows that if you conduct marketing  activities that resonate with your target clients and are within budget, then over time,  the marketing campaigns will enhance the bottom line and your brand.  Treat marketing activities as an investment that will surely pay off and allocate funds each year.

Marketing  campaigns are all about planning, budget and execution.  If meager finances make you feel that the budget formula given here is too risky for your venture, then focus on planning and execution and roll out “sweat equity” campaigns that utilize tactics that cost time instead of dollars, such as content marketing, face to face networking and social media.  Just do it.

Thanks for reading,


Director and actress Ida Lupino on the set of The Hitch-Hiker (1953)                    Photograph courtesy of RKO Pictures/ Photofest


Six Steps To A Successful Marketing Campaign

Numerous times I’ve advised Freelance professionals to launch a marketing campaign to promote themselves and their services. How about we touch base regarding the core components of a successful marketing campaign?

I.   Identify your target audience

Step One, you must understand who you want your campaign to reach and influence and that would be those clients and prospects who are most inclined to use your product or service. It is possible that along the way others may become interested in what you have to offer and new or niche markets can be recruited, but target market groups must have the motive and money to use your category of product or service.

Step Two, decide the channels that you will use to reach current and prospective clients. Marketing campaigns are most effective when they broadcast the message through various media: print display ads, videos, testimonials on your website, or a case study. Social media can also be part of a well-designed marketing campaign, if you can engage current and prospective clients through those platforms. The members of your target audience could be reached more than once and that is a good thing.

There is also the indirect and ongoing marketing campaign that Freelancers are advised to conduct. Providers of B2B services especially should periodically attempt to line up an appearance on a webinar, a panel, or at a conference podium as a way to enhance the value of the intangible resources that you sell, that is, your expertise and judgment. Sponsorship of a local charity is also a good choice for some. Remember to send a press release to the local newspaper to try for yet another channel. A newspaper (or online) item is more believable than a print ad, because it is perceived as unbiased.

2.  Know the competition

As you create your marketing campaign message, keep direct competitors in mind. The marketing message should promote the expertise, experience, judgment and attributes that make you superior to others with whom clients and prospects might do business. Your message should be designed to overcome current or potential objections to you and persuade those with motive and money to choose you because hiring you will make them look good.

3.  Identify the key marketing message

What do you need to make known to current and potential clients that will help them to develop the trust and confidence needed to do business with you? Refer to your knowledge of the competition and also refer to client hot buttons and address those issues clearly and convincingly.

4.  Build the brand

In the marketing message and campaign, find ways to enhance your brand, that is, your reputation. Clients do business with those they know and like; they do even more business with those they trust and respect. Building up your image, or (tactfully) bragging about your already noteworthy image is a key element of your marketing message.

5.  Create a budget

Time and money are among our greatest resources. Once you have your version of the ideal marketing plan in draft form, calculate the financial cost and a roll-out timeline. Make sure that the campaign ROI makes sense for your venture. Tie your marketing efforts to expected sales, to the best of your ability and don’t squander your resources on fruitless strategies.

6. Track performance

I’m a little bit backward in that an important step in the campaign will be mentioned last. Establishing goals and objectives for your campaign are a must-do. This process will guide you in making decisions that shape what the campaign will consist of and furthermore, will help you understand what kind of influence you can wield through marketing. Decide what you want your marketing campaign to achieve and confirm the metrics that will measure and acknowledge its success or failure.

Thanks for reading,


A Winning Email Marketing Campaign

I’ve not done many email marketing campaigns,  mostly because I dislike being on the receiving end of such campaigns,  so I made the decision to basically avoid that method of outreach.  I was remiss,  because there are times when an email marketing campaign fits the bill.  Content marketing,  or the new advertising,  is an excellent way to stay in contact with clients and cultivate prospective clients and that strategy forms the basis of email marketing campaigns.

What I needed to do was learn how to craft an effective email message,  create a catchy subject line,  avoid looking like spam and send the email to the right group of people.  In other words,  I had to learn how to do a proper email marketing campaign.  To that end,   I invite you to copy my homework.

1.   Start with a good list

Everyone on your email list should want to receive your emails.  Include a safe unsubscribe feature to allow those who would rather not receive your emails to opt out.  When collecting names,  ask if the person would like to receive email updates from you.  To track emails sent,  you may want to invest in Did They Read It, which will anonymously report to you the read rate of your emails.  Constant Contact ,  the email marketing platform,  will send out and track your email marketing messages and your newsletter,  too.  According to the Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark study done by the marketing firm Silverpop in 2012,  the open rate is 20%.  The click-through rate,  or the measurement of how many people clicked on a link that was embedded in your email and most of all the conversion rate,  or how many people signed up for a special offer or did business with you,  reveal the value of your email list.  Still,  the open rate is a very telling measure because nothing happens until the email is opened.

2.   Information, not sales

A few paragraphs that give newsworthy updates about the industry sectors of your principle client groups,  or info that can be used to help list members solve a common problem,  will greatly improve your email open rate.  An email marketing campaign is not the forum in which to swing for the fences and score a big sale or assignment.  Rather,  an email marketing campaign is the place to let your expertise shine and offer no-cost value to current and prospective clients.

3.   Subject line that pops

Be edgy and provocative, be witty,   be amusing,  but don’t be boring.  When your recipient opens emails and is faced with a huge stack,  make him/her want to open yours and see what you have to say.

4.   Interesting photo or video

A picture is worth 10,000 words,  so add a good photo or two to your email,  one that communicates some aspect of your message.  A short video of you speaking to a topic,  or a testimonial by one of your clients,  is also compelling.

5.   Easy call to action

Once you’ve made the case,  remember to ask the recipient to do something with the information that you’ve provided: take a survey,  sign up for a free 30 minute consultation,  sign up for your newsletter.   Resist the temptation to go for the jugular and force a sale in your email marketing campaign.  The more successful strategy is to entice the recipient to make some small contact with you that appears to have more benefit for them than it does for you.  Build trust and familiarity first and you will become the obvious choice when your services are needed.

6.   Optimize for smart phones

It has been reported that nearly half of all emails are now opened up via smart phone.  Figure out how to size and space your email and links to make it easy to read on a smart phone.

Despite numerous pronouncements to the contrary,  email marketing is alive and well,  according to a January 2013 survey conducted by the marketing services provider Experian.  Their survey indicated that correctly conceived email marketing campaigns remain the best way to draw traffic to your website and increase sales revenue.  So copy my homework and get busy creating one for your business.

Thanks for reading,


You Are the President

Today is Election Day in the US and an 18 month long  (or thereabouts)  presidential campaign will finally draw to a close.  I take voting seriously and view it as both a right and a responsibility.  It is only in the past 50 years or so that true voting rights were extended to the general population.  For 150 years,  only land-owning males of Euro-American descent who were literate in English were eligible to vote.   As a result,  the vast majority of citizens have been unable to vote for most of our history.  Vestiges of restrictive voting laws linger today, unfortunately.  For example,  why isn’t Election Day a paid holiday for all workers,  full-time,  part-time and contract? 

In our last episode,  I left you with a cliff-hanger and promised to take a look at what is most likely the most important part of your Personal Presidential Campaign.  Dear readers,  that would be relationships.  Pay particular attention to whom you know and who knows you.  Business is political and politics is all about relationships.  Identify and affiliate with organizations that will bring you into contact with people you need to know.  That could mean the chamber of commerce,  house of worship,  nonprofit organization board,  or a fitness center.   Figure out where the right people congregate and then evaluate where you will have the best chance of access and acceptance.

Something else you can do: search your VIP’s name and you might discover that he/she will speak at a local conference.  Be there if it’s open to the public and within your budget.  If you’re able to attend,  take notes on the presentation so that you can ask a good question during Q & A.  Your intelligent question will pave the way for a post-talk conversation that will set the stage for relationship-building.

Along the way,  you must also get a handle on what you can offer the VIPs you want to bring into your camp.  Objectively evaluate what it is about you that higher-ups will appreciate.  Maybe you have a skill that nonprofit boards covet  (beside check-writing ability):

  • Are you a silver-tongued salesperson,  who might therefore be an adept fundraiser for the VIP’s favorite charity?
  • Do you possess the  excellent organizational skills that would make you a key player on an event committee?
  • Can you build a website or put together an e-newsletter?

Or maybe you know an influential person or two and you can connect your VIP to someone he/she would like to know?  Whatever it is that you can do,  discern your value-added and work it,  even if it’s helping out with crossword puzzles.

Social media can also play a role in your relationship-building strategy.  If your VIP has a Twitter feed,  definitely sign up to follow and eventually join the tweets and re-tweets.   If LinkedIn is your thing,  resist the temptation to right away ask your VIP to join your network.  Be more subtle and try to find out if you have any connections or groups in common.   If so,  tap your common connections to obtain some useful background info.   Follow group discussions to see if your VIP participates.  If you can intelligently add to discussions in the common groups then do so,  as your VIP could be following and it could be an opportunity to look good.  You can do the same in the general Answer forum.

In closing,  please know that I do not advise you to coldly manipulate those people whom you feel will be useful to your ambitions.  To the contrary.  Relationships must be a two-way street and win-win is the goal.  Take the time to build authentic relationships and provide value to others as you campaign to be the President of your professional life.

Thanks for reading. Cast your vote.


Campaign for President

I am rather a political junkie and pride myself on keeping up with important local,  national and sometimes international elections.  On Tuesday November 6,  those of us in the US will cast our votes for President in the culmination of a contentious and mind-bogglingly expensive race for the White House.  There are also a few important Senate races to resolve as well.

Dorie Clark  (no relation),  corporate strategy consultant and adviser to the gubernatorial campaign of MA Governor Deval Patrick and the presidential campaign of Howard Dean,  says that business owners and executives should pluck a few lessons from electoral politics to better position themselves for business and career success.

Clark urges those of us in leadership positions  (and every Freelancer is a leader)  to  observe and follow the behavior of the best politicians,  from Lyndon Johnson to Ronald Reagan: set clear and reasonable goals;  identify and cultivate supporters;  build and exercise influence;  and execute relentlessly to achieve your ambitions.  You may not be running for public office,  but it’s a smart idea nonetheless to manage your career as if you were campaigning for president.

First,  choose a professional goal.  If you find it advisable to alter your goal down the road,  that’s OK;  you just need to propel yourself forward and start your campaign.  Those in business most likely want  to earn more money and that may mean acquiring more clients who dole out lucrative contracts.   So maybe your prime objective will be to sign three Fortune 100 clients,  to support the goal of accessing higher paying and more prestigious projects that enhance your brand and your bottom line.

However,  you may eventually decide that your organization is not ready to pursue Fortune 100 clients.  Instead,  you shift your sights to Fortune 1000 clients,  because that is more realistic for you.  The point is,  you’ll position yourself to sign clients who can offer bigger budget projects and maintain your goal of enhancing both your reputation and your revenues.

Next,  set important milestones for your campaign.  A presidential candidate is advised to win the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary because performance there impacts future campaign success.  Candidates who succeed in those races vastly improve their chance of reaching the White House.  What interim projects can you pursue and win,  projects that when on your CV will persuade bigger clients to  trust your expertise and feel comfortable enough to hire you?

While you work on getting yourself into some stepping stone projects,  take a look at your skill set,  your personal and professional network and your marketing materials.  Identify and resolve any gaps and need for upgrades.  Observe those who have arrived at the place you want to be and check out their skills,  education level,  marketing materials,  relationships,  professional organizations,  etc.  Fill in as many missing elements as possible.

Make an action plan and hold yourself accountable by attaching dates.  Maybe you should become a better public speaker or obtain a certain professional credential? Maybe there are books, blogs or magazines you should read to stay current in your business (or that of your target clients)?  Find out when and where the course will be offered and its cost.  Enter registration dates into your calendar.  Budget the money.  Visit the library or book store.

Next week,  we’ll take a look at what may be the most important component of your presidential campaign.

Thanks for reading,