In today’s uncertain times one of the most common queries we’ve been hearing has been how do I justify my marketing campaign budget?

With reduced hours because of COVID-19, many teams coping with working from home, the uncertainty over long-term marketing strategies, and the short-term fears about the economy, it’s been a difficult few months for anyone working in digital marketing and social media.

In a survey carried out back in March for Influencer Marketing Hub, 69% of brands who took part expected they would decrease ad spend during 2020 and 65% of the respondents said they were already reporting notable declines in revenue.

69& decrease reported in marketing campaign budget ad spend

An article in Bloomsburg back in March put the potential cost of the Coronavirus pandemic for the global economy at $2.7 Trillion. This is the equivalent of the entire GDP of the UK. 

Think about that for a moment.

Marketing Campaign Budget Is Being Wasted

We know from our own research that at least 30% of your digital marketing spend is wasted with Ivan Guzenko, CEO of SmartyAds, writing in a piece for Entrepreneur in 2018 that “you Are Losing up to 70 Percent of Your Media-Buying Budget” – both frightening statistics which make justifying that marketing campaign budget even harder.

We ran a campaign across four paid channels – Google AdWords, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as part of our research into Ad Fraud and Click Fraud. We found that 23% of the paid-for clicks were coming from bots (i.e. non-human) although 100% of all clicks were paid for.

Typical monthly spend for a large organisation can be in the thousands so wasted spend on non-human links can take a sizeable chunk out of your overall spend.

So what can we do to justify our marketing campaign budget?

Assess Your Current Situation

Priority one is to establish how you’re going to determine your current situation – i.e. what is your marketing campaign budget already being spent on?

How can you find the right strategies if you don’t know what’s happening to your marketing campaigns? Every marketer knows that analytics are the foundation on which to build a campaign.

Without the right data you cannot know if your social media marketing, your email campaigns, your Facebook advertising, is working.  Analytics on each of the social media platforms can only give you an idea because they don’t have all the answers.

Beacon Gives You Real Insights

As a digital marketing agency in our past life, we understand the very real frustrations in having to report on how their campaigns have gone. So much so, we blogged about it here: Social Media Analytics – Born of Frustration.

Beacon gives you an overview of all your digital marketing activities with top-level ROI and marketing result reporting – allowing you instantly see what is working, and why.

You can use this information to justify your marketing campaign budget because you can demonstrate how the spend has generated not only visits to your website from your social media activities, but also identify the potential leads it brought in.

Having this information to hand is one way to move forward with marketing campaigns that work, allowing you to increase spend on the platforms which are benefiting your brand.

Think of marketing as an investment

Another way to justify your marketing budget is to get senior management to think of it as an investment that incurs costs today but delivers benefits for many years. 

Using lead generation as your budgeting start point means you have access to existing tools and analytics which can help you provide the necessary data to justify your spend. Using the right marketing measurement tools, the entire process becomes justifiable because you can demonstrate success.

Take inspiration from campaigns which have influenced you as a consumer and see if any of those elements can be worked into a strategy for your own business or brand. 

As Business Matters, one of the UK’s leading business magazines points out: “Undoubtedly, there has been a moment when you have seen a marketing campaign and been pretty impressed, but some tend to ‘wow’ us slightly more than others.”

Providing benchmarks from companies and brands within your marketspace can also help to give context to the marketing campaign budget. 

If your MD can see that X company spends Y amount on its marketing budget and has Z percentage of the market share, you can then also tie that into where they’re using social media and marketing campaigns.

Spending Has Increased During The Pandemic

According to new research from Merkle, 52% of US and UK marketers have increased spending during the outbreak, prioritising and investing in strategies which aim to satisfy and retain their existing customer base.

Merkle’s study also showed that many respondents were actively streamlining their marketing, with more than 90% indicating they were reassessing all their activity. This involved removing campaigns and strategies which were under-performing.

Another 67% had introduced new programmes to improve the capture of initial visitor data, and almost three quarters of those who replied have made changes to their content designed for customers.

Merkle’s Customer Engagement Report
COVID-19 Special Edition

This all ties in with the advice and comments we got when we spoke to a number of experts in our special article on meeting the challenges associated with working from home.

Chris Morris at Shoo Social Media said: “The first thing we did when this whole crisis kicked in was to have a team meeting and discuss ways to adapt and thrive through this period. 

“We put together a 90 day action plan to, essentially, set Shoo up to thrive after the uncertainty passes, through having a consistent weekly set of actions. For example, calling, email or making contact with our connections to set up online meetings as a way of keeping in touch and offering them support.”

Beyond Noise’s Gareth Healey agreed: “I think those businesses who can survive the initial ‘shock and awe’ stage of the impact of this stay-at-home situation will be able to re-assess their position, look at how to weather the storm, and see where they can make changes.”

What Not To Do

Don’t try and capitalise on people’s fears over the Coronavirus. That’s going to be damaging to your brand in the long term even if you see short term gains.

Don’t change things that are already working. You need to reassess and re-evaluate, not start over from scratch. If your Facebook marketing works, leave it alone.

Moving Forward

Look at your website. Does it still meet all your needs? Does it need a refresh to inform customers you’re working with reduced staffing levels or that your offices/premises are closed and business is being done online?

Have you explored all available social media channels? Did you set up a business profile on LinkedIn and then forget about it? Could you use Instagram to visually promote your brand or business better? How about a “behind the scenes” series of posts with life at home during the pandemic?

Think of hashtags which can be used on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook that your existing customers and clients can perhaps join in with and help spread your brand. Choose activities which are low effort/high impact. Run a competition for people to get a discount or other offer by sharing your content.

Talk to your local newspapers, journalists are likely to be crying out for content during the lockdown, their daily reporting activity has been hugely curtailed too. Can you send out a press release with information about new services or even just an update on what changes you’ve made to work during the pandemic?

All of these options can provide new ways to add value to your marketing campaign budget.

Ultimately, it comes down to three key factors:

1. Use it. If you can’t justify the budget spend, it will get used somewhere else.

2. Prove it. Demonstrate how much you’re spending on marketing and what the Return on Investment is for that budget. This helps highlight how much potential revenue the marketing campaigns bring back to the business.

3. Explain It. Show that what you’re doing is working and when it comes to next year’s budget, the argument for continuing or increasing the spend is going to be much stronger.