My daughter just started her first year of college. Her father and I spent years saving for college, thinking about tuition, dorm costs and books. You know what we never thought about?

The costs of decorating her dorm room. Which, apparently, is the Most Important Part Of College. How we didn’t know that is beyond her. Clearly, when we started planning back in 2003, a set of floor rugs shaped like flowers should have been our priority.

Spending your marketing dollars in the post-pandemic world of 2022 probably feels just like that — unexpected costs popping up faster than a college shopper at Target. There are so many competing channels, tactics and advice out there. It’s like taking the pie you baked for eight people and stretching it to feed 30. How can a marketer get the most return on investment?

Planning Marketing ROI for Q4 2022

Here are five guidelines for planning for the rest of 2022 and beyond:

Go Where Your Audience Is

The biggest mistake we all make is assuming we know our audience. But the world is changing — more rapidly than we would like to acknowledge — which means your audience is changing, too. Marketers have never had more data to research and understand their audiences, and yet many of us rarely spend time analyzing it. In fact, a study by Forrester showed that 57% of marketers feel overwhelmed by their data.

How about hanging out where your audiences are? Shop your stores. Read the comments. Do usability studies. Call customers — yes, radical, maybe, but a great way to find out what your audience is thinking in real-time. If one customer says it, and then another customer says it, you’re probably seeing the beginning of a trend. You can get such valuable clues when you go to your audience and spend time with them, instead of just researching them from afar.

Related Article: 5 Things to Accomplish After Your Customer Advisory Board Meeting

Don’t Hire an Architect When a Hammer Works Fine

Marketers LOVE big tools. The problem is that sophisticated technology platforms require setup, training, adoption and maintenance. And rarely do those parts make their way into the budget. So, you spend all this money to buy a technology platform and use 5% to 25% of it, wasting your marketing dollars.

If it makes sense to procure the platform because it’s part of your long-term strategy, then go ahead. I give you permission. But ensure you put aside dollars — and many of them — to pay for training and maintenance. Think about how your corporate culture will assimilate a platform and prepare your internal teams by showing them the long-term value. Otherwise, it will sit, with no one knowing how to use it, and everyone getting frustrated that it’s gathering dust.

Specify Your Channel Strategy (So You Don’t Throw Away Your Dollars)

Each channel has a different feel, culture and audience. What may perform well on Reels won’t go anywhere on TikTok. And a tweet just doesn’t translate to a Facebook post. LinkedIn is shifting in tone and strategy, which means personal posts may perform better there than on Facebook. (Cue scream emoji.)

So how do you ensure your paid and organic budgets aren’t wasted by publishing the same content on each channel, expecting the same results?

This is not crazy advice: Create a quick strategy for each channel. We use Insta for our current employees, LinkedIn for clients and prospects, Twitter to build community and Facebook for video and link distribution. That’s an example, but it helps you think about how, why and where to share your content — and what dollars to throw behind each channel so you’re not slicing that pie into 30 tiny slices. (Yum, pie.)

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: How to Repurpose Content for Social Media Strategies

Document Your Strategy

Stop being nice. Seriously, halt content creation for every stakeholder that raises their hand or stomps into your virtual office. Enough is enough. Document your strategy — according to 2021’s B2B Content Marketing Report, only 43% of us have done that. (That’s not good.) Use a content matrix to determine content value. If it doesn’t satisfy certain concerns or criteria, then don’t create it.

For example, ask questions like:

  • How does this advance our revenue goals?
  • Do we have a clearly defined audience for this piece of content?
  • Is there search or relationship value in this topic?
  • Will this idea generate more than one piece and format of content?
  • Do we have the right creatives to fulfill the request?
  • Does the timing make sense?
  • Does it align with our current business goals?

If you can’t answer yes to at least three questions, don’t create that requested content. But the first step is to document your content strategy!

Pick a Strategy and Stick With It

Stop jumping around like a crazy frog. Know why it’s called Shiny Object Syndrome? Because it’s an SOS for behavior that gets in your own way. It’s like saying, “I want to be in New York by 5 p.m.” and you get on the 3 p.m. flight to Boston. Why? What are you doing?

Stick with your strategy for a long time. Like at least nine to 18 months. I know you have stakeholders who want the next big thing. But this is marketing — your job is to drive revenue by answering prospects’ questions and building trust with them. TikTok videos may do that, or they may not.

But it’s OK to say, “We’ll spend 5% of our budget on that and then reevaluate in six months.” Spending 25% of your budget and 80% of your emotional energy on TikTok when your original strategy didn’t call for it is like ending up in Boston. Don’t get me wrong — Boston is a great city. But it isn’t New York, which is where you said you wanted to be.

Now go have fun with Excel! You’ll feel better once you plot your budget using these guidelines. And it does the math for you, which is always nice when you’re more of a writer/English person. Like me.

Ironically, my daughter wants to be a dentist. Must get it from her father.

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