spending smart

Getting more out of your advertising budget is always a good idea. If you've been putting off making changes, the first quarter of 2016 is as good a time as any for starting fresh. Like the grand resolutions we promise ourselves this time of year, it may sound easier than it is in practice — but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

The hardest change is to your mindset. Because just like losing weight — or quitting any vice — getting more bang for your buck in the digital space is about letting go of old habits and diving into new ones that can actually work if you give them a chance.

Here are three new habits to form to bring greater value in 2016:

1: Embrace Performance Marketing

Also known as affiliate marketing, this strategy has gotten a bad rap over time, but should not be overlooked. Even while reporting on some sketchy practices to watch out for, Forbes contributor Jabez LeBret affirmed, "Affiliate programs are a crucial component to most companies' successful online strategy."

Why is affiliate marketing a better choice for your ad dollar? Because you're paying for results, not potential. Affiliate marketing uses a cost-per-action (CPA) model, where you only spend when a sale or high quality lead occurs. This is in contrast to the more common cost-per-click (CPC) model — where each click is part of your spend, even if those clicks are the end of the road.

Exposure and traffic are great — but obviously you want your traffic to convert. With CPA you only pay when that happens.

But what of the so-called risks? It comes down to choosing an affiliate network wisely. Clickbooth CEO Erin Cigich offered some advice in that regard: "The barriers to entry for starting a network are low. As a result there are hundreds if not thousands of 'networks.' Advertisers and publishers should look to partner with networks with proven longevity, integrity and a solid reputation."

In other words, do your research, as you would with anything else.

2: Take Advantage of YouTube Shopping Ads

What else can you do to make more of your ad spending in any year? How about jumping on the recently updated YouTube Shopping Ads feature? This update to TrueView for Shopping Ads allows brands to take advantage of creator videos — meaning, not just their OWN videos, but those uploaded by YouTube users talking about their products.

Marketing Land explained, "The format is exactly the same as the YouTube for Shopping campaigns — Shopping ads appear in cards along the right side of videos on desktop and tablets and below videos on smartphones."

This is a CPC-based strategy — in case you thought I was taking sides. A good marketing approach uses a combination of many strategies. 

3: Spend More Time on Facebook

Not all of your advertising "spend" has to be about money. Time is at a premium too — and return on investment of effort is just as important. Though organic reach has become more challenging on Facebook, one of the biggest forecasted trends for 2016 is about advertising on the largest social network out there.

Difficult as it can be to keep up with the seemingly-constant changes to its algorithm, it's worth trying, as Facebook has a huge share of mobile first users. Go get them!

Irfan Ahmad, writing for Social Media Today, stated "more than one in five minutes spent on a smartphone or mobile device is spent on Facebook." So if you're refusing to pay for ads on Facebook — and I get that as a matter of principle — you might want to adjust your attitude.

It's a huge audience you really can't afford to neglect.

New habits are easy to neglect too, but these three are worth embracing if you want 2016 to be your "best year ever." Whatever you do, resolve to be bold, but smart — and amazing ROI is sure to follow.