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How Much Should You Invest in Marketing?


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If you’re wondering what your marketing budget should be, you’re not alone. This is the million dollar question: How can you be sure you’re spending the right amount of money on the right types of marketing? Many say it’s an art, not a science. Others argue that there is a clear equation that can help you to calculate exactly how much of your marketing dollars to place where. Simply figure out the equation, enter your variables and voila.

In truth, it’s a little bit of both. With a little thought, a little math, a little data and a little creativity, it is possible to have a good idea of how much to invest in marketing for the highest possible return. In terms of “return,” I have a strong finance view. Simply put, the role of marketing is to create leads and business opportunities. You should always return to this metric.

The key to ROI marketing is to not only determine your marketing budget, but to consistently build your company revenue. Your ROI always needs to link back to actual sales.

Return on Investment Marketing

ROI marketing is a measurement tool. It measures how much profit you make on a given marketing investment. To figure out the return on your investment, you need to identify a few figures to plug into your ROI formulas (as long as you are consistent, you can define your terms however you choose):

  • Cost of goods sold (COGS): The actual cost to produce your product (or provide your service)
  • Marketing investment: Media cost or production cost
  • Revenue: Your total revenue or your gross or net profit

The Components of ROI Marketing

There are six key components of ROI marketing:

1. Understanding lifetime customer value. Once you know this, you can begin to figure out how much you should expect to spend on new customer acquisition. To calculate the lifetime value of a customer, you need to identify the following variables: average annual revenue per customer, average gross profit margin (before any marketing expense), cost of capital and average number of years per customer.

2. Estimating target acquisition cost per customer cost. Look at your company data. Take the total cost of your marketing budget and divide by the number of customers you won with this investment. This is your historic acquisition price.

3. Determining your marketing budget. Divide your target revenue by the average customer revenue. Then multiply this number by the target acquisition price. Once you have your ROI goal and overall annual revenue goal, calculate your targeted marketing spend.

4. Predicting which tactic will help you to realize your customer acquisition goals. Use the by-product of your calculations to make some informed decisions as to which marketing strategy will be most successful in helping you to achieve your goals.

5. Setting your marketing ROI goal. Once you have established your ROI threshold, stick to it. If a marketing initiative isn’t hitting the threshold, cut it. Put your marketing dollars where you know they will have a greater impact.

6. Monitoring your ROI. Measure, measure and measure again. Use your results to continuously improve your campaigns and maximize your marketing dollars.

ROI Marketing: More Than a Measurement

How you choose to track your marketing spend and calculate your ROI marketing can differ from company to company. It’s important that you make the effort to add some rigor to your marketing activities. Even if your calculations aren’t exact, they can still show you clear trends of which marketing activities are getting real results and which aren’t. And again, results mean actual sales.

With a small business, you can’t afford to waste your funds on marketing with low ROI. But calculating the best marketing spend isn’t just about managing your costs; it’s also about making sure that you are using your limited money to get the best ROI. You don’t want to miss any opportunities to help your business to acquire customers and earn revenue.

Ultimately, ROI marketing is more than a measure; it’s also a philosophy. But you can’t implement ROI marketing without making a larger organizational change. This is no small task.

Some early-stage startups with limited funding might view marketing as a low priority; an unnecessary cost. In fact, marketing is not just an outlay of capital. It’s an investment back into your company — not a drain on it. ROI marketing helps you to justify your investments, supporting the old adage that you need money to make money.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

Image credit: CC by Tim

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About the author: David Ehrenberg

David Ehrenberg is the founder and CEO of Early Growth Financial Services, a financial services firm providing a complete suite of financial services to companies at every stage of the development process.  He’s a financial expert and startup mentor, whose passion is helping businesses focus on what they do best.

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