7 Smart Ways to Steer Your Marketing Budget in 2021

by Alexis Robbins, Chief Marketing Officer, and Christopher O’Connor, Esq., CIPP/US, Sr. Content Strategist Marketing professionals wrapping up a chaotic 2020 and […]

by Alexis Robbins, Chief Marketing Officer, and Christopher O’Connor, Esq., CIPP/US, Sr. Content Strategist

Marketing professionals wrapping up a chaotic 2020 and starting 2021 must answer a key question. How will they spend their budget in ways that reach as many potential buyers as possible in an environment where in-person events are still several months away from returning? Some events may never return and others may not come back until 2022. Already, legal technology companies know that Legalweek 2021, the largest trade show of the year, has been broken up into a series of virtual programming blocks.

Resourceful professionals should see an opportunity  rather than an obstacle. If the goal is to generate leads and nurture them for conversion and the strategy centers around increasing brand awareness and engagement, then creativity and innovation should define tactics while the COVID-19 pandemic persists. How can you take the budget allocated for live events (shipping, material handling, travel and expenses, display banners, space rentals, happy hour sponsorships, etc.) and turn it into a lead-generation machine for your sales team?

Here are seven tactics we believe can boost your budget power and attract the market in the new year:

Issue more company news announcements

It may be an old school medium but making news announcements via press releases is still a good way to make a splash when the news is good. PR Newswire and other paid services ensure a wide blast of distribution. Company releases often do catch the attention of trade publications, bloggers, podcasters and analysts, especially if you’re penetrating or shifting a hot industry sector. Readers also can visit your website if you embed links in the body of the release.

Press releases are also an effective to means to earn interest—and clicks—via other channels. Use strong keywords in the headline to rank higher in Google searches. Republish the release on your website’s blog. Make the news hook of your release scream louder by centering a social media campaign around it, including posts with a call to action that direct followers and connections to the release.

Experiment with virtual events

By the end of 2020, “Webinar fatigue” was a real thing. Heck, we felt it ourselves.

Perhaps you held a few of these Webinars and didn’t grab any warms leads. Perhaps you sponsored one and didn’t realize a return on investment. However, the virtual environment is one that will persist. What will you do with it going forward?

In 2021, try investing in virtual events with real engagement and affinity in mind. Drop the presentations and focus instead on workshops, focus groups and hands-on training programs. These are all ways to put the microphone or the mouse into the hands of the customer and out of yours. Aim smaller, too. Why splatter yourself before a thousand strangers across multiple rooms and days for five figures when you can hold court and have fun with 25 people for four figures? Participants will be more likely to remember your face, your name, your product and your brand. Meanwhile, you will collect valuable, and actionable, lead intelligence.

Additionally, work to build content partnerships with subject matter experts with winning personalities who by association can endorse your brand and bless you with third-party validation. Have them lead an interactive workshop or a training. Invite them to be the guest of honor in an entertaining but informative interview event that resembles an old episode of“Inside the Actor’s Studio” (“What is your favorite word?”).

Sell the stars to your audience while they sell you simultaneously.

Invest in paid social

Social media, by design, is all about engagement and fun. How many hours a day do you spend making new friends and connections and building a following.

From a young business’s perspective, chances are that every smaller customer or prize elephant you’re hunting is hanging out on one or all of LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit or a niche community site for professionals (check out Fishbowl, for instance). Even TikTok has reach beyond 14-year-old dancers. Young attorneys have taken to the site’s strange magic, too.

Getting your content and calls to action out there on these various channels is important. Gaining organic eyeballs and clicks is sometimes a crapshoot, though, especially when you’re just starting out.

Intermittent, well-timed paid social use is a strong way to move to the front of the line and be seen by the prospects you want to see you. Paid social models allow you to control how much of your budget you spend per day and the number of days or weeks to maintain the display advantage.

You’ll need to research which channels are the ones where’ll you be most likely to successfully find the right people and gain traction. Buyer persona research and development can help you make these determinations and target wisely.

Execute a Google Ads campaign

Determining intent and answering good questions may arguably be effective ways to think about SEO. Yet researching and embodying keywords is still the main sport.

Paid search is a way to turn your keyword research into an action plan. What keywords would you like your brand to win search results for most aggressively? What keywords are searchers associating with competitors?  If searchers should associate your services with x, then what is your ideal x?

Start a Google Ads campaign to make the desired variables a reality. Ensure that for a time your business name appears above the fold on Google.

Prepare for your paid search effort carefully. Deliberate on which landing page on your Website to direct visitors toward, or build a new landing page that connects to the campaign. Select content the landing page should most appropriately display and definitely include a call to action that connects to your CRM system for lead-gathering. A “content-first” approach is critical to ensuring this tactic gives you the most return for your investment.

Create video content

As TikTok and the relentlessness of YouTube prove, video is where it’s at these days. It should increasingly be where you’re at as well. Besides, any video assets you were planning to present at your trade-show booth can be redirected in this manner.

Functionally, embedding video on a Website landing page promises to keep visitors there longer and lift a page’s search value. Otherwise, video is an accessible way to convey the learnings you want potential buyers to absorb. Besides, any graphical assets you were planning to present at your trade-show booth can be redirected in the budget this way.

At a minimum, invest in video and audio recording and editing equipment. Consider building a YouTube channel  featuring a library of short how-to demo videos. Or have your company founder record a DIY video that personalizes the message and the company. These assets can accompany blog articles and standalone as YouTube entries.

At the top end, you should invest in “explainer” videos, an increasingly popular content asset that introduces your company’s products and services in an alluring and breezy way. They require consultation; clear, smooth and strong voiceover recordings; and professional production. Often, they are animated, or combine animation with product demo footage.

These can certainly be done in-house if you have the ambition and graphic design resources. It’s probably wiser to outsource this effort to production companies that specialize in these short, bright explainers and provide professional voiceover actors.

If your influencers are camera-shy, consider recording topics as podcasts instead. These audio-only broadcasts are great for content ranging from a few minutes long to lengthy conversations and can also be embedded on a landing page just like a video. Podcasting has a lower cost of entry compared to video—get up and running for just a few hundred dollars.

Outsource the creation of high-value, late-funnel content

Speaking of outsourcing, longer-form content from a professional researcher, analyst, writer or market intelligence firm is a solid way to go deeper into your areas of expertise in the absence of a live audience or keynote speech. As a client draws nearer its decision whether to hire you or a competitor, show them the value you offer intensely.

Plenty of independent contractors and firms with particular competencies are available to supply you with credibility. A market research firm, to cite one example, can execute a broad-based survey and report for you. This can capture the pulse of your industry or provide insight on topics and trends to share with the market.

Ultimately, 2021 projects as a year to combine the immediacy of video with the intricate information contained in a report to advance a multi-tiered, content-driven buyer’s journey.

Use direct mail thoughtfully

Finally, direct mail is alive and well as a relationship-building tactic.

Prior to large tradeshows, companies would frequently send pre-show mailers and postcards to targets on their pre-attendee list. Why not do the same with virtual events? Include a giveaway or or attach a small promo item like a microfiber screen cloth or webcam cover for additional branding.

You may not be able to hand out gifts personally from a booth this year. However, your clients appreciate your hard work and your attention, and it is essential to let them know that you appreciate them as well.

Pay attention during your interactions and project meetings, and gift ideas will present themselves. If a client lives in a warm area close to a beach, slap your logo on a colorful beach towel, box it up and drop it off at UPS. That founder will likely appreciate this. If you know your point of contact works remotely and is a regular speaker at virtual events, send them a branded ring light and a microphone.

“Swag” isn’t only for building brand awareness. It also supports client retention.

Remember to also take the time to send your staff members branded items throughout the year. Hats, t-shirts, desk sets are all welcome gifts and help brand the company during Zoom calls with clients. With employees at home juggling parenting responsibilities, gift baskets with snacks and activities are also well-received.

Follow this budget blueprint and make it a welcome and prosperous new year. Who knows? By the end of 2021, you could once again be as healthy and safe in the physical world as you are in your top-line revenue existence.


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