Where should you spend your marketing budget? Unless you are running Google or Apple, you can’t afford everything on your marketing wish list. PlanITPDQ reached out to Ginger Conlon for advice on where it makes sense to invest. Ginger is chief editor and marketing alchemist at MKTGinsight, an online publication that catalyzes change in marketing organizations. Before founding MKTGinsight, she served as chief editor of Direct Marketing News, 1to1, and CRM magazines. Following is her insight.

marketing budget ginger conlonYou’ve seen and reported on many companies. From your perspective, with no limits on manpower or budget, where would you invest in marketing? What works?

Oh, that’s a big list. So, let me home in on what I would prioritize: Data.

The most effective creative, content, and campaigns come from understanding customers: everything from who they are (e.g. demographics) to what they prefer (e.g. behaviors, channel preferences) to why they purchase or don’t (e.g. motivators, intent). If I had unlimited marketing budget and manpower, I would invest in the best chief data officer (or chief analytics officer) I could find, support that CDO with a robust set of analytics tools and budget for a rock-star team of data scientists and analysts, and work with the CDO to ensure that our customer data is clean and current and that the marketing and creative teams can access the information they need in real time.

Ok, so let’s think about it from the perspective of small business and startup marketers. Limited cash, limited time. Where do you invest your marketing budget?

At the risk of sounding repetitive… Invest in a customer management system (e.g., a CRM tool) that will help you better understand customers and track your interactions with them and their interactions with your company. There are some incredibly robust tools — some of which are industry specific — that can arm B2B or B2C marketers at SMBs and startups with everything from social media and email integration to project management and more.

You report on a lot of technologies. How can you tell hype from the real thing?

Doing your due diligence will help you get past the hype. If you’re interested in X technology, which of your strategies or goals will it support? Don’t invest in a technology that’s not going to help you meet your goals. Do your homework to understand the tools you’re interested in. Create a prioritized list of criteria, so you don’t get sidetracked by cool features you don’t need. That all said, you should leave a percent of your technology budget for experimentation and testing.

You’re a startup, too — what has surprised you about marketing your own business?

Frankly, I haven’t had any surprises in terms of marketing.

What are your top must-do marketing activities, and how do you fit them into your day/week?

I do a lot of social media marketing. I block off time in my daily schedule to focus on it. I also do as much speaking as possible. It’s great for exposure and networking.

What is your favorite marketing hack?

Be a resource. Whether you’re in B2B or B2C marketing — and whether the entity being a resource is your company or you as a marketing professional — being a source of information or introductions or support will help you grow relationships and business far faster than not being present or interactive or helpful.

Thanks for your advice on how to invest your marketing budget, Ginger! Follow her on Twitter at @customeralchemy; follow MKTGInsight at @MKTGinsightNow

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