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How Much Should I Spend on Marketing?

A fundamental question asked by every business owner is “How much should I be spending on marketing and advertising?” The answer is of course: It Depends. If you are talking to an advertising agency, then you have already recognized the need for an expert evaluation of the opportunity/cost balance of advertising within your specific context. In this blog we are going to look at some of the guidelines Media Link uses to make recommendations with regards to that top line figure.

A few notes first:

  • We do consulting. Just because we could handle everything, does not mean that it is a good idea. The business owner or internal Marketing Director always establishes the budget.
  • Media Link operates without a retainer. So, we are hired project by project.  We do this so we can continue to work with businesses of all sizes.

One method of calculating your budget is contained in the table below (Taken from Effective Marketing by Peter Hingston). We like this example, because this exercise in determining your budget is focused on your situation at this particular point in time. With this exercise, start with a typical annual marketing budgetary figure of five percent of total revenue. Then for each factor, add or subtract percentage points depending on your own situation. At the end, you will have a percentage of your revenue to use toward marketing your business.

This method of tailoring a budget to your needs is purely a guide to give you an indication of the sort of factors you might consider. Your final decisions should be interpreted in light of your own circumstances. For example, you might say it has been a bad year because of the pandemic I better spend less on advertising to make up for it. If this move is essential to keeping you solvent, then this move might make sense. Overall, the reason we market or advertise is to remind and let people who need your product or service know you are an option.  The more people hear about your business, the more likely they are to buy from you when the need for your product or services arises.  Advertising less means less people will be reminded you are an option.   Remember, when people have a need for your service or product, the first few businesses that come to mind will be the businesses they turn to for help in fulfilling their need.

If you want to do the job properly, a full analysis is the most important step. Marketing is not just advertising design, it is every time a customer, former customer or potential customer encounters anything to do with your business. Most business owners are aware of all the elements factored into a marketing analysis, but might not be actively considering them and certainly cannot be dealing with how they all fit together.

Seeking Part Time Copy Writer

 

Media Link Inc. is full-service strategic communication and advertising agency located in Rock Island, Illinois. Our 20-year-old company collaborates with our clients in developing and executing their marketing.  We help companies with everything from social media posts, to blogs, to websites, to menus/brochures to focus groups to digital and traditional ad campaigns and all marketing duties in between.

Media Link has also developed a division of our company named, QC PastPort with regional partnerships and the expectation that the first public material will be released in May 2021.

QC PastPort will be creating and placing signage around the Quad Cities area to highlight forgotten and fascinating historic sites. People visiting these locations will be able to use a location-driven app to learn more about the history of each destination from both an article in the app and an audio history told in a first-person point of view.

 

Qualifications:

We are looking for someone with a degree or seeking a degree in communications with an ability to demonstrate their writing skills.  Sharing past writing samples and demonstrating your writing skills will be a part of the application process.

 

Responsibilities:

We are seeking someone to assist in researching and writing content in the form of historic narratives, blogs, posts, RFPs, news releases and other copy related needs within Media Link.

 

This person will also need to assist with taking pictures/video for our content and have the ability to reach out to vendors, potential clients and news outlets with related public relations efforts.

 

Compensation:

 

For right now, this is a week-day position for 20-25 hours a week with the possibility to earn a commission.  We are open to working from home and have the flexibility to work within other commitments.  The ability to be in the Quad Cities would be valuable because this employee will benefit from visiting sites and eventually meeting our partners in person.

Intern Spotlight: Joshua Richardson

*Written by Joshua Richardson

Since my first day at Media Link, I only had my background in Sociology to add to the team. I was not familiar with marketing; I knew what it looked like, a few tricks that would work for influencers, but I knew nothing about how to make it as a business. I honestly did not have much to add to the team aside from my understanding from the individual versus the market. Marketing felt like a foreign language to me when I first came into the office, now it feels like something I should have been speaking my entire life.

Now, I have gotten the chance to expand what I know and what I can do with my major in the real world. I even had the chance to expand my understanding of small businesses and how they can all connect in a single city for an agency versus a corporation. I want to acknowledge the great opportunity they still gave me, even while a pandemic was ravaging the planet. That taught me a valuable lesson in organization and crunch time.  When I finally was able to return, we had plenty of work to do since the pandemic started. This taught me to stay cool under pressure and look to my senior staff for guidance. It also taught me to always ask questions. I am only twenty years old, so there is no way I have all the answers. Plus, the people in my office all come from different backgrounds and may have different strategies that can work in situations where I was stumped. Getting to work through this has also shown me what it can look like for an agency when the rest of the economy has fallen into a deep recession and how it can affect small town living and business. I believe this experience has helped me develop genuinely as an adult, but it also was a great chance to improve my skill set in terms of marketing, organizing, and branding for businesses and individuals.

I am excited to see what my work will look like a year from now with the skills I have gotten since working here at Media Link. I am planning to use the experience I received here in marketing to move in a direction towards talent acquisition. It might seem strange to go this direction with direct contracts with hiring staff for temporary jobs or full-time jobs, but the purpose of this strategy is to achieve my end goal of being a Producer.  When I say I want to produce, I mean I want to be that chance for someone to put their creative vision out in the world. I hope when I am working for myself, I can produce Video/Film for Music artists, Movie/Film writers, and market individual clients or groups creative such as graphic designers, animators, and painters. The recruiting background will help me find staff or temporary workers for whatever I need to produce, such as camera operators for films and mixers for musicians. I have already dived headfirst into learning as much as I can about the area of Film and Media during quarantine and I have even added a minor to help me learn at my college before I graduate. One day I dream that I can own my own studio, so I can do all of these things in one place. I would then take my team to some of the worst-off places in the States to give those kids an opportunity to be successful.

I recommend future interns pay close attention to smaller businesses, because a lot is happening and you will have an opportunity to prove yourself in many ways. Do not be afraid to make mistakes, even if this is your first internship. This is how you get better at your job. Finally, ask questions. Everyone in the office is here to make you a better advertiser for the future. Do not be afraid to use the resources and people that are here for you to learn.

2021 Digital Marketing Predictions

2020 has provided a variety of new digital marketing options like the Spotify, Pandora and Hulu self-serve platforms finally making digital radio and OTT accessible for small and middle-sized businesses. Let’s have a look at a couple of 2021 digital marketing predictions.

 

Chat Bots

Chat bots already exist, but advances in artificial intelligence and natural language processing will tremendously improve their responsiveness. Most chat bots in the past relied on a limited amount of options to select, but the next generation will be able to come up with more sophisticated responses, including better product recommendations, e-commerce transaction support and troubleshooting. They are ideal for businesses focusing on solving customer requests online instead of relying on call centers. Mastercard has successfully implemented this element and others will follow this path in 2021.

 

Video Content

Video content will be quasi-mandatory for customer-facing businesses. While it was a desirable addition in the past, ImpactBND reminds us that:

  • At least 70% of consumers have shared a brand’s video.
  • More than 50% of consumers claim that watching product videos guides their online purchasing decisions.
  • 72% of businesses believe video content has improved their conversion rates.

Live streaming especially provides an opportunity for businesses not familiar with professional video production to produce valuable content.

 

Interactive Content

Marketers already familiar with creating effective video content need to focus on interactive content. There is something for all sorts of businesses:

  • Calculators and configurators
  • Quizzes, polls, games and surveys
  • Multi-touch photos and videos
  • Interactive e-books
  • Interactive infographics and data visualizations
  • Virtual reality and augmented reality overlays

A common example are interactive maps showing election results or the development of COVID-19 cases.

There is so much more to consider for 2021, so check out sources like AdWeek, the Content Marketing Institute and the AMA to get ready.

What is Reach?

It is rare for an advertising plan to only include a single order, or even several orders all of the same media type. Media Link places a high priority on evaluating a wide spread of options for our clients, so we can offer them more savings. One of the most important (but far from only) metrics we use to evaluate these options is called reach. In this article, we will cover some of the basics of just what this term means and why it is useful in analyzing a campaign.

Reach represents the group of people who have been, or are projected to be, exposed to an advertising campaign. It may be expressed as a raw number (ex: 176,000 people) or as a percentage (ex: 40% reach). Reach is distinct from another valuable metric called Gross Impressions, because each person can be reached multiple times.

Reach statistics exist in context. No advertising campaign has ever been directed at everyone, everywhere. Therefore, reach for businesses reflects information about only those people who would be the most likely to purchase their product or service. This group of people are often referred to as the target audience.  This target audience can include an age range, gender, geographic and psychographic characteristics.

It is more common to see reach reflected as a percentage with traditional media (i.e. radio, television, publications, outdoor). The reach is calculated based on the rating or the percentage of people experiencing an ad at a given time. We will go deeper into the specifics of the math in a future blog.

In the digital space it is more common to see reach reported as a number, because it is calculated within an environment where nothing can be done until after targeting has been established.

Why do we care?

Reach can be translated across different media types.  Media Link usually combines reach with a percentage. We believe this metric offers a clearer picture of progress toward our goals.  Reach does an excellent job of telling us how close we are toward building awareness of our message for a particular campaign.

However, if everyone were to see something only once it would not be effective at generating recall. This is why we must find a balance between reach and frequency. In our next blog, we will discuss what is frequency and how it is a useful tool when combined with reach for evaluating advertising budgets.

 

Remote is not Regression: Leading in a Remote Environment

About the Guest Author

Dr. Burl Randolph, Jr., DM, is connecting remotely daily at MyWingman, LLC, a Business Leadership and Management Consulting company in Davenport, Iowa that serves the Quad Cities and the Nation.  Dr. Burl is also the author of the Best Selling Book, “Inspired, Not Retired: Leadership Lessons from Father to Son” and coauthor of “Can God Trust You with Trouble?

 

Sometimes doing what we do may feel like regression.

 

As professionals, we are all accustomed to certain things like the corner office, big desks and nice computers with plenty of space to do our work.  Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many are forced to work at home, which is a dramatic change.  This concept of Remote Work or Working Remotely may feel like a regression in what you or your organization have accomplished.  This is only true if you allow it and at this point, I will diverge from my normal self and use a cliché’:

 

But leadership makes the difference.    

 

In this Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) environment, leadership is the glue that holds the organization together. Leading remotely is almost routine when your organization is spread across several states and square miles, the situation requires it, and you operate regionally, nationally, or globally.  Even in those environments, leaders must establish certain parameters to help spur success in the organization.

 

1. Establish Routine Connections.

Most people are creatures of habit (routine) and interaction (connections).  When working remotely, establishing routine connections is vital to the health of the organization and its members. People need to hear from their boss, coworkers and stakeholders as routinely as they did when business occurred in-person. So, what meetings, phone calls, events and motivational moments can you continue while working remotely?

 

2. Develop Stability.

When situations are the most uncertain is when stability is required the most. Routines and connections are two parts of that. Updates about all facets of the work environment are also key, so that people feel like they are informed.  This may include updates from human resources (HR), business development (BD), operations (OPS), and logistics and supply, just to name a few. A good one for HR is also Recruiting and Retention.  Are we still hiring or are people leaving in droves? For BD, are we gaining new clients or are we struggling to keep who we already have now?  Informed people work much better and have a higher commitment than organizations that keep people in the dark. How are you developing stability in your organization?

 

3. Inspire Accountability.

Accountability is a good thing, although it has been cast as a fiendish tool used by management to keep tabs on people.  One accountability measure that establishes routine connections and stability is having a Battle Buddy or Wingman/woman. Working remotely does not allow us to just walk over to someone’s desk and say, “Can you check this for me?” so, find a Battle Buddy to bounce things off each other. You become each other’s editor, muse, sounding board and backup. You hold each other accountable. Who is your Battle Buddy at work?  Who has your back? Who keeps you straight? Are they doing that right now?

 

4. Empower Communication, Collaboration and Innovation.

I have witnessed many innovative ways to help others during this pandemic. Can you use that same type of innovative spirit in your business? Empower everyone to communicate freely, collaborate openly and innovate without fear of repercussions. What can be done in your business that has never been done before? Who has a skill that was unknown until now? Who works well together and has formed a High Performing Team?

 

5. Value the Impact of Connectedness.

Do not miss the boat on this one. As much as you may dislike Zoom, Skype, Google Go-To-Meetings, Microsoft Teams or the literally hundreds of other video teleconference (VTC) platforms, the connectedness they allow provides great value. In the prime of my CEO tenure, VTCs were reserved for the elite or those in trouble, so I only had the phone. Now, being able to see a coworker, boss, family member or friend can make a huge difference. Even when you meet wearing a mask and being socially distanced, it has a wonderful impact on morale and well-being. Do you value connectedness? Are you creating connection opportunities both professionally and personally?

 

How will you continue leading during this Remote Work Environment, so that it does not feel like regression is occurring in your organization?

 

Media Link Software®, Made in Rock Island, Illinois

We invented and developed Media Link Software®, a patented media buying software system, and we have been using this system for 10 years now.  We market this product nationally to other advertising agencies and corporate media buyers which over time has made us a consultant to other marketing professionals.

According to Nielsen Media Research, our web-based software marks the first time an advertising firm created a user-designed platform for media buying.  Media Link Software® represents a cutting-edge change from the systems now leading the market and incorporates Nielsen TV and Radio subscriptions to more accurately project ratings and provide a more thorough and easier negotiation process.

Our technology is based on a process developed by our founder, Natalie Linville-Mass, who makes a science out of media-buying by removing much of the guess work. This platform allows you to compare different types of media options side by side and gives you a more thorough look at all the proposals in front of you for a given campaign. Media Link Software’s® ease-of-use and web-based functionality simplifies the process of tracking complex flights of media in multiple markets.  It is vital to buy the right mix of media to achieve your overall goals of reach, frequency, cost per point/cost per thousand, etc.

Complicated campaigns can also be cumbersome to track.  If this part of the process is not done properly, the result is a chance of missing commercials which did not run where you ordered them to run.  So, our system automates the process of planning, tracking and follow–through on media buys and makes post-buy analysis possible for all clients, regardless of their size.  This means significant savings to our clients and the assurance you will get exactly what you order.

Learn more about Media Link Software® here.


Marketing in Times of COVID-19

Organizations like the American Marketing Association and the ANA provide a range of useful articles on navigating your marketing efforts around COVID-19. Here are three of our favorites:

 

The New Reality: A Guide to Marketing in a Post-COVID-19 World

This guide can be downloaded and shared as a pdf. It focuses on new consumer habits and expectations, including a growing demand for experiential and agile marketing, a higher reliance on virtual influencers, and society’s new focus on brand’s sustainability efforts. Another article, The Big Shift: A Prediction of What’s to Come Post-Pandemic, complements this content.

 

Allow Adaptation to Fuel Creativity Amid Isolation

Struggling with being creative when being refined at home is a common issue. The article suggests remedies like dividing your work into windows or 30-minutes to allow time for interruptions like helping your child with an assignment. Re-adjusting the approach to brainstorming with colleagues by limiting participants and trying out innovative work processes is another way to keep your creative juices flowing and to stay productive. The article Lead with Creativity, Not with Capital explains why remaining creative truly matters.

 

5 Steps to Pivot from In-Person to Virtual Events Today

This article provides an easy-to-follow approach to evaluating your physical events and deciding on whether to provide them virtually. They encourage a steering committee to analyze available resources and infrastructure to identify gaps. The final virtual events must provide a unique value to easily assess through appropriate virtual channels like life videos, blogs, audio files, PPT slides, etc. Similar considerations should be made in the area of healthcare marketing.

 

As always, please reach out to us with any questions and comments.

Congratulations Adrian!!

We are proud to announce our own, Adrian Vander Wille, has received his second master’s degree from the University of Oregon this past month.  This second Master’s degree is in Sustainable Business Practices .

So, what is an MBA in Sustainable Business Practices you ask?? We are excited to have Adrian help fill us in on this exciting adventure he underwent over these past two years.

Adrian says, “I had already received an MA in Economic Development and International Studies and a BA in Economics, Business, and Middle Eastern Studies. These interdisciplinary programs play towards my passion for economic development and how businesses operate in a variety of institutional environments around the globe.

So, it came to no surprise for me to find there is no all-size-fits-all approach. I realized long-term economic development requires both a quantitative and qualitative approach which needs to be adjusted over time. The same applies to businesses of all sorts.

As many young economics graduates, I appreciate the University’s focus on behavioral economics and interdisciplinary studies. Some majors primarily focus on the environmental and social impacts. It made sense to embed my passions in the broader framework of sustainability.

Broadly speaking, the term sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It turns out to be a surprisingly complex concept when applying it to businesses which is why I encourage you to check out Bob Willard’s resources at https://sustainabilityadvantage.com/.

Sustainability means innovation since it requires changes to business models and how global economies and societies operate. I took classes like Clean Energy Finance, Greening Sports and Events, Industrial Economy, Supply Chain Management, and Strategic Cost Management. I had the opportunity to take a trip to Asia trip and  tour businesses in Thailand, Vietnam, and China committed to creating a better world.  We were able to discuss their successes and struggles. We also met with a number of business leaders and toured headquarters like Nike, Columbia Sportswear, and Tillamook.

My MBA projects included creating a feasibility study for LO3 Energy leadership to assess the viability of entering the German market with the intent to decentralize the energy market with a unique software enabling owners of photovoltaic installations to sell their excess energy to community members supporting renewable energy. In another project, I worked with the Portland Trailblazers to create a marketing plan to promote their efforts to reduce scope 3 emissions.  I also had an opportunity to work with Orchid Health, a rural health clinic, to develop a marketing plan to increase awareness and improve their brand equity.

This focus fits perfectly to the current Zeitgeist and my years of experience marketing products and services. I help clients conduct their business in a sustainable manner considering emerging demands for economic and environmental justice, as well as associated issues like greenwashing. I make sure corporate communications reflects their efforts in an authentic manner making them believable and appealing to consumers.

The goal is to align social, economic, and environmental matters through a truly sustainable business strategy and corporate vision. In times of uncertainty and division, sustainable business practices are not a cost center anymore. They become the key to guaranteeing a firm’s long-term success.”

We are excited to incorporate Adrian’s experience into what we do for our customers at Media Link.  We know in this field of media and advertising, there is always more to learn and explore.  Our field continues to evolve and reflect the changes within our society.  Please reach out to Adrian (adrian@medialinkinc.com) and congratulate him when you get a chance.  This was an incredible undertaking and we are so happy he had this opportunity to build onto his already impressive portfolio.

Digital Radio Advertising

Demand for digital radio services has been growing for years and many advertisers discovered this medium as a valid alternative to terrestrial radio campaigns. The big players in the market are Apple Music, iHeart Media, Pandora, and Spotify. You can directly negotiate a schedule with respective advertising representatives.  However, there are now two self-serve platforms available and we want to make sure you are familiar with their features as well.

Pandora

Pandora just recently introduced their self-serve platform via AudioGo. The minimum campaign budget is $250 and you can set the flight by determining a start and an end date. Commercials may be up to 30 seconds long and you can upload three different sizes of display ads that appear when your commercial plays: 300×250, 300×600, 500×500. They all link to a website of your choice.

You can target by gender and ZIP codes. Pandora uses similar age categories as Google Ads: 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, and 65+. You can also make sure commercials only run within specific music genres. In addition to the traditional genres, Pandora offers a couple of unique genres not provided by Spotify:

  • Christmas Music
  • Controversial
  • Schlager
  • Top40/Hits – Pop
  • World

Spotify

Spotify’s self-serve platform is intuitive and easy to use. Like Pandora, the minimum budget is $250 per campaign and you can set the flight by determining a start and an end date. Commercials can be up to 30 seconds long and can upload one 640×640 display ad linking to your website. ZIP code targeting is available as well.

Spotify has a couple of advantages over Pandora. First, Spotify produces your commercial without any charge. You submit your copy, select a voice (i.e. male/female, age, English accent, language), select/upload your background music and then Spotify will create the commercial for you to review. You will still have a chance to request changes, so there is no commitment associated with this feature.

Second, Spotify offers additional campaign features to promote artists like serving commercials to fans of certain musicians. Another feature focuses on announcing new shows or merchandise sales.

Third, Spotify offers unique targeting abilities.  These unique targeting opportunities include; targeting usual genres, certain interests of listeners determined by listener behavior and real-time context by focusing on playlists used for commuting, celebrating, studying and more. You will not be able to combine different targeting strategies, but you can target specific age ranges starting at the age of 13.  You can also select specific platforms (desktop, iOS, Android). Both platforms allow smaller businesses to access the marketplace for digital radio advertising after high minimum budget commitments have created barriers in the past. Please contact Adrian at adrian@medialinkinc.com if you would like to learn more about digital radio advertising.