Doing digital, spinning your socials, killing it on TikTok or having a kick-ass brand new website can often feel exciting and energising when your organisation is thinking about digital marketing.
However, what happens when you are the only one in the marketing department and often not even full-time? For those working in small to medium-sized heritage organisation those feelings can rapidly translate into unhelpful comparisons to big ambitions, unease in a rapidly changing environment, pressure to perform and a sense of disempowerment when you know there is only of one you and little or no budget.
In my experience working with and in small to medium-sized organisations this is one of the common areas of stress and concern. So, you are not alone and if you’ve never worried about this, then even better as there are some basic and consistent factors to consider when doing digital marketing on a budget.
Firstly, lets ensure we have defined digital marketing. It’s the all-encompassing term for any activity, tactics, advertising, channel, and platform management spanning the online digital world. This includes website, email, social media, content creation, digital advertising, search engine optimisation, paid vs organic, email marketing, online event distribution and, so on.
Let’s run through some common pitfalls when doing digital marketing as this can be a great place to aid your learning.
Setting up social media accounts with every single channel that arrives on the scene or deciding you need a blog and then not posting or putting out content is simply a no. This does serious damage to your brand and reputation as followers will feel uncared for and abandoned resulting in loss of trust and engagement with your brand.
Not having a plan or goal
When you haven’t created an organisational, joined-up or strategic plan how can you be intentional and targeted in what you want to achieve? And throw into that mix limited resources and budget. Digital marketing is a massive area so make it an integrated and thought-out part of your communications with clear goals.
Not knowing your target audience
Just like any other offline area of marketing activity, audiences underpin where and how you spend your budget and where you put your resources. Remember this is the same for digital, think about the audience/s you want to reach and what they are searching or wanting to know.
Your digital marketing activity needs to be in sync with your organisation’s brand and values, communicating confidently, clearly and consistently on the chosen channel. Inconsistent messaging and content will not build audiences’ trust and engagement.
Not measuring or monitoring activity
Tracking digital marketing activity is essential in gathering data that you can learn, respond and build on and use to assess against your goal and objectives.
Not understanding a channel or platform
Digital spaces are where you engage with new and existing audiences and if you do not understand the channel, tailor your message or optimise content. Failure to do so may be evident and embarrassing. Educate and get to know the channels and spaces you want to inhabit.
When organisations do not take the time to consider how to invest their finite resources and budget you will often see them attempting to do everything and failing.
Step 1 — Know your target audience
Bring together your working group to define and detail the following:
Who are you trying to reach?
Be as detailed as you can here in terms of the following areas:
- Demographics: age, race, gender, occupation, education, marital status, etc.
- Behavioural: how do they currently interact with you, habits etc.
- Psychographic: what are their interests, values, aspirations, lifestyle, etc.
What do you know about them already?
You may have some experience in creating an audience development strategy or plan that involves a discovery phase of gathering insights and data from some of the following:
- Google Analytics
- booking data
- email subscribers
- social media followers
- visitor / audience segmentation, for example The Audience Agency’s Pen Portraits
- existing data sets from Office for National Statistics, The Audience Agency’s Area profile reports
- case studies, pilot projects, sector benchmarking
What do you need to find out about your audience motivations, likes and habits?
This could involve desktop research of existing reports, designing, and sending out a survey or even conducting interviews.
What is key here, with this step, is to be data led and to ensure your organisation is audience centric in thinking about your digital ambitions and activity.
Step 2 — Define what you want to achieve
Once you are clear about who you want to engage with, it is vital to discuss shared ambitions around what you want to achieve and align to business objectives.
So, whether you are trying to reach new audiences or grow your influence as a thought leader, drill down and define what this will look like and how it aligns with wider business objectives and goals.
Step 3 — Learn about digital channels, platforms and spaces
Whether you are considering new and emerging digital marketing channels or more established and known ones, it is imperative to gather research, latest trends and insights. There is a lot of information out there on digital marketing channels and platforms to digest and learn from.
Focus on channel/platform use, types of people that engage with it and what works best. For example, Facebook is good at building relationships, popular with family audiences to generate website referrals whereas Instagram appeals to a younger audience and is visual led.
When it comes to choosing the most effective digital channel/s to achieve your marketing goals, key considerations are:
- What are the key insights and characteristics of the channel?
- Which channels do your target audience use?
- Who else is doing this activity that you could learn from?
- Do you have the skills, resource and budget required to use this channel?
- Does this tactic align with the overall marketing strategy?
Alongside this, look at existing digital intel you have access to such as, keyword research, most popular pages on your website to high performing content, optimal posting times from your current digital channels.
When you are clear on your target audience, digital channel/s and have a clear objective it is time to put this all together to steer how you shape and seed your digital marketing.
Step 4 — Shape your brand’s voice and tone
Developing a brand voice and tone of voice are both important aspects of your brand’s personality, allowing it to stand out from its competitors and connect with its target audience. Having a consistent tone of voice across all your customers touch points and connections to your brand, including social media channels, email marketing makes you seem genuine, aiding brand loyalty.
And so if you’re not convinced here are further reasons to develop this work:
- It tells your audiences and visitors who you are
- It expresses what makes you different
- It helps to build trust
- It can be used to influence and persuade
- The smaller your company is, the easier it is to develop an effective brand voice
For a more in-depth read on how to develop your brand voice and tone of voice read: How to Define a Brand Voice for Maximum Impact | Toptal
Step 5 — Get your content right
Most digital marketing activity will involve the creation of content of some sort. Whether created in house, commissioned or by your users, content is the ‘Willy Wonka world of imagination’, so get ready to get creative, test, experiment and learn.
Some common types of content:
- Animated GIFs
- User generated content (UGC)
Good digital marketing content is rooted in storytelling and when doing this on a budget there are some key considerations that can help:
- Use what you have
- Don’t worry about being polished
- Repurpose content that you already have that may never have been used in a new way. Ensure permission is sought.
- Optimise content — ensure you have written, created and built it to reach the widest audience possible
- Get your community to work for you — for example, artist takeovers, volunteer stories
- Make the most of free and low-cost tools and apps:
- Canva — online graphic design platform offers a free subscription for not for profit
- Gickr — free GIF creator from Flickr
- iMovie — create and edit videos with ease. For iOS and macOS
- Mailchimp — if you currently don’t use an email platform to send your emails most providers offer a free version with access to most features
- Hotjar — is a great way to understand what people are really doing on your site if you are considering and optimising or redesign work.
- Podbean — a podcasting hosting platform with all the features you need to publish, distribute and promote your podcast.
Step 6 — Embed digital into marketing funnels
No matter what type of digital marketing activity you are looking to carry out, the marketing funnel is an important model that provides a visual roadmap on how a potential audiences interact with you and the stages involved that lead to an action or purchase. This model can be a good way of getting your organisation to understand the various stages a potential lead will go through before they sign up to your mailing list, buy a ticket for an exhibition or decide to donate.
The top of the funnel is about generating leads; the public are strangers to your brand and need to learn who you are. This is your opportunity to start building a trusted relationship with them. This is the largest part of funnel and its where you can draw in with your brand’s distinct and clear engaging offer.
As well as generating new leads, the marketing funnel is key in thinking about distributing and promoting your digital marketing activity to existing prospects or lapsed visitors. Using the model to create an integrated communications plan where digital marketing is embedded will ensure you maximise all your channels, resources and funnels.
Step 7 — Track and optimise
Finally, before you commence any digital marketing activity, especially when on a limited or negligible budget, agree what metrics you will monitor and track to evaluate achieving goal/s. This is very important to agree with the working group or as an organisation as it can be where you can start to influence and advocate for budget increase if you can demonstrate growth and goals met.
Adopt a track and optimise approach to analyse your activity. Using analytic tools like Google’s Campaign URL Builder to track the performance of planned activity you carry out, each piece of content you put out or any channel based promotions. Share data and insights that indicate the performance of content that succeeds/does well, channels with the best results, what has not worked, and areas of improvement.
The power of data in doing digital marketing empowers organisations to identify if they are meeting goals, KPI’s and objectives, indicates growth areas, provides insights, tracks reach and clearly demonstrates return on investment (R.O.I).
This can feel like a long and arduous process however these guiding principles really underline how you can successfully do digital on a limited budget – good luck!
My final suggestion would be to connect or buddy up with a fellow marketer, who is also wanting to go through this process to act as a critical friend and enable mutual support and motivation.
Please attribute as: "How to undertake digital marketing on a budget (2022) by Ranjit Atwal supported by The Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0