By Samuel Thimothy, VP at OneIMS.com

You've heard it before: You have to spend money to make money. But one of the biggest struggles I run into as an agency owner is figuring out exactly how to spend my money to get the highest returns.

Properly allocating your marketing budget can be crucial for seeing growth within your organization. Without the right budget, you may not be able to appropriately execute the marketing strategies and tactics that can attract and retain customers and clients.

However, with the number of marketing areas you could invest in, it can be difficult to know what the right strategies are. To help you identify where your marketing budget could best be used in 2019, here are a few tips based on my experience as an agency owner.

1. Set your goals.

As you enter the new year, think about what your marketing and overall business goals are. The direction you want to move will influence where you should consider investing your money.

When my agency was just getting off the ground, we focused the majority of our marketing budget on attracting and converting new leads. Our main priority was building a customer base. However, as we became more established, those goals changed. We still needed to focus on attracting new leads, but we also needed to allocate some of our budget to retaining the clients we already had.

Before you start deciding where to spend your marketing budget, identify your priorities and what you'd like to accomplish. This should help you decide where to spend your money.

2. Find the right marketing avenues.

The next step is deciding which avenues are most deserving of your budget. This is where things can get tricky. Your marketing budget is like a pie on Thanksgiving, and each of your strategies is a hungry guest. Each guest might easily consume the entire pie if you let them, but you want to make sure each of them gets a share.

However, you shouldn't just divide your marketing budget equally. Instead, consider which strategies can bring the highest return on that investment and bring you closer to reaching your goals.

Here are a few areas to consider when determining where to allocate your 2019 marketing budget.

  • Marketing software: Marketing automation and organization software can make your life much easier. Email marketing tools or a customer-relationship management system can help you plan, track and implement your marketing strategies much more efficiently. Invest in marketing software first if it will help you execute your campaigns faster and cheaper. Having the right foundation can improve your return on investment throughout multiple campaigns.
  • Content marketing: Your content can be the base of any and all marketing strategies. Whether you're working with social campaigns or you're running paid ads, you should have strong and compelling content to push your audience to. Consider making content creation a focus of your marketing budget. With the right information to share, your other campaigns could run smoother.
  • SEO: Having the right search engine optimization efforts in place can make a major difference in how you attract and connect with customers. However, SEO extends far beyond just keywords and content and should also include maintaining your website. It's important to include SEO in your marketing budget to account for algorithm changes or website updates.

While marketing software, content marketing and SEO are only fractions of your marketing strategy, it's important that they're well supported within your budget. When you're using the right software, you have strong content and your website is properly maintained, then social media strategies, email campaigns and paid advertisements can bring higher returns.

3. Monitor your budget, and adjust if needed.

It's not uncommon to create a budget and find that it just doesn't work. Problems can arise, plans may become obsolete or you may meet your goals sooner than you expected.

If you find that your proposed marketing budget just isn't getting the returns you hoped for or that you need to move some of your funds around, don't hold back on making adjustments. While you want to stay within budget as much as possible, be flexible enough to continue moving toward your goals.

Conclusion

Properly allocating and spending your marketing budget can be important for growing your company, but I've found that it's better to treat your budget as an outline rather than a set-in-stone plan. Keep your goals top of mind throughout your planning process, and do what you think is best for attracting and retaining your customers.

Samuel Thimothy is the VP at OneIMS.com, an inbound marketing agency, and co-founded Clickx.io, the digital marketing intelligence platform. 

Published on: Dec 28, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.