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Jun 13, 2019 BY Nick Weynand Marketing

Marketing Items You Don’t Budget For, But Should

When it comes to deciding how to spend your diligently saved money, you want it to be on something good. Something to talk about—the latest iPhone, a beach vacation, a bathroom remodel (just me?). No one loves shelling out for the boring things like car maintenance, tax preparation, or insurance. But we accept their necessity.

Let’s bring this logic to your organization’s marketing budget.

When planning for the fiscal year, budgeting decisions are often focused on big initiatives and exciting projects that have an obvious impact, something tangible for your audience. For organizations with limited resources—like most mission-driven organizations—it’s a struggle to justify things that don’t seem immediately necessary or that you assume you could scrap together in-house.

We get it.

It’s painful to allocate precious dollars to something as uninspiring as a CMS upgrade. But it’s important to save for this more subtle, tactical work that will keep your website, marketing, and communications efforts afloat. Investing in maintenance, process, expert staff, and good assets is just as important as the big hurrah of a website redesign or a marketing campaign. Even though these things are more behind the scenes, they’re long-term investments that can have significant ROI.

Your website is a dynamic organism that needs routine support and maintenance. Code breaks, bugs happen, questions arise.

So, when the next budget cycle comes around, here are some ideas to bring to the table—along with a compelling case to get buy-in from management.

Ideas for How to Spend Your Money

Here are some important marketing initiatives and assets that your boss may not be convinced your organization needs. But we’re going to break down exactly why you need them.

Discovery-First Projects

Organizations usually don’t have a comprehensive idea of where they are today. Your team may have an idea of where you want to go but isn’t aware of your current situation and how big the gap between point A and point B may be.

To address this at Mighty Citizen, we begin every project with a phase we call Research and Discovery. Think of this as the “inspection” phase. When you buy a new home, you invest in an inspection to give you an accurate description of the current state of the home and unearth any problems before moving ahead. Same here.

The knowledge-gathering process allows your organization to understand who you are, what goals you have, and what your target audiences are looking for before we get into the thick of the project. It’s road mapping that gap between where you are and where you want to go.

Steps in this critical phase can include:

  • A Technology Review to assess your current technology environment and plan for the future.
  • Stakeholder Interviews, Focus Groups and/or Surveys to see what your audience really thinks of you and wants from you.
  • User Personas to describe your key audiences and shape your content strategy.
  • A Content Audit to determine if your current content is meeting your goals and reaching your audience.
  • A Digital Marketing Audit to review what you’re being found for, how you’re ranking, and a strategy to improve on both.

By tackling all of this up front, we can develop a complete picture of your organization, with data to back it up. At the end of this phase, we deliver a Discovery Brief, which details everything we’ve surfaced together and our recommendations for what your organization needs to move the marketing/fundraising needle.

Support & Maintenance

I know, I know, support and maintenance sounds decidedly unsexy. But, let’s face it, your website is a dynamic organism that needs routine support and maintenance. Code breaks, bugs happen, questions arise.

On interactive projects (i.e., websites, digital advertising, etc.), you need a robust post-launch support package. This is your insurance plan—preparing you for ongoing maintenance and solving unexpected emergencies. With an ongoing support plan contract, you can get the help you need quickly, without having to worry about first getting an estimate for hourly work approved.

At Mighty Citizen, our Care Package covers software maintenance, technical support, and bug resolution. We also throw in quarterly training opportunities and each year conduct an expert review and competitive analysis of your website. It’s like the support and maintenance of a car, with preventative care included.

CMS Upgrades

Your content management system (CMS) is where you publish, edit, and modify content on your website. And it too needs regular love.

Regardless of which content management system you use—e.g., Craft, ExpressionEngine, Drupal, WordPress—it needs intermittent minor upgrades. And from time to time, CMS creators release a major upgrade that includes larger changes to the platform and new features. As major versions of CMSs are released, older versions move to legacy and retired status, which means they’ll no longer receive updates or support from the creators of that CMS.

It’s important to update to the latest version of your CMS not only for security reasons and future support from the creators, but because being on the latest CMS version is necessary in order to keep the site scalable for future enhancements. If your CMS is on a legacy or retired platform, you won’t be able to move ahead with more exciting website refresh updates later.

Think of a major CMS upgrade like getting your oil changed or replacing your tires. Updating the pieces to keep the whole running more efficiently and to avoid future disasters.

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Developing content is the biggest obstacle our clients face during any big project. It’s easy to underestimate just how much is entailed in strategizing, drafting, and revising content—and so the task gets pushed off until late in the project. It’s also easy to assume your internal staff will be able to do the task, even if they’ve not experienced writers themselves. If you don’t have an on-staff copywriter, paying for the services of a professional writer could be the move that keeps your project launch on target and assures your audience is engaging with your message.

Equate this to paying for tax preparation services. Sure, you could do your taxes yourself, but a CPA is going to save you time and deliver expert results.

By investing in copywriting help, you’ll be able to think about your content from the get-go. The copy drafting and editing will be a collaborative process that happens in tandem with the rest of the design and development efforts rather than getting tacked on to the end. This will allow you to stick to your timeline and publish content that is professional, persuasive, and supports your overall mission, platform, and value proposition.

Photography & Video

The images and video you put on your website, social media, and marketing collateral create your organization’s visual identity. They show who you are and what you value. Using low-end stock photography, illustrations, and video can make users question your legitimacy and leave a bad impression. If you want people to take your organization seriously, you have to demonstrate you are doing the same.

Think of images like your organization’s wardrobe. You wouldn’t wear dirty, ragged jeans and aripped t-shirt to your organization’s biggest event of the year. So don’t let your brand look equally unprofessional.

High-quality, thoughtfully selected images can compel your users to engage more deeply. (They’re worth a thousand words, after all.) Dedicating budget to quality stock imagery is the easiest way to curate a visual identity that’s on par with what your organization deserves. Investing in a great stock photos could be the difference in how your organization is received. Or if you want to go bigger, consider custom photography and videography. This allows you complete control over the narrative and to directly share your story with your audience.

The Bottom Line:

As adults, we’ve learned that not all money can be fun money. So consider how these less-thrilling-but-equally-important long-term investments could benefit your organization.

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