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Lobbying for Your Search Marketing Budget

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Total marketing spend is not growing at most companies, and marketers are working hard for every dime in their budget. To accommodate new ideas, most have to reallocate money from other programs, going through a justification and lobbying process that can seem more like high level diplomacy than marketing.

What are some effective strategies to help you lobby for your search marketing budget? A panel of experts shared some advice for both search marketing agencies and internal marketing professionals at Jupiter Media's Search Engine Strategies Conference in Chicago this past December.

Eight Practical and Effective Strategies

Applying these eight strategies will help you make a more persuasive case to management (or clients), and convince them that search engine marketing is a priority and will be money well spent.

1. Find an Executive Sponsor

One of the first rules of marketing is to find an internal champion. The same holds true for search marketing. Rob Gaudio, Director of Client Services at MEA Digital, emphasized the importance of finding an executive sponsor and educating them on the unique benefits of search marketing. Ideally your champion would be a senior-level decision maker. As part of your pitch, present market facts and data to illustrate important findings, such as how search marketing 1) builds brand awareness, 2) generates more qualified leads than other forms of online marketing, and 3) delivers a superior ROI.

2. Showcase the Competition

Nothing motivates action like seeing your #1 competitor at the top of the results page while you're nowhere to be seen! Tony Wright, VP of Media - Interactive Marketing at Zunch Communications, explained the benefits of showing decision makers -- through screen captures or other illustrative data -- who IS showing up in relevant search results, in both natural listings and paid ads.

3. Quantify the Missed Opportunity

Make a solid case for your campaign by quantifying the possibilities. Bill Hunt, a search strategist from Global Strategies International and head of IBM's Search Effectiveness Team, urged marketers to quantify the missed opportunity. Start by estimating the total number of relevant searches conducted using tools such as WordTracker or Overture's Search Term Suggestion Tool. Then show management how many impressions, likely visitors, and conversions you could achieve if your company was prominently displayed for these searches.

4. Minimize Risks

Recommend an initial limited test to minimize risks. Consider a small pay-per-click program, which will allow you to effectively demonstrate concrete results as well as the control you have over the campaign. Focus on only one product group, service offering, or location, or advertise with only one ad network (such as only Overture or only Google). Your test will become an effective advocacy tool when you lobby for additional money.

5. Guarantee Results

One of the advantages of pay-per-click advertising is that you can manage a campaign to ensure various goals. Make sure leaders know that you will not exceed agreed upon spending limits. Better yet, guarantee a maximum cost-per-visitor or cost-per-conversion.

6. Estimate Business Value

Formulate your search engine marketing proposal in terms of real business results. Instead of talking about impressions, keywords, bids, and click-through rates, frame your plan in terms of prospects, leads, sales, and customers. Susan Bowman, Manager of Web Producers & Analytics at PeopleSoft Corporation, explained how she uses a sales funnel to estimate and quantify the following results: website visitors, online leads, action takers, customers, and sales. The best way to justify your budget is to clearly show business value.

7. Join Forces

Expand your search marketing plans beyond your immediate work team. Sell the benefit of search marketing to your peers and colleagues. Form a cross-functional team to promote and manage a larger effort. The more people you have committed to the success of your campaign the better.

8. Rely on Agencies and Consultants

Lastly, if you're already working with an agency or search marketing consultant, solicit their help quantifying and selling these ideas. Agencies have the means to gather market data, conduct a competitive assessment, estimate results, and formulate a compelling proposal.

In today's economic climate, it's difficult to secure new marketing funds, but search engine marketers may have an advantage. In the area of pay-per-click advertising, marketers should capitalize on the fact that campaigns can be built according to precise metrics -- limiting costs, guaranteeing ROI, and minimizing risk. Remember, search engine marketing is a relatively young discipline, and a big part of your job is to educate, demonstrate results, and turn people into search engine marketing evangelists!

Patricia Hursh is the Lead Search Strategist at SmartSearch Marketing, a full-service search engine marketing agency located in Boulder, Colorado.

Want to discuss or comment on this story? Join the SEM Budgets: How to Get Funding discussion in the Search Engine Watch forums.

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