Age-old wisdom says that you should spend about 10% of your budget on marketing. And while that might be a good benchmark to start with, there are some reasons it’s outdated.
First off, this will depend greatly on whether you’ve got an in-house marketing team or not. If you’re outsourcing your marketing to an agency, that comes with a hefty markup, so the same budget will buy fewer results.
Second, the line between marketing and sales gets more blurry every year. In the olden days, the sales team was responsible for a lot of buyer education. Today, that falls on marketing.
Heck, we’re seeing more and more businesses embrace a touchless sale model, where customers can buy without ever talking to a salesperson. If that’s your business, you’re going to be spending a lot more on marketing (including website upkeep) than you are on sales.
But the advent of AI has the potential to upend the way we think about marketing. So, should AI change your marketing budget? Let’s dive in together.
Make room for AI in your budget
Budgets, to me, are not just about money. They’re also about time. So, as you start to think about shifting your marketing budget, I want you to first think about shifting your time budget.
There’s no question that AI will fundamentally change many aspects of the work we do. If that makes you feel uncomfortable, you’re not alone. Public opinion is deeply divided, with more and more professionals afraid that AI will take their jobs in the near future.
As with anything new, the best thing to do to combat these fears is to learn.
Commit time each week to learning about AI, playing with the technology, and thinking creatively about ways it can help you improve your work.
If you’re a manager or in charge of budgets, ask everyone who reports to you to spend time each week working with AI. (I’d suggest 30-60 minutes per week.)
Make room for AI in your tech stack
What we’re seeing right now is a profusion of new AI tools coming on the market. We’ve got major players like ChatGPT and MidJourney — and then we’ve got thousands more making endless promises.
These tools will fight for market share, and many will get bought up by the bigger players in each niche. And the brands you know and love (Google, HubSpot, ClickUp, Canva, and every other one) will incorporate AI into their tools so it becomes a seamless part of your experience.
There aren’t a ton of stand-alone AI tools that are 1) worth the budget and 2) going to break the bank. ChatGPT-4 is $20 per month. MidJourney is $8 per month for a basic plan.
That’s way less than a lot of the tools in your tech stack. So adding in some advanced AI capabilities is a no-brainer.
Make room on your team
But the big question on everyone’s mind is this: Will AI replace people?
Realistically, yes, it will replace some people. Teams will get smaller. People who are good with AI will replace people who aren’t.
If you’re a very small business that has not made a marketing hire yet, AI may help you hold off that cost for a little while, but don’t expect AI to be your marketer. Or to be your marketing strategy.
For small businesses without a marketing team
If you’re a small business without an internal marketing team, AI can really be the multiplier that changes everything.
With the right tools, whoever handles your marketing will be able to do more. In some cases, that might be another team member who’s got other responsibilities. In some cases, it might be someone you’re looking to hire. The key is, you need to be smart when you fill that role.
Look for someone ready to learn, ready to embrace the tech, and ready to grow their skillset.
That first content manager can utilize AI to produce content MUCH faster — and in a variety of formats. So, they come in as a writer and quickly learn to produce social media videos, podcasts, and more. Provided they’re willing to learn. That’s what you should be looking for. That’s how AI can multiply.
For businesses with a marketing team
For businesses with a marketing team in place, AI will still be a multiplier, but in a different way. AI tools will help cut down busy work for your team so they can focus on the things people do best, like creativity and strategy.
So, AI helps the content manager summarize an interview so they can fine-tune a blog post. AI helps your videographer get rough cuts for shorts that they can polish into a final product.
And, if a team member leaves, AI can fill the hole as a stop-gap. So, your video production doesn’t have to grind to a halt while you find a person. Non-experts can produce decent videos in the meantime.
In some cases, you might find that you don’t need to backfill a certain position if AI is pulling a lot of weight. So, If someone on your six-person marketing team leaves, maybe you CAN actually get by with five. But beware: When you ask people to do more with less, it can sometimes lead to burnout.
Your future marketing budget
There’s an old saying in marketing — “I know I’m wasting half of my marketing budget, I’m just not sure which half.”
But I’ll go one better: “Most businesses are wasting half of their marketing and they know exactly which half — but they don’t do anything about it.”
I was talking to a business recently that told me they’re spending about $15K per month on Google Ads, and they only get a handful of leads each month — and he couldn’t remember the last time one of them became a customer.
The fact is, there’s a lot of wasted money in marketing. While AI can be a great tool and, as I said before, a great multiplier, it is not a strategy in and of itself. It’s not going to immediately solve team dynamics or stop you from making bad decisions.
Find great people. Encourage them to use the right tech. And let them do what they do best. Keep an eye out for the waste that may already be in your budget. That’s a better place to cut than the salary of a dependable employee that you’re hoping to replace with AI.
Staying on top of trends
How are you and your organization feeling as the AI revolution gets underway? Not sure where to get started and how to do this the right way across your organization?
We can help.
We work with businesses to help them improve their sales and marketing — and part of that is knowing how and when to use AI to improve your outcomes.