Welcome to 2015! As you catch up on email and get back into the swing of things you, like many others, may be faced with a tough decision – how do I allocate this year’s budget to best maximize engagement and ROI? Taking your marketing game to the next level means making important decisions about where to put your money. Not all activities are created equal, and sometimes, too much in one bucket can lead to diminishing returns.

In a recent survey, 54 percent of marketers stated they anticipate seeing increased budgets in 2015. This should make it easier to exceed your results from last year, right? Just take a relatively high ROI activity like email marketing and do more of it. Job well done, set it in motion and start planning your next vacation!

Not so fast. Simply pumping more money into email marketing blindly – which 61 percent of respondents plan to do – without having a sound strategy for adding more qualified leads to your list won’t necessarily result in broader awareness or increased sales. While email marketing tends to be a numbers game, the average click through rate has remained constant at about 3.3 percent for many years. At some point, if you aren’t adding new prospects who are ready to buy, you end up hitting the same deaf ears more frequently. Doing so runs the risk of not only infuriating those currently on your list but wasting valuable budget in the process. One way around this within email marketing programs is to increase lifecycle marketing campaigns such as loyalty, welcome, win-back and post-purchase emails. However, these are far more effective in B2C campaigns than B2B, which typically can’t drive repeat business with simple loyalty messages or other communications. Getting customers to come back requires constant contact and engagement with the customer to better understand their evolving needs so you can then identify new or upgrade opportunities.

Rather than knee-jerk into more email marketing programs with your new-found budget, brands should consider investing in activities that allow for more direct engagement and relationship building with targets they have already identified so they can take advantage of the opportunities evolving requirements present. One of the primary examples of this type of activity is social media. Many brands already have social media programs in place and are seeing benefits as shown by a recent survey that found that 57 percent of executives see social media as an effective platform for improving brand awareness and 55 percent see it as a good platform for increasing marketing effectiveness.

There are many instances where social media programs can help aid in a brand’s transformation or awareness, and certainly no shortage of examples of this being achieved. One client of ours, LiveOps, had the same goal as many companies – shift brand positioning and establish itself as a go-to provider in a new market for the company. To do so, we leveraged social media to increase the company’s reach and engage with influencers, prospects, partners and customers in the market they were trying to enter – the social customer service space. Taking this “peer-to-peer” approach enabled them to more quickly make an impact on perception and create stickiness for their brand and message. During this time, we were able to increase their online following by more than 150 percent and their online communication by more than 250 percent, as well as drive incremental traffic back to the company’s website. As new prospects were identified through social media, LiveOps was able to use their email marketing campaigns to continue the education process and offer up additional sales touch points. With social media serving as the front-end interaction and email marketing complementing it, LiveOps was able to achieve a 30 percent increase in lead conversion and a 35 percent increase in lead velocity, which in turn leads to real ROI for the company.

I think everyone will now agree that social media is a required piece of the marketing puzzle. However, while these programs are a critical to prospect identification and relationship building, they are also very high touch activities which require resources in order to be successful. Today, social media programs represent only 9 percent of the total marketing budget, leaving potentially significant potential waiting to be tapped. With additional allocated budget, social media programs can not only create additional avenues to directly communicate with your key audiences, but complement the email marketing, mobile and other programs you have in place by extending the interaction to platforms where current and prospective customers can feel heard and more deeply engage with your sales teams or brand. This can build further trust and an affinity for the company, increasing the chances of closing the deal.

Not all prospective customers respond or pay attention to the same marketing and communications channels. So, in the end, a mix of email marketing, social media and other marketing activities are needed in order for a program to be effective and fire on all cylinders. By taking a more measured approach with clear goals and objectives in mind you can maximize your total marketing spend, hit more people more frequently on a variety of channels and develop a deeper level of engagement with your current and prospective customers, driving towards your desired action being taken at a higher rate.