In my last post, I talked about the seven things not to do with your marketing budget. (If you missed it, you can read it here.) So this week I thought it would be a good idea to offer some recommendations for the ways small businesses SHOULD be spending marketing budgets to get the most bang for your buck. There are so many effective ways to allocate your marketing dollars and whether you select just one of these or combine several of them for a well-assembled marketing strategy, I think you’ll find these to be well worth your consideration to reach your goals and see real results.
1. Social Media
Cost = $0.00
Woo hoo! First thing on the list doesn’t even cost you a dime! Well, not exactly. Social media will cost you in soft dollars at a minimum and well worth the human capital it requires to execute. Brands that show up on social channels and make social media part of their marketing strategy see an increase in brand exposure, lead generation, and new customers. Go here to read 16 Stats that Prove Social Media Isn’t a Passing Fad by Hubspot. If you think it costs too much to hire a full-time dedicated employee to leverage social media or an agency that can manage this piece for you, I’d argue that it might just cost you too much not to.
Cost = varies
I know this may seem crazy, but I still know of small businesses that don’t have a website, so therefore it must make my list. Websites are not optional. If people can’t find you online, you are intentionally sabotaging your ability to grow your business. If people can’t find you, they can’t become your customer. Having a digital footprint and a way for people to learn about you and your business is very definitely worth the dollars you will spend on it. And don’t forget to make sure you have a mobile site, as Google is going to favor and promote mobile friendly sites over non. Read the news here: Google Search Changes Will Promote Mobile-Friendly Sites.
3. Visual Content
Cost = $0.00 to $20,000
Videos, photographs and graphics are a very necessary part of your marketing mix and valuable content. They help you show your brand’s story and they offer a very engaging way for you to add value to your audience and increase engagement rates. Don’t neglect the opportunity to invite your audience into an inside reel of your brand. And don’t miss the chance to do more for your audience than talk at them. Showing is more powerful than telling. Therefore, visual content is an investment you want to make and it has a very long shelf-life. People just love videos. Hubspot shares in a recent post that last year, the amount of video from people and brands in Facebook’s News feed increased 3.6X year-over-year (source). They also highlight that tweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites and 150% more retweets (source). Holy cow! That’s a lot of upside visual content brings. Get all 17 stats about visual content here.
4. Written Content
Cost = $0.00+
Blogging is a great way for small businesses to get on the map and start adding value right away. And if you are willing to write, it doesn’t have to cost you anything except your time. What a great line item on your budget! Companies that blog receive 97% more links to their website and B2B marketers report that blogging has resulted in 67% more leads than those who do not (source). Blogging is improves your website performance, increases your ranking for certain keywords and starts to establish trust between you and your reader. If you decide to hire freelancers or a content agency to help you write content, that is where costs can enter into the picture. Always ask for samples of a writer’s work before hiring someone. Choosing the right writer has a lot to do with style and their ability to internalize your brand and voice. Pick carefully if you go that route.
5. Marketing Automation
Cost = $250/month+
I’m sure you are always looking for ways to streamline your processes and be more efficient. You can’t (and shouldn’t) automate personalization, you can automate a host of other marketing activities that make you more responsive and better at adding value to your ideal customer. Look into solutions that allow you to set up automatic follow-ups so that you can not only provide a consistent brand experience, but ensure that your ideal customers have the best service even before they become a client. Automation software usually also includes CRM (client relationship management) capabilities to help you manage new and existing contacts. I personally use Hubspot as my marketing automation solution. Other great options I recommend for small business owners include Infusionsoft and Act-On.
6. Social Publishing Platforms
Cost = $0.00 to $830.00
Small businesses should be using a social publishing platform like Buffer or Hootsuite to streamline and organize your social sharing. These are powerful scheduling tools that allow you to set-up your online content ahead of time and send at a predetermined time. What’s most important is that these platforms also track the analytics of the posts you publish so you know what posts performed best. These services have free versions, but if you upgrade your subscription to a paid account, you get a whole lot of valuable insights into the performance of your posts and aggregate results. Small businesses should use the free version at a minimum so that you can easily schedule your posts and make life easier.
7. Social Listening
You need to have your ear to the ground and keep a pulse on your market. People are talking all day, every day online and they may be saying something about your industry or brand. Put your business in a position of awareness so that you can monitor perceptions and respond to opportunities to engage. Social listening tools like Google filters and Mention.net are very helpful. Go here for a comprehensive article on social listening.
8. Market Research
Cost = $0.00+
Market research is always looked at as this overly expensive thing. Yet, it is exactly what helps you to better understand your market, customer and future customers. Maybe you don’t have a $10,000 budget for research, but what’s preventing you from sitting down with your customers and asking them for some feedback about customer experience or new ideas? I think it is incredibly valuable to have objective customer data to not only help drive marketing messages, but future product or service development if your business is considering on expanding any of its offerings. Data is wonderful to have to make informed decisions about your business and can really aid in executing smart marketing strategies. Better to know too much, than not enough. SBA also offers resources to small businesses on market research. These resources help with external factors.
9. Digital Advertising
Cost = Varies
Digital advertising is a special opportunity, because it allows you to strategically place your brand in front of your ideal customer. You can then track its effectiveness in delivering quality leads to your business with real results. There is nothing unknowing about digital advertising and it follows the consumer’s preferences. It can honestly seem kind of creepy and even seem a little stalkerish, but at least digital ads offer a customized and more personalized experience for the audience. Here is a great article in Entrepreneur about the latest trends in digital advertising. This may very well be the line item you want to splurge on as a small business. It is more costly than some of the other items on this list, but if done correctly, can have compelling results on your bottom line, especially if combined with other strategies like blogging as an example.
Cost = $5.00+
For as little as $5.00, you can boost a Facebook post that helps target your post in front of your ideal customers. It is a low-cost, high-return investment that I encourage every small business to take advantage of (if your audience is using Facebook). Facebook advertising is another way to promote your business page and drive more quality leads to your business. Whether we like it or not, Facebook is a great way to reach your customers and they continue to make it very affordable to do so. Here’s an arsenal of Facebook advertising blog posts you can mine through for more information.
11. Gratitude Giveaways
Cost = Varies
I wasn’t really sure what else to call this line item. I think it is worth having a portion of your budget allocated for the individualized expenses you may want to make. These could be anything from branded stickers to gift cards to another awesome item. Saying ‘thank you’ is one thing, but showing thank you with a gesture is way more memorable. Who doesn’t like receiving “stuff” in the mail? Buffer does a great job at this as a regular practice. At random it seems, they will send a nice hand-written thank you note with something branded with Buffer on it for being part of their community. That is freaking awesome. People then post pictures of themselves with Buffer stickers, hats, t-shirts and mugs. Again, it’s a really low cost relative the high value of building customer advocacy that amplifies their brand beyond their one happy customer. It’s a nice thing to do and the marketing benefits are huge.
I think the trick here is to know what your business and marketing goals are. Write them down. Next, make sure you are clear on your brand story, who you are and the value you bring to your customers. Finally, remember your audience. Think very specifically about who you are trying to attract to your business and then throw your budget behind the tactics that will best help you reach your goals and your ideal customer’s needs. I realize that is a very CliffNotes version (remember those!? I’m totally dating myself) of how you can begin your marketing strategy, but it is the starting place that will help you make smart investments with your marketing budget.
Cheers to you and your growing business!
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