Have you ever spent money on marketing that you came to regret later?

Who hasn’t?

I think most of us would like to forget those experiences.

Maybe that’s why so many small businesses get stingy with their marketing budgets. When Wasp Barcode surveyed 1,100 small businesses earlier this year, this under-investment really stood out — 34 percent of U.S. small businesses invest less than 3% in their marketing.

Despite the low marketing spend, 43% of small businesses still say they want to increase revenue by “improving existing customer experience and retention,” and 28% of them want to “Invest in new customer acquisition activities and methods.”

Marketing can help with both.

To give you an idea of how marketing can help achieve those goals, here’s how a small local business could invest $5,000 in marketing:

  1. Create a business website.

Cost: $1,500 per year

There’s a scary stat about small business websites: Half of small businesses don’t have one.. THREE surveys have shown the same results: the State of Small Business Report from Wasp Barcode survey, Clutch’s B2B research, and SCORE’s look at customer friendly websites. .

If all those companies don’t have a website, do you really need one? Well, here’s what consumers think:

Getting a webstie doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Services like Wix and Weebly can give you a fully functional site for $10-$20 a month. Their drag and drop editors let you build a site without ever looking at one line of code.

If you want to upgrade from a starter site, WordPress is probably the best choice. Then check out services like UnDullify and Design Pickle for reliable, affordable design help.

Once you’ve decided to move forward with a site, the issue is what to include on it. That’s easy; include the things customers think are important. According to a 2016 survey from Bright Local they want:/

  1. Get your website found.

Cost: $500 to $1,500 per year

It’s one thing to have a website. It’s another to get it found. You need search engine optimization (SEO).

There’s no shortage of companies who provide these services – you probably get calls from them every single day, but few of them are very good, or very trustworthy.

Moz has a great list of trustworthy SEO providers. If they say an SEO firm is good, they’re good.

Don’t expect these companies to be dirt cheap, but they can generate business for you.

  1. Get started with email marketing.

Cost: $500 per year (includes design)

This is an ideal low-budget marketing tactic, and it works. It’s also people’’ preferred way to get marketing communications

There are dozens of email service providers who can set you up to send emails. Some of the more popular ones include:

  • MailChimp
  • Constant Contact
  • GetResponse
  • Campaign Monitor
  • Mad Mimi

4) Spend some money on local advertising.

Cost: $1,500 per year

We’ve got the web well covered by now, so it’s time to turn to “real-world” marketing. Namely, local advertising.

The classic choice is a recurring ad in a local publication. Those don’t come cheap, but over time they can pay for themselves and more. The operative word is “recurring.” Advertising once won’t work, and it may take a couple of tries to figure out which publication works for your business. Go online and look at their rate cards or advertising packages; this information outlines the demographics of the publication’s readers as well as rates, size specifications and deadlines for the kinds of ads they offer.

If you’ve already tried print ads and found them wanting, consider radio ads. I know one flower store that does nothing but radio ads. They love them and get great returns. It’s the only marketing they do.

You can also try special events According to a survey by marketing software company Brandmuscle, these came in as the most effective local marketing tactic. Consider doing things such as setting up booths at community festivals or expos or participating in trade shows and conferences.

5) Pick one: Pay for social media management tool or sponsor a local cause.

Cost: $500 per year

Which one of these you pick will depend on the nature of your business. Some companies are naturals for social media – others never quite get it, and don’t really want to. If you do enjoy social media, a management platform like Buffer or Hootsuite can help a lot. Both platforms offer a basic free service, but to get the full benefit, you will have to pay for their professional versions.

Not a social media enthusiast? Then consider a sponsorship. Many local groups really need support. Even $500 can buy you some terrific advertising plus a heap of goodwill. I know a local pizza place that cleans up on their sponsorship of a local baseball league.

How it all adds up

So here’s our total:

Website (including design help): $1,500

Local SEO: $1,000

Email marketing: $500

Local advertising: print ads, radio, or an event: $1,500

Social media management tool or local sponsorship: $500

TOTAL: $5,000

That should generate enough business to earn your money back, and give you the confidence to invest more next year.

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