Setting a marketing budget for your business is only the first step toward success. Once you’ve determined how much you can afford to spend, you need to decide how much of your budget to devote to various marketing opportunities.
Keep in mind that each type of marketing has something different to offer, and not all types are recommended for every business. Your budget will influence whether or not you can consider big-ticket items like billboards, radio spots, or print ads, but many forms of digital advertising can be implemented on a smaller scale if you have limited funds.
For the sake of this article, we’ll assume you already have a consistent brand image with matching collateral: a great website, logo, and related materials. If you need to build your brand from the ground up, check out our previous posts on evolutionary branding and custom web design costs to make sure that you factor those into your budget for the year.
As long as your image is on track, you’re ready to use your marketing budget to raise awareness about what makes your company great!
Marketing Must-Haves: Don’t Leave Home Without Them!
While not every company can or should take advantage of every single type of advertising available, there are a few opportunities no one should miss.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Simply put, SEO means taking steps to make sure that your website is found at the top of Google’s organic search results when users query terms related to your business. If you’re selling widgets, you want your company website to rank first when someone searches a phrase like “buy widgets online.” In order to achieve those results, SEO experts use various tactics that teach Google’s robots about your site by providing on-page or behind-the-scenes information explaining what you have to offer and why you should be considered the best resource online for your product.
Why does everyone need SEO?
When your website shows up at the top of Google’s search results for key phrases, you are poised for success. Users have come to view high-ranking sites as relevant and reputable. Sites that rank well are able to scale back on other marketing expenses because they can be found so easily. It’s true that SEO requires patience and consistent efforts over time, but it is by far one of the most important things you can do to market your business.
Social Media Profiles: Whether or not you choose to advertise on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, you should absolutely spend some time (and a small part of your budget) setting up complete, branded profiles on the major networks. Today’s consumers are used to spending their time on social sites, and they expect the businesses that are vying for their attention to meet them there. It’s easy to make sure that your brand is represented, and social media engagement plans are an affordable way to interact with the customers who follow your company.
Why does everyone need to be social?
Peer pressure is seldom a good excuse for behavior, but when it comes to marketing, you can’t afford to leave your competitors alone in a space where potential customers are so likely to find them. This is doubly true when it’s absolutely free to join and requires minimal time and expense to engage your audience.
Targeted Email Marketing: We all hate being spammed, but statistics continue to indicate that targeted email campaigns have some of the best ROI around. This doesn’t mean that your business should send messages to every single email address you have on record. Rather, you should tailor your messages to your audience.
Why can we all benefit from email marketing?
Email marketing is an affordable way to nurture your leads or generate repeat business. Sending out periodic emails with special offers, valuable tips, and members-only discounts will bring people back to your website and encourage them to make a new purchase. Just make sure that every message you send offers something useful to your list!
Marketing Maybes: Consider These Campaigns!
While the marketing options below aren’t right for every company, they might be right for yours. Take a look at the options and think about whether or not they represent a good choice for your business – and your budget!
Trade Shows: Setting up a booth and networking with prospects at a trade show is a great way to make new contacts in your industry, but advertising at trade show events can be very expensive. This is especially true if you have to travel a great distance to attend or pay for a booth and tradeshow graphics, banners, and other collateral.
Is trade show marketing right for you?
Certain industries are a great fit for the trade show scene! If you have a large enough budget, setting up a booth and interacting with other attendees can leave you with a huge number of new leads. Being a trade show advertiser also lends a sense of credibility to your business, and it gives your team the opportunity to come face-to-face with many potential clients all at once. New businesses that need an extra boost can benefit a lot from attending a few trade shows each year.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising: PPC ads put your product or service right on top of Google’s search listings for key terms and phrases that you select. The main benefit of pay-per-click is in its name: you only pay when a user clicks on your ad, so you’re guaranteed a chance to make a big impression on him or her. Although Google’s Adwords program is certainly the largest PPC market, several other companies (like Outbrain and Taboola) will also place these types of ads for your business on relevant websites.
Does your company need PPC ads?
Google Adwords is an excellent way to help search users find your business while you’re still building up your search rankings. We highly recommend Adwords for new or unranked websites, as well as for companies that need to target important keywords or phrases that aren’t yet ranking in Google’s organic search results. PPC ads through services like Taboola and Outbrain are also a good way to market special content, landing pages, or articles that need some extra attention. You can set any budget you like and continually optimize your ads to help them perform better.
Social Media Marketing: Though we recommend that every business maintains active and engaging social profiles on the most popular networks, paid social media marketing on carefully selected networks is a good option for some companies. Think about your audience and where they like to socialize. Are they business professionals who congregate on LinkedIn? Moms who scour Pinterest for the coolest crafts or home designs? Facebook fanatics looking for a fun new place to eat or shop? Go where your audience is.
Will you benefit from paid social media marketing?
Like Adwords, social media marketing can be done on a pay-per-click basis. You can also use it to build up fans or followers on social networks that are important to your business. We really like the use of social media for special promotions or events, so that users have an added incentive to check out your site. Capitalize on current trends, base your ads on what your audience is most interested in, and add value to their experience. Then you can expect your social ads to be a success.
Big Budget Traditional Ads: Advertising in print, on billboards, or using radio or television is one way to make a huge impact. However, these ads are usually too expensive for most small businesses to consider, and while they will reach a large audience, it’s not necessarily the right audience for your company. In many cases, you can get better results from less expensive targeted ads.
Who uses billboards, radio spots, and print ads?
Big advertising takes a big budget. If you can afford to run an ad on the radio, create a television spot, or pay for a billboard while still working on your SEO and maintaining active digital ad campaigns, it might be worth a shot. However, most businesses don’t need such grandiose advertisements, and you should never consider a billboard or commercial if doing so will take away from your marketing basics.
While this article attempts to provide some basic guidelines for small and mid-size businesses, we also think it’s important to keep an open mind and maintain some flexibility when it comes to your marketing efforts. You should expect to analyze your results on a regular basis, and from there, be prepared to make changes that will maximize your ROI. Every marketing campaign will require some adjusting. The key is to start with a winning strategy, and refine it as you go!