Larger companies are constantly pouring incredible amounts of cash into their marketing budgets. In 2017 alone, Amazon spent $3.38 billion, Verizon Communications dished out $2.64 billion, and Comcast Corp. forked over a whopping $5.75 billion all in the name of marketing their businesses.
When it comes to small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), though, you’re lucky if you have a marketing budget in the first place.
Treating Marketing as an Investment
Most SMBs are left to work with marketing budgets in the range of thousands or even hundreds of dollars. Even then, it can be difficult to convince a small business owner (or yourself, if you’re the owner and marketer, as is often the case) to spend money in a way that doesn’t directly address a tangible need or generate cash.
That’s why, to find marketing success, the first thing that an SMB owner must do is change their entire perspective on the marketing process. Rather than viewing it as a necessary expense, they must see their marketing as a quality investment in their company’s future. Well-executed marketing can:
- Foster greater brand awareness.
- Generate interest and leads in your products and services.
- Spread awareness for sales, discounts, and promotions.
- Help you further understand the needs and desires of your target audience.
- Enable you to maintain a position as a thought leader in your industry.
All of these are clearly desirable results that shouldn’t be taken lightly. In other words, you should always view your marketing as an investment in your business’s overall growth and success, rather than a necessary expense that should be minimized and avoided when possible.
Budget-Friendly Ways to Market Your Small Business
Of course, just because marketing can be investment, doesn’t mean it automatically will be. If you try to market children’s car seats at Comic Con or ballet slippers at an NFL game, chances are you’re going to throw your money away by proffering your quality products to the wrong crowd.
As a small business, it’s important to get the most out of every penny of your marketing budget. With that said, here are a few key tips and suggestions that can help you craft a winning marketing strategy for an SMB without breaking the bank in the process.
Sitting down beforehand and coming up with a clear strategy is the essential first step to a profitable small business marketing campaign. If you begin investing your money without direction, chances are you’ll end up wasting significant amounts of time and resources. Instead,
Begin the process by creating a marketing plan. You can start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Have you identified your marketing needs? Make sure you specifically understand what your company is trying to accomplish. Does your audience know who you are? Are you getting traffic but struggling to convert them to sales? Do you lack an online presence?
- Have you created a customer persona? A customer persona (or buyer persona) is a semi-fictional person who represents the ideal customer based on market research and knowledge you possess about your existing customers. A good customer persona can help guide your marketing decisions.
- Have you set clear goals and objectives? What do you want to achieve with your marketing? Brand awareness? Increased revenue? An improved customer experience? What measurable objectives do you have in your sites?
- Have you considered what marketing strategies can help you reach your goals? Numerous marketing tactics are easily accessible to an SMB, such as print publications, blogs, and social media (all of which are covered below). Choosing the best channels is a key step in a sustainable strategy.
By asking the tough questions up front, you infuse your efforts with direction and purpose before you begin investing in the actual marketing itself.
Consider Both Traditional and Digital Marketing Channels
As a small business, you must consider what marketing channels you have available. Fortunately, there are many options to choose from. For example, if you’re a geographically local business, you can lean on traditional methods, such as:
- Print advertising.
- Radio and television ads.
- Sponsoring local events.
- Merchandise advertising.
- Word-of-mouth advertising.
Whether you’re local, regional, national, or international, you can also utilize a variety of digital marketing tactics to help build an online presence, as well. Some of these tactics that are particularly effective for SMBs on a tight budget include:
- Building a website: This is inexpensive and can be an excellent outlet for providing information, taking orders to fulfill in person, or operating a full-blown e-commerce store.
- Setting up social media channels: Look into which platforms your audience uses the most and then set up business accounts using the best two or three options.
- Creating an email list: An opt-in email list is cheap and helps you stay in contact with past patrons in the hopes of turning them into repeat customers.
- Content marketing: The bread and butter of 21st-century digital advertising, content marketing is so affordable and effective that it gets its own section below.
As you assess your options, don’t shy away from doing your research. If you run a local law firm, look into how much a billboard costs. If you have a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, consider setting up a website to spread awareness and take orders online.
As you consider each channel, you can begin to gauge which ones will meet your needs, fit within your budget, and generally be the most effective.
Prioritize Content Marketing
Content marketing is the number one most affordable and effective advertising option. In the past large companies could afford websites and blogging was reserved for passion projects. Now, they can be used to form the bread and butter of your small business marketing strategy.
If you’re unsure what the term means, it’s fairly straightforward. Content marketing consists of strategically creating, producing, and distributing content to your target audience. This can take the form of a social media post, an infographic, a guest post on another blog, and — most often — a company blog on your website.
This last option, in particular, effectively harnesses the power of four different points in the buying cycle.
- Content marketing makes the customer aware that you have a solution to their problem.
- Content marketing enables the customer to research a solution to their problem by providing quality information.
- Content marketing allows a customer to compare different solutions, products, and services.
- Content marketing subtly encourages the customer to make a purchase.
All of these are powerful attributes, especially since it’s reported that 70% of consumers (and 80% of business decision-makers) prefer to gather information from multiple articles rather than through advertisements.
Additionally, content marketing tends to have a phenomenal return on investment (ROI), creating triple the number of leads and costing nearly two-thirds less than comparable outbound marketing.
Whatever marketing channels you end up using in your particular situation, it’s wise to integrate content marketing into the mix in whatever way you can.
Perform Regular SWOT Analysis
Alright, at this point you’ve assessed your needs, gauged your target market, set goals, and considered your marketing channels. Combining this information with your budget should enable you to construct a reasonably effective marketing strategy that fits within your specific needs.
However, this isn’t the end of the line. There’s one more crucial step if you want your marketing to succeed. You must conduct regular SWOT analyses to gauge if your marketing is creating the desired results. A SWOT analysis consists of looking for your strategy’s:
- Strengths: What is currently working?
- Weaknesses: What needs to be adjusted?
- Opportunities: What marketing opportunities are you currently missing?
- Threats: What new threats in your industry must be recognized and prepared for?
In other words, you must regularly review your strategy to refine and perfect it as circumstances, budgets, and even your business change.
Finding Marketing Success on a Budget
SMB owners must approach marketing as an investment if they want to survive and thrive over the long-term. However, they must also carefully consider how they go about creating their marketing strategies.
Assessing needs, understanding your customers, choosing proper marketing channels, and reassessing your strategy’s effectiveness are all key elements that can ultimately lead to success no matter how small your budget might be.