As a marketing professional, I'll be the first to say that it's unwise for a business to overspend on their marketing. How much to spend is something I've talked about before, but even if your budget won't get you a dream strategy, you can still grow your business by following these important steps:
1. Know Your Goal
Do you want to build brand awareness, sell a particular product or increase overall revenue?
Marketing strategies are not a pre-determined recipe. They have to be as unique as your business, the specific goal that you are trying to reach at this point in time and the overall vision that is behind that goal.
A strategy to sell a particular product will be very different from one intended to increase overall revenue and both will be different from a strategy focused on building customer loyalty.
At the same time, the primary goal of your marketing strategy can have many sub-goals within it and each of them will often relate to a particular marketing channel.
In short, you need to know:
- Your overall vision
- Your one-year primary goal within that vision
- The sub-goals that are steps to that primary goal
2. What does your ideal marketing strategy include?
Building your dream strategy doesn't mean that you list every marketing tactic/channel that you can think of. Instead, make sure you know what tactics work well for your specific audience, the channels they use and your primary goal.
This way, you can build your strategy with relevant methods that will actually work.
3. Work backward from your ideal
Even if you know what works well for your audience and goal, you need to know what works best.
What influences your audience most when deciding to buy? Do they mostly rely on word-of-mouth and social proof (the new name for testimonials) or do they
look for outlets with meaningful content that addresses their specific problems?
With the answers to these questions, you can prioritize each element of your dream strategy in order from greatest to least impact on your goal.
4. What do you have the time, resources and knowledge to do yourself?
With the variety of tools, information and education available, anyone can learn to be a stellar marketer.
The question is: do you have the desire and time to find the resources you need, vet the tools that are out there and learn the ins and outs of each item
you're trying to implement yourself?
Try to limit your DIY efforts to items you either have a strong background in already or that you can get up to speed on/maintain knowledge in relatively quickly.
Remember, DIY has to be done well or it will cost you more than it saves.
5. Which items need a pro?
Some tactics, or the skill sets they require, take more than a few weeks of blog hopping to learn.
Generally speaking, if it's something that will have a deep impact on your goals, you should hire a professional.
Even if you can't afford to hire someone to execute the project, sometimes you can hire a consultant to advise you on areas you're not strong in and then you can execute from there.
6. Research the production and implementation costs, including DIY
Contrary to popular belief, DIY isn't synonymous with free. There will still be costs for printing, web hosting, online tools, advertising and access to industry research...just to name a few.
7. Spend in order of impact
Once you know how much each item costs, you can apply your budget in the impact order you set in Step 3.
Don't use up your entire budget, though. Unexpected expenses are common, so try to leave a small cushion to cover them. This will also give you room for adjustments that may need to be made.
8. Make sure your strategy is earning its keep
This is one of the most crucial steps for marketing on a tight budget: you not only need to know where to put the limited resources you have, you
need to know whether those tactics are impacting your goals.
While marketing strategies need time to work, changes in technology, customer expectations, industry innovations or competitor advances can all affect your strategy and you have to be ready to adjust your priorities when the situation calls for it.
The danger of working with a tight budget is that it's easy to get used to a certain dollar amount.
Remember that your budget should be a percentage of your revenue; so as your revenue grows, the dollar amount will grow with it, enabling you to expand your marketing efforts.
This is a good thing!