If you're a small business, your marketing budget is likely in the "every dollar counts" category. Making sure you're getting the absolute biggest bang for your buck is essential, and there are a few key things you can do to make sure you're pinching pennies properly. Here are five:
1. Set clear objectives. You'd be surprised how many small businesses see marketing as a standard series of steps they need to take (run an ad, build a website, call it a day...) without ever thinking specifically about goals. If you're spending money on an ad, a website or anything else, you must make a clear outline of what this expenditure is supposed to accomplish. If you're running an ad, is it there to drive sales of a specific product, raise awareness of your company, attract new inquiries or something else? There's no right answer to what your objectives should be, as long as you are able to define them to your satisfaction.
2. Know your audience. Another thing a lot of small business owners fail to consider is who their target audience is. These folks go into business to pursue their passion, choosing a storefront or office in a location they love and making a go of offering something they feel strongly about to the world... without necessarily confirming that the world wants it, or that they're set up in the best spot to connect with the people who do want what they're offering. Knowing your audience will make everything that follows easier.
3. Know your competition. One more common oversight: seeing who else is out there serving the same purpose. This is what's behind having six nail salons and four coffee places within a one block radius. If you don't know who you're up against, there's no way to determine how to stand out from the pack, and it leaves you vulnerable to being overtaken by a savvier competitor.
4. Have a hard-working website. Your website shouldn't just be an online brochure. Thoughtful web design can make your site generate new business, process sales, help with scheduling, build community and so much more. This is a place worth spending the money to work with a pro who can help tailor your site to become one of the hardest working members of your team, ultimately paying for itself with the role that it plays.
5. Track every penny you spend. Almost every dollar you spend on marketing can be tracked, thanks to a variety of tools available either for free or at a price. If you spend $50 on a Google Ad to drive traffic to your website, you should also be tracking how much money you earn directly and indirectly because of that ad. The online marketing technology is there, and if you aren't using it, you may as well toss fliers into a breeze for all the clarity you'll have about what kind of return you're seeing on your marketing investment.