You have ambitious business goals, but your marketing budget is a little on the frugal side. It’s a common tale for small businesses, which is why it can be so hard to build and sustain revenue growth.
But that doesn’t mean a limited marketing budget has to limit your capacity for growth, either.
Finding the right balance of tactics to get the most out of your marketing budget shouldn’t just be a goal — it should be a gear that turns your enterprise. Here’s how to get the machine running smoothly.
Focus on What Matters
Most self-help gurus advocate having a clear, definable goal. That’s great. But what exactly does “maximizing” mean when applied to your marketing dollars?
I can’t answer that for you, but you need to have a clear answer for your own business. The good news is that it isn’t hard to figure out. In fact, there’s a good chance you can find your preferred goals from among the following:
Everything else is simply hoping that your marketing will one day achieve one of those two goals. Going “viral” with no clear definition of what that means; increasing exposure to traffic; generating buzz on social media; building an online presence — these are all vague terms without tangible, measurable results.
Marketing is here to bring people into your sales funnel and drive revenue for your business. If you don’t focus on that first, you’ll never maximize your bang:buck ratio.
Put Your Sales Funnel in Place First
Let’s say you’re fishing one day and you encounter a school of hundreds of fish. Great. You found the fish. But what if you forgot the reels and the nets?
If you don’t have the infrastructure in place to turn a visitor into a customer, then no amount of marketing spend is going to help your business grow.
A sales funnel might be a well-defined process using a customer relationship manager like Insightly. But if you run a small business where it’s hard to track the movement from web traffic to personal presence, you’ll have to change your definition of marketing success.
If so, you might have to do some brainstorming about your sales funnel.
Your sales funnel might include your voicemail greeting, for example. Or it might come down to a salesperson on the floor handling some foot traffic. It might be as simple as signing up to a free trial of your service online.
Whatever business you’re in, your marketing budget will never be maximized if you don’t already have a system for capturing those fish.
Three Words: Adapt, Adapt, Adapt
If you can’t squeeze any more dollars out of your marketing budget, but you do want to find the tactics that will work for you, then you need to take a lesson from Star Trek’s Borg and learn how to constantly adapt.
At first, the Borg send their drones with no efficiency at all. They move slowly and get taken down by phaser blast after phaser blast. But the Borg are always interested in information. Each phaser blast wasn’t a futile failure: it was a learning opportunity. Soon, the Borg have learned the frequency patterns of those phasers. Eventually, not even phasers can stop the Borg.
Be like the Borg. Use every marketing failure not as an excuse to feel like your marketing efforts are in vain, but look for the little lessons wrapped somewhere in the failures:
In search engine optimization, are there particular keywords you never targeted that are bringing you business?
If you ran two different failed promotions, did one still out-perform the other? Why do you think this might be?
Have you ever run an A/B test to optimize your online presence? What about your physical signage?
Your marketing budget might largely go to waste in your first month. It might even happen in the second month. But so long as you maintain an attitude that, at the very least, a marketing budget buys you information about your customer’s behavior, you can always keep moving toward your goal.
Throw Out What Doesn’t Work — Including Your Own Ideas
One of the hardest ways to grow as a marketer is to confront your own bad ideas about how your business should be marketed.
When a controversial Pepsi ad aired recently, it was met with widespread criticism and derision. The message was strange, the target market was confused, and no one seemed to resonate with or even understand what was happening on screen.
But did Pepsi keep pushing it? Did they assume they knew better than the customer? Were they so dug in that they kept the campaign going?
No. Like professionals, they dumped it and moved on.
If there’s any inspiration to be gleaned from such stories, it’s that the most powerful thing you can do after a marketing failure is forget about your old assumptions, confront the truth about them, and move on. Hopefully with a lesson learned along the way.
When in Doubt, Test it Out
Let’s say you’re new to this whole marketing thing. You have a plethora of tactics at your disposal, but you’re nervous about spending too much on any given one. But if your marketing tactics are ever going to be optimized, you have to have something to optimize in the first place.
That means there’s no shame in testing out a new marketing tactic. Even if it’s a disaster just south of Pepsi’s ad, it doesn’t mean that you’ve accomplished nothing.
Marketing is a constant tug-of-war between what marketers think people respond to and what people actually respond to. Finding out what resonates with people will always be a minefield. The only way to navigate it — at any budget — is first to move forward.
Once you have data, you can then act on that data to identify your best audience and cater your tactics to them — and not everyone else. The result will be a maximized budget full of tactics that work.