Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world. — Archimedes
You might not need an actual lever for your business, but if you have a limited advertising budget, you’ll need to start thinking about every advertising dollar in terms of leverage.
Big corporations have lots of money to establish their branding, repeat their messaging, and maintain a constant presence in consumer minds. Your business doesn’t have that. With you, it comes down to one simple number: return on investment. Here are the best strategies for getting the most lifting power from your limited budget.
What the Wharton School of Business Says About Your Advertising Spending
Not long ago, a seven-year study of dozens of small businesses at the University of Pennsylvania published a report that numbered thousands of pages.
The money you invest is not nearly as important as the individual effectiveness of an advertisement.
Nothing matters more to the success of your ad than its message — not even specific targeting or research.
Repetition increases results.
Which avenues support these principles? Consider:
Online ads are great for repetition since they can literally follow a user around similar searches and browsing paths.
PPC and social media ads may not have long-term payoffs but, properly optimized, they can perform well in the individual effectiveness department. As your company grows, ROI is more important than repetition.
Research and brainstorming will be more important than ever. Not only are they free, but if the content of your ad is the most important thing, you want to take the creative time necessary to get it right.
Let’s start with the first place you can maximize your dollar: advertising research.
Maximize Your Pre-Spending Advertising Dollars
How can a dollar be “pre-spending”? Easy: you don’t spend it at all.
Before you spend a dime, conduct as much free research as possible on your own. You might say that time is money — and you’d be right — but if you want an efficient advertising dollar, you’re going to have to spend your capital somewhere. That means spending your time.
Take the time to do the following before you buy your first ad:
Define your target audience, from demographics on down to the needs they need filled by your business.
Know what the competition is doing, as well as getting a gauge on what’s working for them and what isn’t.
Go through your previous advertising campaigns. If you ran analytics, sort them by the most effective.
Use competitor research tools like Alexa, URLProfiler, and Systrix. A host of paid online tools are useful too, but depending on how important research is to you, you might not want to spring for them just yet.
Decide on Your “Advertising Diet”
Just as a nutritionist allocates a percentage of fat, protein, and carbohydrates or an investor decides between stocks, bonds, and real estate, you’ll want to decide where to allocate your limited advertising funds before you start spending.
If you have a high-converting landing page, you might opt for 75% pay-per-click advertising and 25% social media promotion. If you have a brick-and-mortar business, you might even use a 50-50 online/offline split to reach broader demographics located nearby. As you go, feel free to tinker with the formula to maximize your results.
Email Marketing Earns “Biggest Earner” Status Among Businesses
Let’s talk ROI for a second: pure return on investment. If you’re going to spend a limited advertising budget, then the only number you care about is how much business will come as a result of those advertising dollars.
According to one survey, 67% of businesses ranked email marketing as their top ROI performer — and it wasn’t even close. Online marketing and direct mail came in second and third.
One reason email marketing can generate so much ROI: it doesn’t cost much. It’s free to add an email capture to your website, virtually free to send out emails to your list, and the process is repeatable ad infinitum. If you’re going to make one advertising investment you otherwise wouldn’t have before reading this article, make it email marketing.
Test Everything Along the Way
If this is your first experience with an advertising budget of any size, then you’ll want to realize another dividend for your investment: knowledge.
If your advertising budget is only several hundred dollars per month, for example, don’t just try to squeeze clicks and views out of those ads. Measure them. Squeeze every bit of knowledge you can to get a leg-up on what will be most effective next month.
That means running A/B tests on your PPC headlines, trying out multiple landing pages, even creating multiple campaigns on Facebook for the same exact product. Find what works for you, and you’ll be paid for your efforts in more than just currency. You can’t place a monetary value on experience and insight.
The Worst Advertising Dollar You’ll Ever Spend
In contrast with all the tips above? The idea of never spending an advertising dollar to begin with — even when you have a limited budget in place.
For any small business, a new advertising program can be stressful. You’re unsure if your advertising copy is written the right way, if you’re targeting the right audience, or even if you’ll get any ROI at all. But if you focus on your audience and serving their needs, chances are you’ll find a way to match your ads with what the market needs.
Sometimes, the worst advertising dollar is the one you never spend.
Do you have any experience with finding maximum returns on a limited advertising budget? Share your insights below.