When business leaders conduct market research, one of the most important metrics they examine is their marketing budgets. How much do their competitors spend on advertising? What is considered to be too expensive? Who reaps the most from their investments? The answers to these and other questions are important, as they can provide a baseline from which to make decisions at the executive level.
The CMO Survey, a biannual report sponsored by Deloitte LLP, the American Marketing Association, and the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, looks at marketing budgets across industries. In 2016, the average business allocated roughly 11 percent of its overall budget toward efforts to secure new clients. Based on revenue, the percentage dropped to about 7.5 percent.
In the tech industry, companies spent more in the neighborhood of 13.8 percent of their revenue. What this means is that Apple, which generated nearly $53 billion in revenue in the second quarter of 2017 alone, is easily spending ten figures on its marketing efforts. However, not every company has these kinds of resources.
So how can you effectively market your startup and small businesses on a tight budget? Here are a few strategies to consider.
Become a contributing author.
While advertising in a major magazine or news outlet may not be in your budget, writing an article for these same publications is absolutely free. Business leaders have had a lot of success in simply drafting and submitting a few paragraphs on a topic they find interesting and relevant to their company. Potential partners and customers read the content, and the startup owner hasn’t spent a dime.
Speak at industry events.
Perhaps writing is not one of your strengths, but speaking and interacting with an audience are. In this case, a similar approach to contributing to a magazine would be volunteering to speak at an industry event. Small business owners can leverage this platform to establish authority, build a personal brand, and spread the word (at no cost) about their company. Radio is a similar medium for this approach.
Help to organize a community event.
Speaking at a conference or making a guest appearance on a radio show allow business leaders to reach a certain demographic. One way to extend this presence to the broader community is to organize an event. Typically, this type of effort will require more time than money (except in the case of sponsorship), making it a great option for business leaders on a small budget.
Contact local news outlets.
Opportunities for free publicity exist in just about any city. Any time your business has a significant milestone, such as a grand opening, you can notify the local media and let them deliver the message to the public for you. Not only does this get the word out, but it does so with an added sense of credibility, often sparking a word-of-mouth relay.
Avoid focusing too much on the company website.
Yes, having a website is absolutely essential in the digital age, but even on a limited budget, business leaders need to diversify their marketing efforts. The goal should be to develop an impressive website and assume that it will drive all the necessary traffic. Optimize it for mobile, ensure that users can easily navigate it, and update content for relevancy, but trust in the process of linking to it from other sources.
Use print media.
The pull toward doing everything digitally has pushed many business owners away from traditional print media. However, sending out flyers and mailers can benefit a marketing campaign, especially with tie-ins to the tech world. For example, QR codes can enable you to connect people to your website with a simple, quick scan.
Make the most out of email.
Creating a strong email pool is one of the most effective and traditionally inexpensive marketing strategies. In order to maximize the effectiveness of these outreach efforts, business leaders should invest time in producing appealing headlines that include information that merits sending an email. Consumers can then unsubscribe if they consider the content spam.
Complement messages with visual content.
Creating engaging content for consumers often works best when the message features a visual component. Even startup owners who do not have a graphics team assembled can obtain free or low-cost images and infographics from apps such as Canva, Info.gram, or Piktochart.
Rethink the packaging.
A growing marketing trend involves conveying the same message to consumers in creative new ways, which does not have to cost money. Instead of simply reaching out and telling people what you have to offer and for how much, you can try framing these details in a broader narrative detailing how the business began or what it aims to achieve.
Don’t overlook LinkedIn.
While social media is perhaps the most powerful and cost-efficient marketing strategy available, many business owners overlook LinkedIn. The general concept of this platform is that it not only helps you to make connections with other professionals, but it can effectively help you to generate more clients, as well.