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Apr 20, 2018 by Jesse Mutzebaugh

What’s the best way to spend on marketing with a limited budget?

The short answer is there is no short answer. There are two basic ways to engage in marketing – time leveraged strategies and money leveraged strategies. I can tell you that time upfront will pay dividends on the back end.

Blindly recommending Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or print materials without a great strategy is going to leave you at the mercy of their algorithms. Sure, your impressions are going to be high, but so will taking out an ad in Time magazine. High impressions, zero engagement.

Before I recommend where to spend your marketing dollars, you need to answer some basic questions yourself:

  1. What is the value and purpose of your product or service?
  2. What is your desired outcome?
  3. Who is your target audience?
  4. What is the best platform on which to reach them?

The confluence of these questions will lead you right to where you need to go. The bulk of your attention and time should be focused on these questions before you determine where you’re going to spend your money.

Your planning in this phase is an investment, where you spend your money is a cost.

My close personal friend, Albert Einstein, is alleged to have said the following:

If I had only one hour to solve a problem, I would spend up to two-thirds of that hour in attempting to define what the problem is.

Preparation is the key to the success of your marketing campaign. The difference between spending $5,000 and $50,000 on marketing is more in the preparation than the execution – targeting the right people with the right message at the right time(s).

What’s the value and purpose of your product or service?

Charity Water and Nike both offer valuable products, but why people buy into each one is completely different. As such, their voice, tone, and messaging will look drastically different. You have to know your why before you start marketing it.

What is your desired outcome?

Marketing strategies must be built on more than “grow my business”. Here are a couple of outcomes to get your brainstorming session going:

  • Establish a unique voice to differentiate from the competition.
  • Create a core mission to help build the brand.
  • Focus on customer acquisition.
  • Focus on customer retention or reconversion.
  • Raise awareness about a new product or service.
  • Recover from bad PR, competitor smear campaign, or a shift in the industry.
  • Run a seasonal promotion or promote an event.

Desired outcomes allow you to better determine the quantitative and qualitative aspects of your marketing campaign. More importantly, it helps you get inside your customer’s heads and where they are in the buyer’s journey.

Who is your target audience?

Let’s say we’re building a marketing campaign for Sesame Street’s live show in a region. The primary target audience is not going to be the children who watch the show, but the parents who will buy tickets. Social media will show pictures of parents having fun with their children. Ads will be geo-targeted to parents near an event. We would aggressively re-target anyone who has previously attended a live event.

If we went into building a campaign for children, we’d be completely missing the audience that is willing and able to pay (not to mention potentially breaking CIPA laws in this case).

The point is your audience will differ on many demographics and where they’re at in the customer’s journey. The more clarity you have here, the better you can target the right people with the right message.

What is the best platform to reach your audience?

In general, we prefer to use digital campaigns. It’s much easier to track and adjust to what’s working and what isn’t. Plus, digital creates multiple opportunities to engage.

Think of the 80/20 rule, or in this case, an 80/10/10 rule: 10 percent of your audience will buy, 10 will not.

Wouldn’t you like multiple opportunities to convince the 80 percent on the fence?

By retargeting through Google, Facebook, or your Newsletter, you have the chance to communicate repeatedly.

This is where you can still make a big impact with little money. If you don’t have a high marketing budget or a huge audience, spend money fishing in a small pond where you know you can get a bite, then set yourself up to follow up repeatedly. Bonus tip: if you can build an email list from your campaign, you can retarget and follow up at a fraction of the cost of ad-spend with an automated drip campaign.

This could look like targeting a very niche group of people on Facebook, having a booth at an industry conference or farmers market, or hosting workshops.

If you already have an audience, you can focus on turning them into evangelists by adding more value or giving them a reason to let others know about you.

No matter what your marketing budget looks like, keep spending time answering your core marketing questions and clarifying your goals. If you do this, then your marketing success won’t be at the mercy of algorithms, but on a clear, refined process.