Having worked in the finance side of the hotel business for a Fortune 500 company, I know just how costly various marketing techniques can be and how quickly they can eat into an operating budget. At the same time, however, now that I work for myself, I have seen the other side of things and realize how hard it can be to market on a shoestring budget.
For many smaller operations, the marketing budget often operates on a miniscule budget, and there is little leeway for mistakes along the way. Therefore, it can behoove a small business immensely to have a well thought-out budget before pouring money into various marketing tactics and techniques that could quickly absorb your investment.
Proceed With Caution: Start With A Low Budget
Starting out with your small business marketing budget can be a tough balancing act. It’s kind of a “chicken or the egg” scenario. To market your business, you have to earn money, but to earn money, you’ll likely have to market your business.
As you begin to build your budget, there will probably be many variables and unknowns, and while you’ll want to get your business’s name out there, it’s important to proceed with caution. Putting all your eggs in one basket and dumping the majority of your marketing budget into certain marketing techniques and strategies without knowing exactly how they will play out over time can eat up your budget before you really know what has happened. And if there is little or no past marketing data to which you can compare your successes and failures, moving ahead with carefully planned precision can help protect the little money you have to put toward your marketing strategies.
Tracking Is Key: Go Back And Analyze How You Spent Your Money
Being careful with your marketing budget might not do much good, however, if you don’t know which techniques and tactics are paying off and how. Knowing how much you’ve spent, on what, and where, as well as what the results have been, can help you determine the return on your various marketing investments. Utilizing customer comment cards, surveys and similar feedback can help you collect a database of information to guide you in making future decisions when it comes to how and where to modify your marketing. That way, you can make better use of your marketing allowance.
In the hotel business, we utilized various guest comment cards and surveys to gain valuable customer feedback and determine where we needed to make adjustments in our marketing and service strategies.
Internal Analysis Of A Company Can Help Adjust The Budget As Needed
It’s not likely you’ll hit the nail square on the head in your first year or two of your marketing budget. Year over year, or even month over month, you may find that your budget will need drastic adjustments to allow for movement and changes in your business plan or the market itself. Almost every marketing budget ebbs and flows with the times and tribulations of the economy and its particular market or market niche. Having an open mind and being able to roll with the punches can help you keep your budget on track.
Cutting Losses: Know When To Quit
With a small business, you probably won’t have the wiggle room in your budget that a major corporation would. Therefore, it can be critical to the health of your budget that you realize when it’s time to cut losses. It can be important to give a marketing strategy time to work, but waiting too long before nixing a particular strategy can end up eating up valuable funds that could be applied more efficiently and effectively elsewhere.
Marketing Isn’t a One and Done Process
With most businesses, you can’t just stick with one or two marketing methods and be done with it. With the constantly changing business world in which most of us now work, it can be critical to the effectiveness of your marketing plan and budget that you follow up with and assess your marketing progress.
Part of this might include thinking creatively and working outside the box from time to time. Not every marketing strategy must come out of your marketing budget. With the proliferation of Internet and social networking sites, many great marketing options may have major success with little or no cost. Trade outs with other businesses for free advertising, or even linking up with other websites or competitors could give your budget a breather while increasing revenue and market share.