Businesses of every size and shape worry about their marketing budgets. It is the most difficult money to track the value of, but without it every business will contract and eventually disappear. So business owners want to know: how much should I be spending on marketing? It’s a question that cannot be answered definitively because there are many factors that come into play that will have a bearing on the exact numbers and percentages. Are your customers Transaction Buyers or Relationship Buyers? What are the opportunity costs associated with each lead? How competitive is your market? Yet despite the myriad factors that affect the dollars spent, what really has the most bearing on how much you should put towards marketing is this: What kind of business do you really want to be?
Marketing Towards a Goal
If you are like most business owners, there are two versions of your business – the one that exists now and the one that you would like it to be. Closing the gap between those two versions requires enterprise level thinking about your business model and the systems that allow you to make a profit. But the path to getting from where you are now to your future business is paved by marketing. Without a consistent flow of leads you will be struggling to make ends meet and will be constantly scrambling. Lead generation through marketing requires consistent funding at a level that allows you to not just get by, but to grow. That perspective must determine your marketing budget. If your business is functioning solely on word of mouth then you are essentially getting by on a bread and water diet. To grow your business you need to nourish it with with a healthy diet.
A Healthy Diet of Marketing
Food is a pretty good metaphor for marketing because it provides fuel. And just like food, in marketing there are high calorie sweets that provide little in the way of fuel but that are very enticing. The quick hit advertising opportunities and shortcut SEO plans will rot your efforts and provide little in the way of usable marketing. However, developing a healthy marketing diet will create a consistent and sustainable flow of leads to grow your business with the right customers that will take you in the direction you want it to go. What that diet looks like exactly is based on the factors I mentioned early but they will exist within the framework of your customers Path to Purchase. I talked about this in great detail in an earlier post here but the takeaway is that your future customers (and in the final phase, current and past customers) exist within a decision making spectrum that you can influence at various points. This “cognitive path to purchase’ represents opportunities to reach consumers and provide them with information and motivation to convert them into customers. This involves using the right tool with the right message at the right time. So think of it as a balanced plate, some outbound advertising for consumers who are at equilibrium, inbound content marketing for researchers, email marketing for rebound customers and voila, instant marketing health. It’s a slight oversimplification because there are several other marketing tools that can be applied at different stages but you get the idea. Market to consumers at every stage and you end up with a steady stream of leads that will keep the cash flowing and allow you to grow.
So What Does This Look Like in $$$$
Translating that diet into dollars and cents can get a little gray for business owners. There are industry ranges for what you should expect to pay for content marketing, native ad management and many other marketing activities. Many marketing firms are reticent to publish their prices but we decided long ago that it’s important information for business owners to see so that they don’t waste their time. So if we ran out the base line marketing “diet” I outlined in the previous paragraph, which included Native Ads, Content Marketing and Email Marketing you should expect to spend approximately $1000 to $1500 a month. To put that into perspective, if you have been in business through the print advertising heyday you know that monthly dollar figure is equal to just a couple of print ad insertions, and the benefits are far greater. With the granular targeting of native ads, the SEO power of Content Marketing and resilient strength of email marketing you will get more return than you ever could with print.
Now Is the Time!
If you have neglected your ongoing marketing because you were unsure where to start or what would work for you, the good news is there is no better time to get started than today. Armed with a sound approach, you can get started on your own or be equipped to engage a marketing firm in an educated discussion about where you would like your business to go. Remember, a steady diet of solid marketing that leverages the best tools in today’s marketplace will provide a good flow of leads and allow you to grow into the business you want to be.