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Up and running on a tight marketing budget

Posted on January 01, 2014

Note the title people - This is not a post about how to do cheap SEO or how you can run an effective marketing campaign in an ongoing way on the cheap (this just isn't feasible).  What this is though, is how to spend your money the smart way, minimising wasted spend, getting some focus on where to spend your money, and moving into getting traction with your preferred medium(s) of marketing!

Get on the right page

Online marketing is just that - A form of marketing and used strategically it can capture you more customers who end up buying from you repeatedly.  Marketing is an investment in your brand and your products and services, it is not meant to be something you look at as a once-off to drum up business or to 'get onto the scene', because it just doesn't work like that.  If you're in the correct headspace that any marketing takes time, strategy and knowledge about your customers, read on my friend...

Get your head around what's involved

Ok first things first: you need to take a hard look at your spend amount.  You may not have ventured out there yet getting quotes etc, however something so many people get shocked about is that the pricing they get for someone to manage their Google AdWords or Facebook Ads doesn't include the associated ad-spend.  Something people also don't realise is that ads cost differently for different kinds industries, so it's very hard for someone to give you a fixed price for management and the ads as well (as much as they probably would like to).

Here are the key things you need to know before progressing:

SEO: This is the king of online marketing and something I firmly believe in, and I'll tell you why - While it takes some time to positively affect your rankings and get you a solid trajectory in increasing rankings, it has a capped management spend a month, and if you are frugal but effective with your spend (and you have a good SEO if you're not doing it yourself) you can get results that ads will never be able to net you.  A high organic rank is something different entirely to being on the front page of Google with your ads, because I think people inherently trust an organic rank much more than they ever would ads they know companies pay for.

Ads: When looking at pay per click advertising, think thoroughly about what channels would be the best for your type of business.  There are two main players in the PPC space, Google AdWords and Facebook Ads. Firstly, the ads cost up to 4x more on Google, and one click literally means one potential customer, whereas through the benefits of a social network, one click can mean several potentials.  So why would you choose Google over Facebook? Well for starters, Google puts your ads in front of people who are looking for you, whereas Facebook puts your ads in front of people who relationally may be interested.  The ability to target is also different between the two, Google let's you target by region, timeframe and device, whereas Facebook lets you target by region and a multitude of demographics like what people like, the movies they watch, etc.  If you'd like a bit more of a breakdown between the two, have a read of my previous article about whether PPC or SMA will work better for you.

Figure out a budget

You know your incomings and how much flex you've got in your budget, now it's a matter of understanding the value of what you're trying to derive from online marketing and what you're happy to pay for it.  If you're at this point and hoping for discounts to be able to afford online marketing, it's not the right time for your business to be embarking on this journey and I'd suggest determining what the cost will be when you do start, but focussing on other methods to tie you over in the meantime.  A good yardstick though is as follows:

SEO: Don't expect decent SEO for under $700/month.  Yes there are players out there who offer it for less and even offer things like "we won't charge you until you're ranking on the first page", however nothing comes for free. Whether they are looking to get you into a contract or make money by selling your details to marketing companies, they will be making other money somehow.  A good company will charge based on competitiveness because they focus on determining an effective amount of time to spend on keeping you competitive, and in a not-very-competitive market consider that $700 being spent on around 10 hours a month.

Ads: Good management of any ad account should be done several times a week to ensure that efficiency doesn't fall and ad-spend isn't being wasted on pointless clicks.  Expect to pay around $300+/month for good management, think of the breakdown as about 1.5 hours a week.

Determine where to spend that budget

Ok so you have an idea of what you can afford and what you can't just yet - It's time to apply some strategy!  Let's start by assuming you don't have any idea about the keywords you want to use.  If this is the case, The Google Adwords Keyword Planner is your new best friend.  While this tool is designed for ads, using it to find keyword ideas and search volumes for particular keywords is very good as a starting point.

At this point if you're only interested in SEO you might want to start with optimising for these keywords and working on that as a long term strategy.  Keep in mind that it will take several months to rank effectively, and that's assuming you are optimising correctly and not damaging your own rank by being naughty and doing blackhat tactics.

If you've got a bit of budget to play with, I suggest running some ads.  By runnings ads and doing some basic a/b testing, you can refine your keyword list even further and get some really good feedback about copy, and how to sell to your customer base.  This works really well on Google, however if a social following and 'chatter' is best for your business then use Facebook ads instead.  They don't give direct feedback about copy or anything, but still shows you what gets customers excited and you get chatter about you in the Facebook world that can end up converting into real sales.

If you sell items on your website, then continuing ads is a good idea as driving customers directly to that product and closing them then and there is what will bring in cashflow, which can be fed back into your marketing budget to expand the number of products or services you advertise.

Have a strategy on when to change your strategy

About the Author

James Richardson

Sales Director

James Richardson started his online career by running online Sports Fan sites (luckily none are still online today), with the pinnacle of the site being a write up in the Sunday Herald Sun 'Wired' column.

His professional career began at a ASX listed company, Melbourne IT, where he held various senior roles across the Sales and Marketing teams, before deciding to venture out on his own.

Running several successful online websites and businesses himself, he is well placed at understanding your business needs.

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