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Setting a Marketing Budget for Your Small Business

Updated: May 25, 2020

Don’t Be Afraid of Getting Your Name Out There!

One thing I’ve learned during my time as an entrepreneur is that we small business owners are always looking to take things to the next level. There’s a constant desire to kick things up a notch, to hunt for the next big thing, to look for more. I’ve worked with companies both large and small, and a great way to move the meter on your business is to consider doing a bit of marketing. Unfortunately, that can sometimes be where things get a bit tricky. The world of marketing is, to many, a scary, daunting place, full of “creatives” and “buzz words,” and people looking to part your business from its hard-earned money. Now, there are plenty of irrational fears about the industry that can be explained away, but nearly any effective form of marketing is going to necessitate an investment of capital – and therefore, will require a budget.

There’s that terrifying, six-letter word! It can always be a little distressing setting a budget for anything, especially as a small business owner. I think that a lot of this fear comes from the fact that people often view funds earmarked for a budget as money that’s been thrown into the wind. It used to be theirs, but now it’s gone – sacrificed to the gods of marketing! Further, the proposition of setting a budget for something as nebulous and conceptual as “marketing” can be an odd experience as well. In most cases, when you spend money on something, you receive something tangible in return: if you spend X amount of money, you get Y product in return. For individuals new to the world of marketing, it can be tough parting with that income, especially when the return doesn’t necessarily appear to be a quantifiable thing.

With all that being said, I would encourage anybody who owns a small business to approach marketing from a wholly fresh perspective. Spending money to make money is never an easy ask, but it is oftentimes an entirely necessary part of being a business owner. Further, investing in marketing can be the best thing you do for your company – if you’re smart about it. It’s all about knowing your business, making intelligent decisions, and working with a team or individual that has your best interests at heart.

So, where to begin in determining a marketing budget? Well, let’s start with what’s most important – your company. The current state of your business and the stage of life that it’s at will help you decide some of the overarching characteristics of your marketing budget. Has your business been around for a few years, and does it already enjoy an appreciable amount of brand recognition within its target market? You can probably get away with spending anywhere between 6-10% of your projected revenue on marketing. If you’re a brand-new business and are just working on getting your name out there, you’ll probably want to bump that number up to be closer to 10-15% of your revenue; this might seem like a hefty chunk of change, but keep in mind that if your business is newer, 15% of your earnings will generally amount to a much smaller total than the same percentage of an established business’s revenue. You can play around with these numbers a bit – and of course, at the end of the day, it all comes down to doing what’s best for your business – but these are some decent figures to start out with. Numbers like these can be a little unnerving, but keep in mind that if you’re starting a new business, you’ll be looking to carve out a market space and develop brand recognition with an audience group that has literally never heard of you before – not exactly an easy task. As businesses establish themselves and develop that brand awareness, the cost of doing marketing drops significantly, as they’ve already got that name-recognition going for them.

From there, it’s a matter of deciding how to best allocate those funds. That in and of itself is a topic complex enough for an entirely separate article, but to give you a quick overview, there are a number of marketing venues that you’re now empowered to pursue after setting your budget, including branding, social media, websites, advertising (both digital and traditional), content, and even special events. Once you’ve nailed down your marketing budget, a whole plethora of options to set your business ahead become available. It can be a little intimidating setting that budget in the first place, but once you do, the opportunities that begin to present themselves are nearly limitless. Open up a bottle of wine and celebrate – your business now has a marketing budget, and the potential to reach countless numbers of clients who wouldn’t have heard of you otherwise. Congratulations!



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