Business Basics: How to Spend Your Marketing Budget

Marketing is something all small business owners need to understand. It is fundamental in letting customers know about your product or service. Many people, particularly sole proprietors starting out, don’t have much of a budget for this purpose and also don’t feel like they have the money to spare specifically for a marketing budget. You may feel as though that is something for bigger companies to worry about and that you can do without it.

However, this is simply not true. The hard fact of the matter is: anyone in business for themselves needs to have a marketing budget, or they won’t remain in business for very long. You need to be in control of your brand and how customers see you and find out about you. While you may not want to spend the money, you need to in order to give your business the best chance of succeeding.

When tackling this question for the first time, you will likely wonder how you can make the most impact with the budget you do have. Your budget does not have to be massive. Maybe even only $100 per month or quarter. But you do need to have it and spend it in the most effective ways. Here are three suggestions I have for those of you getting started:

#1: Social Media

There are some areas where you should really focus, no matter your industry. The first is social media, specifically something like Facebook advertising. Facebook advertising is a great way for people who have never done advertising before to step into it. The big upside is complete control of cost. You determine how much you want to spend on advertising per day and the costs will not exceed that (perfect for a small marketing budget). It’s great for new product launches or for targeting local demographics in the hope they will come to your event.

The other major advantage of Facebook advertising is the ease at which you can select your exact target demographic. Facebook has already collected information on each user’s habits and can leverage that to display your ads to the people most likely to be interested in them. This makes Facebook advertising an ideal way for mompreneurs to learn how to reach their target demographic.

#2: Event Participation

The second area is participating in various promotional opportunities. This can be tricky because many of these events or TV spots that are well-regarded and have massive reach. But they can cost significant amounts of money – $3,500 or more just to participate. Is it worth paying to be a part of something like that, especially if it is a large portion of your marketing budget? The answer is, of course, that it depends. It is not uncommon for new entrepreneurs to be approached with numerous opportunities like this that ask you to spend money.

The real question you must ask yourself is whether you will really get $3,500 worth in advertising from these opportunities. You can evaluate this by looking at the reality versus the potential. Don’t let someone sell you on the potential. Focus on whether or not such opportunities put you directly in the line of sight of your ideal client. If it does not, you must move on.

For example, if you know a TV program that wants to feature you is heavily watched by retired individuals, and retirees are your main demographic, it might be the perfect decision to pursue that opportunity. It’s easy to get starstruck by being on TV, but if your target demographic is young professionals and the TV program is largely watched by retired individuals, it’s not going to help you sell more of your product or service. Don’t waste advertising dollars on the wrong target audience. Instead, only consider opportunities that put you directly in front of the demographic you are ideally targeting with your product.

#3: Printed Promotional Material

A third thing to do is go out into your community and participate in or host events. For example, there might be a 5k or 10k race in town for which you are going to be a sponsor. This can mean you have a booth at the end where you get to hand out a swag bag, coupons, flyers and other things of the sort. Anytime you are out in the community, you need to have some sort of printed promotional material for your business. This should be passed out to anyone.

This material needs to have some sort of offer on it, in order to entice people to give your product a try. Four-by-six inch postcards are a great option for this because you can get so many of them for a very cheap price from sources like Vistaprint, as well as fit a lot of information on them. You can also handwrite a special date or offer on the back of them to customize them for whatever promotion you are doing at the time. Because they are cheap and easy to have on your person to hand out at any time, they are a great way to get your brand out there and keep it on top of mind.

These are just three of the ideas I know work well, and I know how good marketing budget decisions are key to running a successful business, no matter how big or small. I talk a lot about marketing on this blog and on my podcast, so check those resources out too. If you are unsure how best to utilize your budget, or have had limited success, I can help.

Coaching mompreneurs is my passion, so contact me today for your free discovery session if you would like coaching on how to manage a small business advertising budget.

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Why Social Marketing is Critical for Mom Entrepreneur Businesses–Part 1

Those of you who have spent any time around me, or on the phone with me, or reading my blog have heard me get a little preachy when it comes to Social Media and its marketing capabilities. Especially now, when the economy is giving us “the gift” of more time to plan, organize and market our businesses, I’d like to help you get some great exposure for the hard work that you do. For FREE!

Lately, I’ve been busy. Yahoo! In the last week, I’ve been invited to give a workshop to a parenting group in Ontario, I’ve been interviewed for a mini-documentary about my Mom Biz Coach business for a London, ON radio station, and I’ve been asked to contribute an article I’ve written and to consider collaborating with a phenomenal group of women coaches. In fact, I’m thrilled to have just received another invitation to be interviewed by a talk show hostess this morning.

How did all this happen?

I didn’t cold call anyone. I didn’t take out a large print ad in the local magazines and newspapers. I didn’t pay for specialized SEO for my websites. I didn’t pay for a booth at a networking event. I didn’t send out a press release to anyone. In fact, I didn’t pay for anything and I was probably wearing my pajamas in the comfort of my own home when my marketing was working for me. And rather than “pushing” my marketing message out to the world, I’m “attracting” an audience who is interested in what I do.

So what is Social Media? The easiest way for me to think about it is to compare it to a Chamber of Commerce or a small business networking group (like BNI). All of us entrepreneurs know that marketing is important, but we seldom choose to allocate large portions of our budget to it. Instead, we often choose the “free” marketing route of appearing at various business networking events, introducing ourselves to other small business owners, exchanging business cards, and giving and asking for referrals.

I did this for the first two or three years of my business. But then, when I moved across the border to Windsor, and had no babysitters for these morning Chamber/BNI meetings, I started seeing just how much these “free marketing” opportunities were costing me in time and headaches. As a mom of three kids aged six and under, attending a weekly 7am coffee at the local chapter of BNI simply doesn’t work. So how can we mom business owners effectively network, give and get referrals, and in general get the world “buzzing” about our businesses?

Enter Social Media! You may also have heard some other terms associated with it, like Social Networking, Social Marketing, Viral Marketing, etc.

Here’s the skinny:

Social Media is a fast, professional, easy and effective way to market your business. And in my own humble opinion, it beats using the traditional methods (print ads, radio ads, tv ads, booths at tradeshows, etc.) since it is 1) free and 2) working for you when you’re not even awake!

Some examples of Social Media I’m using are LinkedIn, Facebook, twitter and my wordpress.com blog. There are countless others out there, but I’m going to focus on the ones I use. Each of these sites allows me to set up an account for free. I create a profile of my business (including my bio/resume sometimes, or my background and interests, or my expertise on a certain topic), upload a professional photo of myself, and include links to all my other sites (websites, blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook and twitter accounts).

All of these media allow me to build my online network by making connections (LinkedIn), inviting more friends (Facebook), increasing my followers and the people I follow (twitter), and offering an RSS/subscription service (blogs). Just as you would build your professional network via business card exchanges, referrals, attending networking events, etc., you build your community of people you are interested in and who are interested in you. Unlike traditional networking and marketing, you don’t have to hire a babysitter, dry clean your suit, and spend time commuting to and from your home or office. In fact, I do most of my social networking just two or three minutes at a time with at least one child on my lap.

As a coach, I’m in the services business. I don’t have a product (other than myself) to sell (yet!). My intention when I market my business is to get people to know, like and trust me. People like to buy from people they know, like and trust. Of course, you can use Social Media platforms to socialize with friends and family, but the reason I use it for business is because I find the online business community to be extremely approachable. I am able to introduce myself and be introduced to others by typing a quick message like, “Hi! I love your work. Look forward to learning from you!”

In very little time, I usually get a message back. There: a virtual handshake that’s informal, yet powerful. And if this new contact is interested in learning more about me, s/he can do so via my profile, which in turn links them to my websites, blogs and other Social Media platforms. After reading about me in these platforms, a potential client is pre-qualified to do business with me since I explain how I work, what I offer and what I charge on my website. So you see, I can end up with a pre-qualified sales lead as a result of typing 11 words and hitting send. How easy is that?

And it can be even easier. Since most Social Networking platforms (like LinkedIn, Facebook and twitter) allow all of my friends/connections to see who I’m connected to and to read my posts, I often get messages from people who are “friends of my friends” who I never contacted directly. This passing of information continues to spread, like a virus (hence the term “viral marketing”) to all of my friends, then to their friends, and so on. And it travels fast!

So this is where I’ll end my first installation about Social Media and why you should be using it to promote your business. I hope you’ll take a peak at some of the options out there. I’ll go into greater depth about how it works (including some examples) and offer some resources for more information in the next two issues of my ezine. If you have questions, please ask. I’m excited to help you grow your business!

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