In the modern business world, companies of all kinds and sizes need to set up robust marketing operations if they’re to remain competitive. In particular, digital marketing needs to be a priority — partly because it’s more effective, and partly because it tends to be cost-effective. As a Forbes piece on digital marketing put it, there is no minimum barrier for entry; you can “run a $5 campaign” if you want to.
While that may be true in a strict sense, however, it does not accurately depict most businesses’ experience with digital marketing campaigns. The truth is that as you address everything from email campaigns, to social media management, to content production, a strategic digital marketing effort can add up quickly. That brings us to our core question, which is how businesses can keep their marketing budgets under control.
Solutions will vary to some degree according to resources and preferences. There are, however, some general guidelines as to how to market effectively and affordably.
Prioritize Low-Cost Methods
One of the most effective way to keep marketing expenses low is to start your effort with relatively low-cost methods. We explored some these methods in our piece on the ‘Top 5 Effective, Low-Cost Small Business Tips for Success’— highlighting things like content marketing, retargeting, and feedback from regular customers. These are all things you and your business can engage on without having to spend too heavily, and they can at least set up the foundation of strong digital marketing and customer service efforts. You may still have to build on top of the most affordable methods in the long run, but starting with low-cost practices will help you maintain the lowest possible output.
Let Analytics Guide You
Analytics are part of any sophisticated digital marketing effort today, and are typically valued for their ability to clarify which methods are working best, and why. By extension though, analytics can show which methods have the greatest value. If your data shows, for instance, that you’re spending more on content marketing than on social media management, but you’re getting similar benefits from both, you may want to adjust your spending accordingly. That’s a hypothetical example, but it conveys the basic idea: Let analytics convey value, and use the information to narrow and refine your marketing budget.
Track Expenses on Business Credit Card
Ideally, a business spending on marketing should be doing so via a company credit card, so as to keep expenses in one place. This means that payments to employees, for services, and so on should originate with one card. It may not seem essential, but by handling things this way, a business can also take advantage of modern tracking tools that essentially provide spending-related data for analytical purposes. An insights feature on Petal Card speaks to the specific benefits this kind of tool can provide — namely the identification of where spending goes, and the visualization of spending charts. These kinds of functions provide businesses with clear snapshots of all of their marketing expenses, making it easier to see if costs are getting too high in any one area, or if the budget is holding as intended.
Track Time As Well
You should also keep in mind that time can be as valuable as money, particularly in a small business. Therefore, you should make an effort to track the time spent on marketing efforts as well, and assess regularly whether or not that time is paying off adequately. There are different ways of approaching this kind of effort, though some of the freelance time trackers highlighted on Wirecutter can be particularly helpful. These tools — Toggl, Harvest, Timeular, and more — are good for monitoring time spent on specific tasks, and can help you to gain a clearer picture of whether you or any employees are too preoccupied with a given task for it to be worthwhile.
You should ultimately expect to spend a decent amount bringing about effective digital marketing practices, particularly if your business is looking to grow. These steps, however, will help you to make sure you aren’t spending more than you actually need to on specific efforts.