If you run a local business, you may view marketing as a problematic, nebulous, expensive, “necessary evil.”
Or you may not see the need for a marketing plan at all, relying instead on “word of mouth” or foot traffic to bring customers to your door. (More on that later.)
Regardless of your views, it’s a good bet that if you’re reading this article, you want to know the best ways to stretch your marketing dollar. Well, you’re in the right place.
How much should a small business spend on marketing?
First of all, let’s clarify just how big that small business marketing dollar should be.
At Womply, we serve more than 150,000 small business clients in every corner of America. Our recommendation is that small businesses spend 7-8% of gross revenue on marketing, which corresponds to guidance from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
That may sound like a lot, but consider that larger businesses on average spend about 13% of their gross revenue on marketing, and a study by Duke University and Deloitte found that many businesses spend up to 50%! Yikes.
If this all sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. While you really should have a marketing budget, small businesses don’t have to spend nearly as much as big companies, and spending more doesn’t necessarily produce better results.
If you’re careful and smart, even a modest marketing budget will produce significant returns. (You can even see substantial improvements without spending ANY money! Keep reading for the secret.)
Own your online presence and you will attract more customers
Some of the most effective small business marketing tools are not only affordable, they’re positively cheap. How cheap are we talking? Well, how does FREE strike you?
But before you spend ANY money on advertising, you first need to optimize your online presence—your business’s digital reputation—and all this costs you is your time. If you don’t start here, any advertising dollars you spend will just send your potential customers to someone else.
Why? Because, although “word of mouth” is still the #1 way customers find local businesses, that conversation has now moved online to review sites like Yelp, Facebook, Google My Business, and TripAdvisor. And 88% of consumers trust recommendations from these sites as much as personal recommendations from friends or family!
So, imagine you spend $1,000 per month on advertising but you haven’t first claimed your business profile on all the popular review sites and taken control of your online presence.
What’s the first thing people do when they hear of a local business they’re interested in patronizing? You guessed it… they search online for reviews, location, hours of operation, etc.
So if you start spending advertising money without first optimizing your online presence, you’re promoting a business that either (a) people can’t research online because you don’t have a solid digital footprint, or (b) has a poor review rating and/or inaccurate information on these critical sites. In either case, you’re wasting your money.
So start by claiming your business’s profiles on all the top review sites and start responding (politely) to all reviews. Responding to reviews shows you take customer feedback seriously and are committed to providing a top-quality experience. Plus, new research from Womply shows that businesses that claim their listings on multiple online business reviews sites make 58% more money!
Pro tip: we’ve written helpful articles about how to take control of your online business reputation, how to claim your business listing on TripAdvisor, how to claim your business on Yelp, how to claim your Google My Business listing, and how to respond to online reviews.
Biggest bang for your small business marketing buck? Email marketing
Once you’ve taken the vital step of claiming your business profile on all relevant review sites and have started to engage your customers by responding to reviews, you’re ready to start marketing to current and potential customers to drive new and repeat business.
As we’ve written previously, email marketing is hands-down the most powerful, effective, and efficient small business marketing tool. 86% of customers actually want promotional emails from businesses they patronize.
How good is the return on investment (ROI) for email marketing? Somewhere between 36:1 and 44:1, depending on whom you ask. That means that for every $1 spent on email marketing, it brings in between $36 and $44. There is simply nothing else in the marketing toolbag that has anywhere close to that ROI.
With all the buzz about Instagram this, Facebook that, and Google the other, the concept of email marketing might seem positively archaic. But there are several advantages to email marketing that aren’t shared by its younger social-media cousins:
- Email isn’t limited to one platform. Social networks come and go, and are dependent upon one company. Email, on the other hand, can be accessed and used via any one of thousands of email clients.
- Email is nearly universal and dwarfs the largest social media companies. Facebook boasts 2.2 billion users, and over 500 million tweets are sent on Twitter per day. That sounds impressive until you learn that there are over 3.8 billion email users. Want to take a guess at how many emails are sent per day? 281 billion.
Getting started in email marketing
To get the full monty on the tips and how-tos for getting started, be sure to read our detailed post on email marketing, but the TL;DR version is 1. Be consistent, and schedule time to compose an email weekly; 2. Provide real value and focus on the story, not the click; 3. Triple-check your formatting, links, and layout to make sure everything works (and find a good proofreader); and 4. Don’t send generic, bulk emails and consider automating the process. At Womply, we created a solution that sends personalized and well-timed emails automatically.
If this all seems like too much, commit to this one vital practice: send a thank you email after a customer purchases at your store. The value of this practice can not be underestimated. We created a simple, 4-part email marketing template to get you started.
Save time and get better results with reputation management and marketing automation software
The one downside to these free or nearly free small business marketing methods is they take time… potentially a lot of time. And time is something that many small business owners just don’t have.
You might be tempted to spend money on local mailers or TV/radio ads, or pay a local marketing firm to “handle it.” Unfortunately, these avenues usually don’t produce good results, especially for the cost.
When you’re ready to invest in time-saving, high-value reputation management and marketing automation solutions, Womply has you covered. With Womply, you can easily read and respond to all of your reviews in one place with one login, and you can choose to reply to reviews automatically so you can spend your time focusing on helping customers.
In addition, Womply automatically builds, populates, and updates your customer directory so you can send timely email reminders and offers to keep customers engaged.
By automating key marketing functions, Womply allows you to spend your time doing what small businesses do best: providing an incomparable, personalized customer experience.
Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!