How to decide where to spend your small-business marketing budget

As small businesses dust off their marketing budgets and start making plans again for growth after mothballing them during the worst of COVID, the question every owner will be asking is, “How can we make the biggest possible impact for the lowest amount of risk?”

While marketing strategies are consulted and consumer buying behaviours are speculated, it is very apparent that the things that led to success pre-COVID are not the things that are going to lead to success in the future.

So, what is?

Australian small businesses are faced with hundreds of opportunities when it comes to marketing. Everything from traditional advertising to social media to Google advertising and directory listings. You can’t do it all and allocating a budget to the right things is a gamble.

The most successful businesses spread their marketing budget across the five main stages of the customer journey, electing to spend money:

  1. attracting strangers
  2. converting visitors
  3. nurturing leads
  4. delivering product, or
  5. celebrating lifetime customers.

The perfect marketing strategy allocates budget across these five areas in a balanced way depending on the kind of business they have and the kind of customers they are serving.

A relatively new business may spend more money and budget attracting strangers, whilst a business with a higher purchase price may spend more money nurturing leads. Using this formula, small businesses with a limited marketing budget can begin to allocate spend on the areas that will generate the most impact in a structured and considered way.

Making decisions

For any business, positive returns are always generated from overcoming a system bottleneck. If you had a machine in a product line that kept breaking down, replacing that machine could dramatically increase the output of the

entire product line. The same should be said for marketing. Any bottleneck in the system or customer journey, when replaced, will dramatically improve the return of the entire marketing system.

If you only have a small budget to spend on marketing, spending it on fixing that bottleneck needs to be your number one priority. Everything you spend after that will be much more impactful. And bottlenecks aren’t that hard to spot.

A lot of the time a bottleneck is something as obvious as your website, your messaging or your sales team.

Sometimes, in order to identify a bottleneck you have to dig deeper into data and industry benchmarks to judge your performance on the rest of the industry. If you were looking at your website as a marketing tool to convert visitors into leads, the data to look at is your website conversion rate – the number of people that are visiting your website and then getting in contact with you. A good website conversion rate is two per cent. Anything less than this and your website is a bottleneck.

Your marketing spend attracting strangers may be going exceptionally well, but your actual website isn’t encouraging people to get in touch with you. Your next step to fix this bottleneck is to get in contact with a website developer and spend your marketing budget there.

This is just one example of bottlenecks across the five main stages of the customer journey. Spend time examining the main stages to identify bottlenecks and make decisions on where to spend money. It is a sure-fire way to make a positive impact.

Amy Miocevich, Founder, The Caterpillar Framework and author of “Very Good Marketing for Small Business”

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