You’ve worked hard, came up with a brilliant idea, and transformed that into a real business. But no matter how good your products or services are, the adage of “if you build it they will come” doesn’t exactly ring true these days.
Competition is fierce, and the internet has opened up a world of possibilities and options for your target audience to choose from. If they don’t know about you or can’t easily find you (on Google or otherwise), you can bet your bottom dollar they will easily find one of your competitors.
As such, on your priority list for this year (and likely every year hereafter) is a marketing strategy that informs, engages, and converts your audience to paying customers that love your offers and keep coming back for more.
Budgeting for Growth
Yet, marketing budgets are one of the final things many businesses plan for. Spending money can be fun, but for a growing business it can be a scary and nerve-wracking endeavor. With operating budgets tightening up, and expenses on the rise, every dollar needs to count. Each penny spent needs to run off and bring back more of its friends to your bank account.
Taking this into consideration, many businesses turn to guerrilla marketing or other tactics in the hope of driving business on a shoestring budget … or better yet, for free.
But can you really “make money without spending money” in today’s market?
Justifying a Marketing Budget
Some of the best things in life are free, but this doesn’t always translate well to the business world. And when it comes to growing your customer base, “free” might actually end up costing you more in the long run.
A common question many entrepreneurs have for marketing firms is why or how can they justify spend into the hundreds or thousands of dollars into something that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a specific result.
The simplest of answers is that nothing in life is guaranteed. Except for taxes. You have to pay those. While no “crystal ball” exists to tell you what your exact ROI will be from marketing spend, hiring a marketing firm with a proven track record with a tool chest of real world battle tested strategies that have produced results in the past is almost as good as a guarantee itself.
Marketing firms are specialists. They combine art, science and data to drive decisions that move key metrics in the right direction. They work on developing, optimizing and executing campaigns, tailoring messaging, identifying, seeking out and engaging your target audience and more.
Marketing might sound “easy,” and it is anything but. Taking time away from your core business, operations, and leadership to attempt DIY marketing can end up costing your business in many ways.
Consider the following hidden costs of FREE marketing:
- Slow and labor intensive (how much is your hourly wage worth?)
- Typically not saleable (can free marketing sustain the growth you need to survive)
- Lost opportunity cost of growing your grand and presence while you lose ground to competitors willing to put their hard earned cash on the line to put you out of business.
Investment in your Future
Unlike other expenditures in your business, marketing spend should be looked at as an investment, not a cost. Marketing is one of the few departments in your company that when ran effectively, will actually produce revenue, not eat away at it.
This doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune to see results, but like anything in life, you often get what you pay for. Free and low cost marketing alternatives might be a good add-on to an overall marketing strategy but shouldn’t be relied on as the sole methodology to grow your business.
You Don’t Have Time to Be a Marketer
The urge to cut back costs and take on additional workloads is something we can all relate to. And many aspects of marketing can be DIY’d. But even if you had all of the tools, resources and know-how to put a plan into action, do you really have the time necessary to do the job of an entire marketing team?
Learning curves to effectively leverage technical tools and strategies can eat up time that might be better spend actually running your business and manning the help of the ship. Finding a proper balance between what you can accomplish in each 24-hour period and what would be beneficially outsourced to professionals that can get the job done is something you’ll need to weigh out.
Low-Cost Strategies that Work
Hiring a marketing agency to drive results doesn’t mean you can’t throw in a mix of low-cost or free marketing efforts to help bolster your brand and manage your investment into driving growth.
Here are a few quick and easy low-cost marketing strategies that won’t break the bank:
Be present, participate and engage in relevant groups, and expand your network with professionals with whom you may be able to establish a mutually beneficial relationship.
Content Marketing/Guest Posts
If you have a knack for writing you can offer to do guest posts on blogs your target audience frequents. Not only will you get direct exposure to your audience, you’ll often get a backlink to your site, thus improving your search engine visibility.
Attending relevant events is a great opportunity to network with other businesses, learn best practices, and establish a strong referral network.
Setting up giveaways to build up your email list is a cost effective way to build your audience, gain exposure, and increase brand visibility. Giveaways also tend to get shared around a lot and might even go viral.
The internet is a crowded and competitive place, and it’s a “dog-eat-dog” world out there. Competition is fierce, with hundreds if not hundreds of thousands of businesses just like yours struggling to build, grow, and maintain their customer base.
Hiring an agency to help you overcome challenges, maximize ROI on marketing dollars and optimizing campaigns to drive results can help level the playing field between you and your competitors.