4 vital marketing items every small business must budget for

Marketing is an important component of success for any small business. If people don’t know about the business, they aren’t going to buy from it. Prudent marketing expenses bridge the gap between your business and your potential buyers.

Many small business owners don’t know how much to budget or why they have to budget for marketing.  They expect that their product or service will get found.

The reality is that if a business isn’t promoting itself in simple ways, it stands virtually no chance of success. Even the greatest product or service will fail if the people who would benefit from it don’t find out about and how it can help them.

To help small businesses spend carefully and effectively, I have put together the list of essential marketing expenses for any small business. These items are the baseline for every small business.  The list is not a complete list. As businesses grow, they should be investing more time and money into marketing.

A good rule of thumb is to invest 10% to 20% of revenue into marketing. But for businesses without a lot of revenue, this list marks the essential items.

Business cards. (Cost: under $100 per 1,000)

Business cards show professionalism and give people an immediate reminder of who you are and what you are selling. Include a good tag line, a logo and contact information. Hint: Don’t use a gmail, yahoo or other general email address. Get a branded email address. If you don’t know how to do it, contact me.

A business website..  (Cost: between $500 and $2,500, with most websites on the lower end of the scale)

Businesses without websites are giving away business to their competitors because more and more people are searching online for what they want to buy. They go to the Internet to search for resources, answers to questions, information about how to do things. If you aren’t showing up in their local search, you’re hurting your business. And you might not even know it.

Oh, and your website has to be easily visible on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. One of my clients is seeing about 90% of his website hits coming from mobile devices. Experts say that the majority of people will be doing mobile search by 2015.

You should be able to update the information on your website without a web developer’s involvement, and you should have control of the ownership of your site.

If you can’t do these things, I can help you.

Membership fees. (Cost: several hundred dollars a year)

If you aren’t participating in your community, whether it’s your professional community or your local community, you can’t expect people to find  or feel comfortable spending money with you. People want to buy from people who are invested in their communities. Fly-by-night, no-commitment businesses get the same response from potential buyers.

Take an active role in these groups, your local trade association, your chamber of commerce, the school board, anything. You will make great connections that will boost your business in ways that will make the membership fees for these opportunities seem insignificant in time.

Networking meals. (Cost: $10-$30 each)

Dining with your clients, your contacts, new business owners, elected officials, business leaders and others can help your business in many visible and invisible ways. The more people you can reach, the more people who will know about your business. Business partnerships, unlikely opportunities and new product or service ideas can all come from simple lunches.

A good target is at least one meeting a week with someone with whom your association could prove useful. Try it. You will be amazed at the results.

My business and the businesses I work with and talk to have all benefited from their investment in these marketing items. They aren’t expensive, and they will more than pay for themselves.

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