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  • Writer's pictureJeanette Johnson

Earmarking Money for Marketing: The Benefits of Marketing for Your Small Business

Updated: Feb 27

In a small business, every single dollar counts. As a freelance business owner myself, I can certainly sympathize. But it's also important to invest in your business and in yourself. The only way to do that is to, yup, you guessed it, spend money.


Whether you're doing it yourself or hiring out, see my blog post about what your time is worth here.


I'm not saying you should throw tons of money into marketing and promotions. However, making strategic investments to promote your business the right way can end up paying significant dividends in the future. Here are some impactful marketing options to increase your business visibility and overall brand awareness.



Finger pointing to marketing graphics.



Build An Online Presence.


One of the best ways to increase the likelihood of people finding your business is to build a website and get it indexed by search engines. While Google is the most used search engine on the planet. According to recently published data by Statistica (https://www.statista.com/statistics/216573/worldwide-market-share-of-search-engines/), Google garners 81.95% of search engine users globally. Second place goes to Bing with just 10.51%, followed by Yahoo! with a paltry 2.67%. But an online presence is essential no matter how you slice that lopsided pie!


Depending on the amount of information you need on your site, you could get away with something as small as a single-page site similar to the one I built in 2023 for RapidLoad, Inc. Or you might need something more extensive like this site for Dodge Dental that I built in 2021. Either way, include accurate information and a smooth layout for your website. Investing in a good user experience will improve your site for potential customers and make your business look more legitimate. You'll also be set up for success with search engines and future advertising options. 


Here are some example numbers from a small site that I launched in the Fall of 2023 and the user acquisition numbers pulled from Google Analytics after five months.



Example of website analytics pie graph for newly built page.


PROFESSIONAL TIP: When working with your designer or doing it yourself, be sure to connect your site to Google Search Console. This tool ensures that your site is being indexed and will help troubleshoot any issues you might have with your site. It will also help you see what "search terms" your site is ranking for, which can help guide you when making content adjustments to your site so it ranks higher on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Some web builders will easily give you step-by-step instructions to connect (Wix is particularly good at this). In contrast, others (like Wordpress) might require someone familiar with more intensive Google tools like Tag Manager and Google Analytics 4. 

Items to consider when purchasing a website:
  1. Building the site and user experience.  A skimpy, half-hearted website only detracts from your business and makes you seem illegitimate. Impress users by including a good layout, eye-catching colors that don't clash, and information like the services you provide, problems you can solve, and how to contact you. 

  2. Costs for purchasing and future renewals for domains and hosting. A domain is the address that directs people to your site. A host is where your site lives. Each domain or host provider offers varying services, and you should research to see which best suits your needs. You can keep things simple by doing both within the same provider - Wix, Ionos, Squarespace, and GoDaddy are a few options to look at that are all-in-one.

  3. Regularly scheduled maintenance and updating. Once you build your site, don't just leave it there! Make updates, add information, and share it on your ads and social channels. Depending on your site type, maintenance might need to be regularly scheduled. Work with your designer or webmaster to ensure your site stays caught up and is secure. 


OPTIONAL: Can't Afford a Website Right Now?

Focus on building out a robust Social Media presence! Sometimes, Facebook pages can outperform even a well-built webpage. Focusing on free social media solutions can be an excellent way to build referrals, find new clients, and stay in touch with returning customers. 


PROFESSIONAL TIP: DO NOT "BOOST" FACEBOOK POSTS. This does little for your business and only wastes your time and budget. It promotes "vanity metrics" which are numbers that look great, but mean very little in terms of ROI. Though "Boosting" can be part of your marketing plan, speak with a marketing professional about how it can benefit your business instead of waste your dollars.


Build A Solid Visual Brand When Marketing Your Small Business 


I've written several blog articles about how to build your brand, the reasons to work with a professional designer, and why it matters to your audience. But I'll reiterate a few of the more important points here!


For starters, to stand out in your industry, it's essential to see what your competitors are doing. Perform a competitive analysis that reviews the products and services of your closest competitors and how what you provide is different. This will help you establish a niche, develop an audience, and ensure your brand doesn't copy or infringe upon anyone else's. You can do this step yourself or get a more robust and in-depth analysis by hiring a consultant. 



Working with a professional designer to develop your logo, colors, fonts, and imagery can help establish a cohesive body of advertisements and visuals that only improve your business's appearance. The more you utilize these "brand standards," the more readily your business will be recognized by your audience and a higher likelihood of returning business.


Items to consider when building your brand:
  1. Hiring a graphic designer who specializes in logos and branding When creating a logo, finding a designer who understands your needs and the best ways to achieve them is important. Just because someone is a "graphic designer" does NOT mean that they are a logo designer in the same way that a power strip isn't necessarily a surge protector. Here are some things to ask when choosing a graphic designer.

  2. Develop a visual style Once your logo and colors have been established, you can begin implementing them to make your business stand out even more! Decide where and how you'll promote your business and work with a designer or marketer who can help you develop a cohesive advertising campaign. This campaign will have a similar visual feel and context across each platform you utilize, such as newsprint, digital, radio, billboards, etc.

  3. Following your brand standards Please don't waste money by purchasing a great logo package and not utilizing it! Your biggest proponent for success with a brand is yourself. If you don't care how your advertising or promo materials look, then why should anyone else. Police yourself, follow the guidance given by your designer, follow the plan put in place by your marketing team, and provide them with time to work. As I've said a million times before, these tactics are for the long haul and are unlikely to deliver overnight results. 


OPTIONAL: Can't afford a professional designer? 

This is one area where I can't, in good conscience, recommend that you do all of the design work yourself. If you're not a dentist, don't pull your own tooth. However, there are some free options that can help get you started with templates and other assets that you can use for "free" but are required to attribute to the creator under the rules of the "Creative Commons license":

  • Templates - Canva

  • Fonts - Google Fonts

  • Images - Pexels

Again, if the goal is to stand out and develop your unique style, utilizing stock templates and photos is counterintuitive. 


Develop an Advertising Strategy


Advertising is your way to say, "Here I Am! Hire me!" Following the visual standards and analysis results from the efforts listed above, you can plan the best course of action to reach your potential clients. Social media advertising, Google cost-per-click ads, YouTube pre and mid-roll insertions, local shopper ads, or intensive Search Engine Optimization are all options, and a professional marketer can help point you in the right direction. You can learn to do some of these things yourself, but they can get complicated fast. I recommend working with a professional to increase your return on investment (ROI). Be prepared to spend funds on campaign creation plus whatever you want to spend on running the advertisement. 


An overlooked marketing avenue for small businesses is retargeting previous and current customers! The easiest way to reach this audience is likely already in your hands or just a few clicks away - your accounting software. Pull a list of email addresses from your invoicing system and develop an email promotion like "10% off replacement parts this month" or "enter to win a $25 gift card with each $50 spent". Targeted promotions to existing customers often yield a higher ROI than acquiring new ones.


Several easy-to-use bulk email generators like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and SendInBlue exist. These are all paid services with free options. But depending on your goals, free might be all you need!


Just follow general bulk email etiquette by not spamming your customers and giving them options to unsubscribe (it's the law). No matter what service you choose, they'll likely have blog posts with guidance on best practices to get the highest reach possible with your email while not breaking any rules. 


PROFESSIONAL TIP: If you have a small email list (less than 50), you can send a standard email from yourself personally. Just follow these guidelines:  Send your email to no more than 10 recipients at a time. Any more than that and your email address could get flagged as spam. Utilize the Blind Carbon Copy (BCC) feature in your composition screen. This prevents other recipients from seeing who else has gotten the email. Try to refrain from adding attachments. Not including files as attachments will increase your chances of hitting the inbox instead of winding up in the junk folder. 

Another great use of this list is conducting a customer experience survey. By collecting this data, you can glean tidbits of info for use in your marketing. For example, "95% of respondents say they would choose our service over the competition". Or ask them to give you a good review on your Google My Business page or recommend you on Facebook. Satisfied customers who will go to bat for your brand are the best forms of referrals. For free surveys, I like SurveyMonkey. It's simple and intuitive; you get 10 free questions per survey. It generates a link to your survey form, which you can paste into an email along with a polite request to complete. 


Analyzing Your Return On Investment

The best way to know your return on investment (ROI) is to determine your customer acquisition costs. What is the final metric you want to count as a conversion (a conversion is the final, successful action your customer takes)? Is it a new lead, number of downloads, a completed sale, or something similar?


Total cost of advertisement / by total conversions = ROI


It can be challenging to track these numbers without additional software and someone implementing the strategy for you, like a sales team. However, if you want to get into the nitty-gritty of how your marketing works for you, you'll need to track it. Data-driven decisions based on analytics enhance the overall effectiveness of marketing strategies. It also allows you to pivot if you see things tracking in an undesirable direction. 


The best tool for tracking digital success is Google Analytics (the current version is GA4). This free tool from Google connects to your website to track numbers like total users, time on the website, your most popular pages, and where your users are coming from, such as your advertisements! It should be implemented when you build your website but it can be installed anytime. Just take note that it only works from the point of installation and won't show any retroactive data.  



GA4 analytics example showing date of activation on site.


An easier way to assess your marketing success is to track your expenditures dedicated to marketing and see if it increases your overall bottom line from quarter to quarter or annually. If you're doing general marketing strategies, then you'll only need general indicators for success - and in the end, isn't it all about increasing profits?


PROFESSIONAL TIP: There are hundreds of blogs dedicated to learning the ins and outs of Google Analytics, Google Search Console, DIY web design, search engine optimization, and generally every possible tool. I think it is smart to know what each of these things are and to have a basic understanding of how they can help your business, but I don't encourage you to dive too far into a topic that is outside of the scope of your services. You've got better things to do with your time than to get into the weeds as to why XYZ isn't recording on GA4 or learning how to create tags for conversion on your website.

In conclusion, there are several avenues for creating marketing opportunities for your small business. We discussed online presence, building a solid brand, developing an advertising strategy, and analyzing the impact of your efforts. For each of these items, I encouraged you to work with a professional. However, I also gave you some leads on accomplishing each area yourself. Good luck with all of your business efforts, and remember to shop locally when you can!

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