What do you spend your marketing budget on? I’ve seen small business budget recommendations range from 1% to 10%. Obviously, you need to find a balance between marketing and staying profitable, but you also need to stay engaged with existing customers and even more important – attract new ones.

If you are a small retail business, you may be lucky enough to rely on walk-in traffic but may find your rent reflective of high-traffic areas. You may also be missing out on additional customers that will go out of their way to visit your business.

So how do you decide what marketing options to spend your hard-earned money on?

My best advice is to allocate as much as you can to various platforms while balancing long-term return.

For example, television may be an option, but you only reach the people that watch the channel(s) you advertise on. Creating and running tv ads can be more expensive than other options and when the ads stop so does your business promotion. I’m not saying not to do television advertising, but like any option you don’t want all your eggs in one basket.

These days we reach different potential customers through different channels. Not everyone watches TV and if they do it could be any combination of the numerous options on cable or streaming services. Radio choices have also changed dramatically given onlline options like Pandora, iTunes and many others.

The Basics

Get a website! A survey by Clutch, a Washington, DC research firm estimates that 29% of small business still do not have a website. This is actually a big improvement over years past, but it is still a sizable percentage. The good news is that you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg at least for a basic site. Even if all you list are your core services address and contact information you are ahead of the game. There are several easy DIY services out there if you don’t want to pay a web firm.

Whether you are building a new site or have an existing site you MUST make sure it is mobile compatible. This is commonly referred to as a “responsive” website. The shift in people searching for services, directions, etc. on their smart phone is staggering. A responsive site will make sure your information is easy to read and accessible from a mobile device.

And using Facebook as an alternative to a website doesn’t count. I particularly see this with restaurants “because it doesn’t cost anything”. You should have a Facebook page but bear in mind Facebook’s layout is not compatible with making your information easy to find.

You should also claim and verify your business listing on GoogleMyBusiness.com and BingPlaces.com. These are free services that helps your business show up on Google Maps and Bing searches. They make your hours and contact information easily found along with other benefits that help your ranking in local search listings.

Social and Digital Media

Now you can start looking at Social Media. The range of options is significant, but you can narrow things down based on your preferred audience. Despite all of its issues Facebook is not going away soon and offers affordable advertising options. LinkedIn and Twitter are particularly useful for B2B businesses. Consider Instagram and Snapchat if your product appeals to millennials or has high visual appeal. Social Media has the benefit of long-term results at affordable prices.

If your budget allows, you may want to add a Google AdWords campaign, also referred to as SEM (Search Engine Marketing) or CPC (Cost per Click). If you want to be first in online search listings you pretty much have to be here. But be forewarned, it is getting more difficult to DIY a campaign due to the increasing complexity of the AdWords platform. It also appears to me that there is a lot of pressure for larger budgets than may really be necessary. However, AdWords can be highly targeted, and you can easily control your budget and start and stop as needed.

Print and Digital Display Ads

There are groups of potential customers that like using coupons and read the newspaper that may be a great fit for your services. You can also buy display ads in the online versions of papers and magazines. The digital ads allow for demographic and  targeting and a broader reach.

Television and Radio

These options can be very powerful and with more flexibility in cable and streaming services they are more affordable than ever. But you must carefully balance your budget for these services with market reach and potential customer appeal along and consider some portion of you budget in social or digital media.


There are many variations on these marketing options, but the key takeaway is to explore all of them and find the best mix you can afford for your business. This will ensure you reach the greatest number of potential customers and help guarantee the success of your business.