It has often been said that all publicity is good publicity—irrespective of the negative or positive attributes of said publicity. While this may be true for some (large) companies, the reality is that reputations are eggshell-fragile and need to be nurtured and protected. The best way for small businesses to cultivate a positive—and profitable—public image is to mold and shape popular perception of their brand or business with a marketing budget. This means that small and medium businesses must consider advertising themselves and their products, and set aside sufficient resources for the task. Defining ‘marketing budget’ A marketing or advertising budget is an estimate of the expenses a company can expect its promotional efforts to incur. ‘What’ before ‘how’ Before you begin outlining and financing this important business essential, ask yourself what you hope to accomplish by marketing yourself. Here is a list of questions you should address prior to drawing up a marketing plan. Who am I marketing myself to? If your clients are other businesses, your branding or marketing strategy—and budget—aregoing to look very different from something a B2C company would come up with. This is because a B2B business has very specific clientele, which means their marketing efforts can be focuses instead of diffuse, requiring fewer marketing channels. B2C companies on the other hand cater to buyers who are geographically and demographically diversified. They would thus have to develop a strategy that has both reachanddepth, one whose execution would involve the allocation of greater human and financial resources. Low key or intense? Say you’re a store that sells organic produce and household essentials. You source all your vegetables and fruit locally, and the market for organic consumables in your town or city is relatively untapped. Since your USP is locally grown, seasonal produce and you’re the only store catering to a niche market, you’re probably going to focus on establishing yourself in your own backyard. With no immediate ambitions for multi-regional growth or expansion, it would make sense to favour a laidback—though not lazy!—approach. This could involve word-of-mouth marketing, or handing out flyers at busy intersections. Your budget estimates,therefore, would be significantly lower than businesses that are scaling-up, or dealing with competitors. Getting down to brass tacks Once you’ve determined who you’re marketing to and why, you can start planning your budget. Here’s a list of the steps involved in the planning process: List the different facets of your marketing drive. It could include
- Research: studying and understanding your target audience
- Pilot campaigns: testing your campaign on a select cross section of people
- Production of marketing material: designing and creating brochures
- Marketing channels: print, television, radio, digital are some of the channels you might use, and they are
- Monitoring and evaluation: regularly reviewing progress, and ensuring that efforts don’t exceed budgetary limits
As one marketing blogger put it, “products and services don’t sell themselves”. No matter how small you are, marketing is a must–and as with other ‘musts’ in the world of business, it requires a budget.