How Much Should You Spend On Marketing?

One area that entrepreneurs and start-ups may ignore is marketing.  Marketing is an essential part of any business plan, but is often neglected because we erroneously perceive marketing to have no tangible results. It is however a vital part of your business and your start up growth.  A Good marketing campaign includes brand development or refinement and will expose your product or service to your target audience in a meaningful way, it can also have measurable desired outcomes when properly tracked and proper metrics are used.

How much you should spend on marketing depends on what stage your start up is currently in, and is an investment with measurable results; you get back what you put in.  The first step is defining your target audience and learning about your target audience. Secondly, you should study how your competition markets and advertises their product and/or service, doing this will not only inspire and refine your own marketing strategy, it will also highlight new and creative avenues to target your audience. It is important to remain realistic when studying the competition, especially if your competition is more established. Start-ups are initially cash strapped so having a tight and realistic budget is imperative to your long term success.  Your marketing budget should take into consideration the amount of time you or your team members will take away from other tasks to focus on marketing.  Here are a few methods you can use to determine your marketing budget:

1. A Percentage of  your Total Operating Budget
This number will vary greatly based on several factors.  The business that you are in, the product that you offer, and the stage your start up is at will all play a role in your marketing plan and budget.  There is a long-standing rule that on average you should spend somewhere between 1 and 10 percent of the annual sales or projected annual sales.  If your start up is brand new and potential clients have yet to recognize your brand, this amount should be higher and more along 15 to 20% of your operating budget.  Always be realistic about what your start up can afford, and try to save money by doing some of your marketing yourself.
 
2. A Percentage of Sales
This method is better suited to a start-up that has been operational long enough to have sales and sale forecasts.  Basing your marketing budget on realistic sales expectations is effective because it can be based on actual unit sales. A problem with this method is when faced with a decline in sales spending on marketing is usually decreased as well, and this can be a mistake because focusing on marketing may help recover your sales.  The general rule for this method is to spend 7 to 10 percent of each sale or anticipated sale on your marketing.

Your spending on marketing should also be based on an accurate anticipated return on your investment.  Over spending can substantially harm your business, but not spending enough can be equally detrimental.  Your marketing budget should be constantly re-examined. Using measurable metrics to determine what works will help refine your budget and tailor it to your specific needs. 

Why Try Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a free data gathering, analysis, and reporting tool for websites and mobile applications. It is one of the most popular analytics tools and is widely used. It gathers data on the activities that your website visitors take, such as how long they are on your website for and what links they have clicked.

So, why should you care? Google Analytics is extremely effective and its interface for administrators is simple to use for everyone. It allows you create events on a website, web application or mobile application, that you want to keep track of. When a visitor clicks on a particular button, you can keep track of that specific event using event tracking. If a visitor hovers over a menu item in your navigation menu for a certain amount of seconds, you can keep track of that event as well.

Another nice feature is the conversion funnel. This is useful for ecommerce sites where a visitor is buying a product or service. The conversion funnel will keep track of where the visitor came from, the pages they visited before choosing the product/service, and whether they bought the product/service or not. This is immensely useful because, for example, you can see that customers always come to your product page through a search engine which means you should optimize the SEO of your other product pages. Or you can see, for example, that certain products are not popular,  which could indicate a problem with your order or shopping cart page, or your marketing and placement of the product on the website.

Google Analytics lets you drill down the data about your visitors by the web browser they use, their location, whether they used a mobile device such as an iPhone or Android tablet, how longer they were on your website for, which link they clicked to exit your website, where they were referred from (search engine or link). What's cool is that you can see all of this data being gathered in real-time! That means as soon as someone visits your website, Google Analytics will show information about that visitor. This helps you learn about your target audience so you can fine-tune your branding and website usability accordingly to help you increase your conversion rate.

A new exciting feature is Google Content Experiments. Although it takes a bit of time to set up, it is invaluable as it allows you to A/B test your website. When a visitor visits your site, there is a 50% chance they will see the A content and 50% chance that they will see the B content. For example; you can see if more visitors are buying your product when the buy button says “Buy!” or when the buy button says “Buy This Now”. You can use Google Content Experiments in Google Analytics to test headlines for articles or descriptions of products and even product images. I have seen this used on an e-commerce site to make sure that the best product name is used and to test if, for instance, if implementing a Halloween theme increased sales.

Ease of set up and use, integration with other Google products like Content Experiments and Google AdWords, and accessibility across various platforms such as mobile and desktop web browsers make this application a must-have tool for start-ups.

5 Free Things to Improve your Online Presence

1. Add your business listing to online business directories. While adding a basic listing is free most of the time, some online directories will try to get you to sign up for a paid listing by calling you to "confirm" your listing information and then suggesting one of their monthly SEO plans that are "perfect" for your business model. You can gently let them know that you are only interested in the free listing.

2. Create your social media pages and add all your business contact information to them (including your website).  It is important to keep all your information consistent across your pages because it will help improve your website's google ranking. Share relevant and interesting content frequently and encourage your network to like, subscribe, and share your content. Although it is tempting to share the same content across multiple social media avenues, it is important to share unique content so your audience has a reason to follow you on all your different social media outlets.

3. Claim your google my business page at www.google.ca/business and add your business to google maps and google+. It is important to remain consistent with your information here as well. For example, if you have your address listed a certain way on your website, ensure to list it exactly that way across all your pages.

4. Create original search engine friendly content on your page and share your own links on social media. Write short articles or update your blog on your particular field of expertise with original search engine optimized content weekly, then share your articles on your social media pages. This will get your website more visibility because people are more likely to visit your site if they can read a short educational article. Include relevant high quality images to keep your audience's attention and get more clicks. 

5. Sign up for google Analytics and start tracking your progress!

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