Creative Ways to Meet Your Marketing Goals on a Budget

With the pressures imposed by increased global competition, achieving marketing success has never been more important. Yet, everywhere you turn, someone has their hand out, offering to help you meet your marketing goals for a fee. If you’re not careful, your marketing budget can balloon out of control with little to show for the expenses in terms of lift (increased sales as a result of marketing efforts). The good news is there are lots of cheap ways to market your brand that help you meet your marketing goals. Gareth Parkin of GoPromotional, a top promotional product company, has some expert tips for marketing on a small budget. Read on to see which of these fits your budget and offers the best opportunity to see the marketing success you envision.

cutting through the noise
Image courtesy of W3 Lab

Meet your marketing goals on a budget

Not everything you do to promote your business costs a lot of money. In fact, some of the best marketing doesn’t really cost a thing. And, with the highly targeted ads offered through digital portals, marketing on a budget has never been easier or cheaper.

I started my career working with small businesses as a consultant for the US SBA (Small Business Association). As a marketer, I was horrified to discover that most of the small business owners allocated NOTHING to marketing in their budgets or were spending the tiny amount allocated to marketing entirely wrong. Both are recipes for failure. First, let’s start by looking at how much you should allocate to your marketing budget.

How much should you spend on marketing?

This is never an easy question to answer because it depends. Well-known brands might cut back on their marketing budgets during a particularly hard year without serious damage to their sales, while a brand just entering a market should expect to spend slightly over 11% of anticipated revenue as an initial marketing budget. Of course, a lot depends on the intensity of competition in the industry, your product, company size, and a number of other factors. The amount you budget to meet your marketing goals can (and does) vary widely from this estimate.

Below, you can see an estimate of how much you should budget for marketing based on your industry. When speaking to new business owners, I like to talk about budgeting for marketing as a cup that you’re filling with some fluid. Until you reach the rim of the cup, you don’t see anything flow over the side. It’s much the same when it comes to marketing. Insufficient spending may yield nothing until you hit the inflection point where you’ve created sufficient awareness and a positive brand image to encourage consumers to buy. If you don’t budget enough money for marketing, you might have a hard time meeting your financial obligations and you’ll be forced to close your doors.

meet your marketing goals with the right budget
Image courtesy of Creative ONL

Spend your budget wisely

One of the biggest mistakes companies make is buying advertising or spending their marketing budget in ways that don’t reach their target market. Face it: you can only sell your products to consumers who need the solution you offer, have the money to afford your product, and are willing to spend money to buy your product. Everything else is nonsense that doesn’t help you meet your marketing goals.

That means you need to thoroughly understand your target market, what’s important to them, how to reach them, and what to say that motivates them to buy your product. Targeted advertising on digital platforms like social media and Google Ads allows you to maximize your ability to reach your target market without wasting money on consumers who aren’t part of that market. For instance, I once worked with a company selling jet skis and motorcycles. They were advertising with a package of cable TV channels because each ad only cost them around $6 (in 1990 dollars). However, their ads were shown on channels totally unrelated to their product, such as one focused on home and garden interests. Only a small fraction of the ads they paid for were shown to their target market through ESPN and similar programming. Plus, most were shown on the weekends when their target market was likely out enjoying outdoor activities. They were wasting most of their marketing budget, showing ads to folks who would likely never want to buy what they were selling because the ads were cheaper.

Ways to optimize your marketing budget

The customer is king

The best way to optimize your marketing budget is by treating customers well. Hire and train staff to treat customers well. Beyond that, employees should build a relationship with customers to the extent possible by being friendly and open. A colleague told the story of walking into an upscale department store wearing a suit from another retailer. The clerk saw he had a loose button on his jacket and insisted he wait while the tailor sowed it back on. Sure, it cost the store some money to repair something that wasn’t even one of the products they sold, but the benefit in terms of goodwill was immense. Not only will this customer shop in the store again, but he also told others who formed a favorable opinion of the brand.

Always produce products you’re proud of and stand behind them. Creating cheap products or letting poorly made ones reach consumers may increase profits in the short run but damage your brand over time.

In an era when word of mouth spreads like lightning through social media, a single bad word from the right person can sink your ship. Treat all your customers and prospects as if they had the power to help or hurt your brand based on the service they receive.

Work with influencers

Speaking of word of mouth, you might work with influencers who have a large, engaged following. Choose them carefully to ensure they provide value and have integrity, or you can get hurt in the future by their actions.

Encourage satisfied customers to post reviews, which, as you can see below, have a big impact on purchase decisions. If customers encounter problems, solve them right away and be transparent rather than trying to bury poor reviews.

digital influence on purchase decisions
Image courtesy of Digital Marketing Community

Give out free stuff

Give your customers a free branded tote bag or something else small when they buy from you or sign up for your service. People love getting free stuff; even the smallest freebie can promote a purchase. We once gave away a cheap leatherette atlas (back in the day when people used them) in exchange for executives providing detailed information our salespeople used to build a quote for services. It worked even better than we expected.

Branded products used in public settings, like tote bags, also impact others who see the product used. If you don’t believe me, watch consumers flock to booths at a trade show after seeing others carrying these tote bags.

Email marketing

Email marketing is one of the best values out there when you want to meet your marketing goals because the ROI of email marketing is up to 4000%. Of course, email marketing isn’t a simple process, nor does it deliver results overnight. You need to spend time and money building a subscriber list since most countries have laws that make it impossible to buy or rent them. That means creating a lead magnet like my ebook that steps you through everything you need to create a killer website without writing a line of code or hiring a professional.

Once you have a list, you need to send messages to segments of that list interested in the content you share. Finding the optimal sharing schedule and tone to reach each segment generates the highest returns.


Keep track of your marketing performance and change it based on insights provided by key metrics (we call these key performance indicators). Ignore vanity metrics like follower counts and visits and focus on the metrics that matter, like conversion rate, number of backlinks (an indicator of how your site performs on search engines), return visits, and buyer demographics.


You can easily meet your marketing goals without the high cost and waste associated with those marketing campaigns touted by so-called experts. Try out a few of the tactics shared in this post to see your marketing returns soar.

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