$500 Per Month Marketing Budget – How Would You Spend It?


Although the Internet has made it possible for us to reach all types of customers from every part of the world, it still requires that we spend a lot of money and effort into acquiring new leads and turning them into active paying customers.

Marketing is a big and hungry beast that requires a lot of feeding. Especially online marketing. It doesn’t matter if you run an ol’ fashioned brick and mortar business or a modern tech company that develops all sorts of tools, you still need to invest your whole being into making your brand globally or locally visible.

To make people acknowledge who you are and what you do, you need to market your brand like crazy and generate as much traffic as possible on your website and your social media pages.

As I already wrote in one of my previous posts on Themes Kingdom, there are only two ways to get traffic online: 

1. Ranking for it organically;
2. Paying for clicks.

Paid traffic is the best and fastest way to stimulate visits to your site, but if you’re not made out of money, then you have to think outside of the box and constantly come up with new ways on how to rationally and creatively spend your budget.

As an experienced marketing manager who networks around the industry quite a lot, I know that most of my colleagues have ridiculously small marketing budgets. In most cases, for starter companies, the amount of money that managers are allowed to spend on their marketing and advertising is around $500.

$500? Really? – That’s nothing.

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Luckily for them, Google favors the brave and rewards those who are willing to dig deep and provide outstanding answers to all sorts of different relevant queries.

The great thing about blogging, social networking and SEO is that it’s usually free. It only requires hard work and dedication to actually accomplish your goals. Sure, you can reach desired milestones a lot faster if you invest some serious cash into it, but you don’t have to.

Most of what I do for AltusHost and our clientele revolves around creating quality content and measurable data.  

Acquiring customers for free is any businessman’s dream come true. But, in order to that you need to test a lot of different options, jump onto new user acquisition platforms before your competitors do, piggyback on existing trends that generate a lot of traffic, reach out to niche influencers, provide mind-blowing answers to difficult question for which people are constantly searching, optimize your content for the Web, target micro-markets and cover fields your competitors still haven’t conquered, stimulate organic virality of your work and your brand, offer smart giveaways, engage your desired audiences on all sorts of networks and channels, design your ideal consumer, find your unique tone and voice – the list goes on and on. 

In order to help you make the most out of your marketing efforts, I have decided to reach out and talk to a few successful businessmen and ask them the very same questions I was trying to answer for you in the first part of this blog post:

$500 Per Month Marketing Budget – How Would You Spend It?


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I am the Director of Communications at a multistate real estate brokerage and part of my role is to help real estate agents develop their local marketing plan.

If I had a $500 per month marketing budget I would focus nearly all of my resources on Facebook advertising. An overwhelming number of consumers are on Facebook, so no matter your target market you will have a large pool of potential customers.

On top of that, Facebook’s advertising platform is so highly targeted every dollar you spend will put to good use, as everyone who sees your content will be the exact target demographic that you are looking for (so long as you know who your consumer is and how to setup an effective audience in Facebook Ads Manager).

In addition to being highly targeted, the cost to advertise on Facebook is relatively low, so $500 will give you very significant reach. You could even spend $100 a month to develop high quality, shareable content, then use the remaining $400 and still reach well over 100,000 people (depending on your target audience and other factors).

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I would start this $500/month project by asking the business owner about their goals. Are they working to get conversions? Or, do they want branding and exposure? Here are my thoughts for each:

CONVERSIONS


Option 1 – Bing Search Ad Campaign

Set up a Bing search campaign that is extremely focused on long, detailed keywords related to the business goals. If they are a dentist, they should not target keywords like, “dentist” or even “dentist in 60606 (zip codes).”

They should go after one or two detailed keyword themes that are in areas where they excel and hopefully have good margins. An example would be “painless root canals near Bucktown crossing.” There are two reasons this works with a $500 budget:

1. Bing has a lower cost-per-click than Google so you will get more clicks for the same money.

2. By having a very narrow focus, you are targeting only people who are a good fit and are ready to convert. You aren’t wasting money with people who are still shopping/comparing/evaluating their options.

The challenge with this strategy is Bing (and Google’s AdWords) are complex systems that only work well if you know how to “play the game.” To make this work, the person will need to learn about the system and the game: watch how-to videos, read blogs, and learn a bit about the strategy of the PPC game.

Option 2 – Free Newsletters

The next option would be to use free MailChimp.com to stay in regular (about once/month) contact with existing clients and contacts. In that email, make a soft pitch for new business. This can be, “Buy our new thing!” or it can be, “Refer us to a friend and get ______” which could be “our undying adoration” or “a free thing.”

BRANDING

Best Option – Remarketing

I’m going to assume that the website gets some traffic…about 100 visitors a month or more. Then the obvious first step is keeping your brand in front of those people who have already visited your site. The best tool for this is Google’s Remarketing system.

To do Remarketing, the business owner is going to have to get 15 different-sized display ads made. My suggestion for the budget-challenged is to find a designer on Fiverr.com, 99Designs.com, or some other freelancer website.

Another option is to contact a local college or university with a design or marketing program and see if they can find a student who needs a project for their portfolio. Once the ads are ready, watch some videos and read up on how Remarketing works, get the cookie-setting code on the website, and launch. Remarketing is cheap and effective. We regularly get about 45,000 Remarketing impressions a month, get 50+ clicks on our ads, which costs less than $200, and we generally get about 20 conversions (calls or filled-out forms) from that $200. Once last point: if you’re doing PPC in any way, you should be doing Remarketing to leverage the money you’re spending on PPC.

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Just because time or budget is tight does not mean that leveraging data to drive decision-making is out of the question. Resorting to “gut feel” in the face of limited resources, while often the path chosen, means potentially missing the mark and often results in wasted investment.

Concept testing is one of the simplest and most straightforward market research tools available today. These studies are quick to administer and are easy for a respondent to complete; yet the insights they provide decision makers are invaluable.

Concept testing is a powerful tool that can be used broadly in contexts such as product development, market research, advertising design and communications. The process is simple and is consistent with scientific methods such as experimental drug testing. The idea is to test the response of a consumer to items or ideas in order to quantitatively determine what design, product feature, communication, etc. produces the best-desired response. It provides a quick and low-risk opportunity to estimate the behavioral impact that an idea, a creative, or messaging will have provided a simple way to gather supporting data and rational for recommendations.

With minimal cost and limited risk, concept testing will provide one of the strongest returns on your marketing investments.

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Assess your current marketing initiatives
– ditch what isn’t performing and put your funds where your marketing dollars are working.

Where are you as far as where you want to be, based on your business goals, and what do you need to get there? With a small marketing budget you need to be strategic about where your dollars are being spent.

Where is your marketing weak spot? With a budget of $500 investing in a print ad may be a waste of money if the website you are leading people to will not help convert them.

Consider seasonality when you are deciding how to invest your monthly budget. Maybe, for the most part, you spend your budget on paid search ads to reach those who are ready to buy in that moment. But, if you know there is a seasonality to those types of searches you may want to pull back on paid search at certain times and put those funds towards attracting more of a following on your social networks.

Still not sure? Investing in paid search ads may be your best bet. Those funds will drive traffic to your business website and you will. very easily and quickly, see your return on investment.

I would spend all $500 on content promotion.

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At SuperOffice, we spend less than $100 per month, yet we have increased organic traffic from 500 visits per month to 30,000 visits per month, all though content creation and content promotion.

The way we spend our budget is to boost new content on Facebook for $20 and then promote each new piece of content as an ad on Facebook and Twitter. We allocate $10-20 and max out the budget within 2-3 days in order to get traction quickly. We target Facebook users by job titles based on the topic we write about (i.e, if we write about customer service, we target customer service managers) and on Twitter, we target by interest.

You don’t need a big budget if you spend it wisely.

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This is a relevant question not just for small businesses with small budget but any business that has competitors with significantly larger budgets—the relative size of the budget is far more important than the absolute size.

Regardless, it’s a challenge we see every day. Here’s what we’d do:

1. Create (in-house) a downloadable PDF that targets pain points of customers. You can find topics by talking to your own sales and customer service staff. For example, if you sell mattresses, the topic could be “5 Insider Tips on Choosing the Perfect Mattress” or “3 Mattress-Buying Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make.

2. Design a high-quality landing page on your website. This should be streamlined—no navigation and a single call to action that asks for an email address in exchange for access to the PDF.

3. Run a paid social media campaign on Facebook (for B2C) or Linkedin (B2B) with your budget. Social media paid advertising usually is less expensive than Pay Per Click advertising in search engines, allowing you to stretch your budget. Demographic—rather than keyword—targeting also allows you to get more granular with your ad placements, ensuring that each paid click is worth more to your business.

4. Add calls to action throughout your site for the same PDF download. This will take advantage of organic and direct traffic, generating more leads from non-paid traffic sources.

In short, it’s a cost-effective acquisition strategy with immediate results that provides a business with the best chance of converting highly qualified anonymous visitors into known leads. We’ve seen variations of this work for many clients over the years.

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If I had $500 a month only to spend on marketing, I would the vast majority of it on Google Adwords. There is simply nothing else out there that can match it in terms of scalability, efficiency and ROI, particularly for a startup which needs instant traffic.

I would also perhaps set some budget aside for the creation of some really strong landing pages. How sustainable this approach is in the long term depends very much on your business, how competitive your vertical and targeted keywords are. In our case, we decided to phase out Adwords after a couple of years, as it became clear that the cost per conversion value (around $80) was unsustainable, given that the profit on our AOV (around $100) was less than half of that amount, so a customer would need to make at least 2 purchases before we even broke even.

Today, our focus is on SEO and those same landing pages we created for Adwords rank organically for a number of terms, which is a much more sustainable model for us.

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I’ve been through the struggles of an up and down small business and marketing and budget cuts are no surprise to me!

My partner (an SEO expert) and I (an Entrepreneur/Owner) have found a few tricks of the trade that have maximized our ROI which I would be glad to share with you, the world, or other entrepreneurs.

1.) Craigslist Posting (especially in large cities) + an overseas virtual assistant

We all know posting on Craigslist is free, however who has the time to post listings on a classified site all day, right? Well, the trick of the trade here is to hire a virtual assistant in the Philippines.  Virtual assistants in the Philippines charge about 2 dollars an hour or you can make a deal with them that every time they post a listing they receive 10 cents.  Give them an example posting first and explain to them that you want a somewhat similar posting to be posted sporadically throughout the day, especially in large cities.  

This has gotten us tremendous amounts of traffic and HOT leads but more importantly it is budget friendly..

2.) Facebook groups + overseas virtual assistant

(Same concept here)

Find Facebook groups that are “local” and “city” related. Then hire a virtual assistant in the Philippines. No posting ads here! This is Facebook and the game changes. When posting in groups you want to pretend to be writing a great experience and that you want to share it to others locally around you. Therefore, you ask the virtual assistant to write something like this “Hello everyone, I just wanted to share a wonderful experience I just had with a small tutoring business. I’ve been going through dozens of tutors and have found none to really teach my son in the style he needs. Until I found this one small company named Suprex Learning.  The owner is flexible with his pricing and he really knows his material when it comes to education.  My son was able to increase his SAT scores from 1200 to 2000 an 800 point increase. If anyone is looking for some serious tutoring, especially in math, I highly recommend them.”

This works great! Reasons why a.) it’s personable – doesn’t sound like an ad b.) moms are buyers and are usually hanging around in Facebook groups c.) it’s targeted to your local area

3.) Find city websites, Chamber of Commerce websites, and BNI groups.  

This one is a bit dirty but works.

Find city websites and or local websites and pay their listing fee if applicable. Most of them will say it’s a recurring fee but we don’t care about that.  That tactic here is to pay for the very first month and then drop the service. Why? Because the majority of these city websites only have the time to post your initial listing and don’t have the time to remove a listing.  Therefore, this works in our favor, especially for budget reasons..  You get a lifetime listing while only paying for one month of service.

I know this one sounds dirty, but when you’re on a budget sometimes you have to go the extra mile and hope that one day you’ll become successful enough to continue the listing fee.

This helps with SEO while also gaining referral traffic.

4.) Neighborhood apps – like NextDoor

Get connected to your local community by using some of these new apps that are coming out, like Nextdoor.  People generally use these apps to be updated about their local city events.

Increase your presence by being active in the discussions and post a few various topics here and there. Replicate to others and have fun.  Once you’ve built enough trust, hit them with what you do and the services you provide. Spread the word about your service but don’t get too spammy.

The reasons why I love this method are its cost effective, you can do this on a restroom break, and you can get to know others near you.

5.) Groupons

Groupon may seem intimidating by not making a profit but your business listing gets sent out to millions of subscribers. How is this great? E-mail marketing is known to show an 80% conversion rate. Now, that may not happen to you but think about it this way:  You are getting millions of people who open up their Groupon e-mail with the intent of purchasing and your ad is in front of them. How much better can you get than that?

6.) Instagram pics + Hashtags

Instagram may seem to be just about photos but you can use this platform to your advantage. Take pictures of the results of your product/service and post them while attaching a few hashtags.  This works great! How you ask? For example, we had a student that made an amazing score improvement on their college entrance exam, the SAT. We asked them if we could take a picture of them holding a sign of their new SAT score and post it on their and our Instagram account.  This brought us web traffic but, more importantly referral traffic – which is key on a low budget marketing.

7.) Youtube Ads

I know PPC has been beaten like dead horse however, the cost per click on Youtube ads average around 10-20 cents a click! Youtube is the second largest search engine and has tons of traffic.  So what’s the catch? Well, the conversion rate on Youtube is very low plus majority of the traffic will skip your ad.  This may sound like a downward slope but hang in there. Here are two reasons why I like Youtube ads: 1.) Youtube won’t charge you if someone skips your ad before 4 seconds. 2.) Your reach is tremendous and you can really stretch the dollar. Take a look at this simple math.

If your video reaches a 1000 people and your cost per click is 10 cents a click, then you’ve reached 1000 people for just a $100. This is a steal! Plus, being on the world’s second largest search engine is a win-win! Now compare this to Adwords, a typical cost per click on Adwords, for an average low competing keyword, would cost about $3.00 per click. If you do the same math, $3 x 1000 people would equal $3000 which would be a significant increase in cost.

The motto here: Reach more people for less!

I hope these tips help you understand just how much you can achieve with a $500 in your pocket. Although quite saturated and merciless, the Internet is still all about providing giving people what they need. It requires a lot of hard work and creativity, but anything can be done!

If you have anything to ask or add on this subject, feel free to write your thoughts and questions in the comments section below, and I’ll do everything in my power to reply ASAP.

That’s it for now,
See you soon again,
Goran @ AltusHost B.V.

  • Steven Macdonald

    Excellent list of tips! I really enjoyed the tip from Derek, and creating gated content, a strong landing page and then running social media ads. Great idea!

    • Glad you enjoyed this post, Steven. 🙂
      Looking forward to hearing more from you in the future.

  • Pingback: Best Strategies For Running High-Converting PPC Campaigns | AltusHost()

  • Nicholas Robert

    In response to Eli, my experiences with http://placementlabs.com/ would lead me to *not* want to spend much on FB. I have found that FB spends don’t offer much in the way of conversions.

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